• A LIMITED EDITION ITINERARY
  • 02-11 MARCH 2023

Beyond Average Birding in Bhutan

Curated for a keen birder and their not-so-keen birding partner

Thimphu | Punakha | Phobjikha | Paro

Brought to you in partnership with

JOIN 10-12 GUESTS ON THIS LIMITED EDITION SET DEPARTURE IN MARCH 2023

EXCEPTIONAL BIRDING IN A VARIETY OF HABITATS AND VALLEYS THROUGHOUT BHUTAN

EXCITING EXPERIENCES FOR ALL TO ENJOY, INCLUDING AN ARRAY OF CULTURAL, SPIRITUAL & WELLNESS ACTIVITIES

SELECT YOUR FAVOURITE SWAROVSKI OPTIK PRODUCT FOR USE THROUGHOUT

HOSTED BY A SPECIALIST &BEYOND BIRDING GUIDE FROM BEGINNING TO END

SURYA RAMACHANDRAN – SPECIALIST BIRDING GUIDE

Surya is an engineer from the south-Indian city of Chennai who later pursued his passion into the wild. His jungle journey commenced in the forests of Satpura at Forsyth Lodge, where he started as an intern and then later turned into a full-time naturalist. His interests vary to all types of life forms, especially the lesser fauna of the region and their microhabitats. His vehement enthusiasm led to pioneering Central India’s first walking safari, canoeing, wilderness camping, and night drives at Satpura. Satpura, having been a less tiger-centric park, gave him the chance to explore other activities other than just Jeep safaris. His love for wildlife, and eagerness to learn led him to explore India’s special and rare mammals, birds, reptiles and butterflies. Surya enjoys the idea of guiding and explaining the little secrets of the jungle to people rather than just seeing it for himself.

See the unseen
Trial your favourite SWAROVSKI OPTIK product

What better way to enjoy a prized birding expedition than with the opportunity to use one of the world’s most sought-after pairs of binoculars? Enjoy the use of a pair of SWAROVSKI OPTIK binoculars, which will allow you to view the most intricate of details.

You will have the opportunity to choose your favourite SWAROVSKI OPTIK product, which will be sent to your home prior to departure, so that you can familiarise yourself with the equipment beforehand, trial it for the duration of your journey and have the option to purchase it on your return if you would like to keep it.

NL 10×32
BURNT ORANGE

Groundbreaking optical performance – packed into the smallest possible package: the NL Pure 32 accompanies you wherever you may go for unprecedented viewing experiences.

NL 8×32
GREEN

Keep the overview. The 8x magnification in combination with the enormous field of view lets you completely immerse yourself in nature – even during the late hours of the night.

CL 8×30
ANTHRACITE

You’ll never miss out with the new CL Companion. These elegant binoculars with impressive optics fit perfectly in your hand. They are always with you to ensure you make the most of every sighting.

Are you ready?

BEGIN YOUR ADVENTURE

This unforgettable journey is hosted and departs on a set date. Should you wish to travel on different dates with your own party, please contact one of our dedicated Travel Specialists to plan your adventure.

A taste of what to expect

THIMPHU
02 March 2023
  • Arrive at Paro, Bhutan’s only international airport. The flight into Bhutan takes you close to the great Himalayas, offering dazzling scenic views of some of the world’s highest peaks. As you enter the Paro Valley, you will pass forested hills with the Pa Chu (Paro River) meandering down the valley below with the Paro Dzong (fortress) and Ta Dzong (watch tower) on the hill above the town.
  • As you exit from the arrival hall of Paro Airport, you will be welcomed by your guide, and chauffeured to the Taj Tashi in Thimphu (1-hour drive). 
  • En route, stop to visit the Tamchog Lhakhang and marvel at the iron bridge reconstructed using original chain links from the famous Tibetan bridge-builder Thangtong Gyelpo. 
  • For the birders, make a stop en route as you enter Thimphu for birding at the water treatment plant. There are chances of seeing ibisbill, ruddy shelduck, goosander, various redstarts, Himalayan whistling thrush, etc. here.
  • Check in to your hotel and enjoy a delicious lunch.
For the Birders
  • In the afternoon drive to the Motithang Takin Preserve. The takin, a large shaggy hoofed mammal, is closely related to the musk ox and is the national animal of Bhutan – so designated due to its prominent place in a popular Bhutanese myth from the 15th century.  
  • Drive further upwards towards Sangaygang (elevation 2685m), overlooking the valley. Both Motithang and Sangaygang offer some good introductory birding. There is a high chance to see the rufous fronted tit, rufous sibia, rufous-bellied woodpeckers, chestnut-crowned laughingthrush, spotted laughingthrush, Bhutan laughingthrush, spotted nutcracker and Hogdson’s redstart, etc.
For the Non-Birders
  • In the afternoon, visit the National Memorial Chorten. This landmark of Thimphu was built in 1974 in the memory of the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who is popularly regarded as the Father of modern Bhutan. It is a four-storey tall white structure, containing statues and iconography of deities from complex tantric teachings. The temple serves as an important place of worship for all Bhutanese people.
  • Then drive up to the Motithang Takin Preserve. The takin, a large shaggy hoofed mammal, is closely related to the musk ox and is the national animal of Bhutan – so designated due to its prominent place in a popular Bhutanese myth from the 15th century. Drive further upwards towards Sangaygang where you will have wonderful views of the Thimphu Valley from the hillside below the telecommunications tower high above the town, and possibly meet up with the birders.
THIMPHU
03 March 2023
  • The birders and non-birders start the day off in different directions but meet up with each other to enjoy a picnic by the riverside at Jigme Dorji National Park. 
For the Birders
  • Begin the day early with a drive to the northern end of Thimphu Valley. You will start your birding walk this morning along the Wang Chu (river). Then you will hit the trail to Cheri which passes through mixed deciduous vegetation and will offer good birding. Then a walk of about 1½ hours leads to Cheri Goemba (Cheri Dorji Dhen). 
  • The trail starts by crossing a lovely covered bridge that spans the Wang Chu, and then climbs steeply to the monastery. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel built this Goemba in 1620 and established the first monk body here. A silver chorten inside the Goemba holds the ashes of Zhabdrung’s father.
  • There are chances to see: brown dipper, white-browed fulvetta, tawny fish owl, rufous-bellied woodpecker, solitary snipe, yellow-rumped honeyguide, treecreepers, Darjeeling woodpecker, speckled wood pigeon, snow pigeons, great parrotbill, fire-tailed myzornis, etc. Also, a chance to see some gorals (mountain goats), muntjac (barking deer), musk deer and the Himalayan black bear.
  • In the afternoon, drive to Serbithang and the Royal Botanical Park for birding.  The Royal Botanical Park is located on a lush hillside about 10km (6.2mi.) from the city and offers a peaceful and relaxing environment to spend a few hours. Apart from the birding in the area, you can also find a wide selection of indigenous trees and plants of interest.
For the Non-Birders
  • This morning head to the Buddha Dordenma – a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue. The statue is filled with over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Buddha Dordenma itself is made of bronze and gilded in gold. At a height of 51.5m (168ft), it is one of the tallest Buddha statues in the world.
  • Visit the Royal Textile Academy and museum. Weaving is an integral component of the culture and tradition of Bhutan. With the aim to preserve and promote this living art, the Royal Textile Academy is a national centre for weaving and educating young students in textiles, fabric designs and museum studies. It also introduces the nation’s masterpieces to visitors, while expanding the nation’s resource for cultural tourism.
  • Later visit the institute for Zorig Chusum, commonly known as Arts and Crafts School or painting school. The institute offers courses ranging from 4 to 6 years on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. Take a drive to visit the Voluntary Artist’s Studio.
  • Visit the Jungshi paper making factory that makes use of the bark of two tree species, the daphne tree and dhekap tree in the manufacture of traditional paper. Visitors can observe the entire process of producing handmade paper using ancient traditional methods that have been practiced for generations. You can even try your hand at this ancient craft and make some paper of your very own as a souvenir. Deh-sho paper was originally used by monasteries for woodblock and manuscript books and also for writing prayer books.
  • Enjoy a walk along the local market opposite your hotel and peruse beautiful handcrafted items.
Punakha
04 March 2023
  • After an early breakfast, you will be chauffeured to Punakha (3-hour drive). The road climbs steeply through a scenic forest of pine and cedar trees, to Dochu La pass 3,150m (10,334 feet). The pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges as well as some excellent high-altitude birding. 
  • Stop on Dochu La to visit the 108 stupas built on this high pass in honour of the fallen Bhutanese soldiers.
  • Later in the afternoon, visit the Punakha Dzong. Constructed in 1637, this was the second of Bhutan’s Dzong and for many years its seat of government. From this spectacular setting, you can look back to see the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Temple perched on the hillside far in the distance. 
  • The birders can look around Punakha Dzong for the white-bellied heron and then drive back towards Limithang Road birding along the way. 
  • Partners can go back to the hotel and enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure
  • Birders and non-birders meet up for lunch at the Lobesa Café and then check-in to the newly built &Beyond Punakha River Lodge. Walk about 30 minutes through paddy fields to Chimi Lhakhang, which is on a small hilltop. The temple was dedicated to the great Yogi in the 14th century, known as Drukpa Kuenley, also known as the “Divine madman”.
For the Birders
  • From Dochu La, birders and non-birders separate. Birders will drive down towards Punakha through broad-leaved forests birding all the way, with a stop at the Lampelri Botanical Park. 
  • There are chances of seeing birds like Ward’s trogon, yuhinas, barwings, nuthatches, fire-tailed myzoris, great barbet, mountain hawk eagle, long-tailed minivet, white-collared blackbird and Himalayan shortwing, etc.
Punakha
05 March 2023
  • There are two great options for the birders and non-birders today.
For the Birders
  • Early morning, make a pre-dawn start with a packed breakfast to reach Pho Chu. In Punakha, we will have the entire day to go birding along the Pho Chu and the Mo Chu (Father and Mother Rivers) and the bird-rich subtropical forests. 
  • Our primary focus today will be the white bellied heron, one of Bhutan’s rarest species of birds which can be spotted in Punakha valley. A wide range of other birds such as the Pallas’s fish eagle, tawny fish owl, ibisbill, minivets, wedge-tailed green pigeon, fire-capped tits, white-gorgeted flycatcher and rare yellow-vented warbler. You may find a variety of skulkers including pygmy wren babblers, white browed shortwing, a variety of ducks and geese, and the trio of tesias, etc.
  • Drive up the Mo Chu Valley to look for other birds and see if you can spot some wild takins as they come down in the winter.
For the Non-Birders
  • After some tea or coffee and snacks you will begin your hike to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. This three storey lhakhang was built by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon for the protection of the country and the present King. It has an impressive view of the Punakha valley below. The deities represented here belong to a teaching cycle of Dudjom Rinpoche, a great Nyingmapa master (1904-87). The functions of the deities are to subjugate enemies and harmful influences and also to spread peace and harmony. 
  • We will carry a picnic breakfast with us which will be laid out for you on arrival at the top of the hill.
  • Enjoy your packed breakfast in this serene setting before other visitors start arriving on top of the hill. 
  • Visit the Sangchhen Dorji Lhendrup Lhakhang Nunnery, perched on a ridge amid pine trees. The temple houses a 4.26m (14ft) main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzig chagtong chentong). Other statues include those of Guru Padmasambawa, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tsela Namsum, the 21 Taras and Tsepamay (Buddha of longevity). 
  • The Avalokiteshvara statue, one of the biggest in the country, was the handiwork of local Bhutanese artisans. The temple complex also houses a permanent higher learning and meditation centre for nuns where, apart from religious training, it provides life skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangka painting.
  • You can also participate with the nuns in a Tshewang prayer ceremony (a prayer for personal empowerment, wish fulfilment and a healthy life). The prayer will last approximately 30 minutes, during which you could participate in the lighting up of butter candles.
  • Return to the lodge and spend the afternoon enjoying the beauty of the surroundings and treat yourself to pampering and massages in the spa.
Phobjikha
06 March 2023
  • Birders get a second chance this morning to look for the white bellied heron and also, if you are lucky, some smooth-coated otters. 
  • Return to the hotel for breakfast and then be driven to Gangtey in the Phobjikha Valley (3-4 hour drive).
  • Crossing Wangdue, the road gradually climbs to Lawa La pass, which offers the magnificent view of Jhomolhari and Jichu Drake mountains. There is a diverse change in vegetation as we drive, with montane forest replaced by high altitude dwarf bamboo. 
  • Birders, if you are lucky you will get to see a new range of species:  great and brown parrotbills, great barbet, yellow-rumped honeyguide and golden breasted fulvetta on the way.
  • Phobjikha is one of the most beautiful valleys in the country and it’s the winter home of endangered black-necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climates. These visitors begin arriving around early October. Phobjikha is at an altitude of 2900m (1.8mi.) above sea level and on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park.  
  • On reaching Phobjikha, check in to Gangtey Lodge and have lunch. Soak in the beautiful views of the Phobjikha Valley and relax.
For the Birders and the Non-Birders
  • In the afternoon, walk along the Gangtey Nature Trail.
  •  Crossing streams and rhododendron groves, you pass Sumchubara Village, afterwards you enter the pine forest, which opens to reveal fabulous views of the valley. 
  • Further down the trail passes the village of Khewang and later you will cross the Nake Chu where you will be picked up by car and driven back to the hotel.
  • Birding along the trail should include oriental skylark, Eurasian wren, blue fronted redstart, rufous-breasted accentor, grey winged blackbird, Eurasian sparrowhawk, etc. If you are lucky you might get a glimpse of the last few black-necked cranes before they fly back to the Tibetan plateau for the summer. 
  • In the evening head towards the Shedra which is a monastic school. Attend the prayers this evening where about 300 monks chant every evening – a wonderful experience.
Phobjikha
07 March 2023
  • The birders are up early with their binoculars and the partners will explore a unique culture and make a visit to the Crane Information Center.
For the Birders
  • Early morning, make a pre-dawn start with a packed breakfast for Pele La pass to look for blood pheasant, satyr tragopan, Himalayan monal, Darjeeling woodpecker, snow pigeon, bearded vulture, white-winged grosbeak and red crossbill, etc.
  • Optional visit to the Gangtey Goemba, followed by a visit to the Crane Information Center. Then enjoy birding on the valley floor where you will be looking for some interesting species such as the northern lapwing, Himalayan griffon, hen harrier, pin-tailed snipe, bar-headed geese, Eurasian wren, blue fronted redstart and of course the black-necked cranes.
For the Non-Birders
  • After breakfast, visit the Gangtey Goemba (monastery), which enjoys the valley’s prime real estate, on a forested hill overlooking the green expanse of the entire Phobjikha Valley. Pema Thinley, the grandson and reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, founded the Nyingma temple here in 1613 and today the Goemba is the seat of the 9th reincarnation of the body of the Terton (Treasure discoverer) Pema Lingpa. There are 300 lay-monks studying the Nyingma sect of Buddhism in this Goemba. 
  • Then you will be taken to the Crane Information Center a short drive on the way back to the lodge. It gives you detailed information regarding the valley and the black necked crane.  The center is also equipped with binoculars, installed to watch the cranes. Enjoy a 15-minute documentary about the endangered bird – “The Birds of Heaven”. 
  • Spend the afternoon at the lodge and enjoy archery or darts on the lodge grounds or savour a hot-stone bath overlooking the valley.
Paro
08 March 2023
  • This morning you will be driven to Paro (5-hour drive). 
  • Birders will have the opportunity to stop along the way to do some birding. 
  • Paro is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered through the area. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries and the National Museum. Mount Jhomolhari 7,326m (24,035ft) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunges through deep gorges to form Pa Chu (Paro River). Paro is also one of the most fertile valleys in the Kingdom, producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced field.
  • On arrival, check-in to COMO Uma Paro and have lunch.
  • Enjoy the wonderful opportunity to visit a local farmhouse in the evening. The beauty of the Paro Valley is embellished by clusters of old fashioned farm houses, colourful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of a single nail. All houses follow the same architectural pattern. A visit to a farmhouse is very interesting and offers fascinating insight into the lifestyle of a farmer.
For the Birders
  • You will go birding along the Paro Chu and Paro valley. You will be looking for ibisbill, brown dipper, river lapwing, Indian spotbilled duck, ruddy shelduck, white-capped and plumbeous water redstart, speckled wood wigeon, blacktailed crake, greylag goose, greater white fronted goose, goosander, tufted tuck, ferruginous duck, solitary snipe, wallcreeper and red-billed chough, etc.
For the Non-Birders
  • You will visit Ta Dzong or the National Museum. One time watch tower built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century. Since 1967, the Ta Dzong has been serving as the national museum of the country. It holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious Thangka paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps. The museum’s circular shape enhances its varied collection displayed over several floors.
Paro
09 March 2023
  • Another early morning start for the birders and their partners who will separate after breakfast.
  • Everyone will enjoy lunch at the hotel together, after which the rest of the day is at leisure. The birders do, however, have the option of going birding in the Paro Valley and the non-birders can visit the Drugyal Dzong and the Kyichu Lhakhang.
For the Birders
  • Make a pre-dawn start with a packed breakfast for Chele La pass, which is Bhutan’s highest motorable pass at 3,989m (13,083ft). The drive from your hotel to the Chele La pass takes about 2-hours each way. Once there you will have great views of Mt. Jhomolhari (weather permitting). 
  • The highlights to look for this morning are the Himalayan monal, khaleej pheasants, blood pheasants and satyr tragopans. While driving to the pass look out for grey nightjars on the road.
  • Once you arrive, walk on the ridges to scan for the pheasants. Spend around 2-3 hours on the mountain slopes then drive back to Paro. Stop and walk on the road now and then. While heading back to Paro look for rufous-vented tit, coal tit, wallcreepers, white-collared blackbird, hoary-throated barwing, maroon-backed accentor, white-browed rosefinch and red crossbill, etc.
For the Non-Birders
  • Early this morning, you will drive to Chele La pass, which is Bhutan’s highest motorable pass at 3,989m (13,083ft). The drive from your hotel to the Chele La pass takes about 2-hours each way. Once there you will have great views of Mt. Jhomolhari (weather permitting). 
  • You can then walk up the incline around 2-hours towards the highest point at 4500m (14,763ft) along a ridge for even better views of the mountains, including Mt Jhomolhari and other peaks such as Mt. Kanchenjunga.   
  • From Chele La pass, start you hike down to the Kila Nunnery. The path flutters with prayer flags. Descend down to the Kila Nunnery through meadows and forests of hemlock and rhododendron.
  • Perched like the Tiger’s Nest along a cliff side, it houses around 30 nuns. Return to the pass to board your vehicle and return to Paro. The entire hike should take about 2 – 4 hours.
Paro
10 March 2023
  • After a very early breakfast, take a short drive to the north of Paro Valley to Ramthankha, and start your hike to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest).  
  • The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, founder of Buddhism in Bhutan flew from Eastern Bhutan on a tigress, bringing Buddhist teachings with him and meditating here on this cliff. This is one of the most venerated and sacred of all Buddhist sights around the world. 
  • Afterwards return to your hotel for lunch. 
  • For the birders – birding on the hike is quite good. Look out for Altai accentor, spotted laughingthrush, Eurasian nutcracker, ultramarine flycatcher, yellow-billed blue magpie, white-capped redstart, blue-fronted redstart, khalij pheasant, Asian house martins, green backed tits, rufous fronted tit, black throated tit, white throated laughingthrush and chestnut crowned laughingthrush, etc.
Departure
11 March 2023
  • This morning you will be driven to Paro Airport to board your onward flight to Bangkok.
  • Flutter a last farewell as your sensational birding adventure comes to an end.

MARCH 2023 | 9 Nights
FROM USD 9,868 per person

Min 10 Guests

USD 10178 per person

Max 12 Guests

USD 9868 per person

Single supplement

USD 5598 per person

What's included
  • Accommodation in DOUBLE/ TWIN ROOMS in hotels as mentioned in the QUOTE.
  • All transfers as mentioned in a private vehicle, and sightseeing.
  • Sightseeing tour will be provided as per the itinerary with the English-speaking Bhutanese Cultural Guide, and local bird guide.
  • The tour will be led by Swarovski Ambassador and experienced bird guide Surya Ramachandran
  • All entrance and monuments fees.
  • Visa fees for Bhutan only.
  • All current taxes as on date – subject to change as per hotel/airline/Government policy.
What's not included
  • International and domestic airfare unless stated otherwise.
  • Beverages, unless stated otherwise
  • Items of personal nature like tips, laundry, phone calls etc.
  • Tipping for guides and drivers.
  • Any Insurance and rescue of any form.
  • Cost arising out of flight cancellation/road blockades/landslides/riots and events beyond our control.
  • Expenses of personal nature and any other expenses not mentioned in the above cost.
  • Any international air fare/airport taxes not mentioned above
  • Hotel surcharges during festival period
  • Any change in tax structure resulting from the hike in published tariff.
  • Any video/still camera fee to the monuments and places of visit
  • Any other item not explicitly mentioned under price includes.
  • Any airfare for domestic flights other than the quoted details.
  • Any cost of the meals other than the one indicated in room meal plan.
  • Sightseeing and excursions other than those specified.
Conditions
  • Should you wish to travel on different dates with your own party, please contact one of our dedicated Travel Specialists to plan your adventure

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