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14 Days

Bhutan Birding Grandeur

The “14 Days Bhutan Birding Grandeur” tour is an exceptional journey designed for birdwatching enthusiasts and nature lovers. Bhutan, a small Himalayan kingdom, boasts a remarkable avian diversity with about 770 recorded bird species, owing to its diverse habitats ranging from tropical forests to alpine meadows. This comprehensive tour provides an opportunity to explore various bird habitats across Bhutan while also experiencing its rich cultural heritage.

Brief Itinerary of Bhutan Birding Grandeur

Day 1: Arrival in Paro

  • Activities: Flight into Bhutan with Himalayan views, evening orientation with audio-visual presentations.
  • Attractions: Rinpung Dzong, Drukgyel Dzong, Taktshang, Kyichu Lhakhang, and more.

Day 2: Birding Around Paro

  • Highlights: Birdwatching in diverse environments including farmlands and broad-leaved evergreen forests.
  • Key Bird Species: Aberrant Bush Warbler, Himalayan Whistling Thrush, Common Teal, etc.

Day 3: Paro to Thimphu

  • Journey: Drive to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu.
  • Bird Species: Common Sandpiper, Red Rumped Swallow, Sparrowhawk, etc.
  • Attractions: Tashichho Dzong, Memorial Chorten, Changangkha Lhakhang, and more.

Day 4: Thimphu to Punakha & Wangduephodrang

  • Route: Through Dochula pass to Punakha and Wangduephodrang valleys.
  • Bird Species: Black Chinned Yuhina, Spotted Dove, Red Breasted Rosefinch, etc.
  • Attractions: Punakha Dzong, Talo Goenpa, Chorten Nyingpo Lhakhang, etc.

Day 5: Wangduephodrang to Gangtey

  • Journey: Through Black Mountain region to Phobjikha valley.
  • Bird Species: Amur Falcon, Red Mantled Rosefinch, Fire Breasted Flowerpecker, etc.
  • Attractions: Gangtey Gompa, Temple Of Sha Radap, and more.

Day 6: Gangtey to Trongsa

  • Habitats: From evergreen forests to coniferous regions.
  • Bird Species: Himalayan Griffon, Lammergeier, Snow Partridge, etc.
  • Attractions: Trongsa Dzong, Ta Dzong, and more.

Day 7: Trongsa to Bumthang

  • Journey: Through diverse vegetation from temperate forests to alpine.
  • Bird Species: Goldcrest, Blyth’s Pipit, Common Sandpiper, etc.
  • Attractions: Jakar Dzong, Kurjey Lhakhang, Jambay Lhakhang, and more.

Day 8: Bumthang to Ura

  • Experience: Explore Ura valley and village.

Day 9: Ura to Limithang

  • Habitat: Subtropical forests.
  • Bird Species: Black Bulbul, Blyth’s Pipit, Bronzed Drongo, etc.
  • Attractions: Mongar Dzong, Yagang Lhakhang, Drametse Lhakhang, etc.

Day 10: Limithang to Trashigang

  • Activities: Cultural experiences in eastern Bhutanese towns.
  • Attractions: Trashigang Dzong, Chador Lhakhang, Rangjung Monastery, etc.

Day 11: Trashigang to Mongar

  • Activities: Exploratory tour in Mongar.

Day 12: Mongar to Bumthang

Day 13: Bumthang to Thimphu

  • Experience: Cultural exploration en route to Thimphu.

Day 14: Departure from Thimphu

  • Activities: Drive to Paro airport for onward journey.

This 14-day tour provides a comprehensive experience of Bhutan’s avian richness and cultural heritage. It is tailored for bird enthusiasts, offering opportunities to spot rare and diverse species across various Bhutanese habitats. Additionally, the journey is interspersed with cultural visits, making it a wholesome experience of Bhutan’s natural beauty and traditional lifestyle.

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Detailed Program

A Flight to Bhutan provides the most fascinating view of Himalayan scenery. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Calcutta, each flight is a mesmerizing aeronautical feat and offers exciting descent into the kingdom.

Evening orientation program in the hotel with audio-visual presentation, slideshow, and general talk.

Overnight at the hotel in Paro.

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The altitude of Paro valley ranges from 2,150 – 2,950 m and the ideal birding spots are through the farmlands, the lower and upper broad-leaved evergreen forests, the riversides, subalpine forests, and shrubberies. The valley also possesses a wealth of cultural attractions such as Ta Dzong (National Museum), Rinpung Dzong, Kyichu Lhakhang, and Taktsang Lhakhang.

Some of the recorded bird species in Paro include:

  • Aberrant Bush Warbler (Cettia flavoivacea),
  • Blyth’s Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum),
  • Himalayan Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus),
  • Common Teal (Ana crecca),
  • Grey-headed Flycatcher Warbler (Seicercus xanthoschistos),
  • Greenback Tit (Parus monticulous),
  • Hodgson’s Redstart (Phoenicurus hodgsoni),
  • Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos),
  • Himalayan Brown Dipper (Cinclus pallasi),
  • Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus),
  • Himalayan Treecreeper (Certhia himalayana),
  • Hill Pigeon (Columba rupestris),
  • Rufous Breasted Accentor (Prunella strophiata),
  • Rufous Turtle Dove (Streptopelia Orientalis),
  • Rufous Bellied Hawk-Eagle (Hieraaetus kienerii),
  • Stripe Throated Yuhina (Yuhina gularis),
  • Long-Tailed Minivet (Pericrocotus ethologus).

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Drive to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan. Later explore this beautiful upland valley. Relatively dry, Thimphu valley is surrounded by fine stands of Blue Pine and temperate evergreen forests. The increasing human settlement has pushed birding spots at least 10 km and now the ideal areas for birding are around the stream near Motithang and in and around Begana and Cheri villages.

Few of the bird species recorded here are:

  • Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos),
  • Red Rumped Swallow (Hirunda daurica),
  • Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus melaschistos),
  • Grackle or Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa),
  • Grey Wagtail (Motacilla caspica),
  • White Bellied Yuhina (Yuhina xanthoteuca),
  • Upland Pipit (Anthus Sylvanus),
  • Plumbeous Redstart (Rhyacornis fuliginosus).

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From Thimphu, proceed further to Dochula pass (3,050m) which offers the most spectacular view over the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas. From here the descent to Punakha and Wangduephodrang valley is long the altitude difference between the pass and the valley is about 1,800 m. The route first passes through a temperate type of leafy forest where rhododendron and magnolia bloom in March and April then moves to semi tropical zone where orange and banana trees and cactuses are found in abundance.

More common species in these valleys are:

  • Black Chinned Yuhina (Yuhina nigrimenta)
  • Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)
  • Black Chinned Babbler ( Stachyris pyrrhops)
  • Black Breasted Sunbird (Aethopyga saturata)
  • Red Breasted Rosefinch (Carpodacus puniceus)
  • Fulvous Breasted Pied Woodpecker (Picoides macei)
  • Large Grey Babbler (Turdoides melcolmi)
  • Himalayan Tree Pie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)
  • Little Bunting (Emberiza striolata)
  • Slaty Backed Forktail (Enicurus schistaceus)
  • White Breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
  • Yellow Billed Blue Magpie (Cissa flavirostris)
  • Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
  • Steppe Eagle (Aquila rapax nipalensis)
  • Small Niltava (Muscicapa macgrigoriae)
  • Himalayan Griffon (Gyps himalayensis)
  • Speckled Wood Pigeon (Columbia hodgsonii)
  • Grey Tit (Parus major) and Red Crowned Jay (Garrulus glandarius).

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From Wangduephodrang, the journey continues eastwards through the Black Mountain region. The drive is relatively shorter and there are regular stops for birding and photography all along the way. The road finally leads to a forest of oak and rhododendron and then broad Phobjikha valley which is one of the few glacial valleys in Bhutan.

Because of the large flock of black-necked cranes that winter here, this valley is one of the most important wildlife reserves in the country. The fascinating Gangtey village is sitting on the ridge overlooking the large green expanse of Phobjikha valley.
In addition to the species in Punakha & Wangduephodrang, the species readily available in this region are:

  • Amur Falcon (Falco vespertinus),
  • Red Mantled Rosefinch (Carpodacus rhodochlamys),
  • Fire Breasted Flowerpecker (Dicaeum ignipectus),
  • Red Headed Bullfinch (Pyrrhula erythrocephala),
  • Scarlet Finch (Haematospin sipahi),
  • White Tailed Nuthatch (Sitta himalayensis),
  • Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis),
  • Goldcrest (Regulus regulus),
  • Great Pied Hornbill (Buceros bicornis),
  • Common Hill Partridge (Arborophila torqueola),
  • Snow Pigeon (Columba leuconota),
  • Rufous Breasted Accentor (Prunella strophiata)
  • White Backed Munia (Lonchura striata).

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This stretch covers a range of habitats from tall, dense, evergreen forests characterized by moss and lichen, to covered oak and rhododendron together with broad-leaved trees such as horse chestnuts, laurels, maples, and alders. At higher elevations, the composition changes perceptibly with conifers such as fir, spruce, larch, hemlock, and juniper. Bamboo is another important habitat in this region, holding many special but elusive species.

It is not a very prominent birding area but still few important species are visible such as :

  • Himalayan Griffon (Gyps himalayensis),
  • Himalayan Swiftlet (Collocalia brevirostris),
  • Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus),
  • Snow Partridge (Lerwa lerwa),
  • Purple Cochoa (Cochoa purpurea),
  • Scaly Breasted Wren Babbler (Pnoepyga albiventer),
  • Long Tailed Minivet (Pericrocotus ethologus),
  • Himalayan Monal Pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus),
  • Speckled Wood Pigeon (Columba hodgsonii) and
  • Rufous Bellied Bulbul (Hypsipetes mcclellandi).

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On this trip of 68 km, there is altitude variation from 2,100 m in Trongsa to Yotongla pass at 3,400 m and then descend to Bumthang valley at 2,600 m, and the vegetation changes from temperate forests of Trongsa to coniferous and mixed alpine of Bumthang.

Apart from being one of the most beautiful valleys of the kingdom, Bumthang is also the religious heartland of the nation. The ideal birding spots in this region are before the Yotongla pass, farmland in the valleys, and the riverside of Chamkhar Chhu river.

Few birds of this area are:

  • Goldcrest (Regulus regulus),
  • Blyth’s Pipit (Anthus Godlewski),
  • Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos),
  • Little Bunting (Emberiza fucata),
  • Red Billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) and
  • Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).

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Ura is the last and the highest valley of Bumthang and to reach here, the road climbs through amazingly open countryside, occasionally running into forests. Large sheep pastures line the road and the route also crosses 3,600 m high Ura la pass and later descends into Ura by long loop across fields and pastures. Perched at an altitude of 3,100 m, Ura village has characteristically closed clustered houses which is quite unusual in Bhutan. The day is for exploring the fascinating Ura valley and village.

Overnight tented accommodation.

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Leaving behind the relatively dry Ura valley, the route ascends through forests of gigantic firs, often with an understorey of rhododendron. The road for a few kilometers is precipitous in the extreme, with steep drops that reveal a landscape defying description until the pass at Thrumshingla (3,750 m) is finally reached. From this highest pass in the country, the road descends to the village of Sengor, a tiny settlement of shingle roofs and lush fields. This village is also the home to this mountain’s most special bird, Monal Lophophorus Impejanus.

These two days explore the wonderfully rich subtropical forests of this area. Stretching away to the horizons, these forests differ noticeably from those at higher elevations with tall trees sporting magnificent girths supported on a huge buttress.

The important species visible in this area are:

  • Black Bulbul (Hypsipetes madagascariensis),
  • Blyth’s Pipit (Anthus Godlewski),
  • Bronzed Drongo (Dicrurus aeneus),
  • Gould’s Shortwings (Brachypteryx stellata),
  • Red Headed Bullfinch (Pyrrhula erythrocephala),
  • Speckled Piculet (Picumnus innominatus),
  • Grey Wagtail (Motacilla caspica),
  • White Throated Munia (Lonchura malabarica),
  • White Browed Blue Flycatcher (Muscicapa leucomelanura),
  • Yellow Bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum melanoxanthuon),
  • Bluebeard Bee-Eater ( Ichthyornis Atherton),
  • Parrotbill (Paradoxornis nipalensis),
  • Honeyguide (Indicator xanthonotus),
  • Red Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer),
  • Lesser Racket-Tailed Drongo (Dicrurus remifer),
  • Fantail Warbler (Cisticola exilis) and
  • Rufous Throated Hill Partridge (Arborophila rufogularis).

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From Limithang, the road reaches to its lowest point of 650 m at the bridge over the Kuru Chhu River. The Chorten at this point was built in 1800, in the Nepalese style of architecture to hold the precious religious objects of Zhongar Dzong when the Dzong was abandoned in favor of another place, Mongar. Visit here, Mongar Dzong was built at the beginning of the 19th century. However, the present structure dates from 1953, when it was formed on command of Bhutan’s Third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Besides being the administrative center of the region, it also houses the Drukpa monastic community.

The eastern towns of Mongar and Trashigang are not interesting for birding so the time in the last two days of the tour is spent on cultural experiences. From Mongar, the journey is through a leafy forest filled with ferns, crossing Enroute Kori la pass (2,450m). Seven kilometers ahead of the pass lies, the village of Nagtshang where one of the small kingdoms of eastern Bhutan was located before the Drukpa conquest in the 17th century. The road further descends rapidly through corn fields and banana groves arriving at Yadi which is known for its zigzag road.

After 20 kilometers of interminable bends through rather sparse forests of conifers, the road enters to Sheri river, a small tributary of the Gamri river. An unsurfaced road branches 13 kilometers beyond the bridge over the Sheri river to the big monastery of Dametsi which is Nyingmapa monastery and one of the most important in eastern Bhutan.

The town of Trashigang lies 20 kilometers beyond the point where the Dametsi road branches off. Visit here, the Trashigang Dzong, standing at the end of the spur, overhanging the Gamri river by more than 400 m. Unlike most other Dzongs in the Kingdom, it has only one courtyard. The Dzong now serves as the administrative seat for the district and part of it is occupied by the Drukpa monastic community.
Overnight at the lodge in Trashigang.

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After breakfast drive back to Mongar. Afternoon exploratory tour to Mongar town, local market.

Overnight at the lodge.

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Morning drive to Paro airport for flight to onward destination.
  • Inclusion
  • Exclusion
  • Insurance
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off by private vehicle.
  • 3-star accommodation (4 & 5 stars may require an additional premium update).
  • Bhutan visa fee – including all necessary processing
  • Route Permit
  • Three meals per day during your stay in Bhutan
  • A licensed Bhutanese tour guide
  • All land transportation by private vehicle
  • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  • Sightseeing as per itinerary
  • Monuments entrance fees where applicable
  • Drinking water
  • All internal taxes and charges
  • A sustainable development fee of $200. (This sustainable development fee goes towards free education, free healthcare, and poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure.)
  • Airfare & Travel Insurance
  • Expenses of personal nature, Tips to guides and drivers
  • Expenses occurred due to unavoidable events i.e. road wrecks, flight delays etc.

Package does not include insurance of any kinds, and that you are required to obtain separate coverage from your home country before your trip begins.

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