Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel and VIP Lounge before your holiday begins. All pre-flight information will be confirmed prior to departure. Read more here!
Day 1: Fri 9 Apr – London – Delhi
After a relaxing introduction to our holiday in our VIP Airport Lounge, we fly London to Delhi. An overnight stay allows time to relax, before our transfer to Guwahati the next day.
Day 2: Sat 10 Apr – Delhi - Guwahati - Samdrup Jongkhar
We take the early flight from Delhi to Guwahati, the largest city in Assam, positioned on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. The perfect place to begin our adventure, we drive across the agricultural plains of northeast India to Samdrup Jongkhar, in southeast Bhutan, stopping en-route at Deepor Beel Sanctuary for our first birding. Here we may see Lesser and Greater Adjutant, Asian Openbill, Purple Heron, Paddyfield Pipit, Bank Myna, Asian Pied Starling, Ashy Woodswallow, Purple Swamphen and Pied Harrier - a great start to our birdlist! Our hotel grounds are also superb for birds, and if time allows on arrival we hope to find White-rumped Shama, Pale-chinned Flycatcher, Jungle Myna, Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush and Emerald Dove. Overnight Tashi Gasel for two nights.
Day 3: Sun 11 Apr - Samdrup Jongkhar and Deothang Region
The tropical forests within Deothang Region offer more good birding, and we plan to spend the whole day exploring the area around Samdrup Jongkhar. Searching for lower altitude species, we hope for Little Spiderhunter, Oriental Scops Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Black-backed Forktail, Blyth’s Kingfisher, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Hooded Pitta, Red Junglefowl, Crimson Sunbird, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrush and Dollarbird to name but a few.
Day 4: Mon 12 Apr - Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang
Before breakfast, we explore the temperate forests of Morong and Narphung valleys where we may see rare Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Beautiful Nuthatch, and Green Cochoa. Also possible are Silver-eared Mesia, Pygmy Cupwing, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Red-faced Liocichla, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Long-tailed Sibia, Long-tailed Broadbill and Grey-bellied Tesia before we drive north through spectacular mountain and forest scenery. In the afternoon, we pass over Yonphu La where we may encounter higher-altitude species before dropping down to our base at Trashigang where we stay at Druk Deotjung Resort for one night. Local birding around Trashigang offers a new set of birds including Spot-winged Starling, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch, Bay Woodpecker, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Tibetan Siskin and Striated Prinia.
Day 5: Tue 13 Apr - Trashigang to Yongkola
Starting early, we drive through pine forests and banana groves heading up to Kore La Pass via the thrilling Yadhi Loops; a series of hairpin bends like no other! On forest roads, we search for Striated Laughingthrush, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Mountain Bulbul, Himalayan Cutia, Hill Partridge, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted Cupwing, Grey-bellied Tesia, Grey-headed Woodpecker and Grey Bushchat. From Kore La we descend through cool, broadleaved forest, dripping with orchids and fern-lined forests of rhododendrons. Species in this rich habitat may include Ward’s Trogon, Fire-capped Tit, Common Rosefinch, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Brown Bullfinch, Gold-naped Finch, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Hill Prinia, and Russet Bush Warbler. After a great day with many new birds, we continue to Trogon Villa, Yongkola, our base for the next three nights.
Days 6 & 7: Wed 14 & Thu 15 Apr - Thrumshing La National Park
We have almost three days to fully explore the exotic, verdant broadleaved forests of Thrumshing La National Park. The area is renowned as one of the world’s best birding locations and is home to some of Bhutan’s most elusive species. Footfall on the forest trails is low, giving us great chances of finding Rufous-necked Hornbill, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Tawny Fish Owl, Himalayan Wedge-billed Babbler, Blue-naped Pitta, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Blue-fronted Robin, Gould’s Shortwing, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Golden-breasted and Yellow-throated Fulvettas and Rufous-throated and Long-billed Wren Babbler. The wealth of bird life is incredible, and other regularly seen species include Rufous-bellied Eagle, Grey-headed, Black-throated and Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbills, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Asian Barred Owlet, Golden Babbler, Little Forktail, Nepal House Martin, Scaly Laughingthrush, Rusty-fronted Barwing, White-gorgeted and Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Streaked Spiderhunter, White-naped Yuhina, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape, Blyth’s Swift and Black Drongo. During our visit we may see some wonderful mammals too. Red Panda is present in many of the forests, as is Himalayan Black Bear, Common Leopard and Musk Deer.
Day 8: Fri 16 Apr - Yongkola to Chumey
Today we leave Yonghola, travelling west through the cool, broadleaved forests of Namling and Sengor. Watching for Satyr Tragopan, Bar-winged Wren Babbler, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, Red-headed Bullfinch and Hodgson’s Treecreeper, we gradually drive up to an altitude of 3822m above sea level at the Thrumshing La Pass. Breathtaking views of the Eastern Himalayan peaks will stretch out before us and we keep an eye (and ear) out for Great and Fulvous Parrotbill, Snow Pigeon, and flocks of Blood Pheasant among the hemlock, silver fir and larch. The rhododendron forests support colourful passerines including Mrs Gould’s and Fire-tailed Sunbirds, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, White-throated Redstart, Coal, Rufous-vented, Grey-crested and Yellow-browed Tits. From the pass, we continue our journey west into the valley of Chumey, stopping briefly at the village of Ura. Species we may see en route include the recently split Black-rumped Magpie (Pica bottanensis), Red-billed Chough, Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch, Little Bunting, Blue-fronted Redstart, Himalayan Buzzard and Himalayan Owl. Overnight Chumey Nature Resort.
Day 9: Sat 17 Apr - Chumey to Trongsa
Before breakfast, we drive to the beautifully located Tharpaling Monastery where we hope for close views of eye-catching Himalayan Monal with White-bellied Redstart and Alpine Accentor possible too. Later, we work our way past cascading waterfalls to the high mountain pass of Yotong La where the magnolia rhododendron forests hold Black-throated Thrush, White-winged Grosbeak, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Crimson-browed Finch, Dark-rumped and Dark-breasted Rosefinch and Black-faced Laughingthrush. Nearing our hotel in the afternoon, we will see the Trongsa Dzong, Bhutan’s largest fortress protecting the town perched high above a steep gorge. Overnight Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa.
Day 10: Sun 18 Apr - Trongsa to Tingtibi
With similar elevations to Yongkola, the road to Shemgang is widely considered to be one of the best birding routes in Bhutan. Fast-flowing streams and broadleaved forests at Chunjey Pang hold Little Forktail, Ashy Drongo, Short-billed Minivet, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Large Niltava, Pygmy Cupwing, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit, Crested Bunting and Scarlet Finch. After lunch, we descend to the broadleaved forest at Tingtibi where warmer temperatures and different birds may include Striated Yuhina, Common Green Magpie, Verditer and Little Pied Flycatcher, Himalayan Bulbul, White-crested Laughingthrush, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Greater Yellownape, Golden-throated Barbet, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and Crested Kingfisher. Our hotel in Tingtibi has potential too and if time allows, we search for Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Blue- throated Barbet, Common Tailorbird, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Rufescent Prinia and Large Woodshrike around the grounds. Overnight Hotel Twang, Tingtibi.
Days 11 & 12: Mon 19 & Tue 20 Apr - Tingtibi to Royal Manas National Park
The rich, sub-tropical bamboo forests of Tingtibi hold some of Bhutan’s rarest, and most sought-after birds. Rare and hard to find White-hooded Babbler is only found in this part of Bhutan, and on a pre-breakfast walk we may also see White-browed Piculet, Pale-headed Woodpecker, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Rufous-faced Warbler and Yellow-bellied Warbler. We plan to eat our packed breakfast in habitat where we may see the critically endangered White-bellied Heron - arguably the rarest bird in Bhutan! After a great morning, we continue south towards Panbang, driving through noisy sub-tropical rain forests with a wild banana understorey. Desirable species here include Sultan Tit, Red Junglefowl, Ashy and White-throated Bulbul, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Blue Rock Thrush, Collared Falconet, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl and Pin-tailed Green Pigeon.
We have the luxury of two nights at Tingtibi so will have another full day to explore the tropical rain forests around Panbang and the Nganglam Road searching for key species. Buff-breasted Babbler was only discovered as a Bhutanese bird in 2018 and Rufous-vented Laughingthrush is only found in Panbang, while Eye-browed Wren Babbler, Collared Treepie and Green Cochoa are rarely seen away from this region. The list of birds present in this lowland area is incredible, with many beautiful species of babblers, hornbills, flycatchers, barbets, warblers and minivets to keep us entertained. Overnight Ugyen Zilion Guesthouse, Panbang.
Day 13: Wed 21 Apr - Panbang to Tingtibi
Another morning birding in new areas of the beautiful forests of Panbang, may give us Silver-breasted Broadbill, Red-headed Trogon, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Black-backed Forktail, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Puff-throated Babbler, Wreathed Hornbill, Yellow-vented Warbler and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. After breakfast, we re-trace our way back to Tingtibi, and our route is also the best place to encounter rare Golden Langur, occasionally found in small groups foraging along the roadside. Overnight Hotel Twang, Tingtibi.
Day 14: Thu 22 Apr - Tingtibi to Trongsa
Our four-day exploration away from the main tourist routes is a key element to this holiday, and introduces a new selection of birds, habitats, and cultures to those we will see at higher altitudes. Travelling north, we explore the mid-temperate forests of Dakphai which teem with a myriad of birds. Here, we hope to encounter Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Beautiful Nuthatch, Blyth’s Shrike Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Long-tailed Broadbill, Striated Bulbul, White-naped Yuhina, Long-billed Wren Babbler and Mountain Tailorbird. After our packed breakfast, we continue through the small town of Shemgang before descending into the Wangduegang Valley for some birding. Grey-throated Babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Blue-capped Rock Thrush, Himalayan Bulbul, Great Hornbill, Emerald Dove, Rufous Woodpecker and plenty more are possible in the mixed forests and beside tumbling watercourses. Overnight Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa.
Day 15: Fri 23 Apr - Trongsa to Nobding
In the morning, we explore suitable habitat for Gold-naped Finch, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Bhutan Laughingthrush, Green Shrike Babbler, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Sapphire Flycatcher, Hoary-throated Barwing and Bar-winged Siva. Climbing through more rhododendron and fir forest, the views to Mount Jhomolhari (at 7326m above sea level) and Jichhu Drakee (at 6662m) from Pele La Pass are the stuff of picture postcards! Birding in the mixed conifer and sub-alpine forests, additions to our growing lists might include Spotted Nutcracker, Spotted and Black-faced Laughingthrush, Himalayan Vulture, Solitary Snipe, Crimson-browed Finch, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Himalayan Bluetail and Slaty-backed Flycatcher. Overnight Kuenphen Guesthouse, Nobding.
Day 16: Sat 24 Apr - Nobding to Punakha
An early start in the Dangchu Valley will take advantage of the time of day when birds are most active. We have chances of rare Ward’s Trogon, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide and Long-billed Thrush as well as Fire-tailed Myzornis, Grey-chinned Minivet, Red-tailed Minla and Spotted Elachura. Continuing with our journey through the town of Wangdue, we stop along the Puna Tshang Chhu (the Bhutanese name for the Brahmaputra) searching for Red-wattled Lapwing, Common and Green Sandpipers, Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Crested Kingfisher, Slender-billed Oriole, Collared Scops Owl and potentially many more. Late-afternoon, we break from birding and visit the magnificent Punakha Dzong. An astonishing building considered the country’s most beautiful and historically most important dzong. It was constructed in 1637, but as Punakha was the religious and administrative capital of Bhutan before Thimphu, the dzong was the seat of the government until 1955. Overnight Sonamgang Resort, Punakha.
Day 17: Sun 25 Apr - Punakha to Paro
Leaving Punakha, we travel through the Menchuna valley birding the mixed conifer and temperate rainforest. Birds present include Brown Parrotbill, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-throated Barbet, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Scarlet Minivet, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Black Eagle, Grey Treepie, Rufous-capped and Golden Babblers, Black-tailed Crake, Maroon-backed Accentor and Grey-sided Laughingthrush. An indication that this is the most populated area of Bhutan will be the quantity of prayer flags which festoon the Dochu La Pass, from where there is a spectacular panoramic view of the Himalayas and 108 memorial stupas commemorating 108 Bhutanese servicemen who lost their lives in 2003. We then stay at Hotel Olathang in the town of Paro for next two nights.
Day 18: Mon 26 Apr - Chele La Pass
A final opportunity to enjoy some of Bhutan’s high-altitude birds come as we drive the winding roads up to 3900m and the dwarf scrub and alpine meadows at Chele La Pass. Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Kalij Pheasant, Spotted Laughingthrush, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch, White-browed Bush Robin, Collard Grosbeak, Common Crossbill and Lammergeier and more are possible. Having enjoyed the cool mountains and the views to Mount Jomolhari, we drive back towards Paro, spending time along the Paro Chhu River looking for the ultimate high-altitude wader, the stunning Ibisbill. A superb finale to our exploration of Bhutan, with Rosy Pipit, Brown Dipper and White Wagtail also likely before we return to the hotel for a farewell dinner.
Days 19 & 20: - Tue 27 & Wed 28 Apr - Paro – Delhi - UK
We bid a fond farewell to Bhutan, flying from Paro to Delhi, stay overnight and then return to the UK the next day.