Bhutan Botanical Tour

18 DAYS
FROM $3,600

Guaranteed to run for a minimum of 2 clients or larger groups possible

Maximum 6PAX

Moderate

Space Available

Tour Overview

Bhutan is divided into three zones, from the altitude of 4000m and above, this zone mostly comprises high-altitude scrub on alpine grassy and stony slopes. The temperate Zone (2000m-4000m) the vegetation in this zone mostly comprises of conifer or broadleaf forest, and Subtropical Zone (150m-2000m) with the tropical and subtropical vegetation, due to this wide range of altitudinal and climatic, Bhutan has diverse and rich flora and fauna. Further, Bhutan is also a home for the 60% of the plants species that are found in the eastern Himalayas. 300 species of medicinal plants and close to 46 species of rhododendrons are found in Bhutan, beside some commonly found species include Junipers, Magnolias, Orchids, Blue Poppies (the national flower), Edelweiss, Gentian, various medicinal herbs, Daphne, Giant Rhubarb, Pine and Oak trees.

On this tour you can experience the magnificent flora and fauna on your treks and hikes through beautiful virgin forest, pristine Himalayan Mountains. Visiting some ancient fortresses and monasteries are included as part of your sightseeing.

 

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Paro – Paro Sightseeing

The flight into the Himalayas is one of the most scenic and breathtaking ones with the views of some of the tallest mountains of the world. On your arrival at the Paro international airport,

You will be received by Off to Bhutan representative and transferred to your hotel in the enchanting valley of Paro. After some time to rest and refresh after your journey and lunch, local cultural sightseeing in Paro.

Overnight; Paro

Day 2: Paro – Tiger’s Nest Excursion

We start early to hike Paro Taktsang, the Tiger nest, located at the height of 900m above valley below. 

The hiking trail takes you through the forest with flowers and lichen draped, which makes your effort worthwhile. During our hike we come across forest of Blue pine Pinus wallichiana, Quercus semecarpifolia, Rhododendron arboreum, R. triflorum, Cotoneaster microphyllus, Pieris Formosa, Piptanthus nepalensis, Ainsliaea aptera, Primula smithiana, Gentiana pedicellata, Viburnum cotinifolium.

Overnight: Paro

Day 3: Paro - Chelila - Thimphu

Early in the morning drive to chele La, the highest pass in the country with motorable road. On the way we see abundant of Primulas including the deep blue Primula griffithii, endemic to western Bhutan, an exciting range of Rhododendrons and other shrubs. And various species of birds, like Himalayan Monal, Kalij and blood pheasants to name few.

Afternoon: Transfer to Thimphu.

Overnight: Thimphu

Day 4: Thimphu - Dochula - Punakha

After breakfast, drive to Punakha over the Dochula pass (3150m).  

From the pass we prepare for hike following ancient trail. During our hike we will find many shrubs familiar to gardeners, such as Sarcococca hookeriana (Himalayan sweet box), Daphne bholua, Enkianthus deflexus, and Skimmia laureola. Towering specimen of Magnolia campbellii and Rhododendron falconeri  and many more.

The we continue our descent towards Punakha.

Overnight: Punakha.

Day 5: Punakha - Pelela - Trongsa

Begin the day with the 5-hour drive from Punakha to Trongsa.  The route passes through the small, windy town of Wangdue, after which we will enter into the rugged forested mountains. The pass en route is Pele La with 3300m, offering another opportunity to set out, on foot, in search of forest plants and bird life. Once on the foot our walk is splendid with lush of Rhododendron hogdsonii, R. kesangiae and R. thomsonii with lichen draped Betula utilis. Probably we see flowering Bryocarpum himalaicum before we continue our journey towards Trongsa. We arrive at Trongsa in late afternoon. Along the way we look for Rhododendron edgeworthii and R. lindleyi.

Overnight: Trongsa.

Day 6: Trongsa - Yotongla - Bumthang

Before setting off to Bumthang valley across Yotong La which is approximately 3400m, Visit the impressive Trongsa Dzong.  This dzong is the ancestral home for the Royal family of Bhutan, and the first King, before being crowned King of Bhutan, was the governor of this dzong.  Even now, there is a tradition that any Crown Prince of Bhutan, before coronation, must first serve as the Governor of Trongsa.  This period provides crucial training for the future King to care for the needs of the Nation and its people.

Continue our drive to Bumthang crossing the Yotola high pass at an elevation of 3400m, this will bring you to the Chumey valley in Bumthang.  Bumthang is famous for its distinctive woolen weaves, known as yathra, including some made from yak hair.  At the village of Zugney, you will see fine samples of yathra hanging by the roadside and available for purchase.  The weavers, all women, can be seen busily working at their looms beside the road.  The road continues over the Kikila pass to enter the next valley in Bumthang (Jakar), the district headquarters

Along the way to Bumthang we make several roadside stops, whenever possible and take break for nature and lunch. In the evening we arrive at Jakar.

Remaining of the day we’ll spend making preparation for the trek. 

Overnight: Bumthang

Day 7: Jakar - Sombaykha (2800m) - Camp

Bumthang is most holy district with many pilgrimage sites in and around and the cultural heartland of the country. As a mark of symbols, one can see many temples, monasteries, chortens and prayer flags. Before setting off to first part of our trek, a gentle walk between pine forests with grassy meadows along chamkhar chu, we explore some cultural sightseeing around chamkhar valley.

At early afternoon make our way to campsite at Sombaykha 2800m, with rest of the time to explore around the camp.

Overnight: Sombaykha Camp

Day 8: Sombaykha - Phephe La

Today we make a gradual ascent towards Phephe La at the elevation of 3597m. The forest is outstanding still untouched. We pass through meadows, blue pine, dwarf bamboos, Himalayan hemlocks and east Himalayan Spruce. As we go higher, the flora changes and we look for rare endemic Daphne ludlowii grows under Rhododendron kesangiae and many herbaceous plants include Primula geraniifolia, Primula gracilipes, Adonis brevistyla and Bryocarpum himalaicum. Without feeling our tiredness and noticing our time passes by we can get to the campsite surrounded by maples, birch, rhododendron and plenty of Anemone obtusiloba

The campsite is more beautiful with large-eared Pika living under the logs, sharing space with us at night and if needed to give company too. And chances of encountering beautiful giants like Satyr Tragopan and Blood Pheasants.

Overnight: Camp below Phephe La

Day 9: Phephe La camp - Takhung

A steep initial ascent to the top of the Phephe La (3597m) introduces us to more rhododendrons, including various colour forms of Rhododendron cinnabarinum and Rhododendron barbatum. We then enjoy a gradual descent through conifer forest and grassy meadows into the Tang valley. In the process we come across Roscoea tibetica with purple flower and golden stars Hypoxis aurea. We camp near Tang chu by the name of place Takhung (2652m)

Overnight: Camp Takhung 

Day 10: Takhung - Phokphey

Before heading off towards Phokphey, we plan to visit the local school, and if time permit 16th century manor house at Ogyen Choling, with its interesting museum of Bhutanese artifacts. If not way back from Phokphey.

We then make our long climb towards campsite at Phokphey (3681m), a pastureland, surrounded by majestic forest of Bhutan Fir Abies densa, rhododendrons, and dwarf bamboo. New species include Rhododendron succothii, R. anthopogon, and R. setosum.

Probably our longest part of trek, with gentle climb initially and as we go higher getting more steep but as we near campsite is getting gentle again.

Overnight: Phokphey Camp 

Day 11: Phokphey

Today we walk gently through the forest, along ancient trail, with a final steep climb to Rodung La, 4167m. Massive trees of Rhododendron hodgsonii, give way to R. wightii, R. flinkii, R. Bhutanese. Depending upon our luck we have chances for spectacular Himalayan Monal, beautiful Blood Pheasant and wonderful Fire-tailed Myzornis. If weather favors us we may venture further up to Rodung La before our way back to campsite.

Overnight: Camp Phokphey 

Day 12: Phokphey - Gamling

Our last day of camping by the side of Tang Chu with Plumbeous Water Redstart, White Wagtail, Ibisbill and Grey-backed Shrike waiting for our warm welcome and to give company over night and to give us wake up call in the morning with their melodies calls.

We say goodbye to our camping crew and pony men and are reunited with our coach.

Overnight: Camp Gamling 

Day 13: Gamling - Trongsa - Phobjekha

A journey towards phobjikha valley is great experience welcoming you with hot showers and wooden burning stove after our days of trekking. The valley is wintering ground for the rare species of Black-Necked Crane, is home for Rhododendron ciliatum and the blood red Rhododendron thomsonii.

Overnight Phobjikha.

Day 14: Phbojekha - Punakha

We spent morning botanising in the vicinity and visiting Gangtey Gompa, a magnificent 16th century building, housing Nyingmapa school of Buddhism.

Depending on time we make several roadside stop for botany, on our way back to Punakha where we stay overnight.

Overnight: Punakha.

Day 15: Punakha - Paro

On our way back to Paro for our final night in Bhutan crossing Dochu La 3150m, we stop at Thimphu for lunch and for shopping if time permits.

Overnight: Paro 

Day 16: Departure

Finally your tour in Bhutan will end and bid farewell to your guide and driver. Depart from Paro international airport towards your respective destination

What to Expect

  • This birding tour will be on selected sites that do not pose any threats such as steep slopes. During these trips, you should expect yourself to walk at least 6-7 kilometers on average per day
  • Like elsewhere, the best time for watching birds is in the morning. You can expect an early start in the morning most of the time. However, a couple of very early mornings are required to look for high elevation dwelling Pheasant that comes out to the roadside early in the morning.
  • Accommodation on this tour is generally simple but comfortable. The hotels are generally spacious, clean and comfortable, built-in westernized Bhutanese style, and all rooms have private facilities. However, due to the limited availability of good lodges and hotels in some remote part of the country, you will spend a couple of nights in basic hotels or tented camp.

Bhutan Birding Experts

Tshering Dorji

Pema Dawa comes from a remote village in Bhutan and has grown up in a village surrounded with beautiful and pristine forests and many local people who have lots of knowledge on the plants around. It is often said that people from his village can survive a month in the forest with their knowledge on the plants. After he graduated from Sherubtse College, oldest university in Bhutan, he decided to become a tour guide. In order to enhance his knowledge Pema, continue his interest in flora and fauna by going with some foreign botanist expert as co guide and also lead successfully many botanists tour on his own. He is one of the few guides who received advance training on nature guides conducted by Ugyen Wangchuk Institue on Conservation and Environment, and topped the botany exam.

Pema is also enthusiastic birder and well proficient in local culture, history and tradition with good command of the English language.

 

 

Bhutan Birding Experts

Judy and I wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed our "Off To Bhutan" trip. Tshering was a great bird guide; very Knowledgeable about the birds and excellent spotter .His information on the history of Bhutan was remarkable and for a young man he is quite mature. We enjoyed being with Karma, he is an excellent driver (on many not so good roads) and he is also a great bird spotter. He was looking out for us the day he yelled "RUN" when the tree was about to fall down the cliff onto the road where Judy and I were walking. Both the guys have a great sense of humor and we enjoyed spending the 18 days with them. We thought the balance between birding and "cultural activities" was good. We liked learning about your country, some of the history, seeing the three temples/dzongs, and meeting some of the local people. The climb to Tiger's Nest was harder than I thought it would be, but it was worth it. And of course the birds were great!! (all 241 of them)
Bruce and Judy Kronmiller
(bkron244@gmail.com) USA
In March/April 2015 we made a birding trip of three weeks to the Kingdom of Bhutan. We want to thanks Norbu of Off to Bhutan for organizing this tour. We started our journey in Paro, in the western part of the country, and ended in Samdrup Jongkhar in the southeast at the border of Bhutan and India (Assam). Two young people accompanied us on this trip: Tshering, our guide and Phurba Dorji, the driver. Tshering was very helpful in finding the birds and succeeded in showing us most of the local specialties. Among them the Ibisbill, Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Rufous-necked Hornbill and many more… Our driver Phurba did a great job in driving us carefully along the many curves on the road, sometime very narrow roads. Nine out twenty-two two nights we camped and were accompanied by a crew of another 3 young men who cared for the tents and meals, many thanks to Norbu, Sa, gay and Sonam for their support.
Wim de Groot and Jeanette den Herder
Schelgeest 53 1901HC Castricum. The Netherlands
Thanks, Norbu and Tshering my guide for the great trip, I enjoyed it thoroughly, your ears, and knowledge of the local birds were fantastic, also your knowledge of many other parts of your beautiful country was very much appreciated. Despite a few difficulties, you manage the tour with the skill of the much older person. All the very best for your future where ever it takes you. if you ever come to Australia, don’t forget to look me up, just don’t leave it to long.
Dick
THE JUNCTION 2291 Australia

Prices & Dates

Date3 People or moreLess than 3 people
22nd April – 7th May 2020$3,600
per person
$4,020
per person

What is Included

  • All internal taxes and charges (including royalties)
  • Accommodation on twin sharing basis
  • All meals, tea, snack, and bottled water
  • All travel with a licensed local birding guide
  • All surface transfers by a private vehicle
  • Camping equipment and haulage for camping and trekking tours
  • All entry fees to monuments, Museum and National Parks
  • Bhutan Visa Fee

What is not Included

  • Optional tours/excursions, personal & incidental expenses.
  • Tips, laundry, phone calls, and bars.
  • International and domestic airfare, and insurance.

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