Wildlife Bhutan, 13 days

Red Panda
Ultimate Bhutan Wildlife

Tour highlights

  • Visit red panda habitat at Thrumshing-la NP
  • Birdwatching hotspot in Tingtibi
  • Walking safari in Manas NP
  • Charming stay in Pangbang Jungle Camp
  • Kheng cultural program with bonfire
  • River rafting safari in Manas
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival to Paro Arrival to Paro. Visit busy little town. Other sightseeing subject to time of arrival. 
2 Paro Visit of the National Museum and Paro dzong (Rinpung dzong), the castle-monastery where Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha film was shot. The pristine Kyichu lhakhang is one of the two oldest temples built in Bhutan. Climb to Taktsang gomba (Tiger’s Nest), is the highlight of the tour. While the hike seems to be hard, it’s very rewarding. If you don’t feel so strong, you can climb just halfway to cafeteria with nice view of the place. You can consider hiking in the morning or early afternoon depending on weather, your fitness, and preferences.
3 Paro – Jakar (flight) Taking domestic flight to Bumthang is extraordinary experience. You will see many of the seven and six thousand meters high mountains on the border with Tibet, including Gangkhar Puensum which counts as the highest mountain never summited by men. After landing visit to Jambay lhakhang temple, which pins down the leg of giant demoness. Continue walk to Kurjey lhakhang temple complex. Evening explore lively Jakar town. 
4 Jakar – Ura In the morning we will start drive in direction to Ura village. We will stop at the place called Membartsho, the Burning lake. Here 5th century blacksmith-saint Pema Lingpa discovered cache of scriptures left here by famous magician-saint Guru Rimpoche. You can also visit to nunnery and see the life of Buddhist lady monks. Taking nice nature walk from there to intricate Zangopelri lhakhang temple is also interesting option. Continue drive to Shertong-la pass. In clear weather, there are chances to see highest mountain of Bhutan, Gangkhar Puensum, just before the pass. From the pass summit (3550m) it’s nice 45 minutes nature stroll down to Ura village. Here you can visit local monastery and village. Ura is already on the edge of Thrumshing-la National Park. During the rest of the afternoon you might try your luck by going in the forest and trying to spot animals. Red Pandas are present in the areas as well as clouded leopards and other wild animals. Anyhow please mind it's very rare to spot these animals and it very much depends on your luck.
5 Ura In the early morning we will start hike to Gayzamchu. This 5-6 hours hike leading over the ridge above the Ura village inside the Thrumshing-la National Park will give us some chances to spot wild animals, especially Red Panda. After reaching Gayzamchu area we will drive to Thrumshing-la pass, which is second-highest motorable pass in Bhutan. Pleasant views are possible from here. Also, we will stop at the Rhododendron park, just before the pass where the tens of different rhododendron species, growing in the area are on display. There are hundreds of different rhododendrons in Bhutan. We will stop on various places around the road in order to find good place to see wild animals which are plentiful in the dense alpine jungles around. Evening back to Ura.
6 Ura – Trongsa

We will take new road from Ura to Chummey. Shortly after leaving Ura and crossing the saddle, there is another place from where Gangkhar Punesum (7540m), the highest mountain of Bhutan, which was never summited by man, can be seen. You are not in hurry, so you can make numerous stops for bird and wildlife watching. Continue to Chummey village after which you have option for the side trip to the Tharpaling monastery on the high ridge. In winter watch for black neck cranes who roost here. Continue ascending to Yotong la pass (3500 m) and long descend to Trongsa with many curves and changing vegetation. Visit the great Trongsa dzong, the castle from which the royal dynasty of Bhutan had risen. Makak monkeys frequently visits the castle to look for the food leftovers. Also visit intricate museum in watchtower Ta Dzong hosting number of interesting artifacts related to royal dynasty, history of Bhutan and many religious statues and temples.

7 Trongsa – Manas

In the morning start driving south. We will be descending through Mangdechu river valley where the cascade of hydroelectric dams are being built. Jigme Singye Wangchuck National park is on the right side. After reaching landslide areas of Riotaula, the popular birdwatching area begin. You can peek for rufous necked hornbills in this area. Also, the golden langurs are living here. Pass through Tingtibi village, which is important junction of the area, where you will spend night next day. Continue driving south to Manas. Before this was trekking trail but now paved road is built here. We will pass along beautiful waterfalls and nice views of river confluences. Reach to Pangbang village and drive to luxurious camping in Pangbang Ecolodge. Evening experience of bonfire and local Kheng dance and song performance.

8 Manas – Tingtibi This morning we will have great adventure on river rafting safari with experienced local river guides. Rafting is relatively easy and focused on wildlife spotting along the river shores. While reaching Manas, we will take ferry to other side of Manas river where the park headquarters is located. Manas National Park is habitat of many animals, including Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur, pygmy hog, wild elephant one horned rhino, tiger, wild water buffalo and others. Anyhow, be humble in your expectations. Only the small portion of park is accessible, and it depends on good luck if you see any animal. Only jungle walk safari is currently permitted. Walk through the periphery of the National Park takes about 1 hour. After that, take the wooden ferry to cross Manas river once again and drive to nearby Tiger Centre where you will learn about successful tiger conservation in Bhutan. Also visit Bhutan border and walk to Indian side of Manas park. After all this we will turn back to Pangbang and will drive further up, back to the mountains, reaching Tingtibi village in the evening, getting accommodation in simple local hotel.
9 Tingtibi – Phobjika Today we will wake up before dusk and drive above the Tingtibi for bird and wildlife watching. Dense jungles are full of golden langurs and various birds including hornbills. This is one of the major birdwatching hotspots in Bhutan. After that, start arduous drive to Trongsa after which you continue east. Have a stop at Chendebji chorten, which was modeled after Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu. Continue drive to Pele-la (3540 m) pass, which is divide between central and western Bhutan. This is habitat of gray langurs which can be spotted at the place from time to time. Evening reach to Phobjika valley. You might like to spend overnight in local farmhouse as a host of welcoming family or even try the hot stone bath, traditional Bhutanese treat.
10 Phobjika – Wangdue Visit of historical Gangtey gompa. 2.5-hour walking tour through the valley is one of the most beautiful and easy hikes in Bhutan. You will go through the buckwheat and potato fields to the mixed forest with trees decorated with old men's beard lichen and finally you will get a view of marshland. Here, in late autumn and winter, rare black neck crane can be seen. Birds usually stays from November to February. We will definitely visit black neck crane centre with interesting exposition about these elusive birds which are considered holy by the locals. Afternoon drive to Wangdue. You might like to visit rustic Rinchengang village to experience life in rural Bhutanese settlement. 
11 Wangdue – Thimphu Short morning hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten with wonderful view of the valley, and it’s terraced paddy fields. See the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan stretching the length of 350 m over Pho Chhu river. Visit of Punakha dzong, which counts as the most intricately decorated castle in the kingdom. Short walk to Chhimmy lhakhang temple, devoted to 15th century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as “Divine madman”, who taught Buddhism by singing, drinking and scandalous sexual exploits. If time permits, also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery with Bhutanese and Nepali style stupa, overlooking the valley from the high hill. Afternoon drive to Thimphu. Visit of Tashicho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government. 
12 Thimphu  Early morning drive to Buddha Dordenma, the gigantic statue of Buddha overlooking the valley and walk to striking city viewpoint. Walk in Norzin lam street and see the traffic police signaling in junctions. Thimphu is only capital in the world without the traffic lights. Finish walk at handicraft market where many interesting Bhutanese souvenirs can be seen and bought for reasonable price. Excursion to Takin reserve. Here the animals are kept in safe and bred to be released to wild nature from time to time. Usually you can also see muntjak (barking deer) and himalyan spoted deer here. These animals are kept here after being found injured in the wild for recovery. Visit hand paper factory a Thangkha painting center, where young artists learns the skills of their forefathers. After that drive to Changankha lhakhang, the oldest place of worship in the valley. Visit of Tashicho dzong, the castle, which serves as seat of the king and government.
13 Departure  
Tour variants, extensions and combinations: 
  • Haa valley homestay (+2 nights): At the end of the tour, you can drive over the Chele-la pass (nearly four thousands meter high) to rarely visited Haa valley. On the way you can do hike to Kila gompa, oldest nunnery in Bhutan from 14th century and also experience high altitude on the ridge of the pass from where Mt. Jomolhari and Kanchenjunga can be seen in clear weather. In Haa you'll stay in three hundred years old farmhouse as a guest of local family. Haa is less visited valley due to the fact, it's home to Indian military base. Anyway the nature is very pristine and so are the villages. You can visit few local temples and also make nice village hike around.
  • Tshechu festival  (+1 night): With proper planning, we can arrange that you will experience annual tsechu festival in some of the castles or monasteries. There are many festivals in Bhutan, so we can definitely fix your travel dates to match. We just need to start planning well ahead (optimally more then 6 months before) in order to secure flight tickets and hotel reservations.
  • Gasa Hot springs (+1 or 2 days): Gasa is highland region north of Punakha, just recently connected by road. Apart from beautiful dzong and vistas of nearby high peaks, you can enjoy the natural hot springs, so called "tsachu". There is number of pools with different temperatures. Water is sulfurous and it's believed it's beneficial for number of skin ailments. It's great relax in luxurious pools anyway. Additional experience can be spending overnight here in local farmhouse to try authentic Bhutanese hospitality.
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