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For the Birds! A Celebration of Black Necked Crane Conservation in Bhutan
Trip Dates: November 8 to 18, 2023 (10 days in-country)

Black Necked Cranes

Taktsang Monastery

Black Necked Crane Festival dancer

Bhutanese boys in gho

The cost includes: Hotels/lodges/guest houses on twin-sharing basis and three meals a day in Bhutan, English speaking guide, overland travel throughout Bhutan as per the itinerary, airport transfers, dzong/monastery entry fees as specified, Bhutan visa and tourism fee.

The cost does not include: International and domestic airfare, meals not specified, beverages, insurance, airport tax, and misc to be specified in subsequent literature.

For more information and a detailed itinerary... please contact

KarmaQuest Ecotourism and Adventure Travel
Tel: (650) 560-0101/
Fax: 712-8164
699 Spindrift Way, Half Moon Bay,
California 94019 USA



Each winter a flock of endangered Black Necked Cranes flies over the Himalaya from Tibet to winter in the marshy meadows of Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan. There, villagers welcome the cranes’ arrival as an auspicious sign and blessing. KarmaQuest invites you to join us in Phobjikha to see the cranes, and to help celebrate and support the local crane conservation efforts at a lively village festival held at Gangtey Gompa (monastery). A new and exciting feature of this trip is the opportunity to lodge with a family in a traditional farmhouse "homestay" and learn from them about Bhutan's legends, Buddhist traditions, local foods and farming.

Other highlights of the trip include the magnificent dzongs of Paro and Punakha where 17th century rulers and lamas shared rule, and Thimphu's excellent museums of folklore, textiles, and arts and crafts. On guided nature walks, you'll pass through villages, farms and forests, gaining insights into daily life and issues in this fascinating country that balances the old and the new.

In Paro, hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) perched high on a cliff and visit its cave-like holy sanctuaries, some of the holiest in Bhutan. You'll come to appreciate what the Bhutanese consider happiness and how to attain it, guided by a national policy of measuring annual productivity by standards of "gross national happiness."

Here is what one KarmaQuest traveler says about his experiences:

"KarmaQuest created a majestic and well organized adventure of a lifetime. Because of our small and intimate group size we were able to explore cultural places, people and get to know families on a bonding level which gave us the best sense of Bhutan." Stephen Yas

This trip can be paired with another KarmaQuest Himalayan excursion: Sikkim: A Cultural Tour and Home Visit with KarmaQuest allowing you to visit both neighboring countries back to back. Please inquire about the Sikkim trip.


Day 1: Arrive in Paro via flight from Delhi or Bangkok: Drive an hour to Thimphu. After settling in, visit one of the capital city's small and informative museums. Then take a short walk to the Takin Preserve: the ungainly takin looks like a cross between a goat and a moose. Get to know Thimphu on foot. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 2: Thimphu: Begin the day with a stroll around the memorial chorten, joining dozens of devoted Buddhist worshippers in gaining merit by circling this sacred site. Then visit the Folk Heritage Museum, the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts, the Textile Museum, and the hand-made paper factory. Overnight in Thimphu.

Day 3: Drive to Phobjikha: Leaving Thimphu, drive over Dochula (pass) at 10,000 feet from where on a clear day the Bhutanese Himalaya are visible. Continue on to the high altitude marshlands of Phobjikha, the wintering grounds for the endangered Black Necked Crane. Arrive late in the afternoon when winter shadows exaggerate the hilly terrain. Overnight in a family homestay in Phobjikha.

Day 4: Phobjikha: Black Necked Crane Festival and Viewing: Rise early and venture out in the chilly morning to see the cranes in their roost, slowly flying to their daytime feeding grounds in the marshlands. Then join the festivities celebrating the birds' annual return to the valley. Visit the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) Visitor Center to learn about the birds and the conservation efforts underway. Overnight in a homestay in Phobjikha.

Day 5: Enjoy another day in the picturesque Phobjikha Valley with a nature walk, and interacting with your family hosts. Ask them to teach you how to make the fire-hot ema dashi (chilis, cheese and rice), or take your turn milking the cow or weaving a blanket. Overnight in Phobjikha.

Day 6: Drive to Punakha: Depart Phobjikha and cross Pele La, heading north to Wangdi Phodrang. Sadly the dzong here burnt down several years ago but the town perched on a promontory remains an interesting stop. Continue driving a short distance and walk an hour through rice fields and tiny villages to Chimi Lhakhang, a small monastery where an historical lama known as the Divine Madman is said to have cured infertility. Return on foot, and drive on to Punakha for overnight.

Day 7: Punakha: Today you'll tour the 17th century Punakha dzong, where Bhutan's founder Lama Shabdrung Rinpoche set up the first government with lamas and lay leaders housed in this magificent building. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon of bird watching by the river, or relaxing at your leisure. Overnight in Punakha.

Day 8: Paro: Drive to Paro, arriving mid day. Explore the small downtown, shopping for woolen weavings, wood carvings, or whatever locally made handicrafts catch your fancy. Overnight in Paro.

Day 9: Paro: Now that you are well acclimatized to Bhutan's elevations (Paro: 8000 ft) hike up nearly 2,500 ft to the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest)(photo left), built on a narrow ledge in honor of Guru Rinpoche who introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century and visited Bhutan on the back of a tiger. Descend, and time permitting, drive to Drugyal Dzong, a small historic hilltop fortress. Overnight in Paro.

Day 10: Paro: Today, visit the National Museum, presenting a fine, concise overview of all things Bhutanese. Later drive up valley to visit Khichu Lhakhang, housing a 7th century temple and some of Bhutan's oldest holy relics. Later, take an easy walk to a typical Paro village and on the way watch for birds with the help of your guide. Overnight in Paro.

Day 11: Fly to Delhi or Bangkok and catch your international flight onward. Or, fly to Bagdogra (depending upon the flight schedule) or drive to Phuntsoling and join Sikkim: A Cultural Tour and Home Visit with KarmaQuest in neighboring Sikkim (November 18 to 30). Note: the Sikkim Cultural Tour can also be organized on a customized basis prior to the Bhutan trip. Please inquire.

Trip Cost:

2-3 persons US $6,100/person

4-6 persons US $ 5,890/person

7-10 persons US $ 5,650/person

Single supplement US $800/person

Conservation Donation: A donation of $100 per person is asked to support the Royal Society for Protection of Nature's work in Bhutan on Black Necked Crane Conservation.


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