How to convey in a few sentences the splendour that is Bhutan! There are few places on earth that have not been overrun by tourism, and Bhutan is one of those unique places. Here you can absorb the quiet majesty of the Himalayas, the dignity and piety of its gentle people wearing traditional dress as they circle the Stupas, spinning prayer wheels and quietly praying. Walking forest tracks you will see brilliantly coloured rhododendrons dripping down the mountain sides and probably spot a yak or even a whole herd munching on a grassy slope. The magnificence of the Dzongs (temples) is breathtaking, each one seemingly more wonderful than the last. You may be welcomed into quaint village houses to drink tea and watch butter or cheese being made by a smiling Bhutanese. The quality of the cosy, comfortable hotels we stayed in surprised and delighted me and I’m grateful for the unique opportunity provided by Bhutan Birding & Heritage and Barb Green’s tour of this unspoilt, enchanting land.
“April 2019: two full-of-wonder weeks in Bhutan. Definitely not your usual overseas tourist trip. What stays with me most is the spirit of the people: intelligent, gentle and compassionate. Buddhism permeates the culture and history of this country and whether as a Bhutanese, you are devout or a little bit lazy when it comes to practising Buddhism, most Bhutanese seem to not only practise but to celebrate a compassionate perspective on all life. The Buthanese are proud of measuring their gross national productivity in terms of happiness. Bhutan Birding and Heritage Tours and Barb Green knows Bhutan well. In a small touring bus with a wonderful driver (Pala) and witty guide(Dorji) we saw much of the rugged country; cultural festivities; the extraordinary talents of weavers and printmakers and craft makers of all types; a range of towns; spiritual and historical fortresses and temples; and got physically active undertaking a number of memorable treks including climbing up to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery perched precariously 10500 feet up, on the edge of a ravine. This trek is awe inspiring but is doable and not necessarily only for experienced trekkers.
For those interested in horticulture and farming there is much to see and learn. April is spring. A little cool at nights, down perhaps to 3-5 degrees and the day time temperature around 18-20 degrees. For the most part you will be 4000 feet and higher above sea level but for me a keen gardener, I was surprised to see identical flowers , spring bulbs and vegetables that I myself would grow back in Australia.
Barb’s long connection to Bhutan and her warm relationship with the principals and staff of Bhutan Birding and Heritage Toursin Bhutan means that you get not only access to the physical and spiritual wonders of Bhutan, but an important plus for me, you get to meet local people, to spend time with them and their families in their homes and get to see how ordinary local people live.
You’ve got to tick this one off your bucket list”
At the end of April 2019 I completed my third trip with Bhutan Birding and Heritage Travels; all different trips. This year I did the Flowering Forests trip. Although winter was abit longer in Bhutan this year, the beautiful rhododendrons didn’t disappoint and we saw plenty of yaks before they go back up into the mountains for summer. Spring is now my favourite time to visit Bhutan. Many thanks to Dorjee for being an excellent and informative guide and to Pala for being a safe and diligent driver! Again, I have fond memories of beautiful Bhutan.
When we first started considering a visit to one of the Himalayan countries, I contacted several birding friends who I suspected had made trips to that region. Sure enough, one woman reported that she had traveled to Bhutan twice and strongly recommended that country. She further recommended the tour company she had used, Bhutan Birding and Heritage Travel. I heeded her advice and contacted Hishey Tshering the owner of the tour company. Over the next five months I must have exchanged 25 e-mails with Hishey seeking detailed information about the country, logistics, wildlife and related subject. His responses were always prompt, accurate and very helpful. Also, I could not help but notice there was never a single error in spelling or grammar! This is simply remarkable for a person who does not have English as their first language! Upon Hishey’s recommendation, we flew to Delhi, then on to Guwahati in Assam Province. There after a night in a first class hotel, we were met by our guide, Sonam Dorji, who with an Indian driver took us into southeast Bhutan at Samdrup Jongkhar. This was the beginning of an exciting and rewarding fourteen day trip across the country from the east all the way to Paro in the west. Dorji turned out to be more than one could reasonably expect as a guide. Yes he knew his birds and yes, he knew exactly where to find them .And of course he could spot birds in thick cover where we could not find them. But he was a virtual human Wikipedia of knowledge about just about any subject where we had questions: culture, history, dress, architecture, the environment, the works. There was hardly a single question for which he did not have the answer. This made for fascinating conversation. But more that all these, he had a raucous sense of humor which allowed us to josh with each other even when things were otherwise boring. Our driver, Penjor, was a friend of Dorji’s who is a freelance driver. He supplemented Dorji in spotting birds because he has an excellent pair of eyes and a keen interest in helping. As a driver, Penjor was an expert. The East-West “highway” in Bhutan is hardly an interstate. It is a twisty-turny road, unpaved in most places. It is also exceptionally dangerous if one is not paying attention. Penjor was ever alert and we felt safe with him behind the wheel even in the worst driving situations.. The tour itself was extremely well planned and organized. Hishey left nothing to chance. We wanted to see some of the most important cultural sites and we did: the Dzong at Punakha, the 108 stupas at Dochu La, the elaborate dancers at the spring festival in Paro and the giant Buddha overlooking Thimphu. We stayed in beautifully appointed lodges where we could relax comfortably after a long day in the field. We enjoyed a sumptuous lunch with Hishey himself when we arrived in Thimphu. We can heartily recommend this tour company for anyone contemplating a visit to Bhutan. Hishey and his people really know how to treat a tourist like every tourist would like to be treated but often is not.
"Hello Hishey,...We have been home for one week, and our memories of your beautiful country are with us still in a very strong way. Our pictures are beautiful. I still have strong memories of the smells of Bhutan. Sometimes we trekked along trails lined with big bushes of flowering blossoms. Goenpo was a superb guide. His knowledge of cultural and natural history was very thorough, and he was thoughtful and sincere. We thought he was a perfect guide!We also enjoyed and appreciated Dorji, and all the other staff who were so helpful and kind. James and I will recommend Bhutan Birding & Heritage Travels to our friends. Your country is a Shangri La; so lovely and peaceful. I hope it will always remain so.Thank you and your staff for all your kindness.
After our first trip to Bhutan in 2001 we knew that we would be back. That first trip was in April to catch the birds singing and the great display of wild rhododendron blossoms. We assumed that the black-necked cranes would have left their wintering grounds in the Phobjikha Valley but wanted to see this little piece of Shangri-la anyway. To our astonishment my wife Birgit discovered one lone crane. However, we fell in love with Bhutan, not only because of its richness and beauty but because of its "small is beautiful" principles. The 20th century has seen tragic destruction of natural heritage and human heritage. Bhutan seems to be successful in cherishing that which is most precious in both of these areas. This accounts for the variety and richness to the eye of the visitor. Birgit and I are both artists and photographers and Bhutan served up an unsurpassed banquet for our eyes. Our second trip in 2005 was organized by (Hishey, of Bhutan Heritage Travels) for maximum abundances of experiences each day. Although circumstances allowed only a brief stay we were more than satisfied. We went in February to catch the main wintering population of cranes but even so we saw and heard plenty of birds including the Monal pheasant. We spent two nights in the elegant, traditional style hotel in the Phobjikha Valley and a miracle happened, at least from the point of view of artists/photographers. It snowed! The landscape was transformed into a Middle Ages European scene reminiscent of Breughel's Return From the Hunt with yaks thrown in for a bonus. We ended the trip with no complaints and only praise for this unique and charming country and for Bhutan Heritage Travels that took such good care of us, physically, intellectually and spiritually.
Hishey and his team guided my group on a three week birding trip in Bhutan in 2006. We had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed both the birding and the company. Hishey's knowledge of Bhutanese birds and his abilities to find even the most elusive species cannot be praised highly enough. His professionalism in catering for the needs of his clients, his dedication to nature conservation in Bhutan, and his open, friendly nature are but some of the attributes that make Hishey an excellent guide. We saw nearly all the birds special to Bhutan during our stay and were very well looked after. I can certainly recommend Hishey's services as a guide to anyone planning a birding trip to Bhutan and doubt that better value for money can be found elsewhere.
I travelled to Bhutan in 1999 with the ICF. Hishey tshering was our guide. He made me feel at home in the strange and wonderful "Kingdom of Druk". I appreciated greatly his sense of humor and story-telling ablilities. I was very much impressed by his even-tempered and non judgemental manner of speaking, especially about complicated and controversial subjects. He is open-minded and honest, so i was able to learn a lot about the culture, history and politics of Bhutan. As for the incredible, pristine beauty of the country, Hishey showed us some stunning natural treasures and introduced us to fauna and flora experts who were eager to answer all our questions. I hope to visit Bhutan again and I will most certainly go with Hishey's tour company. He truly loves Bhutan and is working hard to preserve it's undiluted culture and environment. When you travel with Hishey, you feel like you are giving something back to Bhutan, you feel part of a grand experiment in human evolution: the conscious, heart-felt effort to balance the needs of mankind and nature. I returned from my trip feeling inspired and hopeful about the future of the planet. What a priceless souvenir!!
It was with great enjoyment my daughter and I toured beautiful Bhutan with Hishey. We found him to be very enlightening, very humourous, and very polite. He made our time there a truly memorable experience.
Dear Hishey, We want to thank you and Bhutan Heritage Travels for making our trip to Bhutan a unique and memorable experience. With great patience and thoughtfulness, you helped us craft a specialized trip that exceeded every need and expectation of our small group. It was the easiest and most stress-free traveling any of us had ever done---you gave us your personal attention and took care of every detail. We really appreciated how you led us to discover places we would not have known to explore, taught us about Bhutan's natural resources and culture, and introduced us to extraordinary people we would not have met otherwise. Your strong personal environmental ethics and cultural sensitivity ensured that we both enjoyed and respected all the places and events on our tour. By the time we left Bhutan, not only had we captured indelible memories and photographs but we had made good friends who continue to enrich our lives. We are so happy to count you among those friends! We will continue to share our experience and our delight with Bhutan Heritage Travels with everyone we meet... With our very best wishes.
We visited Bhutan the first time in 1999 under the auspices of the International Crane Foundation and the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature. We liked Bhutan so much that we returned in 2000 and will visit again in 2003. We have inspired many other friends and family to travel there as well with our host Hishey Tshering and Bhutan Heritage Travels. This is due to Hishey and his superb organization who always will go the extra mile to make guests comfortable, and who made it possible for us to come as tourists, but leave as friends.
Although we only spent 10 days in Bhutan, the trip has become the gold standard against which all other family vacations are compared. The country is a gem: the people are warm and welcoming, the Buddhist history and architecture astonishing, and the Himalayan backdrop indescribable. Even more important, Hishey Tshering's prodigious energy and enthusiasm, vast knowledge, and excellent organizational skills ensured that we enjoyed every minute of our stay.