One of the many exotic and the much visited tourist destinations of Bhutan is Phobjikha. It is a vast U-shaped glacial valley which is better known for the historically significant Gangtey Goenpa. Thus, it is often called Gangtey Valley. More than that, the scenic Phobjikha valley is well-known for receiving the endangered Black necked crane during winter and providing their habitats.
Phobjikha also is one of the must-included places by the tours and travel agent while planning the itinerary and the trip for their foreigner guests. Moreover, it is also one of the much sought shooting places for the movies and videos by the directors and the movie producers and the study spots for many researchers and educators. The largest RAMSAR site of Bhutan is also conserved in Phobjikha valley, making this place even more untouched with its natural geography intact.
Here are 5 things I and my friends did during our last weekend gateway to Phobjikha:
1# Halt for the scenic pictures at the valley top
At about 1km after diverting from the Wandue-Trongsa highway just below the Pelela pass, there is a very scenic valley top with the giant Chorten. One can halt nearby the Chorten for the light refreshment (tea and juices), and walk around for the pictures.
When I and my friends visited Phobjikha, it was towards the late spring. There was range of rhododendrons blooming. The ground was filled with various types of healthy Primula, and I was literally never enough adoring something so beautiful a nature can be.
2# Visit to Gangtey Goenpa
Gangtey Goenpa is located at the hillock in between the Gangtey Village. It is first built in 1613 by Gyalsey Ridgzin Pema Thinley, the grandson and the reincarnation of the treasurer Toerten Pema Lingpa. Today, the monastery is headed by the ninth Gantey Truelku and is the largest Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan.
The magnificent structure of the monastery comprises of the central goenpa, quarters for the monks and the meditation centers.
From the monastery, one can also see the striking Phojikha village down the valley. The photo lovers can simply take the whole valley as the picture background. Quite often, the crows can also be captured in your picture with you if you are quick enough.
3# Visit the giant plain- A Ramsar site
Geologically, Bhutan is a mountainous terrace, and it is very rare to find a massive flat land. The Ramsar site in Phobjikha valley stretches to over 974.65ha – the massive flat land covered with the lush green grasses. Making this flat land even more lively and breathtaking is the stream meandering down the plain through the open grass land and the thickets of dwarf bamboos.
One can stop for the packed lunch nearby the stream in that huge plain, watch the fishes, take the pictures, and do so many other fun stuffs.
4# Visit one of the local farm/home stay
With the increase in the number of the tourists and visitors coming to Phobjikha, locals have started finding their fortunes by establishing the lodges and home stays. There are numbers of credible lodges and home stays that provides the visitors the feelings of something raw and rural.
The food and dishes are local. The hot and thick butter tea is served nearby the fire, and one can feel they are really at home, cozy and comfortable. The doma-stained elderly woman with the red round cheek makes you feel like never wanting to go back.
As such, I don’t have any specific recommendation to which home stay you should visit. I bet all are equally comfy and welcoming.
5# Visit Karma – the only black-necked crane to permanently reside in Phobjikha
The Phobjikah valley receives the endangered black-necked crane for couple of months in winter but all of them fly back to Tibetan plateau towards the spring. However, there is one black-necked crane who permanently resides in the valley. His name is ‘Karma’. Due to some injuries, Karma couldn’t join the flock and fly back in 2016.
The Royal Society of Protection of Nature (RSPN) thus is now providing the home and food to Karma. Karma lives near the RSPN office and he is open for the visitors. One can also donate few amounts upon your willingness to make expenses for Karma’s feed and care.
Phobjikha is one of the best travel places for the tourist. However, even for you Bhutanese, it is also one of the best holiday and weekend gateways with your family and friends. If you’re staying at Thimphu and planning to make a one day visit to Phobjikha, note that it is almost 5 hours drive.
Make an early move from Thimphu with pack lunch. Maybe, start the journey by 5:00am in the morning. You’re probably going to reach Phobjikha by around 10:00 am. You will have almost 5 solid hours to spend in the valley until you start moving back by 3:00pm, and reach back to Thimphu by 8:00pm.
Wish you luck and lots of fun!