Roadtrip

Phobjikha, a nature lovers’ paradise

A very famous weekend getaway spot in Bhutan, well deserving of all the attention it gets. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, a trip to Phobjikha is definitely a must, especially if you’re looking for gram-worthy photos. In the spring months, the blooming of wild flowers and the green pasture covering the valley provides a serene location away from the buzzing city life. In the autumn and winter months, the black-necked cranes are a sight as worthy as any.

The fresh air, the calm, peaceful environment and the bright colors of the valley during spring is exactly what a person needs to relieve any stress; after all, nature is the best remedy. This place is often written about but to not include it would be injustice to this paradise-equivalent location.

Primulas at the beginning of Phobjikha valley

Getting there is easy. Drive on the Wangdue-Bumthang highway and after about a 1.5 hours drive,  there is a junction that leads to Gangtey; there are sign boards on the way so keep a lookout for them. The route is very satisfying for people who love long drives, and for those of you who don’t, the destination is definitely worth the journey.

For tourists, there are many resorts in the area to spend the night in. However, for locals, it’s better to stay in one of the numerous home-stays in the area for an authentic village-life and a wallet-friendly experience. The rates are affordable and the places are warm, cozy and well maintained. Or, for camping enthusiasts, your can always pitch a tent and stay in Gangtey as well.

Things to do while visiting Phobjikha

  • Visit Gangtey Goenpa
The main temple at Gangtey
The main temple at Gangtey

The residence of His Holiness the Gangtey Trulku, located just before you enter the Phobjikha valley. A perfect stop to get some blessings and if you’re an atheist, you might as well get some pictures of the beautiful architecture of the temple and the Gangtey village.

  • Visit the crane center and see Karma, the injured crane
Karma, in its enclosure near the center
Karma, in its enclosure near the center

A few minutes drive into the Phobjikha valley leads to the crane center where you can learn about cranes through murals and documentaries and even visit an injured one kept in an enclosure nearby. Plus, you can get souvenirs.

  • Take a hot stone bath

If you’re spending a night there (if you ask me, you must), you can try out the hot stone bath to end the day on a relaxing note. Most homestays arrange it for you as long as you inform them beforehand.

  • Go sightseeing across the valley
On the way to Gangtey nature trail
On the way to Gangtey nature trail
View of Phobjikha valley as seen from the crane center
View of Phobjikha valley as seen from the crane center

You can take a stroll along the roads or ride through the valley (for cycling enthusiasts) while enjoying the beautiful scenery. Most of the roads are not pitched so it’s better to wear comfortable shoes. A protected area and home to the black-necked cranes; the people there have maintained this aesthetic valley in its original glory with very few modern touches.

  • Take loads of photos
The route to the Gangtey nature trail and the famous photo spot
The route to the Gangtey nature trail and the famous photo spot

Of course this is a necessity. If you go to Phobjikha and don’t take enough photos, it’s a waste of opportunity. There is a famous photo spot that you have to visit; on the Gangtey nature trail; an area with a small stupa on a hilltop. And for a better view, you should climb atop the hill overlooking it. Widely spread marshland filled with swords of grassy pastures and a small stream running through it; the place looks like something out of a painting. Take the route past the visitor centre towards Khewang lhakhang and take the left just before reaching the lhakhang.

There are common short trekking routes in the valley as well, along with other monasteries to visit, if you drive further into the valley. However, for those short on time, just try to make the best of your visit.

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