Monuments to visit & walking tour in Wangdue Phodrang

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Wangdue Phodrang is the last town on the highway before entering Central Bhutan. The town is little more than an enlarged village with a few well-provided shops and hotels. Wangdue Phodrang Dzong is the town’s most visible feature. In the 17th century, Wangdue played a critical role in unifying the western, central and southern Bhutanese districts.

In this district lies the famed Phobjikha valley, the winter roosting ground for the endangered Black Necked Crane. Here one can also visit the 17th century Gangtey Gonpa.

Wangdiphodrang-Dzong1. Wangdiphodrang Dzong:

This Dzong (razed by fire in 2012), now in ruins & under construction, it includes: visit to Wangdiphodrang Dzong (from outside) built in 1638. Legend relates that as the people were searching for the site of the Dzong; four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered auspicious sign, representing the spread of religion to the four points of the compass. The Dzong is situated at the confluence of Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers.

2. Gangtey Goemba:

The Gangtey Gonpa or Gangtey Monastery is bounded on the west side by the Black Mountains (above 5,000 meters). This monastery in Wangdue Phodrang district in central Bhutan is located on a spur amidst the Gangtey village, overlooking the vast Phobjika Valley. The monastery commands striking views of the Valley where the Black Mountain region is inhabited by nomadic shepherds and yak-herders. Gangtey Gonpa is an important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition.

During the winter months, the Crane Festival marks the arrival of Black-necked Cranes from the Tibetan plateau. The sacred birds that migrate here are held as a religious blessing by the people, and their arrival is a big event not only in the Valley but also in this monastery. The Black-Necked Crane Festival is held on November 12, every year.

3. Black Necked Crane Information Centre:

Situated on the edge of the forest and wetland along the main road of Phobjikha valley, the black-necked crane information Centre has an observation room equipped with high power telescope and spotting scopes for catching the best view of the cranes. The center also offers display information that outline the natural and cultural history of the area. There is a small gift shop, which sells handicrafts produced by the local people.

Gangtey Nature Trail4. Gangtey Nature Trail (Hike):

From soaking in the peace and quiet of the valley, visitors can partake in day hikes with trails ranging from easy to difficult. From trudging through pine forests, temples and villages laden with prayer flags, hikers can even interact with the locals if they so choose to. Also, the various bird species along the trails make it ideal for bird watchers and photography enthusiasts.

A full-day hike around Phobjika valley begins at the base of Hotel Dewachen or from Khewang temple for those who prefer to drive up to the temple. There are many trails to choose from depending on the preference of hikers. The Shasila trail for example is frequented by people of Sha Ngawang and Chitokha to migrate between their summer and winter homes in Gangtey. This trail is highly recommended for bird watchers. For fit and adventurous hikers, the slightly more difficult Khotokha trail is a big hit. Along the route, hikers can visit the monastery and farmhouses before stopping to dig into their packed lunch boxes.

It is also possible to hike from Longtey village down into Phobjikha if you’re coming from Trongsa.  Longtey Village, located just before Pele La Pass, is where your hike will commence. This trail is the most sought after given its spectacular thickets of dwarf bamboos, birch, rhododendron, hemlock and fir with the occasional prayer flags thrown in for good measure.