Phobjikha is one of the exotic and the most popular destinations of Bhutan. It is a vast U-shaped glacial valley in Wangdue Phodrang district. The valley is known for the historically significant Gangtey Goenpa. So the place is also known as the Gangtey Valley.
Wanna find out the wonders of Phobjikha valley which made this destination so popular among tourist?
1. Gangtey Goenpa/Gangtey Monastery
Gangtey monastry is located at the hillock in between the Gangtey Village. It is first built in 1613 by Gyalse 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. It houses some of the important national relics. Personally, I feel get a bizarre feeling at the large specimen of fish preserved inside the monastry. This fish is believed to have captured from the stream running down the Phobjikha village. It is said this fish used to harm the villagers until it was captured and subdued by one of the reigning Lama of the monastry.
From the backside of 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.
2. The the giant Ramsar site
Geologically, Bhutan is a mountainous terrace and it is very rare to find a massive flat/plain land. However, in Phobjikha valley, there is a massive marshy flat land which is nationally protected as one of the biggest Ramsar site. The Ramsar stretches to over 974.65ha.
This massive flat land is covered with the lush green grasses, flowers and wildlife, offering a breathtaking view. Making this flat land even more livelier 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 or the snacks nearby the stream, watch the fishes, take the pictures, and do so many other fun stuffs like dance on the open ground to your favorite songs.
3. Karma – the only black-necked crane to permanently reside in Phobjikha.
The Phobjikah valley receives the endangered black-necked crane for a 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 which is located on the way to Ramsar from the Gangtey monastey. Karma is open for the visitors.
Since Karma is all alone of his species, its quite emotional to watch him. If he could speak, we would hear one of the saddest story. Therefore, Karma is housed at a safe housing with proper feeding. One can also donate few amounts upon your willingness to make expenses for Karma’s feed and care.
4. Local farms/home stays
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 raw and rural tastes. The food and dishes are all of local varieties. Many enjoy the dried turnip leaves locally called the 'lom'. This lom is considered as one of the delicacy and it is usually served with the dried meat.
The hot and thick butter tea is served nearby the fire, and one can feel they are really at home, cozy and comfortable. Some of the home stays also has the facility of hot stone bath. Hot stone bath is common in Bhutan which is known to cure the muscle aches and also treat any itches in the body.
5. Scenic 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 me and my friends visited Phobjikha, it was towards the late spring. There was ranges of rhododendrons blooming. The ground was carpeted with healthy Primulas, and I was literally never enough adoring something so beautiful a nature can be.
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.