Bhutan | Gangtey | Punakha | Wangdue

Drive – Punakha to Gangtey

Embrace Bhutan Cultural Tour

Wangdue | Bhutan

11 Nov 2019 | Mon

Day 05 of 13

  • Drive | Punakha to Gangtey
  • Tea at Hotel Kuenphen Norbuding Restaurant
  • Lawa La Pass
  • Picnic Lunch Black-Necked Crane Festival Gangtey Monastery
  • Gangtey Nature Trail – Black Neck Cranes
  • Black-Necked Crane Education Center
  • Wangchuk Dem Village Homestay Gangtey

Drive | Punakha to Gangtey

Today we continue further towards the east. Soon after leaving Punakha we reach Wangdue, one of the major district headquarters of Western Bhutan. Along the way, the environment changes from semi-tropical to pine forest, and then to an alpine zone that is home to several species of rhododendron, dwarf bamboo, and Grey Langur monkeys.

We deviate off the main road and take another route that leads into the remote alpine valley of Gangtey and Phobjikha (9,850 ft), crossing the 10,700-foot-high Lawa La Pass. This hidden glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains, is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, and the largest wintering site for the endangered Black-necked crane.

As a part of the conservation effort, the Phobjikha valley has been declared a protected area. Until recently, the Phobjikha valley’s only electricity came from solar. In 2011 underground cabled electricity is gradually connecting the valley to the national grid. Potatoes are this region’s primary cash crop, once exported to India.

Embrace Bhutan Travel

Today was a busy travel day – we left Punakha and drove to Phobjikha Valley (home of Gangtey Monastery and Black-Necked Crane Visitor Centre). Along the way, we passed through the town of Wangdue Phodrang (located along two rivers – Puna Tsang Chu and Dang Chu).

Village Community in Wangdue Phodrang

Wangdue Phodrang is a town and capital (dzongkhag thromde) of Wangdue Phodrang District in central Bhutan. It is located in Thedtsho Gewog.

The town shares its name with the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong built in 1638 that dominates the district. The name is said to have been given by Ngawang Namgyal, the 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, who was searching for the best location for a dzong to prevent incursions from the south. At the chosen spot, the Zhabdrung encountered a boy named Wangdi playing beside the river and hence named the dzong “Wangdi’s Palace”.

– from Wikipedia Wangdue Phodrang

We stopped off at a popular “stretch your legs and have a cup of tea/cup” spot at Hotel Kuenphen Norbuding Restaurant. Near the end of our driving journey, we crossed another high pass Lawa La Pass (10,700ft).

Rest Stop at Hotel Kuenphen Norbuding Restaurant
Lawa La Pass (10,700ft)

We arrived at Gangtey Monastery in Phobjikha Valley around lunchtime. We were originally scheduled to attend the famous Black-Necked Crane Festival that was taking place today, but our guide Tashi told us that it’s very difficult to see the actual dances due to overcrowding. Since we were already scheduled to see the last day of Prakhar Tsechu in Bumthang (dances here are considered some of the best in Bhutan), we all agreed with Tashi that it would be best to skip the Black-Necked Crane Festival at Gangtey Monastery.

Picnic Lunch Near Gangtey Monastery

So instead, we had a wonderful picnic lunch in a beautifully scenic spot near Gangtey Monastery (prepared by the same family that we would be staying with that night – Wangchuk Dema Village Homestay).

Gangtey Nature Trail at Phobjikha Valley

After lunch, we took a short hike on the nearby Gangtey Nature Trail, which took us through Semchubara village and by Phobjikha valley (incredible view!), where we spotted a few black-necked cranes in the distance. Our hike ended at Khewang Lhakhang Temple (where our driver was waiting). We then took a short drive across the street to the Black-Necked Crane Visitor Centre (informative and interesting).

View of Cranes from Black-Necked Crane Visitor Centre

We finished up the day with a short drive to our next overnight stay – Wangchuk Dema Village Homestay.

Wangchuk Dema Village Homestay

Drive | Punakha to Gangtey

Map – Drive | Punakha to Gangtey

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