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Wangdue Phodrang

The District of Wangdue Phodrang

Wangdue Phodrang is one of the largest dzongkhags in the country. As the district covers 4,308 sq. km and ranges from 800-5800 m in altitude, it has extremely varied climatic conditions ranging from subtropical forests in the south to cool and snowy regions in the north.

Most of Wangdue Phodrang District is environmentally protected. The northern half of the district falls within the Wangchuck Centennial Park, with northwestern pockets belonging to Jigme Dorji National Park. Southeastern Wangdue is part of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Also protected are the biological corridors crisscrossing the district that connect Bhutan’s extensive national park system. The dominant language in the region is Dzongkha, spoken in the western two-thirds of the district. Communities along the border with Bumthang District in the northeast speak Lakha. Along the same border, in central Wangdue Phodrang, inhabitants speak Nyenkha. In the southeast region, remnants of the autochthonous ‘Olekha (Black Mountain Monpa) speaking community barely survive.

One of the most notable sites in the district is Phobjikha Valley. This valley is the habitat of the rare and endangered Black Necked Cranes that roost there during their annual migrations. The residents of the valley have garnered much acclaim for their conservation efforts to preserve the habitat of these beautiful birds. Every year the Black Necked Crane Festival is held in Phobjikha in order to protect and spread awareness of the cranes. The festival includes songs, masked dances and plays by the local school children. This event is one of the most unique and popular festivals in the country.

With its diverse climates and rich natural resources, Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag is home to many rare and exotic animals like Red Pandas, Tigers and Leopards. There are also large numbers of rare birds such as the Black Necked Crane, White-Bellied Heron and the Spotted Eagle.

Things to do in Wangdue Phodrang

Places of interests in and around Wangdue Phodrang, Western Bhutan
Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, Western BhutanWangdue Phodrang Dzong

The Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, third oldest Dzong in Bhutan was built in 1638 and stood majestically on the hilltop. The original Dzong which was one of the most important and historic heritage sites in Bhutan was burnt down by the tragic fire accident on 24 June 2012. Under the guidance of His Majesty the King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, all the precious sacred artifacts and objects inside the main temple of the Dzong were saved and there was no human casualty.

Currently the Dzong is under reconstruction which started from January 2014 and it is expected to take until the end of 2018 to rebuild to its former glory incorporating state-of-the-art technology in terms of disaster resilience measures and traditional architecture.

The Phobjikha Valley in Wangdue Phodrang District

The valley of Phobjikha

Phobjikha valley is about 65km away from Wangdue Phodrang Dzong on the Wangdue-Trongsa highway. The valley is a vast U-shaped glacial valley at an elevation of about 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) and it is a winter home for endangered Black Necked Crane from November to March and migrates back to Tibet by the beginning of spring season. Researchers have confirmed that the same birds which migrates here in winter goes as far back as Mongolia in summer. Every year on the 11th of November, Black Necked Crane Festival is held to celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part in the lives of the local people during winter months. There is a Black Necked Crane Information Center which has a lot of information on the migratory bird and about the valley and its role in conservation of Black Necked Crane. For nature enthusiasts and those who enjoy long walk through the woods surrounded by splendid nature all around, taking up Gangtey Nature Trail is highly recommended. The trail is about 5km and takes approximately 2.5 hours. It gives you a great understanding of the Phobjikha valley and ample opportunities to take beautiful pictures.

Gangtey Monastery in Phobjikha, Wangdu Phodrang

Gangtey Monastery or Gangtey Goenpa

One very famous landmark in this valley is the 17th century Gangtey Monastery popularly know as Gangtey Goenpa (goenpa literally means “remote place” and is usually a place of religious significance). The monastery was founded in 1613 by Pema Thinley, the grandson of Pema Lingpa, the great treasure discoverer from the valley of Bumthang in central Bhutan. The name Gangtey is derived from the fact that the goenpa is built on a peak (Tey) of a hillock (Gang). Pema Thinley served as the first Gangtey Trulku. The monastery was later expanded by the second Gangtey Trulku Tenzin Legpai Dhendup (1645-1726) and today it is one of the biggest monasteries in Bhutan. The present abbot of this monastery is the ninth Gangtey Trulku His Holiness Kunzang Rigzin Pema Namgyal. The monastery also has a monastic college where hundreds of monks study Buddhist philosophy for 9 years.

An annual religious festival, Gantey Tshechu, is held at Gangtey Goenpa during autumn when the harvest season is just over. A series of dazzling sacred mask dances complemented by Bhutanese folk dances are performed during this festival.