Phobjikha Valley – Amazing Bhutan

This blog post is dedicated to my friend, my bro, who traveled along with me to Bhutan. I don’t give away anyone’s name hence no pictures of us together in this post or any of my Bhutan posts. She had a tough time trekking and hiking with me. However, she is a strong willed woman and I admire her efforts. Had it been not for her, the travel wouldn’t have been so much fun. 

Phobjikja also known as Gangtey valley is the vast U shaped glacial valley where the sacred black necked cranes migrate from Tibet to Bhutan during the winters to roost. On the arrival the cranes circle the Gangtey Gonpa Monastery three times and also repeat the process while returning to Tibet. The valley is enclosed by mountain ranges which experience snowfall during the winters.

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How did I reach Phobjikha

From Punakha I got a cab till Bajo and from Bajo I got a shared cab till my farm stay in the Phobjikha Valley.

Things I did in Phobjikha
Nature Trail Trek

So after a light lunch I started for the Nature trail trek from the hill top overlooking the Khewang Lakhang Monastery. It’s a two hours hike easier than the Tiger’s Nest Trek. Although nothing can beat the majestic Tiger’s Nest Monastery as it literally hangs off the cliff. The nature trail is different kind of beautiful. The trail is all about pine trees, amazing views, flower meadows and gorgeous grasslands. The entire experience felt surreal being surrounded by so much beauty.

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Start of Nature Trail Trek

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Beautiful Grasslands on the way

Gangtey Gonpa Monastery

Little ahead of the end of  Nature Trail there is a monastery, Gangtey Gonpa. The black necked cranes circle three times over the monastery on their arrival to Bhutan and return to Tibet. The monastery is on top of a hill. In and around the monastery there are a lot of handicraft stores and art galleries.

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Gangtey Gonpa Monastery

 

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Stay with the locals

I stayed at Karma farm stay near Khewang Lakhang with an elderly couple who owns a farm land and are farmers. The house has a basic setup. There are no cots only double mattresses on the floor. The couple is leading a very humble lifestyle and it was one of a kind experience to have while travelling. I am so grateful to have had one of the best experiences during my travel to Bhutan. Because of extreme cold in the valley all the houses are made up of wood.

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Farm of Karma Farmstay

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View from the Farmstay

 

Black Necked Crane

These graceful birds are considered sacred in Tibetan and Bhutanese culture. It is believed if the birds fly over someone’s land they seem to have good crops that year. There is a Black Necked Crane center from where the the birds can be seen through the binoculars. But I had a good fortune of seeing them while hiking in the grassland. A flock of these birds flew right over my head circling over me. It was a blessed moment.

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Hot Stone Bath

Phobjikha valley is also famous for the hot stone bath. Stones from rivers are charred and put in the wooden bath tub along with herbs like Khempa (in Bhutanese). The minerals from the stones and herbs add medicinal value to the water which in turn removes fatigue and body pain, and relaxes body and mind.

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Brownie Points

  1. In the Black Necked Crane Center there is an injured crane. His name is Karma.
  2. These birds are of endangered species and every year the count keeps decreasing. Fortunately this year the count has increased to a great extent.
  3.  I stayed at a farmstay, Karma Farmstay. I booked it through contact@heavenlybhutan.com
  4. The couple don’t understand anything apart from Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan. However their son, Karma, was in touch with us to convey our messages to the host.
  5. While starting for the Nature Trail trek keep enough time in hand. Because by the time I finished my trek and got back it was dark, and me and my friend got lost.
  6. Phobjikha is in the interiors of Bhutan. There are no street lights and few places don’t even have concrete roads. The lifestyle is simple and humble.
  7. The major source of income is through farming and renting out farmstays/homestays to travelers..
  8. If you’re a vegetarian or don’t eat beef or pork, please let your host know before hand.
  9. Food at the farmstay is charged per meal per person basis. If you don’t want a big meal, you can request for a smaller one and reduction in price. Like the price in the Karma farmstay for one meal is Rs 600 and we requested for 2 food items instead, for Rs 200.
  10. Hot stone bath usually is done in the evening. Hence please request for a drop till your hotel/farmstay/homestay after sunset if opted outside your  farmstay/homestay.

 

Quick Budget per person

Cab from Punakha to Bajo – Rs 200
Cab from Bajo to Phobjikha – Rs 550
Hot Stone Bath – Rs 850
Food – Rs 400 to 500 per day
Stay – Rs 1500 per person for 2 nights

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