Know where you are:
One of the historic Dzongs of the country along the confluence of two rivers, Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu.
Located at an elevation of 1200 metre above sea level, Punakha is one of the 20 districts in Bhutan. It was also the capital of the country until 1955 when the capital was changed to Thimpu. It was beautiful structures also known as Dzong and in 2011 the wedding of the present king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and his fiancé Jetsun Pema took place here at the Punakha Dzong.
Before you head to the valley of Phobjikha, here are a few places you can check out here at Punakha.
Punakha Dzong –
It is a riverside fortress which was built during the 17 the century at the junction of the rivers Pho and Mo Chhu.
Punakha Suspension Bridge –
This is the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan built over the river Mo Chhu and it connects two nearby villages.
Chimi Lhakhang Temple –
It is a unique temple which is dedicated to fertility and is visited by people who are childless. In the path of the temple, you come to a beautiful village where they sell vegetables and handmade artefacts for some money.
How to reach the Valley of Phobjikha
It is really important to plan your visit and schedule your time before you visit someplace. So you must know that the distance from Punakha to Phobjikha Valley will be 78 km.
You cannot take buses until Phobjika as it is not available so
the best option to reach there will be by car rentals which take around 3 hours to reach the valley.
A guide to car rental options:
There are a lot of car rental agencies with an option to hire a guide to make your journey till the valley easier. You must have a look at the Bhutan car rental rates before you already book one.
Car hire in Bhutan has been made very simple and systematic compared to the facility a few years ago. There are a lot of car rentals which will help you with the journey at an affordable price which can range anything from 2500 INR to 3000 INR, depending upon the rush of tourist around the time of your visit.
Here we go / what to expect from this road trip
As Bhutan is considered a virgin country where the environment is much important than the development and the Living style of people here are calculated by Gross National Happiness and not the GDP.
These things add to the beauty of Bhutan and so you can expect a pure scenery and forest and vegetation growing without any interference from the Bhutan government. The 3-hour road trip to the valley shall brief you about the country and its practices. You shall also notice why this small country is appreciated throughout the world for its environment strategies.
Know your Destination
Phobjika valley :
A peaceful and calm place known for the migratory black neck cranes whose loud voices echo the valley along with the breeze.
The valley is one of the few well preserved glacial valleys. Your eyes are blessed with the scenic beauty of the valley comprising of mountains, trees, animals and shrubs.
It stands at an altitude of about 3000 m above sea level on the western end of the Black Mountain range in Bhutan.
Before you go, just know
Climate – The valley is a glacial valley so we can expect cold weathers here. Being enclosed by mountains, the valley is sometimes covered in beautiful snow during the winter seasons. The lowest temperature recorded in the valley was -4.8 deg Celsius and the hottest it has ever got here was 19.9 deg Celsius.
Note: So travellers, pack your clothes after taking note of the temperatures you can expect from this glacial valley.
What to expect here/ Where to go
This Glacial valley is a well-preserved valley with a huge reservoir of the greenery and some rare species of birds which are in danger of extinction. Besides these, there are some things you should not afford to miss here. Make sure to take off things you cannot miss here.
Black-necked crane –
These birds which are usually scarce have been well protected within their Valley. They are vulnerable species of cranes that migrate to the valley during the winter time. They usually migrate during winters between the months of October to mid-February.
Rivers in the valley–
There is a myth about the valley which spices up the two beautiful flowing rivers namely Nakay Chhu ( represents snake) and Gay Chhu (represents boar). People say the two animals once raced each other and decided upon an agreement which stated that if the snake won the race, the valley would be able to grow rice and if the boar won, rice could never be calculated in the valley. They say rice still cannot be cultivated as the snake lost the race and the deal.
You can check out the two beautiful rivers and decide for yourself about the authenticity of the myth.
Gangtey Gumba or Monastery–
It is built on a small hill which rises from the valley. It is the only Nyingmapa monastery situated on the western side of the Gangtey valley of the black mountains.
There are just a few places which you can visit here as this valley is kept protected without much interference or development. The nature lovers can find peace among the open grassland and the thickets of dwarf bamboo.
Let’s call it a day!
After you have explored in and around the valley, you now seek a hotel to call it a day and relax after a tiring day. Travellers must note that the valley has few home stays which cannot confirm availability. Other homestays can be found as close as 27 km from the valley. There are lots of homestay options outside the valley, so if you are travelling here make sure you have booked the homestay beforehand. It should ease your visit to the valley and if the home stays in the valley are unavailable, make sure you have also managed a car rental to reach you till the home stays. Bhutan car rentals provide options for of easy car rental in Bhutan.
The Budget of home stays made easy for you
There are homestays in and around the valley and you can book one according to your preferences.
Note – The hotels in the valley do not offer many services unlike home stays outside the valley. However, you can find a room starting from approx 3800 INR and the rates may fluctuate depending upon the flow of tourist there.
If you choose to stay near the valley for any reason, the closest you could find would be 20 km away from the valley. You can expect standard hotel services and the range of the rooms for a day would start from a minimum of 5000 INR.
If you wish to stay at least 50 km away from the valley, in places like Thimpu, you can expect hotels to charge you a minimum of 3000 INR for a day. Again the hotel services would be standard unlike the homestays in the valley.
An end to the wonderful road trip
You must keep in mind that the return tickets from Phobjika to Punakha must be booked before you start your journey from Punakha. The tickets can be booked from RSTA Thimpu.
Note: It is kindly advised that you check the availability of the return tickets and book them from RSTA Thimpu, before actually travelling to them. This is to avoid the unwanted problem and non-availability of tickets from the valley while returning back as the return tickets are sometimes booked one month before the actual journey.
“So don’t listen to what they say, go see yourself”
This road trip would amaze you in all possible ways. And gift you with a peace of mind as you return back to your daily life.