Trip Type: Cultural and festival Tour
Routes & Places: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha & Wangdue
THE ANNUAL BLACK-NECKED CRANE FESTIVAL
The Annual Black-necked Crane festival is celebrated in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa, in Phobjikha valley. The festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part their daily lives during the winter months.
The annual black-necked crane festival is organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered Black‐necked cranes; to strengthen the linkages between conservation, economic welfare and sustainable livelihoods of the community; provide an avenue for the local community to renew their commitment to conservation of the black-necked cranes, and to showcase their cultural heritage and skills.
The festival includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dances and environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs by the school children. The program usually starts by 9:30 am and lasts till late afternoon.
The festival is organized by the Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC), a local group composed of elected local leaders (with a strong female component), Government representatives, business community representatives, monks and Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) representative. The festival has become a part of the local culture in Phobjikha valley ever since it was first initiated by the RSPN in 1998.
Nestled in the inner Himalayas at about 3000 metres above sea level, Phobjikha is a wide alpine wetland valley that is considered the largest and the most significant wetland in the country. It is often cited for the harmonious co‐existence of its inhabitants with nature and the valley also holds great cultural significance. The valley is the most significant wintering ground of the rare and endangered Black‐necked cranes in Bhutan and has been protected since time immemorial by the local people’s traditional respect for all living beings. Every year, over 300 of the estimated 500 cranes that migrate to Bhutan spend their winter months in this valley. Additionally, the highly revered Gangtey Monastery that overlooks the wetlands surrounded by subsistence farms and natural forest areas makes Phobjikha a stunningly beautiful and sacred valley. Today, this glacial valley is an attraction not just to tourists but also pilgrims.
Besides being the home to the cranes, Phobjikha is also the livelihood base for about 5000 subsistence farmers who have aspirations for economic development. Since the early 1990s, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), Bhutan’s only environmental NGO initiated an integrated conservation and development program with the sole objective of establishing a strong linkage between environment conservation and economic welfare of the local people. This approach was instituted because the RSPN felt that an unguided pursuit for economic development by the local community could not only severely undermine the ecological significance of the area but may also adversely affect the local livelihoods.
The Annual Black-necked Crane festival is an integral part of the Ecotourism (now Community based-sustainable tourism) initiative to promote local economic welfare through nature based tourism programs.
The success of the festival and its continuity depends entirely upon the support and contributions of the visitors and well wishers of conservation. Continued appreciation and corresponding support are essential in maintaining strong linkages between conservation and economic welfare of the local people. By viewing and participating in the festival you reward the community for their continued conservation stewardship. Funds mobilized through the Black-necked crane festival and other activities of the committee are deposited in a community owned bank account and managed by the committee for activities of common benefit to the community.
Day 1: Paro Arrival – Paro – Thimphu (8/11/16)
The flight arrival into the Paro valley is your first introduction to green and lush vegetation coverage surrounding the valley and the majestic view of the sacred Mt. Jhomolhari, the second highest peak of Bhutan. On arrival at the Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by the Bhutanese team from Jogdro Tours & Treks. Prepare to visit the places you were long waiting for the right moment to come.
Kichu Lhakhang (temple) – one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. Legends are of the view that a demoness was preventing the spread of Buddhism in the Himalayan region. To overcome the evil, the Tibetan King decided to built 108 temples, pinning down in all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, two were built in Bhutan, one at Paro and another at Bumthang. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638, the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demoness.
Later in the afternoon, drive to Thimphu, capital city of Bhutan that will take approximately one and half hour covering the distance of 65 km. Now you are at race with the swift flowing Pa chu river alongside the road which will ultimately lead to a 15th century old building structure know by the name Taachog Lhakhang (Temple). A visit is worth crossing the iron suspension bridge which is one of the mater piece and a legacy left by the founder of the temple. After a short drive from the confluence, you will soon be welcomed by the capital city, Thimphu.
Tashichhoe Dzong (Fortress) – a fortress of the glorious religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
Overnight at Thimphu
Day 2: Thimphu (9/11/16)
A short hike to Tango monastery should light up your day. After breakfast, travel to the base camp of Tango Monastery which lies north of Thimphu city. From the base camp you hike up to the Monastery through a well-maintained footpath nurtured by the lush green tall trees filled with oak as well as Rhododendron flower trees which will be in full bloom during spring season.
Tango Monastery – it was built in 1689 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgyal. The three-storied monastery was built with the help of the locals and was completed within two months. At present Tango Monastery is the center for higher studies for monks. The view from Tango Monastery is breathtakingly beautiful. You will experience complete peace and serenity in this area.
Memorial Chorten (Stupa) – the white tall structure is a place which is continuously circumambulated by the faithful, murmuring mantras and spinning their hand-held prayer wheels. The construction of this landmark was a wish of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who passed away before he could see his wish fulfilled. Later in 1974, the monument was erected in memory of the late king and a treasure for the world peace and prosperity.
Takin Enclosure – Takin (Budorcas taxicolor), the national animal of Bhutan is chosen based on unique outlook and its association with evolutionary mythology. Listen to the story from you guide. Takin resembles a cow from back, a goat in from the front, and it continues to befuddle taxonomists, who cannot quite relate to other animal.
Buddha Point – Kuenselphodrang where largest sitting Buddha statue in the country is perched on the hillock overlooking the Thimphu valley and also if interested/if time permits, take a leisure walk through Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and enjoy the scenic view of the entire Thimphu valley.
Overnight at Thimphu
Day 3: Thimphu to Phobjikha (10/11/16)
Today is a fresh new day to enjoy and to write a new travel chapter of an exclusive geographical setting. The Journey from Thimphu to Phobjikha will take around 5 and half hours covering the distance of almost 134 km. Leaving Thimphu the road climbs steeply up through pine forest at the height of 3,050 reaching Dochula pass adorned with 108 stupas. If the weather is clear, you will see beautiful snowcapped mountains. Soon after 3 hours journey you will be passing through wangdiphodrang valley which is often known as the ‘Gateway to Central Bhutan’. You will get to catch the glimpse of Wangdiphodrang fort which is under reconstruction after a disastrous fire mishap occurred on June 24th 2012. The road gradually climbs up, and then soon you will passes through beautiful Phobjikha villages.
Phobjikha valley is known for the home for the winter visitor, Blacked Necked Crane, they visit in winter every year from Tibet in the month of November to end of March. After you reach to Phubjikha you can visit one and only beautiful Nyingma monastery in western Bhutan Gangtey sangacholing monastery which was built in 1613 by Gyalse Pema Thinley, grandson of terton Pema Lingpa. And if time permits, go for Gangtey Natural Trail which is 1 hour and 30 minutes through beautiful blue pine forest with lovely view of roosting ground of black neck crane. Evening is leisure time, relax and rejoice.
Overnight at Phobjikha
Day 4: Phobjikha (11/11/16)
The day is one of the special day recorded in the history of Bhutan and a festive event for the people of Phobjikha and the bird lovers across the country. The day marks the birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuk and coinciding with the day, Phobjikha celebrates and honor the arrival of the Black Necked Crane for their winter roosting ground which marks the onset of the cold winter following their flight to Bhutan from Tibet. Prepare to get lost among the local people in the festive event whereby there will be many cultural songs, dances and mask dances being performed.
Overnight at Phobjikha
Day 5: Phobjikha to Punakha (12/11/16)
Chimi Lhakhang – built in 15th century by the cousin of Drukpa Kuenley which the temple is best known for the “Temple of Fertility”. A wooden effigy of the Lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the Lhakhang, and childless women go to the temple to receive a wang (blessing) from the saint.
After the visit, drive through upper Punakha valley passing through farm houses and take a short hike through farmhouses to the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Lhakhang (temple), it built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan for peace and stability in this ever-changing world. The temple is situated on the hilltop overlooking the valley. The leisurely walk up to the temple would take about an hour.
The real adventure to yet to begin and it is time for some fun. Some adventure is an essential component of travel life, so you will be rafting the slow, soft cascading Mo chu (Female river) and in the mid of enjoyment don’t forget photo-shoot (note-carry a water proof material to cover the camera) the nature and its surroundings and the magnificent Punakha Dzong with its beautiful cantilever bridge. (Or) Skip river rafting and visit the majestic Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong – situated between Phochu (Male River) and the Mochu (Female River), the dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. And it was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, the first king of Bhutan king, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was enthroned ensuring the continual monarchal rule for stability of the nation. Damaged over the centuries by catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong still stand in its full glory making it one of the most beautiful dzong in the country in a perfect geographical setting.
Overnight at Punakha
Day 6: Punakha to Paro (13/11/16)
The drive back to Paro today will take around 4 and half hour drive. You have three sights waiting for you visit. On a ridge, overlooking the mighty Rinpung Dzong is the Ta Dzong (watchtower), built as a watchtower to protect the Dzong from intruders and warring factions. In 1968, Ta Dzong was converted to a museum, and now it holds a fascinating collection of art,
relics, religious thangkha paintings, Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps, coins and handicrafts, together with a small natural history collection.
Ringpung Dzong – it is the expression of one of the finest Bhutanese architectural designs and a power house of administration, jurisdiction and monastic base for the people of Paro valley.
Drukgyel Dzong: the ruined fortress is located 14kms north of Paro town. Drukgyal Dzong (victories fortress) was built around 1644-49 to commemorate the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan-Mongol forces. It was later burnt down by fire accident in 1951. On a clear day, Mt. Jumolhari, Bhutan\’s holy peak is seen against its backdrop.
Note: If time permits, we will visit Drukgyel Dzong
Overnight at Paro
Day 7: Paro (14/11/16)
Drive to north of the valley and embark on a short hike to the famous Taktshang (Tiger’s lair) monastery. For the Bhutanese and the Buddhists people outside Bhutan, it is a holy pilgrimage; a hike up to the viewpoint opposite the monastery is exhausting, thrilling and mystical. This will no doubt be one of the highlights of your stay in Bhutan. Paro Taktshang is one of the most amazing structures ever built in Bhutan. Hanging in the middle of the rocky cliff was a small temple first built by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in1692, which was later enlarged to the present glory despite several fire calamities. Back at Paro, spent rest of the day in buying gifts for your friends and loved ones back at home.
Overnight at Paro
Day 8: Departure (15/11/16)
It is time for you to bid farewell to Bhutan with the joyful memories. Jogdro Teams would like to wish you a happy flight and safe journey. And Tashidelek (Good Luck)
Transfer to and from the airport
Twin-sharing accommodation in 3-star hotels
FIT surcharges of US$40/person/night for a solo traveler and US$30/person/night for a group of two. And group of three and above are exempted from surcharges by law
Licensed Bhutanese English-speaking guide for tour
All entrance fee to museums and monuments
Transportation within Bhutan
Visa fees of US$ 40 (one time fees)
All internal taxes including royalty (US$ 65/person/night)
Air fare (both international and domestic)
Any kind of insurance
Any king of external tax
Tipping for guide and driver
Single room supplement of US$40/room/night, if you want a separate room apart from the twin-sharing accommodation
Upgrades to 4-star and 5 star luxury accommodation available on request
Other personal expenses such as drinks, laundry, phone call, etc
Travel insurance (recommended)
Other miscellaneous expenditure
Peak season (March, April, May, September, October & November)
Solo traveler: US$ 2070
Group of two: US$ 2000 per person
Group of three or more: US$ 1790 per person (prices vary according to actual group size)
Prices are quoted and payable only in US dollars. All prices published on our website are as mandated and directed by the government under Tourism Council of Bhutan. No additional charges are impose besides an special request for the arrangement which is not included in the tour packages such as marriage expenses, grand birthday celebration, additional services, etc.
Travel Advise: To save travel cost, travel with group and get exemption from supplementary cost and surcharges.