Altitude : 1300m/4265ft
Wangduephodrang is one of the largest dzongkhags (districts) in the country covering 4308 sq km. Wangduephodrang district holds strong historic importance to Bhutan as it was the country’s second capital in older days. Its historic significance is reflected in its rich tapestry of ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries scattered across the district. Wangduephodrang is also famous for Lozeys or Ornamental Speeches.
With an altitude range of 800-5800m, it has extremely varied climatic conditions ranging from sub-tropical forests in the south to temperate and snowy areas in the north. With its diverse climates and rich natural resources Wangdue 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.
Places To See
The annual Wangduephodrang Tshechu was introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal after the completion of the dzong. The three-day annual Tshechu is attended by people from Punakha and Thimphu and provides the people with an occasion for merrymaking and revelry. The Tshechu is known for the Raksha Mangcham or the Dance of the Ox. It concludes with the unfurling of the Guru Tshengye Thongdrol where people throng to receive blessings.
Please note that Wangduephodrang Dzongkhag Dzong was burnt to the ground in 2012. During current renovations, the Tshechu is being held at the nearby Tencholing Army ground in Wangduephodrang.
Gaselo And Nahee Village
Village life in Gaselo and Nahee is still medieval and farmers are always happy to see visitors. The age-old traditional methods used during rice plantation can be observed during summer visits. In autumn you’ll be able to share the happiness of farmers over a bountiful harvest and truly experience Gross National Happiness. You can make a day excursion to experience the joy and simplicity of farming life. Home-stays can also be arranged.
Adha And Rukha
The villages of Adha and Rukha are excellent places to gain insights into the lives of rural Bhutanese farmers. Home-stays can be arranged with local families who will happily welcome you into their homes and regale you with local legends of mermaids and ancient kings. It is usually better to schedule your visit during autumn and winter, as these areas are prone to leeches, sand flies, and mosquitoes during the summer.
Dargay Goempa is dedicated to the Divine Madman, Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the iconic saint known for his unorthodox method of teaching though ribald humor. The temple is built on the area when the Lama is said to have met Ashi Genzo, who was famed for her beauty. When it was first constructed the monastery was a simple Drubdey or me ditation center.
Gangtey Monastery Tshechu
Situated atop a hill at an altitude of 2800m, Gangtey Monastery, also known as Gangtey Sanga Choeling Goemba, offers a stunning view of Phobjikha valley. This venerable monastery was founded in 1613 by Peling Gyalsé Rinpoche or Gangteng Trulku, Rigdzin Pema Tinley (1564–1642). The first Gangtey Trulku was the grandson of the great Bhutanese “treasure revealer” Tertoen Pema Lingpa (1450–1521). The earliest historical background relevant to this monastery is traced to establishment of the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism, by Guru Rinpoche, who was instrumental in making Bhutan a Buddhist nation.
Both the Gangtey tsechu and the Black-necked Crane Festival are held here.
Phobjikha Valley and Black-necked Crane Festival
Nestled in the inner Himalayas at about 3000 m 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. On arrival in the Phobjikha Valley in the last week of October, the black-necked cranes circle the Gangtey Monastery three times and also repeat the process while returning to Tibet. 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) 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 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. It is organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered 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.
Wangduephodrang dzong was founded by the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 atop a high ridge between the Punatsang Chhu and the Dang Chhu rivers with commanding views of the valleys below. Legend relates that as people searched for a site for the dzong, four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered an auspicious sign, representing the spreading of religion to the four points of the compass. After Trongsa Dzong was established in 1644, the Dzongpoen (governor) of Wangduephodrang became the third most powerful ruler, after those of Paro and Trongsa. The dzong’s strategic position gave the Penlop control of the routes to Trongsa, Punakha, Dagana, and Thimphu.
Unfortunately, Wangduephodrang Dzong was burnt to the ground on the 24th of June 2012. The mammoth task of rebuilding is expected to continue until 2021.