Phobjikha is a small village in west-central Bhutan with even smaller population and known for is its amazing valley and black necked cranes. Commercial tourism industry is non-existent for good. Only two families run homestays. This place is around 6 hours ride from Thimpu and the roads are not good. Non-Bhutanese need a special tourist permit which you can at Thimpu.
December to early March is the best time to visit phobjikha. Black necked cranes start returning back to Tibet as temperature starts rising by second week of March.
I didn’t find any hotel at Phobjikha but there are two homestays listed on their tourism website– Deki Gatseling Homestay and Phub Gyeltshen’s Farm House. Detailed address and contact details –
- Deki Gatseling Homestay, Gangtey Wangdiphodrang, +975-1-7734049, +975-1-7983106.
Price (Ngultrum) – 1000 – 1600
- Phub Gyeltshen’s Farm House, Gangtay Gewog at Phobjikha in Wangdiphodrang Dzongkhag..+975-1-7879831,+975-1-7557086.. Price (Ngultrum) 500 –800 ..
I pre booked Deki Gatseling over phone. The family members do not understand English or Hindi so asked my driver to do it. Since it was lesser touristy Holi weekend, we luckly got it. I would suggest pre booking by any travel agency. The house is traditional Bhutanese construction amidst Potato fields and has three double rooms with two/three beds. They charge on the basis of number of occupants. The food charges are – Nu 400 per person for dinner and Nu 200 for breakfast.
Homestays provide accommodation to drivers/guides accompanying tourist but charge for their food. We paid for it.
This homestay is very different from other homestays. It was already dark when we reached and there were no street lights. The houses have electricity but they use it to minimum requirement so as not to disturb the birds. We were directionless and lost but the host Ugyan came to main road receive us. The house was completely made of wood and was warm. He showed us our room and then politely asked us to join them in living room for Su ja (butter tea). The living room was surprisingly warm and was beautifully decorated flower paintings; carpets were laid around Bukhari (traditional room heater, also work as stove) which was placed at the center. A couple of tourists were already there and we exchanged pleasantries. After half an hour or so, we were served dinner.
The beautiful little daughter of our host, Sonam is an amazing kid. She easily mingled with us. Hardly could we understand eachothers languages but we along well. She had pet cat too.
Phobjikha is a small village, and there are no specific landmarks for exploring. Phobjikha is an experience. Surrounded by mountains, the valley is closest to heaven I have ever seen. The clouds literally walk on the fields, flock of black cranes roam in the sky, people are least bothered about worldly problems and time ceases to pass.
Whatever be the case, do wake up by 6:30am. Morning is what makes this place mystical. Temperature is significantly below zero and gloves are a must.
We got up by 6:15, and in ten minutes we were already out for one the best morning stroll of our life. Everything was frozen-still saving few cranes flying high up in the sky. We walked across the village and on the way met some school going kids. Wonder how could they manage in such a weather.
The actual breeding place of black necked cranes is on the opposite side of village (backside of homestay). This vast valley is a no-trespassing zone and it is virtually not possible to locate a crane with naked eye especially when there are only a few left. We headed to the crane centre for binoculars. Charges for the same were 100 NTU.
We were on very tight schedule so missed Gangtey Goemba monastery situated on a hilltop. One can drive or hike (20-30 minutes) till there.
We left Phobjikha by afternoon with memories of a lifetime.
The host served us with delicious home cooked food. In dinner we were served Ema Datshi (national dish of Bhutan made of green chillies and local cheese), Kewa Datshi (potato with cheese), Salad, Dal and Rice.