Wangdue Phordang: Elevation 1,350m
To the south of Punakha is the valley of Wangdue phordang as the national hightway heads towards central Bhutan. The old town, a narrow street with single storied shops, will soon be replaced by a brand new town carved out of terraced rice fields.
WHAT TO SEE IN WANGDUEPHODRANG
Wangdue Dzong: Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1638 had built this massive fortress sitting on a hilltop at the confluence of Punakha Chu and Tang Chu Rivers. Wangdue Festival is celebrated here in the fall.
Rinchengang Village: a small clustered village facing the Wangdue Dzong is known for its skill in traditional method of stone masonry. It is about 20 minutes hike uphill with great view of the Dzong, valley and the river.
Phobjikha Valley: (altitude 9600 feet), takes about two hours of drive from Wangdue Phodrang, a glacial valley located on the western slopes of the Black Mountain at an altitude of 9840 feet above the sea level. There is no telephone or electricity and is the winter home to the rare black-necked crane that migrate from high plateaus of Tibet in late fall to escape harsh winters. There are also muntjak (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard and red fox. The valley is a designated conservation area and borders Black Mountain National Park.
A place to see is Gangtey Goenpa: the largest Nyingma monastery in Bhutan. Gyalse Pema Thinlay built a small temple in 1613, which was later built into larger Goenpa by the 2nd reincarnation Tenzin Legpai Dhendup.
Villages: you can take a day hike around the valley visiting villages and observing the cranes during November – March. It is very scenic and mind soothing hike that would provide you with rewarding surprises.
Roosting Ground: it is about 20 minutes walk from the bridge crossing the swamp on rough wooden slabs. The best time is at dawn and dusk when all the birds in the valley congregate for the night (only possible during November – March).
Visit to the Crane Observation and Education Center: activities within the Center are; early morning crane observation and counting/ crane study using nature trails. The Royal Society established the centre for Protection of Nature (RSPN), the only NGO in the country.