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About Wandue Phodrang

This is a beautiful town that serves as the capital of Wangdue Phodrang district in the exalted Kingdom of Bhutan. It is one of the largest districts or dzongkhags of the kingdom covering 4308 sq. km of the area and located at a height of 800-5800 m which gives it vastly varied climatic conditions. While the south is covered in subtropical forests, the north of the district witnesses a cool, snowy weather. The town of Wangdue Phodrang shares its name with a famous dzong that was built here in 1638. It is the last western town on the highway before entering central Bhutan.

 

History

Ngawang Namgyal, the Zhabdrung Rinpoche (1594-1651) was a high Drukpa lineage lama from Tibet who is known to have founded the state of Bhutan. He succeeded in uniting the warring kingdoms of the valley and brought them under a single ruler. He was in search of the best location to build a dzong (fort-monastery) to prevent incursions from the south. According to legend, he met a boy named Wangdi on the bank of Punak Tsang Chhu river and named his dzong Wangdi Phodrang that was later renamed to Wangdue Phodrang. The town is still locally known as Wangdi.

 

How to Reach

Fly into Paro Airport, Bhutan’s only airport. There are daily buses to Wangdue Phodrang from Phuentsholing, Thimpu, and Paro. The town is 106 km away from Thimpu, 214 km from Gelephu and 261 km from Phuentsholing.

Best Time to Visit

Summers are moderately hot and winters are cool. Spring and autumn months are the best time to visit. Spring is very colorful and great for the lovers of natural beauty. Weather ranges from mildly cool to warm. Autumn is dry with clear skies and great views of mountain ranges.

The endangered black-necked cranes of Bhutan can be seen from October to February who come to roost on the meadows from the Tibetan plateau. The black-neck crane festival is held in November in the Phobjikha valley every year, which has been established as a conservation area.

Clothes to be carried

Depending on the time of the year, carry the amount of woolens you need to. Winters can be very cold while in the summers light layering should suffice. Nights are a lot colder than the days, so prepare accordingly.

Places to Visit

Wangdue Phodrang has a rich tapestry of tourist spots with historic, religious and cultural importance.

  • Wangdue Phodrang Dzong

The dzong sits on a hilltop above the confluence of the rivers Punatsangchhu and Dhangchhu. Founded in 1639, the strategic position of the fort-monastery gave the governor of the district control over the routes to Trongsa, Punakha, Dagana and Thimpu. The dzong caught fire in 2012 and parts of it are still under reconstruction.

  • Gangtey Monastery

The monastery was founded by Je Kuenga Gyaltshen in 1613 in Gangtey Gewog, atop a hill overlooking the Phobjikha valley. The annual crane festival is held in this monastery.

  • Phobjikha Valley

An important wildlife preserve, this is where the black-necked cranes come to roost in winter. It is also home to the leopards, wild boars, barking deer, sambars, Himalayan black bears, serows and red foxes. The valley is extremely beautiful and serene and it is a great route for biking.

  • Dargay Monastery

It is also called Chimme Lhakhang and it is dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, the divine Mad Monk. The monastery was built at the spot where he first met Ashi Genzo, a woman renowned for her beauty. It is located on a picturesque hillock that overlooks the Lobesa valley.

  • Temple of Sha Radap

Also, called Rada Lhakhang, the temple of Sha Radap is dedicated to the guardian deity of the Wangdue region. It is a local custom to pay a visit to the goddess with a newborn child for her blessing and to get them named by the presiding monks. There is an interesting custom of rolling the dice kept in the temple compound and wishing.

  • Black Mountain National Park

It is a large protected natural reserve containing musk deer, goat antelopes, red pandas, wild boars, golden langurs, tigers, clouded leopards, 270 species of birds and 139 species of butterflies.

  • Nearby villages

You can hike or drive to nearby villages and find farmhouses or tents to spend the night. The villages of Rinchegang, Gasleo, Nahee, Adha and Rukha are very peaceful as well as scenic.

Local Population or Demography

The district of Wangdue Phodrang has a total population of 28,000. The main population of the region is Bhutanese and the national language is Dzongkha.

Summary

Travel back in time by visiting Wangdue Phodrang that appears to be frozen in the 16th century. It is a popular tourist hub of Bhutan that offers both natural and cultural delights. The town is steeped in rich history and is well known for tales of shamanic culture, ornamental speeches called Lozeys of Shaa, and for being the ancestral home of Pema Tshewang Tashi. Buy the intricate bamboo weaving and slate carvings that the region is famous for as souvenir.

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