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Black Necked Crane Festival Tour in Bhutan offers a firsthand experience of visiting the remote valley of Phobjikha to witness the welcoming of the rare Black Necked Crane. The 8-day tour is an experience to get in sync with the cultural heritage of Bhutan while walking through its nature trail in Gangtey. Gangtey Goemba, perched on a hill overlooking the valley witnesses the Black Necked crane migration in the winter season and their act of circling the monastery, believed by the locals as a Kora/ circumambulation.

The tour that begins from the town and city areas, proceeds to the remote Phobjikha valley beyond Punakha in western Bhutan. Amidst the alpine wetland, the Black Necked Crane habitat flourishes as the residents protect and celebrate their migration from the Tibetan plateau. The tour shows how flora and fauna are a significant part of the culture and beliefs of the Bhutanese residents. Visiting some of the remarkable monasteries and temples along the way is one way of experiencing authentic Bhutan. This is one of the most fun festival tours in Bhutan as it offers a chance to hike through nature trails, visit religious landmarks and attend a unique festival. If you are a travel freak, nature, and culture lover wanting to experience something distinct, then the Black Necked Crane Festival Tour in Bhutan is for you.  

Highlights

  • Visit the religious sites of King’s Memorial Chorten in the city, Tashi Chhoedzong fortress in the banks of Wang Chhu, and the Buddha Dordenma statue in the Thimphu District.
  • Get the views of the majestic snow-capped mountains of Jhichu Drake and Jumolhari from the Dochu La pass at the elevation of 3140m.
  • Observe the beauty and the unique phallus objects and paintings in the Fertility Temple/ Chimi Lhakhang at the Metshina village.
  • Visit the second oldest and second-largest Punakha Dzong situated in between the confluence of o Chhu and Pho Chhu river in Punakha
  • Visit the Gangtey goempa to witness the Black Necked Crane Festival, celebrated with masked dances, folk songs, and drama skits.
  • Observe the Black Necked Cranes flying to the high hills on the Phobjikha valley.
  • Take a hike to the Crane Observation and Education Center, Semchubara, and Khewa Lhakhang through the Gangtey Nature Trail.
  • Take a scenic drive from Gangtey to Paro crossing the high passes of Dochu La and Lawa La through pine and rhododendron clad forests.
  • Hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery sitting on the edge of a cliff, 900m high from the Paro valley floor to observe the caves of Thulo Phuk and Pel Phuk where Guru Rimpoche landed on his tiger’s back and meditated.
  • Visit one of the largest fortresses of Rinpung Dzong and one of the oldest temples of Kyichu Lhakhang in the town of Paro.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights
Day 1 Arrival in Paro then transfer to Thimphu City (50km, 1 hour)
Day 2 Sightseeing tour in Thimphu
Day 3 Drive from Thimphu to Punakha (74km, 2 to 3 hours) and sightseeing
Day 4 Drive from Punakha to Gangtey/Phobjikha (85km, 2 to 3 hours)
Day 5 Attend the Black-necked Crane Festival in Gangtey Goempa
Day 6 Drive from Gangtey to Paro (205 km, 6-7 hours)
Day 7 Sightseeing Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery (3120m/10236ft, 6.4 km, 3 to 4 hours)
Day 8 Final Departure from Paro International Airport

Trip Overview

Black Necked Crane Festival Tour in Bhutan takes you to Gangtey and Phobjikha Valley to witness the annual festival celebrated to welcome the Black Necked Crane during winter. The vibrant festival in the Gangtey Goempa is one of the most prominent festivals in Bhutan with a flock of tourists taking this tour to experience the rare bird visiting Bhutan's amazing landscape. The tour also brings you close to the Bhutanese residents' religious and cultural beliefs, which can be observed through their ancient relics in the dzongs and Lhakhang.

The 8-day tour begins with your flight to the naturally beautiful town of Paro through the only international airport in Bhutan, the Paro International Airport. With views of the rolling hills and lush forests of pine, you will be transferred to Thimphu city. The next day’s tour in Thimphu district takes you to some of the most popular religious sites like the King’s Memorial Chorten, Tashi Chhoedzong, and Buddha Dordenma. Furthermore, you can visit the Motithang Takin Preserve, the National Institution of Traditional Medicine, the School of Arts and crafts, and the Traditional Paper Factory.

Punakha will be your next stop on the following day. You will pass through lush green forests and cross the Dochu La pass. From the pass, you can observe the views of Jichu Drake and Jumolhari at the viewpoint of 3140m. From there the drive continues until the green Metshina village. Crossing the rice fields will take you to Chimi Lhakhang/ Fertility Temple. Be open-minded as you take a stroll around the vicinity of the temple filled with phallus objects and paintings. Reaching Punakha from there will take you to the ancient seat of the Government of Bhutan and the Druk office at the beautiful Punakha Dzong.

Following day, you will head to the amazing Gangtey in Phobjikha valley. You will be passing through Wangduephodrang on the way while observing the bamboo and stone works done by the local residents. The next day’s tour is the most special as you get to attend the Black Necked Crane festival in the Gangtey Monastery. The Black Necked Crane Season in Bhutan, beginning from mid-October welcomes these rare creatures. The festival is in celebration of the migration of these rare birds in Phobjikha valley for roosting in the season. The Black Necked Crane habitat is protected in Bhutan and celebrated through folk songs, masked dances, and drama skits. Celebrated in November month annually, it sees the neighboring villages and towns come together in unison to celebrate and rejoice in the Black Necked Crane migration. After enjoying the celebrations, you will hike to the Crane Observation and Education Center, Semchubara village, and Khewa Lhakhang through the Gangtey Natural trail.

On the next day, you will drive from Gangtey to Paro crossing through Lawala Pass, Wangduephodrang, Dochu La pass, Semtokha, and eventually to Paro via Paro-Thimphu highway. After reaching Paro, you can visit one of the largest fortresses in Bhutan, the Rinpung Dzong. Then you can head on to visit the Kyichu Lhakhang with one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, the Jowo temple dating back to the 7th century.

The next day’s hike takes you through pine and rhododendron forests 900m high to a cliff with the Tiger’s Nest Monastery on the edge. You will get to immerse yourself in Bhutan's culture and religion as you visit the buildings in the monastery with status and paintings of ancient relics. The myth of how spiritual leader Guru Rimpoche visited the cave on his Tiger’s back to meditating, will help you understand the status of religion and culture in the Land of Druk. After the remarkable trip from western to central Bhutan and back, you will board a flight homewards on the next day via the Paro International Airport.

Route Map

Black Necked Crane Festival Tour Map

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Paro then transfer to Thimphu City (50km, 1 hour)

Your tour to the most popular Black Necked Crane Festival begins with a flight to the valley town of Paro. The sceneries of the surrounding hills, as you land in the Paro International airport, is thrilling. The Jichu Drake and Jumolhari mountains come into sight at a far distance. Upon your arrival, you will be greeted by our representatives and driven to a restaurant for lunch.

After lunch, you will head to the city of Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The road leads to the confluence of the Paro and Thimphu rivers adorned with Chortens. Nearby on the left side of the road, you will pass through the Tachogang Lhakhang with was built by the trader Thangthong Gyelpo in the 15th century. Upon your arrival in Thimphu, you will be transferred to your hotel for some rest. After being briefed by your guide about the tour to follow, you will head out to the streets for some explorations of the evening market. 

Overnight stay at hotel in Thimphu. 

Day 2: Sightseeing tour in Thimphu

King's Memorial Chorten King’s Memorial Chorten, located in Doeboom Lam and built-in 1974

Thimphu District offers an exceptional opportunity to visit some of the most eminent tourist destinations in Bhutan. Most of these destinations illustrate the art, culture, economy, and religion of the Land of Druk. 

Our first visit will be to the nearby King’s Memorial Chorten which is also regarded as the ‘most visible religious landmarks in Bhutan’, due to its prime location in the capital city. Unlike other Chortens, the National Memorial Chorten does not contain any human remains. It was built to honor the third Druk of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1974. 

You will then take a visit to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, School of Arts and crafts, and traditional paper factory. Brief visits to these places represent the economy and administration of Bhutan. 

Motithang Takin Reserve is next on the list of most famous tourist destinations. You will be driven to Motithang in Thimphu for an entrance to the preserve which was once a mini zoo. It is now a habitat for the national animal of Bhutan, Takin. 

Tashi Chhoedzong is a big fortress situated on the banks of the Wang Chhu river. It is also dubbed as ‘Fortress of Glorious religion’. The monastery has over thirty temples, chapels and shrines collectively. 

If time permits, you can visit the Buddha Dordenma or Buddha Point on the northern side of the district. You will be amazed by the gigantic Sakyamuni Buddha statue standing 54m/177ft tall. The statue represents peace and prosperity in the world and was built recently on the 60th anniversary of the fourth Druk of Bhutan. After enjoying your tour, head back to your hotel in the city. 

Overnight stay at hotel in Thimphu. 

Day 3: Drive from Thimphu to Punakha (74km, 2 to 3 hours) and sightseeing

Metshina Village Bhutan Metshina village - A Traditional village in Punakha Bhutan

The third day of your trip is characterized by a visit to the ancient capital of Bhutan at Punakha. Your drive to Punakha takes you through plush pine and rhododendron clad forest along the Thimphu-Tsirang Highway. Enroute, you will make a stop at the Dochu La pass at an elevation of 3140m. Mesmeric views of the high standing mountains can be seen from the viewpoint. The Dochu La pass also has 108 memorial chortens and the Druk Wangyel Lhakhang built-in 2004 by the Queen mother of Bhutan. The temple sees an annual winter Druk Wangyel Tsechu festival in December celebrated in gratitude to the monarch and the Royal Army. 

From thereon, the drive continues on until you reach the Metshina village. From the village, you will take a 20-minute walk through rice fields towards the Chimi Lhakhang temple. The temple was built by Lama Druk Kuenley, also called the Divine Madman for his unique ways of promoting Buddhism in Bhutan. As part of his distinct fascinations, the temple is decorated with phallus objects and paintings on the walls symbolizing fertility. It is hence called The Fertility Temple and draws an increasing number of travelers particularly women who come to receive blessings. From there on, you will enter the Punakha Valley. 

Upon your arrival, you will visit the Punakha Dzong, the second largest and the second oldest fortress in Bhutan. It was once the seat of the Bhutanese Government and the office of the King during the time that Punakha was the capital of the country. Situated between the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers, it is a majestic wonder. After the visit, you will head to your hotel in Punakha for the night. 

Overnight stay at hotel in Punakha. 

Day 4: Drive from Punakha to Gangtey/Phobjikha (85km, 2 to 3 hours)

Phobjikha Valley Phobjikha Valley - located in the Wangdue Phodrang in central Bhutan.

On this day you will be heading to the roosting grounds of the Black-necked cranes in Phobjikha valley. The drive from Punakha to the last town before central Bhutan, Wangduephodrang is only 30 minutes away. The town is characterized by the stone and bamboo works and streets with Getshi monks. From there on, you will head through the forest of oak and rhododendron till you reach the Lawala pass at the elevation of 3250m. The pass is decorated with dwarf bamboos and views of the high Himalayas in Bhutan. 

You will then take a downhill road until reaching the Phobjikha valley. From a distance, you can witness the regal Gangtey Goempa which will be your next day's visit. After reaching your hotel and taking some rest, you can stroll out in the streets of the valley to interact with the locals about the Black Crane Festival. 

Overnight stay at hotel in Phobjikha. 

Day 5: Attend the Black-necked Crane Festival in Gangtey Goempa

This is one of the most exciting days of your entire tour as you will witness the celebratory events at the Black Necked Crane Festival. Early in the morning after having some breakfast, you will head to the Gangtey Goemba. This monastery is the only Nyingmapa monastery in central Bhutan. Its construction dates back to the 17th century during the time of the prophecies made by the saint Pema Lingpa. 

Black Necked Cranes have since long believed to be the incarnation of two deities who protect the Phobjikha valley. The rare Black Necked Cranes are the winter visitors in the valley. They fly from the Tibetan Plateau towards the valley to escape the harsh winter conditions in Tibet. The Black Necked Crane season in Bhutan begins in mid-October and lasts till February. The Gangtey Monastery is mostly known for being the premises where the Black Necked cranes are seen circling the monastery three times as they fly to the valley and three times as they return to the Tibetan Plateau. Most pilgrims believe that the cranes are practicing the Kora/circumambulation. 

To welcome the black cranes in the Phobjikha valley, the Black Necked Crane Festival is held on the premises of the Gangety Monastery on 11th November annually. You will be astounded by the huge number of turnout of children, women, and men from neighboring villages and towns to attend the festival. You will witness short plays, folk and mask dances. Most interesting above all is the crane mask dances done by the performers. The festival began in 1998 and has since seen an increase in the tourist’s inflow during this time to witness the rich heritage of Bhutan. As the festival proceeds on, you will observe the wonderful cranes flying high in the hilltops of the valley. 

After witnessing one of the most famed festivals in Bhutan, you can even visit the Crane Observation and Education Center. It is delightful to watch the Bhutanese residents ensuring the protection of the beautiful creatures in their valley. Then, you will take a stroll in the Gangety nature trail passing the Semchubara village on the way before taking a descend to the Khewa Lhakhang. From there on, you will head back to your hotel for the night. 

Overnight stay at hotel in Gangtey. 

Day 6: Drive from Gangtey to Paro (205 km, 6-7 hours)

On this day you will take a long drive from Gangtey to Paro valley. The drive traces your step backward as you head to Lawala Pass then Wangduephodrang through the Thimphu-Wangdue Phodrang Highway. From there the road leads on to Punakha valley until crossing Thimphu. You will cross the Royal Botanical Park, then through the zigzag Thimphu -Punakha Highway, reach the Dochu La pass again with the mesmerizing views of the Himalayas. Passing the Lam Sonam Zangpo Lhakhang on the way, you will continue on until Semtokha. From there, you will take continue the drive to Paro along Wang Chu and Pa Chu river. Check into your hotel on arrival.   

After taking some rest in your hotel, you can head out to the streets of Paro. Adjacent your hotel, you can visit the Rinpung Dzong which is known to be one of the largest fortresses in Bhutan. It is also known as the ‘Fortress of the Heaps of Jewels’. Next, you can go to visit the Kyichu Lhakhang prominent for the Jowo Temple which is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan known to have been built in the 7th century. Guru Rimpoche is believed to have visited the vicinity and left his imprint. In the evening after the short sightseeing visits, you can head to the local gift shops to find some souvenirs to take back home. 

Overnight stay at hotel in Paro. 

Day 7: Sightseeing Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery (3120m/10236ft, 6.4 km, 3 to 4 hours)

Paro Taktsang Taktsang Monastery, famously known as Tiger Nest Monastery, is located in Paro, Bhutan.

A tour in Bhutan cannot end without a visit to one of its most iconic cultural landmarks, the Paro Taktsang/ Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Today you will take a hike up the cliff, 900m above the Paro valley floor. On the way uphill, you will pass through pine forests and a sacred pool. Upon reaching the amazing monastery you will be baffled by the architectural structure and the detailed carvings on the doors and windows. The buildings are interconnected to each other by stone ways. You will find prayer flags fluttering in the wind and prayer wheels being spun by pilgrims. Faint hints of the Buddhist prayers being chanted by the monks can be heard in the vicinity. 

The history of the monastery dates back to ancient times with the myth that Guru Rimpoche, the spiritual leader of Bhutan, flew on his Tiger’s back and landed in the Thulo Phuk cave. Then he proceeded to meditate for months and years in the Pel Phuk cave. Guru Rimpoche is primal in bringing Buddhism to Bhutan as per the legends. Surrounding these caves, the Tiger’s Nest monastery has been built. At the elevation of 3180m, the monastery seems to be clinging to the edge of the cliff. Its strategic placement has been great in offering the views of the Paro valley floor and the high Himalayas on the horizon. Each year, the Tiger’s Nest monastery sees many tourists and Buddhist pilgrims who flock to worship the statues and observe the paintings of the ancient relics. After the visit, you will head downhill from where you will be driven to Paro. 

Overnight stay at hotel in Paro. 

Day 8: Final Departure from Paro International Airport

On this day, you will be bidding farewell to the Land of Druk. We will drive you to the airport and bid farewell. You will board a flight towards home from the Paro International Airport. The memories of your visit to the cultural heritage sites will flood your mind. But most of all the visitors to Gangety Goempa, views of the Black-Necked Crane, and the amazing dance, drama, and singing performances in the Black-Necked Crane Festival will remain with you as you head back home. 

If you wish to go on a similar festival tour in Bhutan or extend your tour in Asia to the neighboring countries of India and Nepal, then you can freely reach out to us again.



Images: bag_lady, Rachel| flickr

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Trip Reviews

Travel experiences of our clients who recently returned from their trips.
100%

Based on 3 reviews

Bonifacio Beneventi
flagsItaly
Nov 21, 2019
bel viaggio
Ho fatto un viaggio fantastico in Bhutan, ci è piaciuto come il miglior viaggio. Mai previsto servizi così grandi. Hanno sempre avuto una cosa prioritaria: la nostra soddisfazione e servizi di prim'ordine. Ci è stato sempre offerto il meglio disponibile. Ci siamo goduti il ​​viaggio, come davvero. Consigliamo questa compagnia di viaggi a chiunque voglia visitare il Bhutan. Anche se siamo italiani, non abbiamo avuto problemi durante il viaggio. In effetti, siamo sempre stati resi speciali dal consulente, dalla guida turistica, dall'autista e da tutti.
Austin Clarke
flagsAustralia
Oct 21, 2019
Best Memories!
I want to thank Third Rock Adventures for making my dream come true. I always wanted to witness the crane festival in Bhutan. Searched a lot for the best company and found THird Rock. Inquired about the trip, service and offers, AND was amazed by how they respond to their clients. They had details in the email with all essentials. I felt that this is the company I should be traveling with. They assigned me the best tour guide. They always made sure that I was safe, and satisfied. My foods, rooms and other facilities were always the best-available. I am happy that I did this tour. I would like to recommend them to everyone. Thanks again.
Randal Glover
flagsUnited States of America
Oct 21, 2019
Exciting Bhutan Tour
Black Necked Crane festival had always been on top of my bucket list and finally did it. I contacted Third Rock to organize a customized trip for me, I wanted to stay 2 more days in Bhutan, and they designed me the best itinerary. My Bhutan Tour Guide was an amazing person. He had friendly personality and was knowledgeable. I never anticipated that tour guide would be such knowledgeable. I asked him about his experienced and was surprised to get the answer-he has more than 10 years of experience. I was offered comfy room and best food. Hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery and exploring largest fortresses of Rinpung Dzong was the two best highlight of this trip apart from the festival. I am highly grateful to the company for such service.
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