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Phobjikha Valley and the Black Necked Crane Festival

Phobjikha Valley and the Black Necked Crane Festival

Bhutan is unique in so many ways but two areas where it really stands out are festivals and environmental conservation. The Black Necked Crane Festival is the perfect intersection of these two and is one of our favorite celebrations in Bhutan here at Wildland.

Nestled in the inner Himalayas at about 3000m (9,840ft) above sea level, Phobjikha is a wide alpine wetland valley that was carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. It is often cited for the harmonious co‐existence of its inhabitants with nature. It is the wintering ground of the rare and endangered Black‐Necked Cranes 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. Additionally, 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. The festival is an integral part of the 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. It's an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part of their daily lives during the winter months. The annual festival is organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered Black‐necked cranes; to strengthen the linkages between conservation, economic welfare and sustainable livelihoods of the community; to 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), mask dances performed by the local people, crane dances and environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs by the school children.

The success of the festival and its continuity depends entirely upon the support and contributions of the visitors and well wishers of conservation. Continued appreciation and corresponding support are essential in maintaining strong linkages between conservation and economic welfare of the local people. By viewing and participating in the festival you reward the community for their continued conservation stewardship. Funds mobilized through the Black-necked crane festival and other activities of the committee are deposited in a community owned bank account and managed by the committee for activities of common benefit to the community.

See what visitors to the festival had to say:

A True Community Event

This festival enthralled us all. The cranes arrived for real a week or so before the festival and the locals honour their return with this amazing festival. Everyone from school children to monks performs dances and the colour, spectacle and skill is something to behold. Besides tourists and locals the courtyard is filled with monks also spectating and they are happy to explain and enlighten you on the finer points of the temple and the festival. The valley is flat and marshy in parts with dense forests on the hills to the side. The horizon is punctuated with higher mountains and all around rural communities and farms are seen. The woodland has trails and viewpoints but remember the weather can change quickly so be prepared.

Valley with the Perfect Mix of Nature and Man

The most perfect valley I have ever seen in the Himalaya. You can see the whole curvature of the valley. The Black Necked Crane is the added value in the beauty. The crane observatory is wonderful and you can get a closer look by way of the many telescopes installed in the building.

Left in Awe of the Phobjikha Valley

This is one of the most beautiful areas of Bhutan that we visited. Sloping areas of green grass flanked by pine trees on either side lead to villages, rivers and, of course, the crane roosting ground. The nature trail can be combined with a visit to Gangtey Goemba and the local school. Gangtey Goemba is situated picturesquely at the hilltop at the edge of Gangtey village, making it the landmark structure of Phobjikha valley. 

An Overwhelming Sense of Peace and Goodwill 

We loved Phobjika Valley, the black-necked cranes and our stay at Dewachen Lodge - lovely setting and beautiful lodge. We absolutely loved Bhutan - what a unique people and culture. There was an overwhelming sense of peace and goodwill throughout the country and the landscape, geography and culture were fascinating. I would rate it as one of my favorite trips and places that I have ever visited. Thank you for an excellent experience!

Dancers at the Crane Festival
A dance put on by local students honoring the cranes
Phobjikha Valley
Black Necked Cranes in the Phobjikha

Ready to see the cranes for yourself? Check out our other Bhutan itineraries or to learn more give us a call at 800-345-4453. 

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