Today we have an early start, driving Trongsa via Gangtey.
After breakfast we have a scenic drive to Gangtey, with the stunning Wangdiphodrang Dzong as a stop on the way. This dzong was built in 1638 and legend relates that, as the people were searching for the site of the dzong, four ravens were seen flying away in four directions. This was considered auspicious sign, representing the spread of Buddhism to the four points of the compass. The dzong is located at the last town before entering central Bhutan and it played a vital role in unifying the districts of Bhutan.
Moving on from Wangdiphodrang we cross a mountain pass to descend into the Phobjikha Valley. As we have been driving through beautiful rhododendron forest on most of our travels, the contrast of descending into the unique open marshlands of the valley is striking.
While in Gangtey we will visit the Gangtey Gompa founded in the 16th century by Gyaltse Pema Thinley, the grandson of the great Bhutanese saint Pemalingpa. At the end of the 17th century it was enlarged by the second reincarnation, Abbot Tenzin Legpai Dhendup. It is currently headed by the Abbot Kunzang Pema Namgyal, who is the ninth re-incarnation. It is a Nyingmapa monastery and is affiliated to other Nyingmapa monasteries including Tamshing in Bumthang and is well known for its lovely paintings and statues.
Before enjoying our packed lunch, we will explore the Phobjikha Valley, famous for sheltering the rare Black Necked Cranes during winter. The cranes, usually in a flock of up to 200 birds, migrate from northern Tibet to winter here. Their numbers have been gradually increasing over the years and it is important to respect this important conservation site and not to disturb these beautiful birds.
After our packed lunch we will continue on a spectacular road to Trongsa and visit the most impressive dzong in Bhutan! The first temple in Trongsa (the Chorten Lakhang) was built in 1543 by the Drukpa Kagyu lama, Ngagi Wangchuk, who was the great-grandfather of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the person who unified Bhutan.
Trongsa Dzong, built in 1644, is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family and first two hereditary kings ruled Bhutan from this Dzong. Traditionally, the King of Bhutan first becomes the Penlop (governor) of Trongsa before being named Crown Prince and eventually King. Built on a mountain spur high above the gorges of the Mangde Chhu (river), the dzong controlled east-west trade for centuries. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan passed through the courtyard of the dzong and at the command of the Penlop the massive doors could be shut, dividing the country in two.
We then visit the Ta Dzong, an ancient watch tower built even higher up the mountainside to protect the dzong from enemies. It has unusual architecture, with two aisles protruding from the main building, something not found elsewhere. The chapel inside the Ta Dzong is said to be dedicated to the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal.
Over night in our Hotel.
Accommodation: Best Available
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner