Wangdue Phodrang (Wangdue)

Elevation 1,350 m

To the south of Punakha is the valley of Wangduephodrang as the national highway heads towards central Bhutan. A brand new town carved out of terraced rice fields will soon replace the old town, a narrow street with single storied shops.

Wangdue Phodrang Dzong sits majestically on a steep ridge overlooking the highway that fork to the east and south of the country.

As the road heads towards Trongsa in central Bhutan, a turn-off below Pelela pass takes you into the magical valley of Phobjikha, home to the rare Black-Necked Crane that has made Phobjikha its winter home for centuries. The birds fly in from Tibet in October and November and leave just before spring.

Another significant landmark in Phobjikha is the famous Gangtey Gompa monastery (right), built in the 17th century.

Accommodations include the Punangtsangchu Cottages, with 22 pleasant rooms; Dragon Nest Resort, with 18 rooms; Kingaling Guest House, with 16 rooms; and Tashiling Hotel, with 16 pine-walled rooms.

Dining options include the Tashi Topgyel Restaurant, Black-necked Crane Restaurant, Kesang Restaurant and Dema Restaurant.