(altitude 9600 feet):
About two hours drive from Wangdue Phodrang, a glacial valley located on the western slopes of the Black Mountain (Jowo Durshing) at an altitude of 9840 feet above sea level. It is the winter home of the endangered Black-necked Crane that migrate from the high plateaus of Tibet in late fall. In addition to the cranes there are also muntjac (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard, red panda and red fox in the nearby forests. The valley is a designated conservation area and borders Black Mountain National Park (now Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park).
The Gangtey Gompa, a 17th century monastery, is the largest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. It is headed by the ninth Gangtey Trulku, the body emanation of the treasure revealer, Terton Pema Lingpa. Gyalse Pema Thinlay built a small temple in 1613, which was later built into
a larger monastery by the 2nd reincarnation Tenzin Legpai Dondup. A day hike around the valley visiting villages and observing the cranes during November March soothes your mind and rejuvenates your poetic thoughts.
The drive from Wangdue to Trongsa is very scenic, passing by streams, villages and rich forest sighting exotic wild birds and animals if you are lucky, before climbing the Pelela pass and on to the dramatic Trongsa valley. It takes about 4 hours from Phobjikha to reach Trongsa by car. Located at an altitude of 7220 feet above sea level, Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where the nation was unified. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and for miles on end, the Dzong seems to tease you, wondering if you will ever reach there. Ever since the institution of the monarchy, the Crown Prince is offered the title of Trongsa Penlop before ascending the Golden Throne as Druk Gyalpo or King of the Dragon Kingdom.
The Trongsa Dzong with the Ta Dzong watch tower, Kunga Rabten Palace and the Kuenga Rabten nunnery are some of the places of interest.
Bumthang is probably the holiest valleys in Bhutan, alongside Paro. This is where Guru Rinpoche first set his foot when he came to Bhutan in the 7th century. Shrouded in mythical and spiritual folklores, it is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. It is about two and a half hours drive from Trongsa to Bumthang. Located at an elevation of 8530 – 13125 feet above sea level Bumthang refers to a region of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura. Choekhor and Chumey are high altitude agricultural valleys while Tang and Ura depend mostly on livestock.
Bumthang is also the traditional home of the great Buddhist treasure revealer and teacher Pema Lingpa whose reincarnation is manifested today in three forms body, speech and mind. Because of its many religious sites, Bumthang has the maximum number of village tshechus (festival) in Bhutan.