The Phobjikha Valley, a glacier valley in the Black Mountain National Park, is considered one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries in Bhutan. Every year between early November and mid February black-necked cranes, one of the rarest birds in the world, gather here from all over the Tibetan plateau to escape the harsh winters. According to estimates, there are around 200-300 cranes who reside in the valley, under the strict supervision of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN). During their stay the villagers are not allowed to make loud noises or fish in the river that runs through the valley.
In addition to the cranes there are also muntjaks (barking deer), wild boars, sambars, Himalayan black bears, leopard and red foxes in the valley and surrounding hills.
The place is also famous for the only Nyingmapa Monastery located in western Bhutan, known as Gangtey Gompa, which sits on a ridge above the valley. Pema Lingpa, known as ‘the treasure hunter’, prophesied during a visit to the valley that a temple would be built on this site and that his teachings would be spread from here. His prophecy was fulfilled by his grandson (who was also a reincarnation) who founded the temple, which was then completed by his second reincarnation. The current abbot is the ninth reincarnation of Pema Lingpa.
Every year on 11 November the Crane festival takes place in the courtyard of the monastery to welcome the cranes. Folk and masked dances are on display and official rituals, such as flag raising and welcome ceremonies, are conducted. Local food is available at stalls.
There is also a college here where a nine year course in Buddhist studies is offered, and a retreat and meditation centre started in 1990 by the Chief Abbot of Bhutan where the monks generally meditate for three years, three months and three days.