After leaving the Punakha valley, the Pele La Pass forms the boundary between west and central Bhutan across the Black Mountains. The road is winding and dramatic in parts, with spectacular views of Himalayas on clear days from near the top of the pass, although not from the pass itself.
The Phobjika Valley is one of the most important wildlife areas in the country, largely thanks to the large flock of endangered black-necked cranes which migrate across the mountains from Tibet and nest here for the winter. The birds arrive in late October and leave in March, with the nest months to view them November to February. There is a special festival in the valley on the 12th November every year to celebrate the birds' arrival.
At an elevation of 2900m, there are also many other rare species who live in the vicinity including Himalayan black bears, leopards and red foxes. The valley floor can be marshy and wet, but there are numerous trekking routes into the hills.
At just over 7 hours driving time from Thimphu, Trongsa stands in the very centre of Bhutan. The only route east-west route through the country passes through this town and it holds a formidable location. The Trongsa Dzong is the longest in the country, built on different levels into a hillside rich in trees and greenery.
Also in Trongsa, the Ta Dzong is a watchtower overlooking the Trongsa Dzong, housing a museum of Buddhist art and Royal Family information. Trongsa is from where the Royal family originate.
Slightly further east, the Bumthang Region is considered the spiritual heartland of the country and is the home of many important Nyingmapa saints. It is made up of four valleys, and is informally known as the Bumthang Valley (known more precisely as Chokhor Valley – one of the four). Attractions include Jakar Dzong, various monasteries and temples dating back as far as the seventh century. Bumthang is particularly well known however for its many opportunities for a wide range of walks and treks from. These can range from just a few hours long, to multi-day overnight routes, all of which give you a great opportunity to explore typical rural Bhutan.
Many tours into Bhutan do not get any further into the country than the Bumthang valleys, but if you have more time available and particularly if you are keen birdwatchers, then continuing on into Eastern Bhutan is well worthwhile.
For more information about Bhutan, please check our Bhutan country guide.
Bhutan's cuisine is surprisingly varied, though watch out for the local's favourite dish of Ema Datshi - hot chillies and cheese sauce.
A look at the various transport options available whilst on a tour to Bhutan.
What to expect when you take your family and children on a holiday to the Nepal and Bhutan.
Short overview of the various ethnic groups found in Nepal.
Understand more about how we grade our treks in Nepal, Bhutan & Tibet.
Comprehensive guide to whitewater rafting in Nepal & Bhutan.
"Really fun trek and a great sense of achievement. Guides were really friendly, fun and with great spirit."
Rosie Moore (Everest Base Camp)
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