FLIGHTS OF FANCY

DestinAsian - - GOOD TO GO | NEXT STOP - —James Louie

Co­cooned in the Hi­malayas at an el­e­va­tion of 3,000 me­ters, Bhutan’s Phob­jikha Val­ley is breath­tak­ing in more ways than one. It pos­sesses a time­less beauty: pine-cov­ered slopes frame wet­lands and potato fields dot­ted with half-tim­bered farm­houses. On the val­ley floor, broad ex­panses of dwarf bam­boo and sedge mead­ows serve as a win­ter­ing ground for sev­eral hun­dred black­necked cranes, which come to roost each Oc­to­ber from the Ti­betan Plateau. The grace­ful birds have long been revered by the Bhutanese as aus­pi­cious har­bin­gers of good for­tune, and No­vem­ber 11 will mark the 20th edi­tion of an an­nual crane fes­ti­val held at the 400-year-old monastery in Gangtey vil­lage. Masked dances, short plays, and con­ser­va­tion-themed ex­hi­bi­tions put the spot­light on Phob­jikha’s sea­sonal res­i­dents—the largest pop­u­la­tion of black-necked cranes found any­where in the iso­lated king­dom.

Get­ting There The Phob­jikha Val­ley is a five- to six-hour drive on wind­ing moun­tain roads from Bhutan’s sole in­ter­na­tional air­port at Paro, where Drukair ( drukair.com.bt) flies in from Bangkok and Sin­ga­pore. Where to Stay Just a stone’s throw from Gangtey vil­lage, the 12-suite Gangtey Lodge ( 975-2/340943; gangtey­lodge .com; dou­bles from US$564) re­calls tra­di­tional farm­houses but with the added com­forts of plush bed­ding, heated hand-cut stone floors, and deep-soak­ing bath­tubs. Don’t Miss A mod­er­ate four-hour hike from the small vil­lage of Longtey back to Gangtey, tak­ing in a rhodo­den­dron for­est and jaw-drop­ping views from the moun­tain pass of Kay­che La.

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