Gangtey or Phobjikha is located in central Bhutan at an average altitude of 3000 m. This place is a must visit for all lovers of nature and animals. Phobjika Valley is a vast, serene, glacial valley and is a part of the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park formerly known as Black Mountains National Park, in the district of Wangdue Phodrang. This is the country's most significant wildlife reserve where the magnificent Black-necked Cranes can be spotted in winter. It is also home to two gorgeous meandering rivers named Nakay Chhu and Gay Chhu that translates to black water and white water in English. Gangtey is the name for the hilltop village and the valley is called Phobjika.
The Gangtey Goempa is a monastery that was built in 1613 by Pema Thinley who was the grandson of Pema Lingpa and is also believed to be his reincarnation. It is a very important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism and the village of Gangtey derives its name from this monastery.
According to a local legend, the rivers of Nakay Chhu and Gay Chhu represent a snake and a boar each. They had once raced each other and decided that if the snake won, Gangtey could produce rice but if the boar won, rice could never be cultivated in the valley. The snake lost and meandered through its journey and so rice can’t be cultivated in the area even today. Potato forms the primary cash crop of the region and it’s also Bhutan’s main item of export to India.
How to Reach
Fly into Paro Airport, Bhutan’s only airport. You can hire a private taxi or board the daily buses to Gangtey from these Paro, Thimpu or Phuentsholing. From Thimpu, the road till Gangtey is very scenic and covered with red and white rhododendrons in spring.
Best Time to Visit
Summers are warm and winters are cold. Visit in autumn or spring for stunning natural beauty and pleasant weather. Flowers bloom in spring and the valley is painted in different hues. November to mid-march is the best time for bird-watching in Gangtey. The rare and endangered Black-necked Cranes travel from the Tibetan plateau to Gangtey to roost on the meadows. On 12th November, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature holds the Black-necked Crane festival every year to encourage conservation values. Guests are welcome and you can observe the festivities and folk dances.
Clothes to be carried
Bhutan is a cold country so the winters can get very cold. Summers are warm but the temperature drops at night so always remember to carry warm clothes.
Places to Visit
The top sightseeing options are the Gangtey Monastery and the Phobjikha Valley.
The goempa sits on a forested hill and overlooks the entire valley stretching below. It has a large complex that houses the main monastery, quarters for the monks, a small guesthouse and meditation centers. The Tibetan style prayer hall rests on 18 great pillars and has a spectacular three-storied inner atrium. On a hill to the north lies a Buddhist college where 300 student monks are trained. From the 8th to 10th day of the 8th lunar month which falls in the month of September/October, a very spiritual three-day festival is held at the Gangtey Monastery.
Visit the Royal Society for Protection of Nature’s (RSPN) Black-Necked Crane Information Centre to look at the various displays on the Black-necked Cranes and the valley environment. You can hire a mountain bike, a hiking guide or local homestays from here. Apart from the exotic Black-necked Crane, animals such as barking deer, wild boars, sambars, serows, Himalayan black bears, red foxes and leopards inhabit the area.
To explore the picturesque valley nestled in the lap of nature, hike on foot or hire a mountain bike. Two of the most common hiking routes are the Gangtey Nature Trail that takes about 1.5 hours and the Shashi La Nature Trail which takes 3-4 hours. A good mountain bike route lies from Gangtey Monastery to Khewang Lhakhang and another between Kilkhorthang Lhakhang to Damchen Lhakhang.
Visit the nearby Buddhist temples of Nyelung Dechenling, Khewan Lhakhang, Damchen Lhakhang and Kumbhu Lhakhang.
Local Population or Demography
Gangtey is located in the district of Wangdue Phodrang in Bhutan. The locals here are called Gangteps. They speak a particular dialect of Dzongkha called Henke. The beautiful valley is home to about 4700 residents.
Gangtey is a picturesque location surrounded by hills and drained by lively rivers. Villages, hiking trails and Buddhist temples are dotted across the valley. Spend some quality time with nature and rejuvenate your mind and spirit. Visit the Gangtey Monastery and learn about the life of Buddhist monks to connect with your spiritual side.
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