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Nature walk in Gangtey - Phobjikha valley in Bhutan

Gangtey (Phobjikha) valley

Gangtey & Phobjikha (alt. 3000m/9845ft)

The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valley’s are tightly enclosed.

Gangtey Monastery GangteyA few kilometers beyond the Gangtey Monastery, on the valley floor lies the village of Phobjikha. This place is the winter home of black necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. Phobjikha, at an altitude of 2900 m, falls under the district of Wangduephodrang and lies on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (Chhu Naap-black water) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-white water).

According to a local legend, the two rivers actually represent a snake and a boar. The two animals once raced each other with an agreement that if the snake (Nakay Chhu) won, Phobjikha valley would be able to grow rice, but if the boar won, then rice could never be cultivated in the area. The snake lost since it had to meander all the way during its journey. Rice cannot be cultivated in the valley even today.

Places of interest in and around Gangtey & Phobjikha Valley

Gangtey Goempa
Perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor, the Gangtey Monastery is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountain’sGangtey valley, Bhutan and also the biggest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. The Monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 Gomchens who take care of the Monastery.

Gangtey was founded by Pema Trinley, the grand son of Pema Lingpa, the famous Nyingmapa saint of Bhutan. In 1613, Pema Trinley establish the monastery and became the first Gangtey Tulku. The religious traditions of Pema Lingpa still taught there. The second Tulku, Tenzin Legpa Dondrup (1645 to 1726), enhanced the size of Gangtey while keeping up good relations with Drukpas, and rebuilt the monastery in the form of a Dzong.

Black Necked Crane Information Centre
Situated on the edge of the forest and wetland along the main road of Phobjikha valley, the black-necked crane information Centre has an observation room equipped with high power telescope and spotting scopes for catching the best view of the cranes. The centre also offers display information that outline the natural and cultural history of the area. There is a small gift shop, which sells handicrafts produced by the local people.

Kumbu Lhakhang gangtey valley picture Bhutan
The history of this quaint temple goes back far in time and was built by Tibetan Lama Tshenden Dawa in the 17th Century. It is a relatively easy and pleasant hike up the hill to Kumbu Lhakang Temple, alternatively it is also possible to bike along the feeder road. Kumbu Temple offers several interesting statues, and many historical artifacts and scriptures.

On the main floor there is statue of ‘Sangay Menla’, the Medicine Buddha. The Bhutanese people believe that when they suffer from an illness, they pray to the Medicine Buddha and chant his mantra prior to taking traditional medicine. They believe the Medicine Buddha will bless them and they will recover from their illness. Climbing up the traditional Bhutanese staircase (steep wooden ladder) to the second floor, you visit statues of ‘Duesum Sangay’ and the temple of ‘Goenkhang’. ‘Duesum Sangay’ represents the Buddha of the past (Amitabha), the Buddha of the present (Sakyamuni) and the Buddha of the future (Maitreya).’Goenkhang’ is the temple of the protective female deity called Sipey Gyelmo. The deity is a friendly spirit, looking after the local people. Females are not allowed to enter the ‘Goenkhang’ temple. On the 29th day of the eight month of the Bhutanese calendar, Kumbu Lhakang performs a special ritual known as ‘Kumbu Tsham Choe’, to commemorate the death of Lama Tsenden Dawa who built the Kumbu temple. It is about one hour walk from Gangtey village to Kumbu Lhakhang.

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