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Nature walk in Gangtey - Phobjikha valley in Bhutan

Gangtey (Phobjikha) valley

Gangtey & Phobjikha (alt. 3,000m / 9,840 ft)
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.

Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Excursions around Gangtey

Kumbu Lhakhang
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 gangtey valley picture BhutanTemple, 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.

Gangtey Nature Trail
This pleasurable walk provides opportunity to get nice feel of Phobjikha valley. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, you head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from here through beautiful forests and into open valley. The trail ends at the local community school after passing a chorten and Khewal Lhakhang.

Distance : 5.5 km, Time : approx. 2 hours, Difficulty level : Easy

Tenkhor Yuetshe
This is a leisurely and enjoyable walk through small beautiful villages where you will get to see traditional village life and charming village houses. Follow the Gangtey Nature Trail from the Goemba and into the forest after Semchubara village. Rather than following the path leading down the valley, this trail continues on dirt road upwards into the first left side valley, The dirt road will lead you into Jangchu Kemba village and from there you can follow a path linking all the small villages until you reach Gopho. From here you decent through the marsh land near Khewa Lhakhang.

Time : approx. 2 – 3 hours, Difficulty level : Moderate

Kilkorthang Trail
This is a leisurely village hike which takes you across the valley to a local Lhakhang. From the community school you will follow the dirt road further down into the left side of the valley. When reaching Kilkorthang village you will cross the cluster of village houses to the valley edge, before starting to descend down into the valley. A small wooden bridge takes you across the interesting stream delta formation. From here, you can continue straight towards the easily recognizable Damchoe Lhakhang.

Time : 20 minutes drive to Khewa Lhakhang & 1 hour hike

Damchen Lhakhang
Damchen Lhakhang was founded by Terton Trulku Paljor Gyeltshen, one of the sons of the great omniscient Kunkhen Longchen Rabjam in 14th Century. The small ancient monastery was mainly the seat of the master used as his retreat centre. Trulku Paljor Gyeltshen was a great treasure discover and he was the true incarnation of Lhasey Muthri Tsenpo, Prince of Tibetan King Thrisong Duetsen. Trulku Paljor Gyaltshen founded many monasteries within Bhutan.

The monastery has got three main statues of Lord Buddha which was built during his time. The monastery was taken cared by the local villagers. Later it was offered to His Holiness Gangteng Rinpoche as the local people couldn’t taken good care of it. Then in 2014, His Holiness Gangteng Rinpoche appointed His Eminence Jamdrak Trulku Tshewang Tenzin Rinpoche as regent(Lama) of Damchen Lhakhang. Under his appointment as the resident Lama, His Eminence Trulku Rinpoche has brought many developments and the monastery currently houses 17 monks with two teachers. Trulku Rinpoche is taking care of the monastery and the monks starting from food, teachings and shelter free of cost under finding generous sponsors for the support of monks and monastery.

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