Best places & monuments to visit in Gangtey & Phobjikha
Gangtey & Phobjikha (alt. 3000m/9845ft)
The valley of Gangtey is of a picture postcard setting. It is a lush and green valley that is wide and flat without any trees. For a visitor, this is a pleasant surprise as most of Bhutan’s valleys are tightly enclosed and adorned by looming trees. And sitting majestically in the valley is the much-revered Gangtey Monastery.
A few kilometers beyond the Monastery, on the valley floor, lies the village of Phobjikha. Phobjika valley, where the black-necked cranes flock during their migration from Tibet and India, is known for its conservation efforts in Bhutan with about 800 households living without electricity in their bid to preserve and protect the black-necked-crane. The valley and its inhabitants have become a leading example of harmonious co-existence. Phobjika valley is now more of a living museum, inviting applause from people all over the world. Today, an underground electrification system, that costs much more than the conventional process has been put in place in order to preserve the crane habitat areas and not disturb them in any way.
Gangtey and Phobjika fall 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).
The two rivers actually represent a snake and a boar. According to legend, the two animals once raced each other with the understanding that if the snake (Nakay Chhu) won, Phobjikha valley would be able to grow rice, but if the boar won, then rice would never be cultivated in the area. The snake lost since it had to meander all the way during its journey. And so, to this day, rice cannot be cultivated in the valley.
Places of interest in and around Gangtey & Phobjikha Valley
1. Gangtey Goempa:
The Gangtey Gonpa or Gangtey Monastery is bounded on the west side by the Black Mountains (above 5,000 meters). This monastery in Wangdue Phodrang district in central Bhutan is located on a spur amidst the Gangtey village, overlooking the vast Phobjika Valley. The monastery commands striking views of the Valley where the Black Mountain region is inhabited by nomadic shepherds and yak-herders. Gangtey Gonpa is an important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition.
During the winter months, the Crane Festival marks the arrival of Black-necked Cranes from the Tibetan plateau. The sacred birds that migrate here are held as a religious blessing by the people, and their arrival is a big event not only in the Valley but also in this monastery. The Black-Necked Crane Festival is held on November 12, every year.
2. 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 center 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.