(Perched on a small hillock that rises from the valley floor, Gangtey Monastery is a very important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism – the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition. It was established in accordance to a 15th century prophecy made by the famous Tertoen (Treasure Discoverer) Pema Lingpa, where his religious traditions are still taught. Gangtey was founded by Pema Trinley, the grand-son of Pema Lingpa, who established the monastery and became the first Gangtey Trilku. The second Gangtey Trilku Tenzin Legpa Dondrup later rebuilt the monastery in the form of a Dzong (albeit much smaller in terms of size). It is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 Gomchens (Lay Monks) who take care of the monastery. As if adding to the mysticism and the spiritual sanctity of the monastery, the highly endangered black necked cranes which migrate to Phobjikha during winter are known to circle the monastery three times upon arrival as well as prior to their departure.
(*** In the interest of clarity, though different websites may offer differing versions, ‘Gangtey ’refers to the monastery whereas ‘Phobjikha’ refers to the valley). Gangtey is one of the most beautiful destinations in Bhutan. It is a wide glacial valley with a central stream meandering through the open grassland and thickets of dwarf bamboo. Farmlands occupy the peripheral slopes where potatoes and turnips are grown. The forests beyond the farms are mostly coniferous, with the general vegetation being made up of blue pine, birch, maple and several species of rhododendrons. It is a conservation area and the winter roosting grounds for the highly endangered black-necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in the milder and lower climates of Gangtey. The central valley which is inhabited by the black necked cranes during the winter months consists mostly of dwarf bamboo.
Phobjikha, at an altitude of 2, 900 meters, falls under the district of Wangdiphodrang and lies on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley boasts of two beautiful meandering rivers – Nakay Chhu and Gay Chhu. According to a local legend, the two rivers represent a snake and a boar. The legend goes on to say that the two animals once raced each other on the basis of a deal that if the snake (Nakay Chhu) won, Phobjikha valley would be able to grow rice, but if the boar (Gay Chhu) won, then rice could never be grown in the area. The fact that rice cannot be grown in the area is attributed to the snake having lost the race. )