The Gangtey Goenpa monastery, or Gangteng Monastery is the main seat of the Pema Linpa tradition of the Nyingma school of Buddhism. Dating from the 17th century, it has superb views and guests usually visit the temple before embarking on the Gangtey Nature Trail.
Today, the Goemba is the seat for the 9th reincarnation of Terton (Treasure Revealer) Pema Lingpa. It is said that the migrating Black-Neck Cranes circumambulate the monastery before settling down in the valley during each winter. And also before they fly back to Tibet during summer. The Black Neck Cranes festival is also held in Gangtey Monastery on 11th November annually.
Gangtey Goenpa was established in 1613 by Pema Lingpa’s grandson on a spur in the Black Mountains called the Gangteng Sang Nga Chöling, which translates to “summit for the teaching of the dharma.” Local timber was used for the temple’s beams, doors, pillars, and windows.
Due to damage from an earthquake, the monastery was destroyed and subsequently restored between 2002 and 2008. Conservators worked to preserve the temple’s original detail with the addition of over 100 new pillars. The rebuilt monastery was consecrated by the present incarnation of Pema Lingpa on October 10, 2008, graced by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
Gangtey Monastery is a four storey complex with five temples that surround the main central tower. The main hall in the monastery, known as the tshokhang, was built in Tibetan architectural style. The upper part of the monastery is built with timber wood using colours from natural minerals.The hall was built with eight wooden pillars, known to be the largest in Bhutan. The monastery is currently being maintained by around 100 lay monks, locally known as gomchen.
Inside the monastery, there are beautiful statues of Guru Rinpoche and other deities. There are also elaborate holy images and frescos in the various buildings of Gangtey Gonpa. During the winter months of January and February, the monastery and Phobjikha valley will be covered under a blanket of snow. The monks will also migrate to Wangdue Phodrang monastery during the winter.
Aside from the local pilgrims, the majestic black-necked cranes will also visit and circumambulate Gangtey Monastery three times upon their arrival from the Tibetan plateau. Gangtey/Phobhijka valley is the winter home for the endangered black-necked cranes. The black-necked cranes are considered sacred birds in Bhutan and it is revered as a symbol of longevity. The Black-Necked Crane Festival is also celebrated and held in Gangtey Monastery during mid-November every year.
Gangtey Nature Trail is also a popular short trail in Bhutan that is loved by the tourists. The trail begins from the mani stone wall to the north of Gangtey Monastery, passes through Semchubara village and ends at Khewang Lhakhang. The hike is beginner friendly and offers picturesque views of Phobjikha valley.