Elevation 3,000 meters
Travelers and local often called it the most beautiful valley in Bhutan in our private conversations and our unofficial poll. You won't find trinket shops, museum or places of attractions here. Even the school in the middle of the valley was moved to make way for the conservation area that is called Gangtey Valley.
This valley is called Gangtey, the winter home to more than 400 highly endanger black-necked crane. It is a wide, flat glacial valley, well worth a visit of one or two days. This wide and rolling valley is surrounded my mountains on all side, creating a sense of deep isolation. Even the phone signal is patchy here.
Gangtey is one of the most watched valleys for tourism. It has become the showcase for government's attempt to balance conservation and tourism. Gangtey Valley is highly sensitive to pollution and human traffic. While tourism would benefit the locals by providing employment and additional income, the cranes may choose to avoid this area if it becomes polluted. The valley is an example why Bhutan has to limit the growth of tourism at the moment. Tourists, and even the travel agencies who arrange tours, may not be aware of how vulnerable this area is to human traffic.
Winter is the most beautiful time to be in Gangtey. The sky is blue. The yaks can be found just before entering the valley. They have come down from a higher plane to seek for a warmer region. Their long and thick fur do not provide enough warm at higher altitude. Most importantly he black neck cranes would have arrived.
But it can be too cold for most travelers. You don't just face a temperature that is close to zero; the wind is strong and unrelenting. December is tolerable, but we see a high number of cancellation in January and February.
Where to Stay
There are just three hotels that we would recommend to you. In the three stars category, there is the rustic Hotel Dewachen. In the five stars category, Aman has a lodge with just 8-room, or you can choose to stay in the newer Gangtey Goenpa Lodge.
Gangtey Goenpa Lodge is the brainchild Mr. Brett Melzer and Ms. Khim Omar Win, they pioneered the "Ballons over Bagan". They have resurrected this project in Gangtey, the only area in Bhutan with enough space for ballooning. Ballooning is not cheap. If you are on the budget, you may want to consider biking instead.
Amankora Gangtey is one of the six Amankora Lodge across Bhutan. Of the six lodges, this is also the most beautiful one. It has just eight rooms, so it is often full during the peak season.
What To Do
Gangtey Dzong and Monastery
Gangtey Monastery is a beautiful yet simple, consisting of just one main building, temple overlooking the Gangtey Valley. The building is really cold during the winter. The respect for this institution is not limited to the locals. The cranes can be seen circling the monastery clockwise three times upon arrival and before departing the valley annually.
Gangtey Goenpa is believed to house the mummy of a Yeti. Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner wrote "Nailed to the wall by the back of its scalp was the hide of a "red yeti". To date, his writing has not been corroborated by anyone else but the monks.
Trekking is a popular tourist attraction in Gangtey. The route followed by international trekking enthusiasts starts from the Gangtey Gonpa, passing through the Kumbu village, goes through the Gedachen and Khebayathang villages, leads to the Kilhorthang village and terminates in the Kungathang Lhakhang.
There is also a shorter trek of about 90 minutes, known as the Gangtey Nature Trail, starts from the mani stone wall to the north of the Gangtey Gonpa and ends in Khewa Lhakhang.
The most luxurious accommodation is Amankora Gangtey, which has outstanding views of the Gangtey Gonpa. The hotel has an excellent restaurant and a library. Guests are treated to an invigorating hote-stone bath, infused with fresh Artemesia.