Wangduephodrang is one of the largest districts in the country. As the district covers 4,308 sq km and ranges from 800-5800 m in altitude it has extremely varied climatic conditions ranging from Sub-Tropical forests in the south to cool and snowy regions in the north.
Wangduephodrang is half an hour away from Punakha. Buffeted by afternoon winds, Wangdue is an important stop on the road east. Perched on a precipitous cliff above the Dang Chhu, the Wangduephodrang Dzong stands majestically on a strategic position.
Legend has it that Wangdue was once a desert, hence the cacti grown in profusion. But some believe the cacti were planted with a reason to discourage the invaders to climb the steep slope. The Phobji Gewog in the dzongkhag is famous as the winter nesting place of the black-necked cranes. The Jigme Dorji National Park extends into the northern part while a major portion of the dzongkhag falls under Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park.
The Phobjikha Valley is a vast U-shaped glacial valley, where the graceful black-necked cranes in Bhutan (Grus nigricollis) from the Tibetan Plateau visit the valley during the winter season to roost.
The broad valley with its best-known marshland in Bhutan, is popular for its scenic splendor and cultural uniqueness. The valley is rich in faunal biodiversity and has, apart from the globally threatened black-necked cranes Grus nigricollis, 13 other globally threatened species. Within the ambit of the valley, an area of about 163 square kilometers (63 sq mi) has been declared a protected area, which is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), for the protection of nature, authorized to manage, on lease basis, by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Tshechu, the colourful Mask Dance Festival of Bhutan and the Crane Festival welcoming the black-neck cranes in winter months are held every year in the precincts of the Phobjikha Valley, in the Gangten Monastery courtyard. It also has a popular 3-days trek route.
The Phobjikha Valley is a vast glacial valley at an elevation of about 2900m on the west side by the Black Mountains (Bhutan) (range above 5,000 m elevation) that separates western and central Bhutan. The valley is covered by a rich sward of grass in the marshy land where special variety of dwarf bamboo (Yushania microphylla) grows on which the black-necked cranes feed. The Nake Chuu and Phag Chuu River runs through this valley. Scenic views of the Phobjikha Valley are best below the spur of Gangteng Monastery and from the Ngelung Drechagling Lhakhang
Generally known as Gangtey Gonpa, is an important monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, the main seat of the Pema Lingpa tradition. Located in the Wangdue Phodrang District in western Bhutan. The Monastery's history traces to the early 17th century and back to the prophecies made by the well-known Terton (treasure finder) Pema Lingpa in the late 15th century.
The Monastery is one of the main seats of the religious tradition based on Pema Lingpa's revelations and one of the two main centres of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism in the country.
A Nyingma monastic college or shedra, Do-ngag Tösam Rabgayling, has been established above the village.
The Gangteng Monastery, also spelt Gantey Gompa, bounded on the west side by the Black Mountains (Bhutan) (range above 5,000 meters (16,000 ft) elevation) is located on a spur amidst the Gantey village, overlooking the vast U-shaped glacial Phobjika Valley, which is at an elevation of about 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) and which has marshy land. The Nake Chuu river runs through this valley. The monastery commands striking views of the Phubjika Valley below.The Black Mountain Region is inhabited by nomadic shepherds and yak-herders.
The Gompa lies on the popular trekking route of the 'Gangtey trail' which starts from the bottom of the Phobjika valley, passes through the Gangtey Valley, then climbs up to the Gangteng Gonpa, then goes through the Kumbu village on the east of the Gangtey Gompa, passes through Gedachen, Khebaythang, the Kilkhorthang villages and finally touches the Kungathang Lhakhang.
This monastery was built in the spot where Divine Madman Drukpa Kuenley first met Ashi Genzo who was renowned for her beauty. When it was first constructed the monastery was a simple Drubdey or meditation center. Lam Drukpa Kuenley is widely considered to be Bhutan’s favourite and most iconic saint due to his unorthodox method of teaching through ribald humor.
After about 40 minutes from Gangtey Gompa, you reach Semchubara. In the olden days the area was used as a common grazing ground for the cattle owned by the Gangtey monastery and the followers of the Truelku from Sha. The people named the place as Sem chen bara which means “the grazing ground for animals”.
In later years the land was distributed to the community by the second Gangtey Truelku.
After about an hour’s walk you will reach the Khewang village. Traditional lunch will be served upon request with one of the local families at the village. Khewang Lhakhang is located a few paces away from the cluster of houses.
It is believed that the location of the temple was prophesized by Lam Drukpa Kuenley when he visited the valley. The temple was later built in the 15th century by Truelku Penjor Gyeltshen who was an incarnation of the great Tibetan saint Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjampa. The Truelku is said to have hired sculptors and laborers from Tibet. The temple was also built to control famine and diseases, to ward off ill wishes of other people who have sinned in the past to fine the path to heaven.
Visit the Lhakhang and continue the excursion to Phobjikha Primary School.If you like, you can continue your expedition by driving to Lawog Valley and Kingathang.
In the olden days the valley used to be inhabited by the people from Mangde and Ada in summer. When they left their winter homes, the houses were looked after by the people from higher altitude who came down with their yaks and sheep to escape the harsh climate. Later, as the inhabitants found it difficult to manage house and land in different places, they sold their properties to the people looking after their houses.
It was believed that this village is located in the central part of the world meaning Kilkhor. The village was named Kilkhorthang but people also pronounce it as Kingathang. The beautiful landscapes formed by the glacial monument gives a spectacular sight of the valley. On top of one of the hillocks is a new monastery adding a spiritual ambience to the view.