Gangte Goemba (Monastery), Phonbjikha Valley.

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Gangte Goemba

Top choice in Phobjikha Valley

Gangte Goemba enjoys prime real estate, on a forested hill overlooking the green expanse of the entire Phobjikha valley. The extensive complex consists of the central goemba, monks' quarters, a small guesthouse and outlying meditation centres. Much of the interior and exterior woodwork of the 450-year-old goemba was replaced between 2001 and 2008 due to a beetle-larvae infestation.

During a visit to the Phobjikha valley, the 15th-century treasure-finder Pema Lingpa prophesied that a goemba named gang-teng (hilltop) would be built on this site and that his teachings would spread from here. Pema Thinley, the grandson and reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, built a Nyingma temple here in 1613, and the larger goemba was built by the second reincarnation, Tenzing Legpey Dhendup. The current Gangte trulku (reincarnation), Kunzang Pema Namgyal, is the ninth reincarnation of the 'body' of Pema Lingpa.

The tshokhang (prayer hall) is built in the Tibetan style with 18 great pillars around an unusual three-storey inner atrium, and is one of the largest in Bhutan. The inner sanctum houses the funeral chorten of founder Tenzing Legpey Dhendup. The monastery's three-day tsechu (September/October) ends with the hanging of a large thondrol on the final day; at other times the huge thangka (painted or embroidered religious picture) is stored in a steel box in the inner sanctum.

Upstairs is the Machey Lhakhang, holding the central funeral chorten of the sixth Gangte trulku. Monks will tell you that when the lama died, his body shrank down to the size of a baby and then the size of a peanut.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Phobjikha Valley attractions

1. Nyelung Drachaling

0.89 MILES

Travellers with a sense of the magical will want to visit this unassuming chapel, one of eight residences (ling) built by the 14th-century Nyingma…

2. Kuenzang Chholing Shedra

0.95 MILES

This Nyingma-school shedra (Buddhist college) of 300 student monks has a unique fledgling tourist outreach program. Contact the office at least a day…

3. Black-Necked Crane Information Centre

1.42 MILES

Your first stop in Phobjikha should be the information centre of the Royal So­ciety for Protection of Nature (RSPN), which has informative displays about…

4. Khewang Lhakhang

1.79 MILES

On the east side of the Phobjikha valley, opposite Tabiting, is the 15th-century Khewang Lhakhang, one of the oldest in the valley. It features three…

5. Kumbhu Lhakhang

2.01 MILES

A dirt road leads from the Kuenzang Chholing Shedra up to the Kumbhu Lhakhang (Kumbhu means '100,000 statues'), a protector chapel and meditation-retreat…

6. Damcho Lhakhang

3.53 MILES

South of Tabiting, the unpaved road down the west side of Phobjikha valley winds past Yusa village to this small but charming chapel, said to be the…

7. Army Training Centre

16.2 MILES

At the time of research this army base was the location for the Wangdue Phodrang tsechu in October, at least until the dzong is rebuilt.

8. Radak Neykhang

16.33 MILES

By the tall cypress trees of the Wangdue district court is this timeless 17th-century temple dedicated to an ancient warrior king. The anteroom has a…