The Monastery at Gangtey was built in 1613. That’s 19 years before the Taj Mahal and more than two hundred years before the Statue of Liberty. As in any other country, such monuments are maintained at huge costs. but unlike other countries, government funds are not sufficient to ensure a good restoration. The monastery at Gangtey stands as a testament to the people of Bhutan. In their aim to hold on to a cultural tradition that is constantly under attack, various authorities and institutions came together to restore this monument. This harks back to their forefathers where the community was involved in building the Gangtey Monastery from scratch – including sourcing wood, mixing construction material and making roofs.

It is this zeal towards conservation and preservation that flows as the undercurrent of the Black Necked Crane Festival – one where the locals perform rituals and mask dances to welcome the Black Necked Cranes – birds that summer in the Tibetan Plateau and winter in the lower sheltered valleys of Phobjika (of which Gangtey is a part). The birds come a little later in the year while the dances happen in autumn.

In all this, if you thought that Gangtey is only worth spending a couple of nights in (for the festival and the cranes), think again. The valley is known for some excruciatingly beautiful hiking routes and 2-3day treks. If you are in the mountains, you’d like to climb a few and a route from Gangtey to Bumthang helps you achieve just that – without making your calves or knees scream.