Bumthang: Elevation 2600m – 4000m
Bumthang is often described as the spiritual heartland of the kingdom. There are numerous monasteries and spiritual sites in this charming valley where history and mytholody help to bring alive much of Bhutan’s culture and traditions. Bumthang is a picturesque valley of beautiful houses, and fields of buckwheat, barley an apples.
A strong sense of spirituality pervades the atmosphere and at auspicious times of the year, the valley resounds with the chants of the spiritual community as temples all over offer prayers for the well-being of all sentient beings.
WHAT TO SEE IN BUMTHANG
JAKAR DZONG: Founded by great grandfather of Shabdrung, the Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549. It was upgraded after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as administrative center for Bumthang valley.
Jambay Lhakhang: Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo miraculously built 108 temples in 7th century in order to consecrate the Himalayan region. Jambay Lhakhang is one of those temples. This is the venue for Jambay Lhakhang Festival during October or November.
Kurjey Lhakhang: it takes about 30 minutes of hike north to reach Kurjey Lhakhang. It was during 8th century a king from Bumthang, known as Sendhu Raja had invited Guru Rimpoche (Precious Master), who brought Buddhism into Bhutan, to cure him from a dreadful disease. Guru meditated at Kurjey for three months, left his body print on the rock and subdued the local deities including powerful Shelging Karpo, who had stolen the king’s life force and was the cause of King’s disease. Kurjey is complex of three temples, on the right beneath a giant cypress tree, the main temple built in 1652 by Minjur Tempa, Trongsa Penlop. This temple houses the cave where Guru Rimpoche had meditated and left his body imprint. The First King of Bhutan built the middle temple during his tenure as Trongsa Penlop in 1900. The third temple is recently constructed under patronage of Her Majesty queen mother Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuk.
Thangbi Temple: founded by Shamar Rimpoche in 1470, is located in the midst of buckwheat field. After a dispute the temple was taken over by Pema Lingpa from Shamar Rimpoche. It is 17 Kilometers drive north of Kurjey Temple on an unpaved road to Toktu Zampa. You start your walk from here by crossing a small suspension bride and walk 20 minutes past fields of buckwheat to the Thangbi Temple. This is the venue of Thangbi Festival.
Bhutan’s religious treasure discoverer: Terton Pema Lingpa in 1501, founded Tamshing Monastery, located opposite Kurjey Lhakhang. Believed to be the reincarnation of Guru Rimpoche, he discovered many religious treasures around the country. The mural paintings inside the temple are known to be unrecorded ancient painting. The best way to enjoy the serene and the beauty of valley is to hike fro about one hour from Kurjey over Chamkhar River to arrive at Tamshing.
Konchogsum Temple: ten minutes walk south will bring you to Konchogsum temple. The temple was restored in 1995 and looks new, but it actually dates back to 2nd century.
Mebertsho (Burning Lake): it is about 20 minutes drive from the hotel where you stay and then about 10 minutes of walk. Pema Lingpa in the early 16th century discovered many religious items from a pond here.
Ura Village: it is about 50 kilometers from Choekhor valley and takes about one and half hour. Located in a broad valley, Ura village is a clustered of traditional houses fenced by cobblestone streets that give the village a mediaeval atmosphere. The women in Ura village cover their head with white cloth piece to protect from the harsh cold wind and carries sheepskin (behind their back) used as cushion and as well as to protect their cloth from the loads they carry. This is the venue for Ura Yakchoe Festival.
DAY HIKES IN BUMTHANG
Tharpaling/Chudrak Goenpa/ Kedhephu: Situated at more than 3600m the Chudrak Goenpa was built by Lorepa, a Drukpa Kagye lama from Tibet in 1234. It is also the spot where Guru Rimpoche had meditated during this period. Little above the Goenpa is the Kedhephu from where you can see the peaks of other surrounding mountains.
Petseling/Bathela: From Chamkhar hike for about three and half hours to reach Petseling Goenpa. Hike little above the Goenpa to reach at Bathela mountaintop, from where you can have the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
Kunzang Drak: It is two hours walk above Chel Tang Valley. It is one of the most important sites related to Pemalingpa the great treasure discoverer in Bhutan, who also constructed the Goenpa in 1488. Most of his sacred relics are kept here including the gilded stone bearing his footprint.
Wangthang Goenpa: Drive to Ura, which is 48 kilometers from Chamkhar town. Explore the Ura village en route to Wangthang Goenpa. The villages in Ura have clustered houses, which is quite unusual in Bhutan. Since last 25 years Ura has been transformed from a marginal community to a prosperous valley. From Ura hike to Wangthankha Goenpa which is situated above 3420 m.
Ngang Lhakhang: Three hours walk from Thangbi Goenpa is a small region of Ngang Yul “Swan Land” and this temple is 100m above the valley floor. Guru Rimpoche visited the site and Lama Namkha Samdrup, contemporary of Pemalingpa, built present temple in 15th century. Three-day festival is held here each winter with mask dances in honour of the founder of the temple