Bumthang is one of the most beautiful & Sacred valleys in Bhutan. The landscape is in a shape of a Bumpa ‘an oblong shaped Buddhist water vase’ as seen from chhoekhor on the western hill of the valley. Therefore Bumthang is derived from “BUM” meaning Water Vase and “THANG” meaning “Plain Flat Land”.
Bumthang Comprising of four smaller valleys namely Tang, Ura, Choekhor and Chumey.The main Crops are Potatoes, Barley, wheat and Buck wheat.
Bumthang is also the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Linga to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin.
PLACES OF INTEREST IN AND AROUND BUMTHANG
Situated in the middle of Ura village, the temple is about the size of the National library at Kawajangsa Thimphu and was built at the same time in the 1980s. Inside is a huge statue of Guru Rimpoche and beautiful paintings. The Ura Yagchoe or “best religious festival” is performed on the 12th day of the 3rd month every year of the Bhutanese calendar. There are also the historical Sombrang temples with its ancient stone pillars (Doring) and the Shingkhar temple built by Longchenpa in the 14th century and recently restored by Dasho Shingkarlam.
The structure is built on the site where it is believed to have a large lake underneath, where terton Pema Lingpa discovered several treasures. The Lhakhang houses one of largest ancient bells, probably the largest in the whole world, whose ring is said to be heard as far as Lhasa in Tibet in the ancient days. The bell however remains out of use due to the crack which it has suffered when the Tibetan troops tried to steal it in the 17th century. The small statues of the three Buddha (past, present and future) which are said to have flown from Khini monastery in Kurtoe can also be seen in the temple.
It is a two storied structure with a beautiful statue of Guru Rimpoche inside. On the ground floor in a small chamber is a rock bearing the foot prints of Guru Rimpoche and his consort Menmo Tashi Kheudroen, the daughter of King Sendarkha. The plain is called Zhabjethang, because all the rocks around the temple bear the foot prints of Guru Rimpoche. Zhabjethang is about three and half hour’s drive from Kurje Lhakhang. For those choosing to hike, it is a 4 four hour walk from Thangbi.
This deep blue and alluring lake is one of the most sacred sites in the region and relates to the famous treasure revealer, Terton Pema Lingpa. Following a prophecy by Guru Rinpoche, Terton Pema Lingpa unearthed a treasure from the bottom of the lake. He dived into the lake with a burning butter lamp and reappeared with the butter lamp still burning and a chest and scroll of paper in his hand (treasures). It is believed the lake reveals some ominous signs to the lucky visitors.
The temple is already a centre for tourists and is less than10 minutes drive from the main town of Chamkhar. It is one of the 108 temples built by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in one day during the 7th century. The most popular festival here is the Jampa Lhakhang Drub which is celebrated from the 15th to the 19th day of the 9th month of the Bhutanese calendar.
This temple is located on the face of a cliff. Kunzangdra was founded by Terton Pema Lingpa, the great treasure revealer, in the 15th century. It consists of 3 temples. The oldest was founded by Terton Pema Lingpa and the other two were founded by his consort and son. This site is also said to have been visited by Guru Rinpoche on the back of his tigress. This myth is testified by the foot prints left on the rocks in the vicinity of the site. The site is also filled with holy water believed to have been created by Guru Rinpoche, Terton Pema Lingpa and his consort.
TANG UGYEN CHHOLING
It has beautiful temples and a museum reflecting the medieval way of life in Tang. It is the ancestral home of the descendants of Dorji Lingpa, including Tsokey Dorji, Trongsa Penlop (governor of Trongsa) in the early part of the 19th century.
A one kilometer uphill walk from Prakar is Nimalung monastery. It has been recently restored with about a hundred and fifty monks stationed there. In winter the monk fraternity migrates to Gelephu. This is a nice opportunity for sightseeing that can be combined with the visit to Prakar temple. A newly completed motorable road also leads to the monastery from Chorten Nyingpo.
A small temple on a ridge located on the left side of the road leading to Chhokhortoe. It is about 10 minutes walk uphill. There is also a good place at the bottom of the ridge where visitors can rest for lunch.
It is a temple set against a cliff about 20 minutes walk from Mesethang, the Geog center of Tang. An easier alternative would be to stop by while driving up to the upper reaches of Tang since the motor able road runs right below the temple. The rock has the stripes of a tiger & there are foot prints of Guru Rimpoche on it. There is also a stone bowl supposed to be the bath tub of Guru Rimpoche.
KHARCHU MONASTERY (LHODRAK)
This is a new monastery established by Lam Namkhai Nyingpo. The original monastery is in Lhodrak in Tibet, close to the border in Lhuntse. It is not even half an hour drive from Chamkhar town. It houses monks and above the temple are retreat centers for meditation. The complex is made of cement in a more Tibetan than Bhutanese style. It has wonderful paintings of Guru Rimpoche’s life and other statues.
It is a two storied structure hanging on the face of a cliff closing the Tang valley to the north. It was founded in about the 14th century. It is a one day up and one day down trek from the end of the motor able road beyond Kidzom. The temple is said to contain personal artifacts of the enlightened nun, Gelongma Pemo. It is a tough hike with the path first winding along a river and then climbing steeply. During the winter it is even more difficult to trek up to the temple due to the snow.
This temple’s rich history dates back to the 8th century when Chakar Gyab (Sindhu Raja) is said to have built an iron castle which is believed to be a colossal nine-storied structure built with various layers of metal at the present temple site. The castle however was lost over time.
Situated about 3 to 4 hours worth of uphill walk through forests of pine from Chamkhar town, the Gompa is special in that there is an impression of a white snake on a rock towards the east of the temple, a holy waterhole to the south, an impression of a conch on a rock to the east & rock stacks towards the north that has the semblance of holy scriptures.
Jakar Dzong or Jakar Yugyal Dzong – is the dzong of the Bumthang District in central Bhutan. It is located on a ridge above Jakar town in the Chamkhar valley of Bumthang. It is built on the site of an earlier temple established by the Ralung hierarch Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk (1517–1554) when he came to Bhutan. The name Jakar derives from the word bjakhab, meaning “white bird”, in reference to Jakar’s foundation myth, according to which a roosting white bird signalled the proper and auspicious location to found a monastery around 1549.
It is a temple attributed to the Nun Gelongma Pemo and will take about half an hour of walking uphill through pine wood just on the other side of the Chamkhar bridge. Gongkhar Lhakhang can also be reached via Lhodrak Karchu monastery.
Built by Terton (Treasure Revealer) Pema Lingpa, in 1505, the temple is located next to Koenchhogsum temple. One can find beautiful paintings in all the temples and an iron coat of mail (supposed to have been crafted by Pema Lingpa) as well. The Tamshing Phola Choedpa takes place on the 10th day of the 8th Bhutanese month.
It is a very important monument in the history of Bhutan. There are three temples in a row enclosed by 108 Chortens. A short distance beyond a small ridge is a spring believed to have been taken out by Guru Rimpoche.
It is a temple opposite to Kurje temple. It takes about 15 minutes walk crossing a suspension bridge from Kurje. One could also drive up to the temple from Chamkhar town which will take about 30 minutes. The temple is supposed to have been founded by Guru Rimpochhe at the same time as that of Kurje. Inside the temple, there is a statue of Guru Rimpochhe with the body prints of Guru on the rock. The temple has been recently restored.
SHINGKHAR DECHELING LHAKHANG
This temple was founded by Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam in the 14th century AD. Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam (originally from Tibet) identified Ling Gyed (the 8 vast lands) of which Shingkhar Dechenling is one. The site is historically known for fulfilling all the wishes that one make at the site. The temple houses some of the ancient statues crafted from wood and mud which are spectacular to see.
Built by Dorje Lingpa, this temple is opposite to Domkhar on the other side of the valley. A rough road from Gyetsa reaches right next to the temple. It is set on a slope of a hill involving a ten minute walk from the rough road leading to Tharpaling. There is an ongoing restoration project with craftsmen being trained as well.
This monastery was founded in the 14th century by Longchen Rabjampa as part of one of the 8 sacred places (Ling Gyed). Tharpaling, the land of liberation, is one of the main places from where Longchen Rabjampa spread his teachings. A massive phallus carved of stone and cement which is popularly known as the great cannon of Tharpaling reveals a great connotation which will fascinate the visitors.
PRAKAR LHAKHANG AND VILLAGE
It is a very scenic place located about ten minutes walk across a bridge from the main road just before Nangar. It is the homestead of the Late Royal Grandmother, Gyalyum Phuntsho Choden. It houses beautiful temples and paintings. Private festivals are held on the 17th and 18th day of the 9th month of the Bhutanese calendar.
A walk of half an hour north of Kurje Lhahang leads to this monastery, founded in 1470 by Shamar Rinpoche of the Kagyupa religious school. The temple has two sanctuaries and a temple of terrifying deities. The sanctuary on the ground floor contains statues of past, present and future Buddha and three clay statues probably dating end of the 15th century. On the upper floor, the vestibule contains two remarkable paintings of Guru Rinpoche’s heaven and the Buddha Amitabh’s heaven.
SWISS FARM/SWISS CHEESE & RED PANDA BEER FACTORY
The Swiss Farm is a development project established by Fritz Maurer, one of the first Swiss to work in Bhutan, and now run by his son. The project introduced brewing, farming machinery and fuel-efficient, smokeless wood stoves to the valley, as well as its first tourist guesthouse. The milk from large Jersey cattle is used in Bhutan’s only commercial cheese factory and Bhutan’s only native beer, Red Panda, is brewed here.
For the Red Panda beer factory sightseeing a nominal fee of Nu 150 is charged per person but one can drink as much Red Panda beer as possible.
WANGDUE CHOLING PALACE
The extensive palace of Wangdichholing was built in 1857 on the site of a battle camp of the penlop of Trongsa, Jigme Namgyal. It was the first palace in Bhutan that was not designed as a fortress. Namgyal’s son, King Ugyen Wangchuck, the first King of Bhutan, chose it as his principal residence. The entire court moved from Wangdichholing to Kuenga Rabten each winter in a procession that took three days. Wangdichholing was also for a time the home of the third king, before he moved the court to Punakha in 1952.
CHUMEY VALLEY YATHA WEAVING CENTER
From Trongsa you drive across the Yotong La and descend eventually into the valley of Bumthang and Chumey, the heart of the famous Bumthang Yatha weaving region. This central area of Bhutan is where the colorful wool weaving is done. Close to the 7th century Zungney Lakhang are two Yatha shops. Here you can experience the locals spinning, dyeing and weaving Yatha. You can buy one as souvenir. The fabric can be used to stitch jackets, bags, table cloths, sofa covers, scarf, etc.