Bumthang is one of the 20 districts comprising the country of Bhutan. It is the most historic dzongkhag if the number of ancient temples and sacred sites are taken into count. Bumthang consists of the four mountain valleys of URA, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor (also known as Bumthang valley), although occasionally the entire district is referred to as Bumthang valley. The population is 21,658.
"Bumthang" directly translates to "beautiful field". "Thang" means field or flat place, and "Bum" is said be an appreviation of either "bumpa" (a vessel for holy water, thus describing the shape and nature of the valley), or "bum" ("girl", indicating this is the valley of beautiful girls). Bumthang farms yield buckwheat, dairy products, honey and apples among other products.
Top Places to Visit in Bumthang
Constructed in 1549 by the great grandfather of the first Shabdrung, the dzong was initially built as a monastery. It was upgraded in 1646 after Zhabdrung firmly established his power. Jakar Dzong is now used as the administrative center for Bumthang valley, and also houses the regional monk body.
This temple was built in the 7th century by the Jambay LhakhangTibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. It is one of 108 monasteries which he built to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century. This temple is considered one of the most sacred ones in Bhutan and the main altar has the jowo which is the image of Buddha at 8years and is similar to the one which is present in the Jokhang temple in the Potola Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
Located further along the valley, Kurje KurjeLhakhang comprises three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 against the rock face where Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th century. This place considered to be the most holy and also historically significant as Buddhism in Bhutan started from here.Three to five minute up from the gate is the “Drup-chu” or holy water and is considered the holiest water in Bhutan.
Located across the river from Kurje Lhakhang, is the temple founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa the famous treasure discoverer. There are very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple. There is also an iron jacket made by the great tertoen himself and at your visit you would probably come across pilgrims circulating the main altar with the jacket as it is believed to wash away sins.
KOENCHOG SUM LHAKHANG
Located few minutes from Tamshing is this templeKoenchog Sum Lhakhang and it dates back to 7th century. This temple is famous for its giant bell which bears an antique inscription. Legends say that the bell was stolen from a Tibetan royal family and transported to Bhutan. Tibetan armies were sent to fetch the bell back but because of its immense weight, the soldiers could not carry it and dropped it that made the crack which is still visible. The bell was taken to the national museum in Paro, but misfortune fell on the locals and the bell was returned to the temple. Besides the bell, the temple also houses statues of the three past, present and future Buddhas from which the temple derives its name- “Koenchog” means divine / buddha and “sum” means three.
It is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. Ashi Peldon, the lineage of Jakar built this in the 14th Century as her private residence but was later converted into a temple as legends say that Ashi Peldon found the main statue of the temple in the ground floor. This lhakhang houses some very fine paintings of the Goddess of Victory and Long Life.
WANGDUE CHOLING PALACE
Built in 1658 by Tronsga Penlop Jigme Namgyel, the founder of our present monarchs, this palace is one of the oldest palaces in Bhutan. It was the seat of Bhutan’s reigning Wangchuk Dynasty and one of the finest examples of domestic architecture in the Country.
Mebar-tsho or “The Burning Lake” is one of the most sacred pilgrim sites in Bhutan. It is a narrow gorge in the Tang River and is believed to be the place where the saint Tertoen (treasure discoverer) discovered religious treasures hidden by Guru Padmasambhava. There is great legend of how the saint discovered the treasures.
How to reach?
By Air : Paro International Airport (PBH/VQPR) is the only entry point to Bhutan by air. It is located in the south west of the country and served only by the country's flag carrier Druk Air
By Road : There are frequent bus services between Siliguri and Phuentsholing/Jaigaon. It is roughly a four hour journey. Then there are private buses and shared taxis from Phuentsholing to Thimphu.