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Places to visit in Bumthang, Bhutan

Jakar Dzong, Bumthang of Bhutan

Jakar Dzong, Bumthang of Bhutan

Bumthang is composed of four valleys - Chumey, Choekhor, Tang, and Ura - and is surrounded by pristine forests, crystal clear rivers, and snow-capped mountains. Bumthang is a great destination for adventure seekers, with activities such as trekking, mountain biking, and white water rafting available in the region. Bumthang is home to several popular festivals, including the Jambay Lhakhang Drup and the Kurjey Tsechu.

Bumthang is a district located in central Bhutan and is known as the cultural heartland of the country. It is home to several important cultural and historical sites, including several monasteries and temples. These include the Jakar Dzong, a fortress that was built in the 17th century, and the Kurjey Lhakhang, a temple that is believed to have been built in the 8th century. Other popular sites include the Jambay Lhakhang, a temple that was built in the 7th century, and the Tamshing Lhakhang, a temple that was founded by the great saint Pema Lingpa.

In Bumthang, you can spend 2 or 3 days exploring its places of interest like Yotongla Pass, Trongsa Dzong, Kurjey Lhakhang, Jambay Lhakhang, Jakar Dzong, Yathra Weaving Centre, Rinchengang Village, Tharpaling Monastery, Mongar Dzong, Gomphu Kora... Here are some places to visit for your Bumthang tour in Bhutan.

1. Yotongla Pass

Yotongla Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3,436m above sea level, located in the Bumthang District of Bhutan. It falls within the Black Mountain range and connects Trongsa and Bumthang. Trongsa and Bumthang served as the summer and the winter capitals respectively and the pass was thus used frequently by the King and his traveling entourage. The road to Yotongla Pass is one of the highest mountain roads in the country. It's called Bumthang-Ura Highway and was built in the 1990s. The pass is covered with mist and prayer flags most of the time. It is worth a stop for a photo break.

Yotongla Pass, Bumthang of Bhutan

Yotongla Pass, Bumthang of Bhutan

2. Trongsa Dzong

Trongsa Dzong (1920m), built in 1648, is the ancient fort where the first and the second King of Bhutan ruled the kingdom due to its strategic position. All successive Kings of Bhutan hold the post of Trongsa Penlop (governor) before being crowned as the Prince and the King. This Dzong is considered one of the longest and the largest fortresses in Bhutan. It also provides an extraordinary view of the Mangde River. There is a Ta Dzong (built in 1652) that served as the watchtower for Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion and it is now a heritage museum focused on Buddhist art and Royal memorabilia which is worth a visit.

Trongsa Dzong, Bumthang of Bhutan

Trongsa Dzong, Bumthang of Bhutan

3. Kurjey Lhakhang

Kurjey Lhakhang consists of three buildings facing south namely: Guru Lhakhang (built-in 1652), Sampa Lhundrup Lhakhang (built-in 1900), and Ka Gon Phor Sum Lhakhang (built-in 1900). It is said that, in the 8th century, the Saint Guru Padmasambhava(Rinpoche) meditated here for three months. The upper floor of the Kurjey Lhakhang houses 1000 small statues of Guru Rinpoche. There is also a huge cypress tree near the entrance of the temple which is believed to have sprouted from Guru Rinpoche's walking stick. It is a must-visit Lhakhang in Bumthang.

Kurjey Lhakhang, Bumthang of Bhutan

Kurjey Lhakhang, Bumthang of Bhutan

4. Jambay Lhakhang

Jambay Lhakhang is one of the 108 monasteries built on a single day by Tibetan King Songtsen Goenpo in 659 AD to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region while spreading Buddhism over the Himalayas. It was believed that Jambay Lhakhang was built to pin down the left knee of the ogress. There is an annual festival called Jambay Lhakhang Drup held here to honor Guru Rinpoche who consecrated the Jambay Lhakhang. Visitors can enjoy watching the mask dance of Bhutan. It is worth seeing the beautiful statues, fascinating relics, and preserved murals in this Lhakhang.

Jambay Lhakhang, Bumthang of Bhutan

Jambay Lhakhang, Bumthang of Bhutan

5. Jakar Dzong

Jakar Dzong (Jakar Yugyal Dzong), literally meaning "Castle of the White Bird", was initially built as a monastery in 1549 by Lam Ngagi Wangchuck (1517-1554), a Tibetan who came to Bhutan to spread the Drukpa Kagyupa Buddhist order. It was also the seat of the first King of Bhutan. As the dzong or fortress of the Bumthang district, it is located on a ridge above Jakar town that can give a spectacular view of the Chamkhar (Chokhor) Valley. Jakar Dzong is now the administrative center for Bumthang valley and houses the regional monk body.

Jakar Dzong, Bumthang of Bhutan

Jakar Dzong, Bumthang of Bhutan

6. Yathra Weaving Centre

Yathra Weaving Centre is a sales outlet showcasing textiles woven from sheep and yak wool. You will see women weaving intricate designs on their backstrap loom, wool dyeing in a natural way, and other processes there. Yathra is traditional wool weaving with intricate patterns native to Chumey Valley in Bumthang of central Bhutan. Almost every family in Chumey owns a backstrap loom. Girls around 8 years old are learning to weave. Yathra products are unique souvenirs, they are the main income for the people of Bumthang.

Yathra Weaving Centre, Bumthang of Bhutan

Yathra Weaving Centre, Bumthang of Bhutan

7. Rinchengang Village

Rinchengang Village is located opposite to the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong and Punatsangchhu runs along the highway. Believed to be one of the oldest villages in Bhutan dating back to the Zhabdrungs era., Rinchengang Village is famous for its proficiency in traditional means of stonework and its Bhutanese architectural designed houses. The village is also famous for its houses being close to each other and the space between the houses is barely enough to walk through. Meet local people and know more about the history of the Rinchengang village.

Rinchengang Village, Bumthang of Bhutan

Rinchengang Village, Bumthang of Bhutan

8. Tharpaling Monastery

Tharpaling Monastery (Tharpaling Goemba) is situated at around 3600m overlooking the picturesque Chumey valley in Bumthang. Tharpaling means liberation and known as "The Land of Liberation". In the 14th century, Buddhist saint Gyalwa Longchen Rabjampa is said to have visited the place to preach dharma following which many devotees were liberated during his time of self-imposed exile from Tibet for Ten years. Thus the name of the place came to be known as Tharpaling. In the 15th century, Terton Pema Lingpa discovered treasures from the place including a Guru Statue. The First King of Bhutan renovated the place into a retreat center and spent time meditating in the place during his reign.

Tharpaling Monastery, Bumthang of Bhutan

Tharpaling Monastery, Bumthang of Bhutan

9. Mongar Dzong

Mongar Dzong was established in 1930 by his majesty, the third King Jigme Dorje Wangchuck. It was to replace the original Zhongar Dzong but was demolished by a fire and a subsequent earthquake. The present dzong was rebuilt in the year 1953. According to oral legend, a king named Karpo Dung invited an architect from Paro, Zochhen Bala to build a fortress in the region. During his land survey, the architect came across a white stone shaped like a bowl on a mound just above Kurichhu. He named the place Zhongkhar, which means white bowl and the name was later changed to Mongar. Today, the week-long Mongar tsechu is held here in November or December (from the seventh to the 10th day of the 10th lunar month).

Mongar Dzong, Bumthang of Bhutan

Mongar Dzong, Bumthang of Bhutan

10. Gomphu Kora

Gomphu Kora (Gom Kora) is one of Bhutan's most revered monasteries. It can be found 24 km from Trashigang on the western side of Kulong Chuu. Both Gomphu and Kora are Tibetan terms for circumambulation. "Go around Gomphu Kora today for tomorrow may be too late", advises a local song that entices devotees to visit Gomphu Kora. The Guru is attributed to have said that devotees will flock to Gomphu Kora for eons to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. The two-story Gomphu Kora with its golden roof has caught the attention of many pilgrims and tourists traveling to Bhutan for being a sacred site.

Gomphu Kora, Bumthang of Bhutan

Gomphu Kora, Bumthang of Bhutan

Bumthang is also home to several popular festivals, including the Jambay Lhakhang Drup and the Kurjey Tsechu. These festivals offer visitors the chance to witness traditional Bhutanese culture and customs, and are a highlight of the region's cultural calendar.

There is an airport in Bumthang called Bathpalathang Airport. You can either get to Bumthang through Paro Airport or the domestic airports like Gelephu Airport, or Yonphula Airport. Otherwise the drive from Thimphu to Bumthang will take around 7hrs 30 mins. It will take about 4 hours to drive from Trongsa to Bhutan.

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