Considered by the Bhutanese as the most beautiful part of the country, Bumthang is a beautiful valley that houses ancient Buddhist temples, sacred sites and historical Bhutanese landmarks that rightly justify its title as the cultural heartland of Bhutan. Bumthang is actually made of four major valleys – Chokhor, Ura, Chumey and Tang, with Jakar as its main town.
In Bumthang, you will explore ancient architectural wonders, hear interesting local legends, marvel at the colourful festivals and vibrant native culture and traditions, get in touch with the locals and experience traditional Bhutanese life.
The 16th-century Jakar Dzong, more popularly known as ‘Fortress of the White Bird’ was founded by Ngagi Wangchuck, who was the ancestor of Zhabdrung Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan. The Dzong is located on a hill above Jakar town and can be seen from everywhere in the town. From above, you can feast on panoramic sights of the Chokhor valley. The complex consists of two courtyards, a watchtower and the 50 metre high utse (central tower).
This is one of the oldest temples in the country and dates back to the 7th-century. The temple is located between Jakar Dzong and Kurje Lhakhang. It was one among the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo to purge demonic spirits that threatened the region. The temple houses ancient relics, paintings and over a hundred statues and is well known for its numerous festivals and rituals.
Kurje Lhakhang means ‘Temple of the Sacred Body Imprint,’ as it is believed to contain the imprint of Guru Rinpoche’s body when he meditated here in the 8th century. Guru Rinpoche was the founder of Tibetian Buddhism and widely revered in Bhutan.
Kurje Lhakhang also serves as the final resting place for the three Kings of Bhutan. The complex comprises three temples, dedicated to each King and is surrounded by a wall with 108 chortens that reflect Buddha’s victory over evil. The interiors of the temples are adorned by intricate mandalas, statues of Guru Rinpoche and other Buddhist deities and elaborate murals. The cypress tree near the entrance of the complex is deemed holy as it is believed to have sprouted from the Guru’s walking stick.
Tamshing Lhakhang is situated right across the river from Kurje Lhakhang and was built in the 16th-century by Pema Lingpa, who is believed to be the reincarnation of Guru Rinpoche. It is one of the best places to witness and appreciate Bhutanese artworks through the centuries. The lhakhang contains paintings of 1000 Buddhas and also 21 Taras (female Buddhas).
More popularly known as the ‘Burning Lake’, Mebar Tso in Tang Valley is an important sacred and pilgrimage site in Bhutan. It is said that Pema Lingpa had uncovered many hidden treasures that belonged to Guru Rinpoche in this location. The beautiful river gorge is lined by Buddhist prayer flags and butter lamps. As the river is strong and fast-flowing, it is advised to be cautious while exploring here.
This beautiful 19th-century royal monastery today serves as an official building and is easily accessible from Jakar town. The walk here will offer you scenic views of the valley below and the Jakar Dzong. If you are up for more history or a challenging hike, you can continue further along the trail through Kiki La pass and reach the Tharpaling Monastery. The complex comprises a school for monks, residences of the monks and various temples.
The Bumthang Cultural Trek is a three-day trek through the cultural heart of Bhutan. The trails will take you to the numerous ancient temples of the Bumthang Valley and bring you closer to Bhutanese culture. Along with religious sights, the trail takes you through snow-capped mountains, verdant forests, gushing streams, scenic viewpoints and small traditional villages.
Bumthang Valley with its unparalleled ancient structures and verdant natural beauty appeals to its visitors on many levels. It shows Bhutan for what it really is – a charming, colourful and ancient nation proud of its rich history and culture.
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