Bumthang is often known as the ‘land of gods ‘in Bhutan. There are plenty of ancient temples and holy places to visit in Bumthang. Bumthang is also popular among the Bhutanese for being ‘little Switzerland’ due to its topography and also due to the fact that a factory is set up in the valley for the production of Swiss cheese.
The factory was set up by a Swiss who got married to a Bhutanese woman and settled down in Bumthang. Bumthang has plenty of ancient Buddhist temples such as Jambay lhakhang , Kujee lhakhang. Bumthang also has a lot of sacred and holy places such as the mebartsho (the burning lake). Legend has it that Teerton Pema Lingpa(the famous treasure discoverer) had discovered centuries old treasure from this lake. This trek around the valley is a fairly easy three-day trek that takes you through beautiful valleys and along clear, trout-filled rivers.
In addition to the numerous lhakhangs(lhakhang(Tibetan) is a God-house, a temple or image hall, a crypt, especially a subterranean temple) there are also a number of small villages where you can stop and rest.
Bumthang district is regarded as the holiest of all due to the number of sacred places and temples. It is also historic given the fact that the first monarch of Bhutan sir Ugyen Wangchuk had established the administrative seat in the Wandicholing palace. The view of the palace can be enjoyed from Aman resort located right next to the palace.
Bumthang consists of the four mountain valleys of Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor , although occasionally the entire district is referred to as Bumthang valley. Most of Bumthang District is part of Bhutan's extensive protected areas network. The northern 2/3rd of the district (Chhoekhor and Tang) belong to Wangchuck Centennial Park, buffered by pockets of biological corridors. Southern Bumthang (Chhumig, Tang and Ura) is part of another protected area, Thrumshingla National Park. Bumthang is known for its important population of black-necked cranes migrating in winter.
Being located in the spacious and tree covered Bumthang (Choekhor) Valley, the area is also a popular tourist destination, and consequently the town is served by several good quality hotels and craft shops. There are numerous guest houses. The bazaar is located on a street of single story buildings in an area of the town called Chamkhar.
Jakar Dzong is the administrative head of the Bumthang district. It houses the monastic body and like any other Dzong, holds the annual Tshechu. One can catch the perfect panoramic view of the Chamkhar valley from this Dzong.
Jakar Dzong has the unique feature of having a watch tower within the fort and also water well from where the army used to take their water supply. The name Jakar is derived 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.
Jambay Lhakhang is one of the most ancient temples of Bhutan. It was built in the 7th century by Songtsän Gampo, the founder of the Tibetan Empire.
The Jambay Lhakhang or Temple of Maitreya is located in Chhoekhor valley along the banks of Chamkhar chu and is said to be one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsän Gampo in 659 CE on a single day, to pin down an ogress to earth forever.
The main event of this lhakang is the annual Jambay lhakang Tshechu, which attracts thousands of people around the valley.
Situated before Jambay Lhakhang, Kujee Lhakhang consists of 3 temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 on the rack face where Guru meditated in the 8th century. Second temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru's body and is therefore considered the most holy. The third temple was built in 1990s by Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by a 108 Chorten wall.
Membartsho (The Burning Lake) in Tang valley is a wide spot on the Tang Chhu (chhu - water / river) and is considered to be one of the greatest pilgrimage sites of Bhutan. Pema Linga found several of Guru Rinpoche's hidden treasures here. The importance of this site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and the small clay offerings called 'Tse Tsa' in rock niches.
The family that owns Ogyen Chholing has turned the complex into a museum to preserve its legacy and provide a place for religious studies, research and solitude. The fascinating and well-captioned exhibits offer real insights into the lifestyle of a Bhutanese noble family. Highlights include a book of divination, a dakini dance costume made of bone and the revelation that petrified yak dung was one of the ingredients for Bhutanese gunpowder. Bring a torch. The complex is supported through the Ogyen Chholing Trust, which produces an excellent museum booklet.
Ugyenchholing Palace in Tang valley is another attraction. Restored in 19th century, it is now housing the Family Museum, a place that will transport visitors to another world and time. The visitors will view permanent exhibits recreated to capture the ambience of the lifestyle of the Trongsa Penlop (Governor) Tshokey Dorji and his household. It also serves as retreat for those engaged in religious history. Bhutan's history truly unfolds here.
Ura is located about 48 km far from Jakar town. , about 1hr 30 minutes’ drive. To reach here, the road climbs to Jakar valley, an amazingly open countryside, only occasionally running into forest. Large sheep pastures line the road up to 20 km behind the southern tip of the Tang valley. The route crosses Ura towards la pass (3,600m) with a magnificent view of Mount. Gangkhar Puensum.
Villages in Ura have clustered houses, which is quite unusual in Bhutan. Above Ura village (3,100m) is a new temple dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. Inaugurated in 1986, it contains a huge statue of the master and remarkable paintings of the cycle of his teachings. Since last 25 years Ura has been transformed from a marginal community to prosperous valley.
Chankhar Lhakhang is located beyond Jambay Lhakhang, the site of the palace of the Indian King Sindhu Raja. Because of its simplicity it looks like an ordinary village house. The original palace was built of iron and this is why it was named Chankhar, meaning “iron castle”. It was rebuilt in the 14th century by a Saint called Dorji Lingpa.
The Konchogsum Lhakhang was built in the 6th century but was renovated in 1995, which accounts for its fresh look. It contained a large bell and it is said that when this bell was rung it could be heard all the way in Lhasa in Tibet. During the 17th century a Tibetan Army tried to steal this bell but was too heavy and they dropped it and cracked it. It is now displayed at the National Museum in Paro.
Kunzangdrak Goemba is 2 hours walk above Chel Tang Valley. It is one of the most important sites related to Pema Lingpa, the great treasure discoverer in Bhutan, who also constructed the Goemba in 1488. Most of his sacred relics are kept here including the gilded stone bearing his footprint.
Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery is Located about 3 km from Chamkhar town, in Bumthang. the monastery was founded by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche in 1984 who was recognized at a very young age by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and H.H. 16th Karmapa as the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama whose spiritual lineage dates back to the nearest disciples of the great 9th century master.
Ngang Lhakhang is located about a100 m above the valley .A few hours walk from the Tangbi Goemba. Ngang Lhakang is also famously known as the land of Swans.The site was visited by Guru Rinpoche and the present temple was built in the 15th century by Lama Namkha Samdup, a contemporary of Pema Lingpa. Like any other temples, the annual Tshechu in this temple last for 3 days festival and is in honor of the founder of the temple.
It is held each winter with masked dances and cheerful gathering of the villagers.
Pelseling Goempa is a sacred monastery with rich historic values. This Gompa is situated on a steep mountain. In order to visit this Gompa one has to take a hike about 3-4 hours of uphill climb from Jakar. The hike starts off at a mild pace but later gains momentum. Along the hike route, travelers are gifted with breath-taking views of the valley and large species of flora and fauna. About two thirds of the way, there is a beautiful meadow which is the perfect picnic spot. The last part of the hike requires more uphill hike until eventually the destination is on sight.
Tamzhing Lhakhang is located across the river from Kujee Lhakhang. This temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Padsambhava. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhisatva). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Tang Rimochen Lhakhang is located in the valley of Tang. It is a sacred place of worship of Guru Rinpoche. A rock in front of temple bears a body print of the Guru and two khandroms (Dakini). The site is named after the tiger stripe markings on the cliff. Footprints of the Guru and his consorts Mandarava and Yeshe Chhogyal are found below the Lhakhang. Two large boulders nearby are said to be male and female jachungs (garudas).
Tang Valley is located towards the north of Jakar town. The drive to this valley is through scenic and lush green forest, paved with green fields in the country side. Terton Pema Lingpa, the famous saint, was born in the Tang valley of Bumthang. The people of this valley raise sheep and at higher elevation, yaks as the soil in this region is not so rich for agricultural activities. From Bumthang central, it is a short drive past the Dechenpelrithang sheep farm to an unpaved road that leads to the north. Just under a kilometer ahead, there is a rough track on the left and another kilometer ahead, there is junction where vehicle can be parked.
A walk of half an hour north of Kujee Lhakhang 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.