Travel to Bumthang and do the following sightseeing and hiking
You will cross another pass which is 29 km away from Trongsa towards Bumthang, its called Yutong La pass situated at 11,000 ft altitude and it is the highest pass. Top of the pass is fully covered by mist most of the time, prayer flags hang on top of the pass adds furthermore beautification on the site. This pass marks the border area between Trongsa and Bumthang. Further 13 km ahead, the road enters into a wide open cultivated valley known as Chumey valley under Bumthang district. Your tour guide will tease you while entering Bumthang valley, saying ‘Guys welcome to Switzerland’, its because the wide plain valley exactly resembles Switzerland.
Bumthang Region :
This region that spans from 2,600-4,500 m is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of its oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Tales of Guru Padmasambhava and the Tertons (“religious treasure-discoverers”) still linger in this sacred region.
The wide and scenic valleys draw a large number of tourists each year. Bumthang is an untouched cultural highlight and pure beauty of Bhutan. The main highlight of Bhutan Bumthang tour is the amazing Bumthang heritage, traditional stone houses, the old market, Chortens and monasteries.
The fertile valleys of Bumthang are covered in fields of buckwheat, rice and potatoes. Apple orchards and dairy farms are also common sights here. This serene region is one of the most peaceful places in the kingdom. Bumthang can be called as countryside, or some people may go further than this by calling as little Switzerland. Its composed of four beautiful valleys, the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded in religious fable. Bumthang is the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Lingpa to whom, the present monarchy traces its ancestral lineage. There are lots and lots of festivals celebrated in Bumthang which you can’t be missing one.
Even though if you spend your entire trip days here, you can’t be finished with exploring all the areas because it’s so wide and so spectacular of every place you visit. The Bumthang Chamkhar town is a bustling little one-street town in Bumthang with an abundance of restaurants and handicrafts stores. They sell a good amount of dairy products; butter, honey, chewy dried cheese snack popular among Bhutanese. Bumthang is also famous for Yathra which is a unique material woven from sheep wool, intricately designed and coloured to form wonderful patterns, which you can able to purchase from a beautiful little town. Internet cafés and espresso bars have also started to make an appearance here.
Sightseeing tour to Bumthang (1-2 days)
Jakar Dzong: The Jakar Dzong or the “Castle of the White Bird” dominates the Chamkhar valley and overlooks the town. Constructed in 1549, by the Tibetan Lam Nagi Wangchuk, the Dzong played an important role as the fortress of defence of the whole eastern Dzongkhags. It also became the seat of the first king of Bhutan. A special feature of the Dzong is the approximately fifty meters high Use or the Central tower, which is distinct from most other Dzongs in Bhutan. The other unique feature of the Dzong is a sheltered passage, with two parallel walls, interconnected by fortified towers, which gave the population of the fortress access to water in the case of a siege. The protected water supply is still intact to this day.
The Kurjey Lhakhang (Temple): where the kings of Bhutan are taken for their cremation rites. This large, active and important temple complex is named after the body (kur) print (jey) of Guru Rinpoche, which is preserved in a cave inside the oldest of the three buildings that make up the temple complex. The big cypress tree beside the Lhakhang is believed to be the walking stick of Guru Rimpoche. The great Guru also created a holy waterhole beside the temple which people frequent either for religious or medical purposes.
Wangdicholing Palace – Wangdichholing was built in 1857, on the site of the battle camp of the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel, father of the first King of Bhutan, who was also born here. It was the first palace in Bhutan that was not designed as a fortress. Both the first and second king adopted Wangdicholing as their main summer residence. There are five giant water driven prayer wheels, to the north which is quite interesting to see. There are five giant prayer wheels inside square chortens just to the north. The sleek modern building next door is the upmarket Amankora resort.
Visit Tamshing Goemba
This goemba, formally the Tamshing Lhendup Chholing (Temple of the Good Message), is 5km from Jakar. It was established in 1501 by Pema Lingpa and is the most important Nyingma goemba in the kingdom. Pema Lingpa built the unusual structure himself, with the help of khandromas, who made many of the statues.
Visit Konchogsum Lhakhang
This towering, recently constructed and brightly painted building completely envelops the restored remains of the original temple. That much smaller temple, most of which dates from the 15th century, when Pema Lingpa restored it, was almost destroyed by a butter-lamp fire in 2010. Parts of the original building probably date back to a Tibetan design from the 6th or 7th century.
This fabulous temple is believed to have been built in 659 by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo, on the same day as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro, in order to subdue a Tibetan demoness. This temple is believed to pin her left knee.
A nice, active and interesting half day excursion. The 45 minutes drive to Nimalung takes you through Chhume Valley and past Zugney where you can make a stop to visit the Yathra weaving centre and look at the many beautiful handicrafts and souvenirs that are available for purchase. Most days you can also see the women busy weaving and vegetable dying the wool they use for making the yathra. After visiting the two altar rooms in the main temple and admiring the art and range of old books in the temple in the back, you can enjoy an idyllic picnic in the monastery garden before commencing on the 18-kilometre journey back to the hotel. Nimalung Monastery was founded by the Tibetan monk, Dorling Trulku, in 1935. The Lhakhang is reputed for the talented religious musicians and for the disciplines prevailing in the Goemba and houses more than 100 studying monks. The small temple houses colourful and impressively detailed statues of Tara, Chenrezig, Sakyamuni and Guru Rinpoche.
Red Panda Brewery Visit and Beer Tasting
The Red Panda Brewery was started in 2006 by Fritz Maurer, originally Swiss but a Bhutanese citizen since 1976. His brewery was the first established beer brewery in the country, and he is still the sole producer of the Weiss bier. A visit to the brewery includes a 30 minute tour of the premises to learn more about the production process of Red Panda, the beer ingredients, the history of the beer and the health benefits of this Bhutanese specialty. The tour will be concluded with Red Panda beer and local cheese tasting in the brewery garden. For those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages, Bumthang produced apple juice from the brewery across the road is also available.
Take a Drive to Ura valley: In the evening we will drive to Ura valley. On the way, if you are a cheese and honey lover, we will take you to the farm where you could try to taste the pure organic produced by Bumthang community. We will then proceed driving to Beautiful Ura valley which is located on the way to eastern Bhutan with the incredible community and amazing valley. It is also the most beautiful valley within Bumthang district with traditional and well-preserved cultures and traditions.
Visit Mebartsho: Enroute to Ura Valley, visit Mebartsho (The Burning Lake), it’s believed to be one of most sacred religious sites in Bhutan. During the time of Tertoen (Treasure Discoverer) Pema Lingpa it’s said that he discovered the hidden treasure of Guru Padmashambava from that lake with a lamp burning on his hand.
Ura sightseeing: After breakfast: we will hike for a day to explore the whole Ura valley. The Ura valley is one of spectacular valley amongst other in Bumthang. Ura valley is situated at 3100 meters above sea level which makes Ura the highest among the valleys in Bumthang. Hiking in Ura Valley will let you see and experience for yourself the spectacular landscape that the region is known for and you will also have the opportunity to explore and learn the culture of its charming village. The trail will take you through the middle of Ura village community where you get to explore unique cultures and people’s lifestyle. You have an option either to walk or ride on Horseback. On the trail, besides enjoying the best scenery of whole Ura valley, you may be also interested in picking edible mushroom. Your tour guide will show you the samples of varieties of mushroom grown in these areas and he/she will brief you the techniques to find them. The finding mushroom is a fun game in the jungle and to entertain more, your tour guide will collect few bucks as entry fees and ask you to find the mushroom, at the end of a day trip, whoever gets the highest number of mushroom wins and takes the collected money. Your chef/cook will prepare tonight supper of the mushroom you collected, some tourist even participates in cooking mushroom of their style.
To advocate on the conservation of mushroom, every year, Ura Mushroom Conservation in collaboration with Tourism Association organises a mushroom festival with fund support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
Hiking in Bumthang: (some places are of 1 full day hike and some places can combine to make 1 full day hike )
Hike around Bumthang valley:
TIME: 4 – 5 hours.
Difficulty level: easy
We will go for hiking to explore the true beauties of Bumthang valley. There are lots of smooth Trails maintained especially for tourist to walk or ride on strong trained horses. The long trail will take you around whole Bumthang valley to give you the experience of feeling you just been in Switzerland. You could choose to ride on horseback or just walk. Bumthang is known as heaven for hikers and trekkers and you will come across many beautiful monasteries, also important Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites.
Hike to The Four Holy Cliffs (Dragchen Zhi)
TIME: 4 – 5 hours.
Difficulty level: Moderate
In the 8th century, the Precious Teacher Guru Rinpoche visited all the regions of Tibet and Bhutan in person and through miraculous manifestations. Throughout his travel route, the Guru blessed all the land, including the mountains, cliffs and lakes, and also innumerable hidden treasures. These hidden treasures are to be discovered later by revered Buddhist masters for the benefit of sentient beings. Four of these sacred places are referred to as the Four Holy Cliffs or Dragchen Zhi. These are Shugdrak in Choekhor Valley, Choejedrak in Chume Valley, and Thowadra and Kunzangdrak in Tang Valley. Even today, visitors can still see the body imprints left by the Guru as the basis of faith for future generations. You can read about these hikes under the respective valleys over the following pages.
Hike to Padtselling temple
Time: 2 – 2 ½ hour hike up, 1-hour drive down.
Difficulty level: Moderate to Strenuous
If you wish to challenge your fitness level in the high altitude, the hike to Padtselling Temple offers a 2 – 2 ½ hours climb straight up the mountain. Drive 10 meters to pass the Red Panda Brewery and then turn right through a white and blue fence just beside the agricultural offices. Follow the trail which starts climbing through the forest. The path climbs fairly straight up through forest and beautiful flower meadows with great views of Choekhor Valley as you go along. The area around the monastery is a great place for a well-deserved picnic lunch.
Padtselling means a Place where Lotus Flowers Grow. The monastery was established by the first Padtselling Trulku Siddha Namgyal Lhendub in the 18th century.
Shugdrak Hike and Lunch with a View
Time: 50-minute drive one way, 30-minute hike up, 20-minute hike down.
Difficulty level: Easy
Shugdrak is one of the four holy cliffs which every Buddhist should visit during the course of their lifetime. The hike up to the temple is easy and the view from the top is beautiful beyond words. The drive to the starting point for the Shugdrak hike takes you along the river down Choekhor Valley. The trail starts shortly after passing Thangbi Goemba on your left (see description above). Initially, you will walk upwards through flower meadows before catching a smaller trail which leads towards a handful of farmhouses. It continues past an old water mill and then straight up to Shugdrak, beautifully situated on a cliff overlooking the surrounding valleys. Steps imprinted in the mountainside lead up above the rooftop of the temple where hermits reside in a charismatic farmhouse surrounded by prayer flags, and with spectacular views in several directions. This is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch before continuing on your journey back to the lodge.
Shugdrak: The temple is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche and it is said to have been blessed by the Saint in the 8th century. The temple is built on a rock face and resembles the Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) in Paro. The stairs up to the temple entrance are enclosed in an enchanting cave, the temple has a small altar room with a view and a little wooden plank veranda with views to the seat where Guru Rinpoche meditated.