Bumthang: A Journey Through Bhutan’s Spiritual Valley

 In Best Time to Visit, Bhutan, book festival, Places To Visit, Travel Journal, Travel Photography

Nestled in the heart of Bhutan, there’s a place where time slows down, prayer flags flutter in the breeze, and spirituality hangs in the air as thick as the scent of pine. 

Known as the cultural and spiritual hub of Bhutan, Bumthang is a region that captivates the hearts of visitors with its serene landscapes, ancient monasteries, and vibrant festivals.

Consider including Bumthang on your Bhutan tour packages to feel an unmatched connection to Bhutanese traditions.


Four Valleys, One Big Adventure

Bumthang isn’t just one valley, it’s a collection of four magical valleys of Bhutan – Ura, Chumey, Tang, and Choekhor – that come together to form a wonderland. 

Ura, the “hidden valley,” is where you’ll find the Ura Valley cheese factory, churning out some of the most delicious cheese you’ll ever sink your teeth into.

 Chumey boasts the impressive Jakar Dzong, a fortress monastery that’s like something straight out of a fairytale. 

Tang Valley is where history buffs rejoice – ancient temples and hidden caves whisper stories of the past. It is also known for its beautiful, remote villages and the sacred Burning Lake (Mebar Tsho), where treasures hidden by the Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa are said to be found. And Choekhor, well, Choekhor is where Bumthang gets its name, which translates to “beautiful field.” Believe it or not, the name might have something to do with pretty young ladies, but that’s a story for another time!


Sacred Sites and Ancient Monasteries

Bumthang is full of historic monasteries and temples, each with its mythology and significance. One of the most famous is Jambay Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century to bring down a demoness.

Kurjey Lhakhang is one of the most important temples in Bhutan, recognized by the body imprint (kurjey) left by Guru Rinpoche, who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. This temple complex is a major pilgrimage site with breathtaking views of the valley below.

Another must-see is Tamshing Lhakhang, which was founded in the 16th century by the saint Pema Lingpa. The paintings inside the temple are some of the most ancient in Bhutan, providing a look into the rich creative tradition of the region.

Getting to Bumthang: A Scenic Journey

Getting to Bumthang can be an adventure in itself. Here are the main options:

By Air: Bumthang has a small airport, Bathpalathang Airport, which receives flights from Paro. Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines operate these flights, but they can be infrequent, so it’s best to check the schedule and book in advance.

By Road: Driving from Thimphu or Paro to Bumthang is a popular option. The journey takes about 8-10 hours and offers stunning views of Bhutan’s diverse landscapes.

By Bus: There are also bus services from Thimphu and other major towns to Bumthang. This is a budget-friendly option, though it takes longer than flying.

Also read: Paro travel guide


What is the Best time to Visit Bumthang?

The best time to visit Bumthang is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). These seasons offer pleasant weather, making it ideal for sightseeing, trekking, and enjoying outdoor festivals.

 Sring brings blooming flowers and lush green landscapes, while autumn offers clear skies and vibrant festivals.


Things to Do in Bumthang: From Spiritual Solace to Cheese Tasting

Mountain Biking Marvels:

 Rent a mountain bike and conquer the rugged terrain, feeling the rush of adrenaline as you navigate the scenic trails. 

Visit Ancient Monasteries and Temples: 

Explore historical and spiritual sites such as Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, and Tamshing Lhakhang. Each temple has its unique history and significance.

Experience Local Festivals:

 Participate in the vibrant Jambay Lhakhang Drup and Ura Yakchoe festivals. These festivals feature traditional dances, rituals, and a chance to immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture.

Cheese Nirvana: 

Visit the Ura Valley cheese factory and indulge in the local cheese production, from witnessing the process to savoring the final product.

Savor Local Cuisine:

 Taste the distinctive flavors of Bumthang, known for its buckwheat dishes like buckwheat noodles (puta) and buckwheat pancakes (khuli). Don’t miss the locally produced cheese and honey.

Archery Adventure: 

Try your hand at Bhutan’s national sport, archery, and test your skills against the locals


What are the Places to Visit in Bumthang?

Jambay Lhakhang: One of the oldest temples in Bhutan, built in the 7th century. It hosts the famous Jambay Lhakhang Drup festival.

Kurjey Lhakhang: A significant pilgrimage site where Guru Rinpoche left his body imprint. The temple complex offers stunning views of the valley.

Tamshing Lhakhang: Founded by the saint Pema Lingpa, this temple is known for its ancient murals and religious significance.

Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake): A sacred lake in Tang Valley where Pema Lingpa is said to have discovered hidden treasures. It’s a serene spot for reflection.

Tharpaling Monastery: Located in Chhume Valley, this monastery offers beautiful views and a peaceful environment. It’s an excellent spot for meditation and relaxation.

Places to Explore Nearby

While in Bumthang, consider exploring nearby regions that also offer unique experiences:

Trongsa: About a 2-hour drive from Bumthang, Trongsa is home to the impressive Trongsa Dzong, the largest fortress in Bhutan.

Gangtey (Phobjikha Valley): A 4-5 hour drive from Bumthang, Phobjikha Valley is famous for its scenic beauty and as the winter home of the endangered black-necked cranes.

Mongar: Located east of Bumthang, Mongar is known for its beautiful landscapes and traditional weaving. The drive from Bumthang to Mongar offers stunning views of the mountains and valleys.

Lhuentse: Known for its remote beauty and cultural significance, Lhuentse is a hidden gem. The journey from Bumthang to Lhuentse takes you through picturesque landscapes and traditional villages.

Natural Beauty and Outdoor Adventures

Beyond its spiritual and cultural attractions, Bumthang is a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers. The valleys are blanketed in lush greenery, with rolling hills, pine forests, and sparkling streams. 

The crisp mountain air and the serene environment make it an ideal destination for hiking and trekking.

One of the popular treks in Bhutan is the Bumthang Owl Trek, a three-day journey that takes you through ancient forests, high mountain passes, and traditional villages. 

The trek offers stunning views of the Himalayas and a chance to spot wildlife like owls, hence the name.

For a more leisurely experience, the Tang Valley offers beautiful trails that lead to the sacred Burning Lake. 

Legend has it that Pema Lingpa discovered treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche in this lake. Today, it is a serene spot for reflection and a bit of local folklore.


Festivals: A Vibrant Display of Culture

Bumthang is famous for its festivals, which are a vibrant display of Bhutanese culture and spirituality. 

The Jambay Lhakhang Drup is one of the most popular, featuring the mesmerizing fire dance and mask dances that tell stories of good triumphing over evil. 

The Ura Yakchoe is another highlight, held in the Ura Valley. This festival is known for its sacred dances and the display of a revered relic, believed to have been handed down by a deity. The lively atmosphere, with locals dressed in their finest traditional attire, makes it a memorable experience.

These festivals are not just about the dances and rituals; they are a time for the community to come together, celebrate, and seek blessings.

 Tips for a Smooth Bumthang Visit

Here are some handy pointers to ensure your Bumthang adventure is as delightful as it is enriching:

  • You’ll need a visa to enter Bhutan. While the process is streamlined, apply well in advance through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator.
  • Bhutan promotes responsible tourism, and a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) is mandatory for all visitors. This fee covers your visa, accommodation, meals, internal transportation within Bhutan.
  • Wear respectful attire, especially when visiting temples and monasteries.
  •  Ask for permission before taking photos of people or religious ceremonies.
  •  Bumthang is at a high altitude. Take it easy the first few days, stay hydrated, and avoid strenuous activities initially.
  • Dispose of waste properly and respect the natural surroundings.
  •  Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.). While some places accept US Dollars and Indian Rupees, it’s wise to exchange some currency beforehand

Bumthang is more than just a tourist destination; it’s a place to reconnect with yourself. Whether you’re meditating in a quiet temple, trekking through breathtaking landscapes, or simply soaking in the serenity of the valley, there’s something here that will touch your soul.  

So, if you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a place to find peace and maybe even a little bit of magic, then look no further than Bumthang.

What are some must-see sights in Bumthang?

Must-see sights in Bumthang include Jambay Lhakhang, an ancient 7th-century temple, and Kurjey Lhakhang, a significant pilgrimage site with the body imprint of Guru Rinpoche. Don’t miss the serene Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake)and the historic Tamshing Lhakhang.

What is the best time to visit Bumthang?

The best time to visit Bumthang is during the spring(March to May) and autumn(September to November).

What are some local dishes I should try in Bumthang?

In Bumthang, be sure to try buckwheat noodles (puta) and buckwheat pancakes (khuli), both local specialties. Don’t miss ema datshi, Bhutan’s famous spicy cheese stew, and savor the region’s renowned locally produced cheese and honey.

What are some cultural experiences I can have in Bumthang?

In Bumthang, you can experience vibrant cultural events by attending festivals like Jambay Lhakhang Drup and Ura Yakchoe, where you can see traditional mask dances and rituals. Additionally, visit the Chhume Valley to observe traditional weaving and purchase beautiful yathra textiles.

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