Bumthang consists of the Chumey, Choekhar, Tang, and Ura Valleys. This region that spans from 2,600-4,500m 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. Bumthang is also the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Linga to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin.
- Jakar Dzong
The Jakar Dzong (Castle of the White Bird) dominates the Chamkhar valley and overlooks the town. Founded by great grand-father of the Zhabdrung, the Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549. It was upgraded after the Zhabdrung had firmly established his power in 1646. The Dzong is now used as administrative centre for Bumthang valley, and also houses the regional monk body.
- Jambey Lhakhang
Jambey Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in the Kingdom. It was built by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. This 7th century monastery was one of 108 monasteries built to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. The other is the Kichu Lhakhang in Paro, believed to have been built on the same day. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century. However the inner shrine with the Future Buddha is believed to be there some 1400 years ago.
- Kurje Lhakhang
Kurje Lhakhang consists of three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 against the rock face where Guru Padmasambhava 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 H.M. Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck, Grand-Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall. Kurje is very special as the kings of Bhutan and other Royal Family members are cremated here.
- Tamshing Lhakhang
Tamshing Lhakhang is located across the river from Kurje Lhakhang. This temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. The monastery has very ancient religious paintings like 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras (female form of Buddhistava). The temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
- Thangbi Goemba
A walk of about 30 minutes north of Kurje Lhakhang leads one to this monastery. It was founded in 1470 by Shamar Rinpoche of the Karma Kagyupa religious school. The temple has two sanctuaries and a temple of terrifying deities. The sanctuary on the ground floor contains statues of the past, present and future Buddha and three clay statues probably dating to the end of the 15th century. On the upper floor, the vestibule contains two remarkable paintings of Guru Rinpoche’s heaven, and the Buddha Amitabha’s heaven.
- Ngang Lhakhang
The temple here dates from the 15th century was founded by Lama Namkha Samdup, a contemporary of Pema Lingpa. This temple is a few hours’ walk from Thangbi Gompa, situated about 100m above the valley floor in the small region of Ngang Yule (“Swan Land”). A three days festival is held here each winter with masked dances in honor of the founder of the temple.
- Ura Valley
From Jakar to Ura is 48 km., about one and a half hours’ drive. The road crosses Ura-la pass (3,600m), on the approach to which there is a magnificent view of Mt. Gangkar 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. The old women of Ura still wear sheepskin shawls on their backs, which double as a blanket and cushion.
- Tang Mebartsho
Located along the way to the Tang village over the feeder road under Bumthang valley, it takes thirty minutes drive to the Mebar Tsho from the Chamkhar town. Pema lingpa found several of Guru Rinpoche’s hidden treasures here. A wooden bridge crosses the river and is a good vantage point to look down into the lake. Today this small fresh water lake is a sacred pilgrimage place for Bhutanese with bright multicolored prayer flags surrounding the place and on auspicious day people go and offer butter lamps on the lake.