Welcome to Bumthang. The first thing that will get your attention about Bumthang is the valley’s luscious landscape. The region is also known as a spiritual heartland of Bhutan. Home to some of Bhutan’s most secret religious temples and sites located in central Bhutan. You can reach Bumthang by either flying from Paro through Druk air or by driving for 6 hours from the capital crossing Wangduephodrang and Trongsa districts. Personally we recommend a road trip if you do not want to miss the landscape along the way. The people of Bumthang speak Bumtap kha and is also the home of Her Majesty The Gyeltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck.
1/ Enjoy the Best of Bumthang’s Hotels & Resorts
There are all kinds of accommodations in Bumthang. They have lodges that start from Nu 1000 per night and also expensive $1,000 per night resorts. But what makes a stay in one of these special is the local cuisine that usually comes with these places.
There are several breakfast items that’ll you find only in Bumthang. You’ll find locally-made swiss cheese with freshly baked bread. Fresh strawberry and apple jam made from handpicked strawberries and apples from their orchards. Bumthang’s Puta (buckwheat noodles) and Jangbuli (flat noodles) are also local dishes that are best enjoyed here.
Another staple hotel feature here is tiny bukhari (stove) in your room. These small bukharis add a cozy element to an otherwise boring hotel room. Staying at a hotel is different in Bumthang. You’ll see.
2/ Explore Bumthang’s Spiritual Destinations
Discover the spiritual heartland of Bhutan as you visit the kingdom’s most ancient Buddhist temples. Bumthang is also home to some of the most sacred sites here in Bhutan namely Kurjey Lhakhang. It is believed that when Guru Rinpoche meditated here in the 8th century, he left an imprint of his body on a rock. This is also the direct translation of Kurjey (body imprints). Very close to Kurjey Lhakhang you can also visit Jambay Lhakhang. Located very close to Kurjey, Jambay Lhakhang is also considered to be a must-visit in Bumthang. It was constructed in 659 A.D by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. Jambay lhakhang is one of the hundred and eight temples built by the King across Tibet and Bhutan.
Just across the river on the other side of the valley is Tamzhing Lhakhang. The inner walls of the temple feature images painted by Tertoen Pema Lingpa. The temple is also home of the iron jacket. It is believed that if you can circumambulate the main shrine of the temple wearing the heavy accessory, your sins will be cleansed. (read my blogs on Baribrang to find out more about holy sites in Bumthang)
3/ Taste & Try Bumthang’s Local Food Brands
Bumthang is also famous for the many food products that the Dzongkhang produces. The district is home to the Red Panda beer, Bumthang Honey and the famous Bumthang Cheese. This is swiss-inspired cheese which was first brought to Bhutan by Fritz Maurer from Switzerland in the 70s. We visited the Bumthang cheese factory in Bathpalathang that is currently run by a local family. The owner’s father was one of the first few Bhutanese to learn the art of making Swiss cheese. You’ll find Gouda and Emmental Cheese available at the Cheese Factory. The shop is located 10 minutes before reaching the airport. Enjoy the cheese board with some Red Panda Beer. It’s a treat!
4) Bumthang’s Traditional Cuisine:
If you’re looking for a more traditional food experience, relish Bumthang’s local cuisine. You can try Khule (buckwheat pancake) and Puta, the region’s famous buckwheat noodles. I always recommend eating at a local homestay. The best thing about it is that you get to cook with the family as well. We explored one in Bangrey village, very close to Tamzhing monastery. We were fortunate to see a live demonstration of how traditional Puta is made. “We don’t have these wooden machines anymore,” says Aum Tshomo’s 75 year old mother. “Everyone’s using the modern metal ones from the market.”
5) Biking & Hiking in Bumthang
Bumthang has some of the most scenic hiking and biking trails in Bhutan. If you are interested in a bike ride tour of the valley, rent a bike from The Bhutan Shop in Chamkhar town.
6) Mebartsho – The Burning Lake
A must-visit place in Bumthang, do see the Mebar Tsho on the way to Tang. The great Tertoen Pema Lingpa once had a vision of sacred treasures being hidden by Guru Rinpoche within the lake centuries earlier. When the people of Tang did not believe him Pema lingpa jumped into the lake with a burning butter lamp to prove his claims, soon he emerged from the water with a chest, a scroll and the butter lamp still burning. Hence the name came as “Burning lake”. Many people visit the sacred site to offer khadar and prayers to the holy area.
7) Ogyen Choling Heritage Museum in Tang Valley
If you come to Bumthang, visit Tang valley. It is only a 3 hour drive from Chamkhar town. When you reach Tang valley, visit the Ogyen Choling Heritage Museum. The giant old structure looks like a Chateau on a hill in those English novels. It was initially founded as one of the eight lings (residence) by Longchen Rabjam (a great aristocratic teacher) in the 14th century. The ancient house is now a museum. The house belongs to the family of Bhutanese author Kunzang Choden. She is the executive trustee of the ogyen Choling foundation that looks after the preservation of this ancient heritage home. If you’re lucky, you can also get a tour by the author herself.
The museum also has a lodge behind the property overlooking the broad valley. You can book a stay if you wish to explore Tang a little longer. Go to www.oling.bt
8/ Horse Riding at the Windhorse Ranch in Tang
Looking for a fun activity in Tang valley, Bumthang? Set on 10 acres of land leased from the local community, the Wind Horse Ranch borders the Wobthang community. Shared in a bucolic landscape of sheep farms and natural wilderness, the ranch is an ideal base. You can explore the mountains on horseback as you follow the trail upwards towards upper Tang. For more details on the horse rides go to windhorsetours.com
9/ Shop for Traditional Bumthang Textiles
Bumthang is also famous for the thick hand-woven woolen textile with intricate designs called Yathra. Yathra weaving has been prevalent for generations and many households depend on it for their livelihood. The authentic Yathra can be sold for as much as new from Nultrum 25,000. As you enter Bumthang you’ll come across the scenic village of Nangkor. This is where you will see a huge display of the famous textile of the region. You’ll find bags, carpets, jackets, mufflers and table runners all made from the textile by the women of the region. I would recommend buying from here than from the overpriced outlets in the capital.
We also visited the Dorjibi weaving center close to Bumthang town. Aum Dema is one of the founding members of the community weaving center. She shared that many of the young women left the center to look for jobs in the capital. Now the weaving Center is only made up of a dozen elderly women from the Gewog. “It’s okay to look for better jobs”, she said. But she worries about the future if the younger generation does continue the art.