Bumthang lies in the central Bhutan just to the east of Trongsa situated at an elevation of nearly 2600 meters / 8580 feet 4,000 meters / 13200 feet and is the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. The Bumthang region includes four scenic valleys; they are Choskhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume. It is believed that Ura valley is the earliest settlement in Bhutan and is the highest valley in Bumthang. The region and the people are deeply influenced by spiritual practices and tales related to Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava and his reincarnation. Culturally also these places are rich and is worth visiting.
Jakar is the largest town in Bumthang and is also the capital. Inside the Jakar Dzong are preserved ancient Bhutanese architecture and design in a small courtyard. There are two ancient monasteries in Jakar called the Jambay monastery and the Kurjey monastery. These are the two oldest monasteries in the whole Kingdom and are worth a visit. The Jambay was said to be built by a Tibetan king in the seventh century. The Kurjey Lhakhang comprises of three temples surrounded by a wall of 108 chortens, architecture is also rich. The Kings of Bhutan as per tradition are cremated at Kurjey Lhakhang. Jarkar is also known for the cottage industries for making honey, cheese, fruit juices, etc. Here one can come across Apple brandy, locally brewed wine and beer, which is indigenous variety of Bhutanese liquor and is worth trying. The drive to Bumthang is beautiful. The scenic road through forest and over a mountain passes and next the scenery changes to the gentle spruce and fir covered slopes of the region. This region is well worth spending a few days exploring the Jakar Dzong, Lamey Goemba, Jambay Lhakhang and other places of interest.
Grand festivals are held at the Jambay Monastery every October as per Buddhist Calendar. Mini chortens fills a few sacred cave in the Bumthang valley. It is said that each chorten is placed in the cave to commemorate a deceased family member. Walking through the town one can head toward the Tamshing temple after crossing a cantilever bridge. About 200 Monks reside at the Tamshing Monastery. A short walk from the roadside andj crossing the wooden bridge in the Tang Valley takes you to the Membetsho or the Burning Lake which is also a Buddhist pilgrimage site. Bumthang is the traditional home to Buddhist teacher Pema Linga to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin. Ura valley is beautiful and the scenic road to Ura glides up to a mesmerizingly open countryside. From Ura La which is nearly 3600 meters one can get a glimpse of magnificent snow clad Mount Gangkar Phuensum. This place is also unique due to its clustered houses which are quite unusual in Bhutan.
Excursions around Bumathang are Tangbi Goemba a half an hour walk north of Kurje Lhahang is this monastery 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. On the floor above, the vestibule has two remarkable paintings of Guru Rinpoche’s heaven and the Buddha Amitabh’s heaven.
Ngang Lhakhang is few hours walk from the Tangbi Goemba is the small region of Ngang Yul or also know as Swan Land. This temple is nearly 100 meters above the valley floor. The site was visited by Guru Rinpoche and a three day festival is held here each winter with masked dances. Membetsho is about five minutes walk from Tang valley in Bumthang. Guru Rinpoche’s hidden treasures were found here. A wooden bridge crosses the river and is a nice view point to look down into the lake.
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Airways – Nearest Airport is Paro and Druk air serves the country. Bagdogra airport (IXB) is 185 Kilometer from Phuentsholing or nearly 360 Kilometers from Paro. Bhutan’s national air carrier, Druk Air, operates several flights per week from Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata and Kathmandu to Paro. One of the spectacular flights flies passengers through the stretch between Kathmandu and Bhutan. The flight passes along the Himalayan Range and all the peaks seems so close to eyes, it’s a flight to cherish. Recent addition is the flight from Paro to Bangkok via Bagdogra airport.
Roadways – Bumathang is 290 kilometers from Thimpu and only 220 kilometers from Punakha. Phuentsholling is three / four hour's drive from Bagdogra / New Jalpaiguri and six to seven hour’s drive from Gangtok or Darjeeling. The Royal Bhutanese Government runs a bus service to Phuentsholling from Kolkata. These buses depart from Kolkata Esplanade bus station and reaches Phuentsholing via Siliguri. Phuentsholling is the only entry / exit point via road. The other is only entry point is in Assam.
Railways – There are no domestic airlines or trains. Roads are well maintained and the mountain terrain and winding roads restrict the average driving speed to less than 30 kilometers per hour. New Jalpaiguri is the major Railway Station (NJP) is the nearest major railway terminal. Yet one can travel close up to the Bhutan border by Indian Railway to Hashimara. Then from Hashimara via Jaigaon / Phuentsholling by road to Thimpu, Paro, Bumathang, etc
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