As the religious heartland of the nation, the Bumthang valleys encapsulate rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. One of the most peaceful and spiritual places in the Kingdom, Bumthang is home to the country’s largest dzong, as well as Bhutan’s only cheese factory and brewery!
The Four Valleys that make Bumthang are known as the sacred heart of the country – Ura, Chumey, Tang and Chokhor. Each valley has its own beautiful characteristics and iconic sites. Ura, the highest of Bumthang’s valleys, it believed to be the earliest inhabited place in Bhutan, making it the most scared district. Guru Rinpoche brought about the acceptance of Buddhism in Bumthang here, and subsequently the whole country. Above Ura village lies a new temple, inaugurated in 1986, dedicated to the Guru. Tang valley, due to its high elevation, has poor soil that is unsuitable for agricultural activities, unlike other Bhutanese valleys. The people of Tang raise sheep, and at a higher elevation, yaks. Chumey is a wide, fertile valley, where the locals cultivate wheat, barley, potatoes and buckwheat, and is famous for wool weaving called Bumthang yathra. Chokhor is the largest of the four valleys and is widely considered as Bumthang Valley. Home to the largest dzong in Bhutan, it is also a great base for other valley sites and hiking.
Located at the foot of the Chokhor Valley, Jakar is a bustling town that is definitely worth visiting. However, its most notable testament is the Jakar Dzong. Built in the 17th Century by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo, the Jakar Dzong (Bumthang Dzong) is the largest dzong in Bhutan. Known as “Castle of the White Bird”, it is believed that as the lamas assembled to decide on the site of the monastery, a white bird rose suddenly into the air and settled on a spur hill. Now the administrative centre of Bumthang Valley and home to the regional monk body, Jakar Dzong dominates the valley. The hike up to the dzong via a stone-paved path offers stunning views of Choekhor valley.
One of the oldest and most scared temples in the Kingdom, Jambay Llakhang (or Jampey) is said to be one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in just one day. It is believed that a demoness was attempting to halt the spread of Buddhism, so the temples were constructed, spreading across Bhutan and the borderlands.
Wandicholing Palace was the first palace in Bhutan that was not designed as a fortress, but as the principle residence for the first King of Bhutan, King Ugyen Wangchuck. We recommend visiting during an evening prayer session giving a unique insight into life at Wandicholing Palace, where approximately 26 young monks still reside and study. The monks gather every night to perform prayers and chants in the altar room.
Founded by Fritz Maurer, the first Swiss to work in Bhutan, the Swiss Farm Project involved the introduction of modern farming machinery and green technology such as fuel-efficient, smokeless wood stoves to Bhutan. It is the home of Bhutan’s only commercial cheese factory, a definite trip for all you cheese lovers! Also take a trip to the Red Panda Brewery where you can enjoy a tour and tasting session of this unique beer factory, founded by Fritz Maurer in 2006. The brewery was the first of its kind in Bhutan and produces a local beer, Red Panda, as well as apple juice for those who prefer their non-alcoholic beverages. Enjoy the experience of fresh Swiss cheese and a locally brewed beer, overlooking the fantastic views of a remote Bhutanese valley!