Affectionately known as the “Valley of Beautiful Girls”, Bumthang is made up of four lush and fertile valleys which make the area renowned for its fields of rice and buckwheat alongside apple orchards. Bumthang is also known as the spiritual heartland of Bhutan as it is home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries. It was here that Buddhism was first introduced to Bhutan.
Known as “The Castle of the White Bird” (rough translation), this dzong is built on a ridge overlooking Chokhor valley. Completed in 1667, legend has it that a white bird settled on the spur of the hill. Seen as a significant omen, this resulted in the dzong being built on it.
The river is known as “The Burning Lake” and, like most of Bhutan’s cultural sites, has a legend behind it. According to legend, Terton Pema Lingpa, Bhutan’s greatest treasure finder, jumped in with his butter lamp and emerged from the water with a chest and paper scroll; his lamp still burning bright. An area of spectacular beauty, Mebar Tsho is also one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the region. Natives hang up multi-coloured prayer flags around the lake and also offer up butter lamps.
This famous temple is believed to have been constructed in just one day in 659 by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo, in order to subdue a demoness hell-bent on stopping the spread of Buddhism. The temples — 108 in total — were built on her body parts and this one is believed to pin her left knee.
Completed in 1501 by Pema Lingpa, the treasure hunter who jumped into the Mebar Tsho and emerged with long lost finds, the goemba is one of the few institutions that still practice his teachings. Its inner walls feature unrestored images believed to be painted by Pema Lingpa himself. Visitors can also view the ancient iron jacket which locals believe can, when worn for circumambulations within the temple, cleanse your sins.
Bumthang happens to be the only district in Bhutan where you can horse-trek. Select from a range of riding trails before meeting your guide and acquainting yourself with your horse. One route takes you to Tandingang Village through a cattle farm, where you can take in panoramic views of the mountains and pastoral farming landscapes.
Savour the stunning view of Mount Gangkar Puensum, the highest mountain in Bhutan, as you encounter sheep pastures and the queer sight of houses clustered together in this incredibly scenic valley. A day’s hike here will be enough time to show you why Bhutan is known for its gorgeous landscapes.