Central Bhutan

Central Bhutan

The districts of Trongsa and Bumthang fall under the central region. Apart from the cultural opulence, this region is rich in natural wonders. The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is trying to promote Alpine Flower tours, Nomad festivals and Matsutaki festivals.

Trongsa’s cultural highlights
From Wangdue, you drive up to Pelela pass (3300m) which divides the west and central Bhutan. Sheep and yaks grazing in the valley and on the hillsides evoke deep pastoral feeling as you drive through the meandering highway, flanked by dwarfed bamboos.

If you are bird watcher, look out for Wren Babbler that takes refuge amongst the dwarfed bamboos. In the months of April and June, the hillsides will greet you with a riot of colours of rhododendrons in bloom.

Chendebji Chorten
En route to Trongsa is Chendebji Chorten, patterned after Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was built in the 18th century by Lama Shida to cover the remains of a demon subdued at this spot.

Trongsa Dzong
Built in 1648, Trongsa Dzong holds a great historical importance. It is customary for all the kings of Bhutan to be invested as Trongsa Penlop (“governor”) prior to ascending the throne. The dzong, literally covering a hill top, was once the stronghold from where the east was ruled and the Trongsa Penlops were considered to be political heavy weights. It has here that the foundation for the establishment of monarchy was initiated by Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal,the father of the first king. Another exciting thing you can do here is enjoy the two-hour hike following the old Royal Route that passes through the dzong.

Ta Dzong
This watchtower, which once guarded Trongsa Dzong during the period of civil wars, stands on a steep slope above the town. Climb up the cobbled stairs to visit it which now houses a shrine dedicated to the epic hero, King Gesar of Ling and a museum. A visit to this former watchtower provides visitors with an insight into Trongsa’s significance in Bhutan’s history. Enjoy this fascinating museum that includes several personal items of the kings. After a documentary show, walk up the spiraled stairs to the top with a view point enclosure.

Kuenga Rabten Palace
Kuenga Rabten palace is 23km away from Trongsa Dzong. The road passes through open countryside high above a river gorge. This was the winter palace of the second king and is now looked after by the National Commission for Cultural Affairs. This is a place to witness the aura of Bhutan’s medieval royalty.


Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan

Located on altitudes ranging from 2,600-4,500m. Bumthang is the religious heartland of the country, famous for some of Bhutan’s oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Tales of Guru Padmasambhava and the tertons (“religious treasure-discoverers”) make up the history and legend of this sacred region.

Jambey Lhakhang
This 7th century monastery is one of 108 monasteries built by the Tibetan king Srongtsen Gambo to subdue a supine demon lying across the Himalayan region. According to visual representation, the temple is supposed to have been built on the right knew of the demon. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century. However, the inner shrine with the Future Buddha is believed to have been there some 1400 years ago. Jambay Lhakhang festival (in the late autumn) is famous for the Tercham. English speaking Bhutanese refer to it as the ‘naked dance.’

Kurje Lhakhang
Located further along the valley; Kurje Lhakhang is composed of three temples. The exciting thing here is the comparison between the 17th century structures on right side with the 20th century on the left, the one built by Grand Queen Mother, Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck. 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. Kurje means the body imprint of Guru Padma Sambhava. Legend has it that when Guru visited Bumthang, he was supposed to have meditated in a cave and left his body imprint. The cypress tree on the hill is supposed to have been the Guru’s walking staff which he had planted there.

Tamshing Lhakhang
Take a walk from Kurje Lhakhang to Tamshing Lhakhang. This temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. Terton Pema Lingpa is the one who retrieved religious treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche in Mebar Tsho (burning lake).There are very old religious paintings on the inner walls of the temple.

Jakar Dzong
Constructed in 1549 by the great grandfather of the first Shabdrung, the dzong was initially built as a monastery. Known as the ‘White Bird Castle,’ it looks like a white bird about to take off when viewed from a certain angle. It was upgraded in 1646, after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power. Jakar Dzong is now the administrative centre for Bumthang district, and also houses the regional monk body.

Thangbi Goenpa
Thangbi Goenpa was founded in 1470 by His Holiness Shamar Rinpoche of a Buddhist lineage called Karma Kagyu. It is a 30-minute walk north of Kurje Lhakhang. Thangbi festival in autumn is something that you should not miss.

Ngang Lhakhang
A three-hour walk, north of Thangbi, will take you to Ngang Yule (“Swan Land”). The temple was founded by Lama Namkha Samdup, a contemporary of Pema Lingpa in the 15th century.

Ura valley
An excursion to Ura valley will take about four hours of driving, back and forth. The drive is exciting as it passes through some sheep rearing farms. Serthang-la pass at 3600m above sea level offers a great view of Gangkar Puensum. Farmers of Ura are enterprising and they have a community library initiated by Global READ (a NGO from the US). The highlight of Ura village is the Ura Yakchoe festival that takes place in spring.

Testimonials Sometimes a packaged holiday comes so much with a predefined set of takeaways, but The Destination Bhutan offered so much freedom of choice that it did not feel like a packaged holiday at all.

KH Zaman
Buffalo, New York

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