This region that spans from 2,600-4,500 m is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of its oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Tales of Guru Padmasambhava and the tertons (“religious treasure-discoverers”) still linger in this sacred region.
Bumthang Dzongkhag consists of four main valleys, Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor. Choekhor is the largest of the four and is widely considered as ‘Bumthang Valley’. The valleys are broad and gentle carved by the ancient glaciers. The wide and scenic valleys draws a large number of tourists each year.
This dzongkhag is one of the most richly endowed districts in terms of historical and spiritual legacy. Some of Bhutan’s oldest and most venerated temples are found in Bumthang, including Jambey Lhakhang. According to legend this ancient temple was built by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in 659 A.D. as part of a chain of 108 simultaneously constructed temples in order to subdue an evil demoness that lay over the Himalayan region. It is the oldest lhakhang in Bhutan. There are numerous other temples and shrines worth visiting in Bumthang and many of them are linked to Guru Rinpoche’s visit in 746 A.D.
(For many guests who travel to Bumthang, they leave the valley wanting a little bit more, and for all the right reasons. The implication of the name of the place, in a nutshell is: ‘Thang’ means ‘field or flat area’, and ‘Bum’ is said be an abbreviation of either a ‘Bumpa’ (a vessel for holy water), or simply ‘Bum,’ which translates as ‘girl.’ Depending upon how the word is translated, it can either stand for flat area shaped like a ‘Bumpa’ or flat area of beautiful girls. Carved by the ancient glaciers, the broad and scenic valleys of Bumthang are covered in fields of buckwheat, rice and potatoes. Apple orchards and dairy farms are also common sights. It is one of the most richly endowed areas in terms of historical and spiritual legacy. Some of Bhutan’s oldest and most venerated temples are found in Bumthang, which is why most guidebooks and websites refer to it as ‘The Spiritual Heartland of the Nation.’ Bumthang is also the traditional home to the great Tertoen (Treasure Discoverer) Pema Lingpa. Tertoen Pema Lingpa was the fourth of the five Sovereign Tertoens, all of whom were considered reincarnations of the important disciples of Guru Rimpoche. As such, he is considered an important lineage saint in the Nyingma tradition, whose birth and enlightened activities in propagating the faith, particularly through revealing various hidden ‘Termas’ (Hidden Treasures). After his demise, the great Tertoen’s spiritual lineage was carried on through the various mind, body and speech reincarnations. Pema Lingpa’s descendants also established a religious nobility in Central and Eastern Bhutan, who were to have a major impact on the history of the country. The present Royal Family of Bhutan too are the noble descendants of the Tertoen from the Dungkar Choje bloodline.)