Destinations in Central Bhutan

Destinations in central Bhutan includes the interesting places in Bumthang and Trongsa Dzongkhags.

1) Trongsa Dzong

Built in 1648, it was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. Both the first and second kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All five kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (“governor”) prior to ascending the throne. The dzong is a massive structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built. Because of the dzong’s highly strategic position, on the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control effectively the whole of the central and eastern regions of the country from here

2) Kuenga Rabten Palace

This lhakhang, built in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest and most sacred shrines in Bhutan (the other being Jambey Lhakhang in Bumthang). Kyichu Lhakhang is composed of twin temples. The first temple was built by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. In 1968, H.M. Ashi Kesang, the QueThe 23 km. drive from Trongsa to Kuenga Rabten takes about an hour and passes through open countryside high above a river gorge. The land slopes quite gently in this region, and farming is well developed, so there is much of interest to observe in the fields and in the villages as one speeds along. As one approaches Kuenga Rabten, the Palace is clearly visible just below the road on the right. It was the winter palace of the second king and is now looked after by the National Commission for Cultural Affairs. This pleasant afternoon excursion from Trongsa offers further insights into the early days of Bhutan’s monarchy.en Mother of Bhutan, arranged for a second temple to be built alongside the first one, in same style.

3) Jakar Dzong

Constructed in 1549 by the great grandfather of the first Shabdrung, the dzong was initially built as a monastery. It was upgraded in 1646, after the Shabdrung had firmly established his power. Jakar Dzong is now used as the administrative center for Bumthang valley, and also houses the regional monk body.

4) Membertsho

“Burning Lake” is one of the most holy pilgrimage sites of Bhutan where Pema Lingpa found treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche and thus became a terton, ‘discoverer of religious treasures’. Mebartsho is not a lake but a gorge in Tang river that runs through Tang valley. Visitors and pilgrims offer lighted butter lamps on the water.

5) Three Temples (Jambay Lhakhang, Kurji Lhakhang and Tamzhing Lhakhang

Start at Jambay Lhakhang which was built in the 7th century by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. It is one of 108 monasteries which he built to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Its present architectural appearance dates from the early 20th century. Then continue to Kurjey Lhakhang, heading further into the valley through farmlands for half an hour. Kurjey Lhakhang comprises three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 against the rock face where Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th century. The middle temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of the Guru’s body, and is therefore considered to be the most holy. The temple on the left was built in the 1990s by H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother. These three temples are surrounded by a 108 chorten wall. Both Jambay and Kurjey Lhakhang are located on the left banks of Bumthang Chhu (river). Continue the valley walk from Kurjey Lhakhang across a suspension bridge through small villages and farmlands. Arrive at Tamshing Lhakhang located across the river from Kurjey Lhakhang. This temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. There are very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple, which was restored at the end of the 19th century.

6) Ura Village

From Jakar to Ura is 48 km., about one and a half hours’ drive. To reach here, the road climbs through amazingly open countryside, only occasionally running into forest. Sheep pastures line the road up to 20 km. behind the southern tip of the Tang valley. The road crosses Ura-la pass (3,600m), on the approach to which there is a magnificent view of Mt. Gangkar Puensum. Ura village is about an hour’s walk down hill from Ura-la pass following an old trade route. Villages in Ura have clustered houses, which is quite unusual in Bhutan. Above Ura village (3,100m) there is a new temple is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. Inaugurated in 1986, it contains a huge statue of the Guru and remarkable wall paintings of the cycle of his teachings. Within the last 25 years Ura has been transformed from a marginal community to a prosperous valley.

7) Kuenzangdra Gompa

“Tiger’s Nest” monastery, most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, is spectacularly located on the side of a cliff 900m above the valley floor. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months, hence its name, “Tiger’s Nest”. There have been shrines at this sacred place for many centuries. The principal lhakhang of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory. Taktsang is a place of pilgrimage which Bhutanese try to visit at least once in a lifetime. An excursion to Taktsang involves a steep climb up through pine forest and takes about five hours round trip. Though the climb up through the pine forest is steep, the journey is most worthwhile on account of the superb views en route and especially from the cafeteria viewpoint itself. visit PDN.NET for information on how you can finance a trip to this or any other place of interest.

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