Central Bhutan is an exciting destination for all visitors. It includes some of the most significant historical and religious sites in the country. The district of Trongsa has always been of great political importance to the leaders of Bhutan due to its commanding location in the center of the nation while Bumthang district has some of the most ancient and important temples and monasteries in Bhutan.
Some of the important landmarks in central Bhutan are: Kurje Lhakhang built in 1652 at the site where the great Buddhist saint Guru Rimpoche meditated. Tamshing Lhakhang, the great religious treasure revealer Terton Pema Lingpa built dating back to 1501. Mebar Tsho: A sacred lake from which Terton Pema Lingpa discovered religious treasures hidden by Guru Rimpoche.
The Watchtower of Trongsa Museum: This ancient tower has been made into a museum dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty and provides visitors with unparalleled insight into Bhutan’s political history, Chendebji Chorten: An interesting and visually striking religious building with eyes painted towards the four cardinal directions. Legend states that it was constructed to subdue the remains of an evil spirit that manifested as a gigantic serpant.
In addition to the traditional annual religious festivals (Tshechus) there are also many newer festivals showcasing the rich traditions of the region like the annual Nomad’s Festival and the Matsutake Mushroom Festival in Ura, Bumthang.
Central Bhutan is a region blessed with great natural beauty and there are miles of pristine alpine and sub-tropical broadlead forests teeming with all manner of flora and fauna. The Thrumshingla National Park is located in this region and is famous for the many rare and endangered birds that inhabit it including the Rufous necked hornbill, Rufous-throated wren-babbler, Satyr Tragopan, Beautiful nuthatch, Ward’s trogon and Chestnut-breasted partridge. Visitors may even catch a glimpse of the exotic animals that live in the park such as the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger or the adorable Red Panda.
Places To Visit
About two hours drive from Wangdue Phodrang, a glacial valley located on the western slopes of the Black Mountain (Jowo Durshing) at an altitude of 9840 feet above sea level. It is the winter home of the endangered Black-necked Crane that migrate from the high plateaus of Tibet in late fall. In addition to the cranes there are also muntjac (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard, red panda and red fox in the nearby forests. The valley is a designated conservation area and borders Black Mountain National Park (now Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park).
The Gangtey Gompa, a 17th century monastery, is the largest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. It is headed by the ninth Gangtey Trulku, the body emanation of the treasure revealer, Terton Pema Lingpa. Gyalse Pema Thinlay built a small temple in 1613, which was later built into
a larger monastery by the 2nd reincarnation Tenzin Legpai Dondup. A day hike around the valley visiting villages and observing the cranes during November March soothes your mind and rejuvenates your poetic thoughts.
The drive from Wangdue to Trongsa is very scenic, passing by streams, villages and rich forest sighting exotic wild birds and animals if you are lucky, before climbing the Pelela pass and on to the dramatic Trongsa valley. It takes about 4 hours from Phobjikha to reach Trongsa by car. Located at an altitude of 7220 feet above sea level, Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where the nation was unified. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and for miles on end, the Dzong seems to tease you, wondering if you will ever reach there. Ever since the institution of the monarchy, the Crown Prince is offered the title of Trongsa Penlop before ascending the Golden Throne as Druk Gyalpo or King of the Dragon Kingdom.
The Trongsa Dzong with the Ta Dzong watch tower, Kunga Rabten Palace and the Kuenga Rabten nunnery are some of the places of interest.
Bumthang is probably the holiest valleys in Bhutan, alongside Paro. This is where Guru Rinpoche first set his foot when he came to Bhutan in the 7th century. Shrouded in mythical and spiritual folklores, it is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. It is about two and a half hours drive from Trongsa to Bumthang. Located at an elevation of 8530 – 13125 feet above sea level Bumthang refers to a region of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura. Choekhor and Chumey are high altitude agricultural valleys while Tang and Ura depend mostly on livestock.
Bumthang is also the traditional home of the great Buddhist treasure revealer and teacher Pema Lingpa whose reincarnation is manifested today in three forms body, speech and mind. Because of its many religious sites, Bumthang has the maximum number of village tshechus (festival) in Bhutan.
Places of Interest are Kurjey Lhakhang, Jambay Lhakhang, Thangbi Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang, Kenchosum Lhakhang, Mebartsho and Ura Village.