Bumthang is one the most historic district, if the number of ancient temples and sacred sites is counted, and therefore it is sometimes called the spiritual and cultural heartland of Bhutan. Bumthang consists of the four valleys of Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekhor, although often the entire district is known as Bumthang.
Jakar town (2800m) is located in spacious tree covered Choekhor valley and is the capital, and center of four valleys of Bumthang district. Almost all the hotels are also located here and most significant Buddhist sites are also located nearby. The current bazaar or town is a single lane street of mostly wooden houses and the area called Chamkhar. There are plans to relocate the town.
Bumthang is famous throughout Bhutan for its distinctive and brightly colored woven wool items called Yathra. Bumthang farms yield buckwheat, dairy products, honey and apples among other products. The Bumthangkha is the widely spoken dialect here and differs from Dzongkha and other dialects spoken in the rest of the country
Bumthang is a district in the north-central region of Bhutan, and due to the great number of sacred sites there, it is often referred to as the country's spiritual heartland. "Bumthang" directly translates as "bumpa-shaped valley". "Thang" is valley or plain, and "bum" is an abbreviation of "bumpa" (a vessel used in consecration ceremonies). The Bumthang region is known as the spiritual heart of the kingdom, as it was here that Guru Rinpoche cured a local king (Sindhu Raja ) of a spirit-induced ailment in the 8th century, an event that resulted in the king, and finally the whole country, embracing Buddhism. The famous Nyingma saint Pema Lingpa was born in the region and many other famous Buddhist yogis lived and practiced here, including Longchen Rabjam, Dorji Lingpa to name few. Consequently, the area is a repository of sacred artifacts and monasteries.
The region is also known for its lush valleys and is a major producer of apples juice, apple cider, and Swiss cheeses. Buckwheat was the most common grain grown and stable diet of the people here. Bumthang is also famous for its brightly colored and distinctive woven woolen garments called Yathra.
There are four valleys in Bumthang: Chhumey, Choekor (the location of Jakar), Tang and Ura. The winters in Bumthang are cold with a persistent strong wind and some snow falls. The summers, on the other hand, are warm and pleasant, and due to the high altitude and being further interior, the region is spared from the worst of the torrential monsoon rains.
Chumey is the first valley you approach from western Bhutan. Upon decent from Yotongla pass, first you will see a small roadside temple of Cuchi at Gaytsa. Gaytsa plain and fields are also nesting grounds for some of the migratory birds including Black-necked crane. On the slopes above Gaytsa is Buli temple, which has small number of Monks. Higher up along the ridge, you can see red-roofs of Tharpaling Goemba, founded by popular Dzongchen master and philosopher Longchen Rabjampa in 14th century. On the right side of the valley, you will see a large building of Domkhar Trashicholing Dzong, once the summer residence of 2nd King Jigme Wangchuk. From Domkhar village, you will see a small settlement of Chhume with large schools along the road side. Then you will pass a small hydro-power plant and reach Zungney village, which is now a days is a popular tourist stop to see Yathra weaving (deep colored wool textile). You can see the weavers at work here and shop for textiles. On a promontory, on the opposite side of the river is seen a three-storey Prakar Goemba monastery. Higher up on the hill above the Praker, which takes around good 20 minutes in Nimalung Monastery.
Choekor Valley: from Chummey valley, climb and cross small pass of Kiki la (2860) and descend into Choekhor valley. This is the administrative center of Bumthang district, where a large white Jakar Dzong can be seen from a far. The town itself is fairly small, one street with around 50-60 shops with restaurants. In Choekor valley is located Jakar Dzong, Wangdicholing, Lamey Gomba (now forest Office), Jampay Lhakhang, Chakar, Kurjey, Thangbi Monastery, Tamshing, Konchugsum temple and most recently a large monastery of Kharchu Dratshang has made an addition to several other monasteries and temples in the valley. There are wood craft centers, wool processes, schools, farms including swiss farms to see in and around Jakar. North of Jakar, along the chokhor river upstream, reached by 4hrs of walk or drive of 1hr or so along the feeder road is Ngalakhang temple with relatively large Draphey village. Membartsho is located on the road junction between Ura and Tang from Jakar to the south east.
Tang Valley is accessible by a feeder road from Jakar. It is higher the chokhor valley and there is not much of agriculture here. There are however lots of buckwheat fields. There are lots of people raising sheep in this valley and few large farms too. After leaving the east west road, you climb up the dirt road and cross the ridge into Tang Valley. You will pass through several villages such as Drangchel, Gemtshong, Kizum and the road gets more rougher as you head to Gamling and Wobithang. You can visit Tang Rimochen temple and Ugyencholing or Orgyencholing manor. Kunzangdra Goemba, an important Pema Lingpa temple is located on the high ridge above Dangchel, which is reached by one hour of stiff up hill walk each way. Thowadrak Hermitage clings on the highest rocks above the north-end of Tang valley and takes around 6hrs of return trek.
Ura Valley is the highest of the four valleys in Bumthang. It is located on the road to eastern Bhutan, which takes about 2hr. each way from Jakar. Ura has a large and interesting village with one village temple/monastery. Shingkhar village is a 9km up a good gravel side road from Ura.