The Valleys of Bumthang
For nine years now, we have been curating journeys to our beloved little Kingdom, Bhutan. We are constantly travelling to and through the valleys in search of new enlightening experiences that give insight into how remarkable this country really is.
In May last year, we took the Path to Bumthang again—as much as it familiar to us, we ventured further to explore the unexplored. With culture and landscape quite distinct from the rest of Bhutan, Bumthang is a destination in itself. A district split into four valleys, Ura, Choekhor, Tang and Chumey, Bumthang has a special place in the hearts of the royal family, who are initiating programs to preserve its rich cultural heritage.
The landscapes are breath-taking with the rice, potato and buckwheat fields, that merely exemplify the kingdom’s flourishing agriculture. Because we were the only ones around, our hikes were quiet and peaceful—it felt as if we were the only visitors to have walked those paths.
Bumthang is authentically Bhutanese, and a must for those with a curiosity for the unseen and unfelt. It is, in its own very special way, a destination in itself.
As the largest of the four valleys, Choekhor’s location also makes it the perfect base to explore the whole of Bumthang from. Nestled within the town of Jakar is the beautiful Amankora Bumthang—an ideal retreat for travellers with its elegant interiors, impeccable service and serene atmosphere.
For a comprehensive understanding of Bumthang’s history, a visit to the fortresses and temples is a must—afterall, Bumthang is the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. We stopped by Jakar Dzong, Jambay Lhakhang and Kurjey Lhakhang, to hear their stories.
After which, we hiked through farmlands to the river, where we dipped our tired feet in the cool water before indulging our appetites built up by the exercise with a scrumptious lunch.
Served in the authentic setting of an old farmhouse, the meal was better than expected. The combination of delicious local produce and Aum Tshomo’s cooking skills made this the most memorable meal of our journey—which came as no surprise since generations of her family have been cooking for the royal family until today! Among many dishes on the menu were ema datse (chili cheese), buckwheat noodles that can only be found in this area and generous servings of local red rice. To end the meal, a tasty but potent cup of home-brewed ara infused with cordyceps—certainly not for the faint of heart!
While being the most secluded of the four valleys, Tang is also known for its honey production. Much of Tang is farmland left to grow organically, resulting in a landscape of beautiful raw earth.
On the drive to the starting point of our hike at the the farthest end of the valley, we saw nothing but pristine pine forests—a testament to how untouched the land is.
Thowadrak Monastery is like a mini Tiger’s Nest located deep within the valley. Being perched on a cliff, the mere sight of it is spectacular, but the hike is just as, or perhaps more, rewarding. We made our way through thick jungle and till an opening appeared quite suddenly—we had reached the top. Albeit strenuous at times, the climb was well worth it with the views at the top.
A ninety minutes’ drive from Choekhor brought us to Chumey for our next trek—Kitiphu, a trio of sacred mountain peaks. Our hike up to Kitiphu was different from that of Thowadrak as we began our ascent at a higher altitude of 3,800 metres.
Because of the elevation, we were essentially walking above the trees, making our way through vistas of beautiful, rolling hills.
As we ascended, our guide shared how the peaks are guarded by a local mountain deity, and that first-time climbers it does not recognise might see a turn of weather. When we arrived at the highest peak at around 4,250 metres, it was not long before we noticed some grey clouds rolling in—a rather eerie mystical experience!
Following tradition, we gave a blessing to the deity by creating a fire of smoking leaves and the weather cleared up again for our descent.
Throughout the hike, we felt the vast expanse of the valley, with views of Chumey on the left and Choekhor on the right. Truly magical!