Trongsa and Bumthang lie in central Bhutan. Bumthang is a valley beyond the Yotang La Pass. The road from Punakha to Bumthang via Trongsa is undergoing maintenance at multiple places and hence gets closed to traffic every now and then. This leads to increase in your travel times. The road itself is mountainous and the journey can be pretty tiring. It does give you opportunities to capture the Himalayas from close counters. Unless you love very long drives, I strongly suggest taking a flight from Paro to Bumthang which will be much quicker. We however continued with our experienced driver from Punakha to Bumthang.
We left Punakha just before 8AM in the morning and drove about couple of hours before stopping for breakfast. Don’t expect too much on this highway and pack some stuff to eat, specially with the kids as there are only very basic restaurants and that too are not too many. If you get lucky, you will see a few Yak grazing on the hillside. In winters it’s common to spot yak as they come down the mountains, but spotting a group in summers made us very excited 🙂
The Trongsa Dzong gives very nice views, however it still takes about an hour to reach the city once it becomes visible. We reached Trongsa at about 3PM, had a quick lunch and headed further to Bumthang.
Although Google maps had suggested 4 to 5 hours drive, it wasn’t before 6PM that we checked into Yugharling Resort in Bumthang. That was a full 10 hours drive with only a couple of stops for food and rest to wait for maintenance staff to clear the roads. Obviously we were a bit tired, however the resort made us much comfortable, our room was a family suite, a pretty big one with great views towards the valley. We spent the evening at the resort which served decent food.
Day 7 was the sightseeing day for Bumthang and it has few very interesting places. There is Jakar Dzong which is a smaller to the Dzong’s we had already been to in Thimphu and Punakha, so can’t say much about this. What was most interesting was the Jampey Lhakhang, the oldest of the temples in Bhutan. Our driver told the story of three stone steps representing the ages, the first step has already gone underground and represented the historical Buddha, Sakyamuni. The second step, which is the current age is nearly level with the ground. The legend goes that when the second step seeps into the ground, the current world will come to an end giving rise to the future Buddha. Inside the temple, you can see all three Buddha’s, the past, the current and the future.
The next was Kurjey Lhakhang a combination of 3 different templaes. The oldest one is said to be the place where Guru Rinpoche did his meditation. His body print is preserved in a cave stone which you can see in the temple. The environment in the temples was very relaxing and it was interesting listening in to the stories from our driver cum guide. We next drove across the river and on the other side of mountain to Lake Membartsho or the burning lake. We had to trek about 10 minutes to reach the lake the parking spot. Number of prayer flags flank over the wooden bridge, while it is interesting to see thousands of tsha-tsha (small clay offerings) placed all over the rocks.
There are couple of other places including Ogyen Chholing Palace and Tamshing Goemba, however we decided to skip those. We had our lunch in the city and spent rest of the day relaxing in the resort.
The next day we took the road back, again with multiple stoppages due to road construction and one for lunch and finally got to Wangdue Phodrang, about mid afternoon. We checked into one of the most beautiful Kichu Resort just next to Dang Chhu river. Our balcony overlooked the river so close and the sounds of running water was amazingly refreshing. We spent rest of the day just relaxing in this calm environment and by next day morning I was feeling so fresh again.
Read more about our Bhutan Trip in following articles