The Buddhist nation of Bhutan plays host to numerous monasteries and other traditional, architectural wonders. Amongst the regions found there. central Bhutan is home to some of Bhutan’s most treasured heritage sites such as the Burning Lake and Trongsa Dzong. Because of its strategic location, it was the seat of power when the first and second king of Bhutan ruled. Most importantly, the region is just blessed with all its flora and fauna untouched by human hands. Visit this wondrous destination and gaze upon the beauty that nature has to offer.
Here are some of the 10 sights that you’ll want to see in Central Bhutan:
1. Ura Yakchoe in Ura Valley
Ura Yakchoe is a famous dance that honors a statue that legend states it was left by a lama or a spirit to an old woman who lived in the Ura Valley. The lama asked her for a glass of water, so she went inside to get one for the mysterious visitor, but when she came back outside, the lama was gone. Instead, the statue was left behind inside a sack. The statue has been passed on from generation to generation, inherited by the descendants of the woman. Ura Yakchoe is celebrated every year in May.
Festival of Ura Yakchoe Tour
Duration: Held annually every May 7 to 10
Contact: +975 1786 3436
Website: Festival of Ura Yakchoe Tour
2. The Burning Lake
The Burning Lake is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for the Bhutanese. It is known locally as Mebar Tsho and dates its religious origin back all the way to the 15th century. It is said that Terton Pema Lingpa, a saint of Tibetan Buddhism, had a vision of Guru Rinpoche, a Buddhist master, hiding treasure within the lake centuries before. The locals didn’t believe him, and to prove people wrong, he jumped into the lake with a butter lamp. He then reemerged with a scroll of paper, a chest, and the lamp still burning bright. An altar of Terton Pema Lingpa now awaits all the faithful who come to visit him.
The Burning Lake Tour
Address: Bumthang, Bhutan
Duration: 1 day
Contact: +975 17652016
Website: The Burning Lake Tour
3. Jakar Dzong
The official name of Jakar Dzong is Yuelay Namgyal Dzong, but its more romantic, prophetic name is ‘Castle of the White Bird.’ According to legend, when the lamas were choosing a site where they would build their monastery in the mid-1500s, a white bird suddenly flew to the site where Jakar Dzong is and the lamas interpreted this as a sign. The lamas subsequently settled here and built Jakar Dzong. When you enter, you will go through a narrow courtyard, the east and west of which are the monks’ quarters and the administrative offices. Standing in the front courtyard, visitors can drink in the sight of the whole Chokhor Valley in front of you.
Jakar Dzong Tour
Address: Jakar, Bhutan
Website: Jakar Dzong Tour
4. Trongsa Dzong
Trongsa Dzong is the largest dzong in the center of Bhutan, and because of its strategic location, was an important seat of power that was formerly used to control the rest of Bhutan. Now, it holds the administrative offices of the Trongsa District. It also houses 200 monks with about 25 temples in its whole complex. The Trongsa Dzong has a maze-like set of passageways and courtyards. Inside the complex, you will also be able to stumble upon the former watchtower meant to protect the officials in case of internal insurgencies. It is now the National Museum of Bhutan.
Trongsa Dzong Tours
Address: Trongsa, Trongsa district, Bhutan
Price: Entrance Fee of 300 BTN (5.00 USD) except for those who already paid the minimum 200 USD package
Contact: +975 2 326026
Website: Trongsa Dzong Tours
5. Ta Dzong
The Ta Dzong, or the National Museum of Bhutan, is located just above the Trongsa Dzong. The Museum houses two temples and 11 galleries. There are sculptures that tell of the origins of Bhutan, the robes of the first King, and the swords of Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal. The whole watchtower is five storeys high. Go up the very top for a great view of Trongsa.
Ta Dzong Tours
Address: Trongsa, Trongsa District, Bhutan
Price: SAARC national/adult 50/200 BTN (0.75 USD to 3 USD), monks, nuns & children under 10 yr free
Opening Hours: 9 am - 4.30 pm, until 3.30 pm Dec-Feb. Closed on public holidays.
Website: Ta Dzong Tours
6. Thruepang Palace
More a house than a palace, this residence is still used by the royal family on certain occasions, especially by the fifth king. This is also the house where the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, was born in the 1920s. It is strategically found up the road above the Trongsa Dzong. The architecture of the palace is reminiscent of traditional Bhutanese abodes with a huge courtyard, and smaller houses just beside it that were used to house the royal family’s entourage.
Royal Heritage Tours
Address: Trongsa, Bhutan
Website: Royal Heritage Tours
7. Chendebji Chorten
The Chorten is a religious structure built by Tshering Wangchuk used to subdue harmful demons. This structure, a majestic all white zenith that is more reminiscent of Nepalese architecture, is found 40 kilometers away from Trongsa proper.
Chendebji Chorten Tour
Address: Trashigang-Semtokha Highway, Bhutan
Contact: +975 329986 (M) 17646377
Website: Chendebji Chorten Tour
8. Trongsa Tsechu
Because of Trongsa’s strategic location, the seat of government was once situated here, ruled by the first and second kings of Bhutan. The Trongsa was a structure that was also used to control the trade between Central and Eastern Bhutan. A proliferation of festivals is also celebrated here to wish for good fortune, not only in trade but in life. The Tshechu is a three-day festival held every year in December. It brings people from all over Trongsa to join in a festival of masks, dances, prayer and giving of blessings from the sacred Nangtens on the last day of the festival.
Trongsa Tsechu Tour
Address: Trongsa Dzong, Trongsa, Bhutan
Duration: Held every December 8 to 10 annually
Contact: 00 975 2 335423
Website: Trongsa Festival Tour
9. Royal Manas National Park through Gelephu
Royal Manas is the first and oldest national park in Bhutan. While it is technically in the Eastern Himalayas, its entrance for visitors is found in Gelephu. According to UNESCO, the park has outstanding universal value because it has eight different cat species found within the same area, which is quite rare in the world, and it also has the highest tiger density in the world. More than this, it offers outstanding landscapes and rare wildlife and plant life such as golden langurs, one-horned rhinoceros, and the Ganges River dolphin.
Royal Manas National Park Tour
Address: Pemagatshel, Sarpang, Zhemgang, Bhutan
Contact: +975 2 328829
Website: Royal Manas National Park Tour
Zhemgang is one of the few regions in Bhutan where animist practices are still alive. Additionally, Bhutan’s handicraft and pottery culture are thriving with goods such as bamboo bowls and hats. The region is also famous for temples that were built by Terton Pema Lingpa, the same saint who revealed the treasures of Guru Rinpoche at the Burning Lake.
Address: Zhemgang, Bhutan
Contact: +975 17164635
Website: Zhemgang Tours
More to explore in Central Bhutan
Other than what is on this list, Central Bhutan offers much more in terms of heritage culture. Other than the religious festivals or tshechus, there are newer festivals popping up in the region including the Nomad’s Festival and the Matsutake Mushroom Festival in Ura, Bumthang. The people truly complement the natural beauty and flora and fauna all over this region. If you are the type who relishes rustic beauty, then Central Bhutan is your ideal destination.
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