Four valleys make up the Bumthang region of Central Bhutan; Chumney, Cheokhor, Tang and Ura range in altitude from 2600-4000m (8530-13125ft) and are reached from the west by crossing the Yotung La pass, marked with a Tibetan chorten and prayer flags blowing in the wind. Both Chumney and Cheokhor are agricultural valleys while the remoter Tang and Ura depend on yak and sheep breeding in addition to cropping potatoes. Many of the houses are sturdy little stone buildings and the whole region has more of a medieval feel than the settlements to the east and west.
The people of the region were converted from animism to Buddhism in the 8th century by Guru Rinpoche, who was reincarnated as the local saint, Pema Lingpa, in the 15th century. This has resulted in there being many important temples and monasteries in a small area. Religious festivals, tsechus, are the highlight of the religious year when villagers gather to watch monks in elaborate costumes and masks perform sacred dances. It’s a time for all to gain religious merit as well as celebrate and have a lot of fun. If you can’t make it to a festival you can see dozens of masks and black hats used during the local festival at Chakkar Lhakhang.
Some of the best textiles are made in Bumthang. The work of women, wool is hand spun and then hand-woven into yathras, geometrically patterned strips of colourful cloth that are then joined together to make shawls, bedspreads and cushion covers. You’ll find them in many small shops and at the roadside.
To fortify yourself for walks into the wide flat valleys, fill up on delicious local buckwheat pancakes and noodles and quench your thirst on a glass of Panda beer.