Bumthang, Jakar, Trongsa, and Wangdue Phodrang

After completing the month long Snowman Trek, walking around 350km between Paro and Bumthang, I spent three days travelling back the more direct 250km by road.

We started in the Bumthang district, and the main town of Jakar, lying in one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. Bumthang was one of the first places in Bhutan to convert to Buddhism. It has nationally important temples including the highly sacred Kurjey Lhakhang, home to the remains of the first three kings of Bhutan. It was originally built in the 17th century but expanded by the late Queen Mother in 1990. Unfortunately as with all temples in Bhutan no photos are allowed inside but the exterior was impressive.

Across the river were two more significant temples, Tamshing Lhakhang on the left, and Könchogsum Lhakhang on the right.

Jambay Lhakhang was one of 108 temples built in one night according to myth. Much smaller but much older than Kurjey Lhakhang, it appeared more popular with locals, who were walking clockwise laps of the complex.

Neighbouring it was a colourful pavilion type structure used for ceremonies.

The centre of Jakar was filled with shops, some quite niche as the signage shows.

On the hillside above the town centre is one of the largest Dzongs in Bhutan, originally built in the 17th century, but extensively repaired after an earthquake in 1897.

Jakar is home to one of three domestic airports in Bhtutan, connecting to the only international airport in Paro. A 35 minute flight saves a twelve hour journey by road, but we took the longer way back to Paro.

To help break up the six hour drive from Bumthang to Punakha we stopped at Trongsa, an attractively situated town high on the hillside, home to possibly the largest dzong in the country and a pleasant market above the river.

To get to the other side of the valley involved a half hour drive along some of the hairiest roads I travelled on in Bhutan, but rewarded with views of Trongsa and it’s mighty dzong.

Next to our lunch spot was Chendebji Chorten, built in the 18th century in the style of Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa.

There was plenty more to see on the drive despite the hazy day.

To end with Wangdue Phodrang, which was unlike anywhere else I’d visited to that point in Bhutan. It’s a modern town built on a grid system with four story shops and apartments and lots of roundabouts, all very modern and not very pleasant.

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