Mystical Mebartsho or the Burning Lake of Bumthang


Last updated on January 15th, 2019

In a distance of about half an hour drive from Bumthang Chamkhar town, we’ll come across a small lake to the south of Tang Valley. It’s nestling among rugged deep gorges. This lake is Mebartsho, literally meaning the Burning Lake.

The lake is above Bumthang main road connected by a feeder road. It doesn’t take even 20 minutes from Bumthang Airport and 5 minutes from highway to get there. However, many people travelling Bumthang to Thimphu or other places through this same route don’t stop for this lake.

Prayer flags in Mebartsho
Strings and strings prayer flags were put near Mebar tsho (Bumthang Burning Lake).

The ‘Burning Lake in Bhutan’ is just a small clean water lake along a running stream of Tang valley unlike Chubda Tsho, Luggye Lake, Tshophu Lake and Dungtsho Tsho. It won’t look like a lake for onlookers; it’s a small and less attractive lake. It doesn’t have many characteristics of a good lake.

traditional bridge at Bumthang burning lake
A traditional wooden cantilever bridge to cross the river before Bumthang Mebar Tsho.

Therefore, some tourists after visiting it complain for including Mebar tsho in their travel plan. They say it’s hard for them to consider the ‘Burning Lake of Bumthang’ as a lake unlike other famous lakes in Bhutan they visited. But it’s just that those tourists don’t get into its historical background and mystical stories.

History of Mebartsho – Burning Lake of Tang

The place of Mebartsho or Burning Lake was historically known as Nya Ring Brag (meaning Long-nosed Cliff in local dialect of Bumthang). Today, we can relate this to presence of numerous sheer cliffs around it.

risk of visiting mebar tsho of Bumthang Bhutan
Bumthang Mebartsho (Burning Lake) is basically looks like a pond along slow flowing river.

However, this name remained as it is until Tertoen Pema Lingpa visited this place and revealed numerous hidden treasures that would aid him in spread of Buddhism in Bhutan from the lake sometimes in 15th century.

Tertoen Pema Lingpa is one of the Bhutanese treasure revealers born in 1450. He discovered numerous treasures out of this lake with a butter lamp still burning. This lake then became Mebar Tsho, the Burning Lake. Treasures he discovered from the burning lake are now main treasures of Jakar Dzong, Paro Dongkola temple and Yakgang Lhakhang of Mongar.

However, some Bhutanese historians claim that the name of this lake as ‘Mebartsho’ is a derivative of the name of Tertoen Sherab Mebar. He also discovered treasures from the lake just like Tertoen Pema did after 2 centuries.

scary lake of Bhutan
Mebartsho yet looks deep. Cannot think of getting out safely if fallen accidently.

They argue should the name of this lake was from the life event of Tertoen Pema Lingpa, it would be either ‘Terma Tsho’ or ‘Pema Tsho’. Therefore, this still remains as an arguable topic of Bhutan history.

Tertoen Pema Lingpa and the Mebar Tsho

Tertoen Pema Lingpa was one of the reincarnates of Guru Padmasambhava. He was prophesized to discover the hidden treasures of Guru. He was then to contribute in the spread of Buddhism.

One day Tertoen Pema had a vision of treasures of Guru Padmasambhava being hidden in the pond of present Mebartsho. When he shared the interpretation of the vision, the local chieftain and people of Tang Valley didn’t believe his claims.

risky cliff at membar tsho
Tourist contemplates over the depth of the lake from a cliff.

When he told that he will prove that his vision and he is a true emanation of Guru Padmasambhava, people gathered near this pond. He said his prayers and then with a lit butter lamp on his hand, he jumped into that deep pond.

Pilgrims at Mebartsho
Bhutanese pilgrims at Mebartsho

He came out of the pond after a while holding a chest and a scroll of Buddhist scriptures with butter lamp still burning. The name of the lake as Mebar tsho Burning Lake got after this instance. The crowd was amazed. His popularity went far and wide.

On reading the message from the treasure box, people came to know the map of treasures hidden in other places across Bhutan and even in Tibet.

Burning lake bridge
The traditional wooden cantilever bridge is beautiful.

Atheists of Bumthang then gradually became the followers of Tertoen Pema Lingpa. He continued his journey of discovering more treasures of Guru Padmasambhava and teaching Buddhism.

Reasons to visit Mebartsho or Burning Lake

Bumthang is a paradise for the followers of Guru Padmasambhava and believers of his teachings. Bumthang has many religious places or sites that directly relate to some life events of him and his reincarnations.

Walking trail of mebar tsho
Trail leading to the lake with concrete railings.

Mebartsho or Burning Lake is one of such sites in Bumthang that is related to life of Guru Padmasambhava and his emanate disciple Tertoen Pema Lingpa.

Bhutanese visit Mebartsho or Burning Lake of Bumthang to offer prayers or butter lamps and hoist prayer flags in dedication to well-being of all sentient beings. It’s one of the popular sacred pilgrimage sites for Bhutanese in Bumthang.

weathered rocks of mebartsho
The rocks side to burning lake even seem to have weathered so much.

However, tourists visit Mebartsho or Burning Lake out of curiosity. Some tourists end up on recommendation of their travel agent or tour guide. Some visit to experience spectacular surroundings of this lake as they have seen its images over internet. It still stands as one of the most recommended Bumthang points of interest for tourists.

Best Time to visit Mebartsho or Burning Lake

There is no official opening and closing timings for this lake unlike in the case of many tourist attractions in Bhutan. Indeed anyone can go there anytime.

When a French Tourist and his guide died drowning in this lake recently, the safety of Mebartsho visitors has become the major attention-seeking area of Bumthang District. Now there are concrete railings along the way for safe travel.

Bhutanese place stones on the pile for every visit.

However, visitors need to be careful especially during monsoon season. The trail is through clay soil that becomes muddy and slippery with rainfall. You also must be careful while observing the lake or taking photos walking along its adjacent rocks or cliffs.

Stream of Bumthang mebar tsho
Chamkhar Chhu (River) flows faster after crossing Mebartsho.

Tourism Council of Bhutan actually advises all tourists traveling there to taking Bhutanese guides. Otherwise, a single slip would cost life like that of French Tourist. Moreover, nobody knows its depth. However, when Bumthang weather is favourable, it’s a good tourist place of Bumthang.

Some Safety Tips for ‘Burning Lake’ visitors

I am not a professional travel guide or expert in this field. However, I feel some safety measures I know or learnt might be helpful for tourists visiting Mebartsho, the ‘Burning Lake’ of Bumthang.

  • It’s much safer to visit the Burning Lake in winter than in summer.
  • Be careful of muddy trails & slippery rocks if you visit it in summer.
  • Don’t wear shoes or any other footwear having hard soles.
  • Don’t stand & stare to swirling water for long. You’ll feel giddy & lose balance.
  • Don’t visit the Burning Lake alone without friend or without a travel guide.
  • Be cautious of your footings while taking its photos.
  • It’s safer to take its photos by actually sitting on rocks rather than standing.
  • Don’t ever try to go closer to the lake especially during summer.
  • If you’ve a height phobia, don’t get on a rock to observe the lake.
  • It’s safer to observe the lake in the posture of baby-crawl.
  • If you are visiting it during winter, wear some warm woolen clothes.

I feel that the French tourist who lost his life falling off a rock and drowning in the lake could have avoided the accident had he just used some of the above safety measures.

beauty of mebartsho
Safe manner to watch mebartsho (Burning Lake).

In addition Mebartsho is sacred pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese as much as it’s close to the heart of every person of Bumthang District. Smoking in such place would be an act of complete sacrilege. Therefore, refrain from smoking at Mebartsho or in its vicinity.

In conclusion, Mebartsho or the ‘Burning Lake’ of Bumthang Bhutan may not look like a lake. But it offers its own share of natural beauty and historical mysteries that are worth experiencing and exploring. It’s one of the good Bumthang Sightseeing places of Bumthang.

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About Author

He is a Bhutanese currently residing in Singapore. He is a passionate traveller, blogger and photographer. DrukTrails is basically a small world of his passions. You can find rants of his experiences of traveling various destinations.


  1. Bhutan looks like a heaven on earth. And now Burning Lake is in my list of places to be visited. I will be visiting Bhutan before this year ends.

  2. Thanks Jelina Roy for your love to Bhutan. I cannot say Bhutan is like a heaven or so. It would be better if you can come yourself to personally experience it. Of course many things of Bhutan are indeed unique. Hope to see you soon in Bhutan!

  3. Tertoen Pema Lingpa was one of the reincarnates of Guru Padmasambhava?

    Wasn’t he the reincarnation of Pemasel, daughter of King Trisong Detsen?
    And Longchen Rabjampa was his former reincarnation?

  4. Hi Detlev,

    In oral traditions of Bhutan Pema Lingpa is considered as one of the bodily reincarnates of Guru who was divinely blessed by himself in spreading Nyingmapa teachings. I cannot say yours is incorrect either, as it might be again from some other oral traditions.


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