Eastern Bhutan is one of the least explored regions of the kingdom and offers one of most authentic experiences for adventure-oriented tourists. The entire region is awash in unspoiled natural beauty, towering cliffs and pristine forests with great variations in altitude and climatic conditions.
In addition to the regular Buddhist festivals, travellers to Eastern Bhutan will be able to experience some of the country’s most ancient spiritual practices while observing Animistic and Bon religious rituals.
The lush, breathtaking environments of the eastern region make it a perfect location for day hikes or longer treks. Accommodations in this rural area are a bit more Spartan than other parts of country but with the option to either camp out beneath an ocean of stars or experience the unbridled warmth and hospitality of the locals during a homestay you’ll never miss the comforts of your hotel room.
The Eastern circuit includes the districts of Mongar, Lhuntse, Tashi Yangtse, Tashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar.
Places To Visit
After crossing the highest pass in Bhutan, Thrumshingla, the drive descends from high altitude pine forest to lush pastures, cascading waterfalls, steep cliffs and the roadside is adorned with wild flowers. The winding road leads to the riverside town Lingmithang before the climb towards the town of Mongar. The small town of Mongar is the only centre for business for the people living in this area. The Mongar Dzong which looks very tiny and modern compared to the other Dzongs of Bhutan serves as the office of the District Administrator, the Dzongdag, and also houses the monks and temples.
While traveling from Bumthang to Mongar, you can take a different road north to Lhuentse district from Gongola before arriving Mongar. It is about 6 hours from Bumthang and 3 hours from Mongar. Lhuntshi is famous for its intricate and colorful weavings. Formerly known as Kurtoe, the region is ancestral home of Bhutan ‘s royal family. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs, gorges and dense coniferous forests.
Driving from Mongar to Trashigang you take the left fork to Trashiyangtse before crossing Chazam (Bailey bridge) to Trashigang. The road traverses north and takes about 2 hours to reach Trashiyangtse. Trashiyangtse is a fairly new district, recently separated from Trashigang. 24 Km from Chazam is Gomkora a popular pilgrim site where Guru Rinpoche had meditated and subdued the demon that dwelled in the vicinity. This is also the venue for Gomkora Festival held in early spring.
Trashiyangtse Dzong is half-hour walk from the main road. Established in 1656, the Dzong was completely renovated in 1976. The town has blossomed around the famous Chorten Kora. This region is known for its specialty in making of various kinds of wooden utensils.
Chorten Kora, a large stupa designed similar to Nepals Boudhanath stupa, this large white stupa was constructed in 1740 by Lama Nawang Lodey. During the second month of Lunar calendar that is March or April the Trashiyangtse valley celebrate the Chorten Kora festival attracting crowds from neighbouring districts as well as form the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
North-West to Trashiyangtse is the Bomdeling valley, winter home to the black-necked cranes. The broad valley of Bomdeling is another bird sanctuary preserved as habitat for migrant birds specially the endangered black-necked crane.The visitor centre at the Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary headquarters has excellent displays and information panels on the biodiversity of Bhutan and of the area.
In the far east of Bhutan, high above the bank of the Gamri River, lies the largest urban center of eastern Bhutan. This is the largest district of Bhutan and had once served as the center of a busy trade with Tibet. It is the market place for all the 6 districts of eastern Bhutan. Here you may meet people from Merak & Sakten who stroll the town in their unique yak hair hats and costumes quite different from most Bhutanese. Places you can visit are Trashigang Dzong, a 17th century fortress standing at the extreme end of the spur, overhanging the Gamri River. If you are interested in rural life and textiles, there are several villages where you can make day excursions.
The exit from the east towards the Indian border is through Samdrup Jongkhar. It is a modern town, about 170 Kms away from Trashigang. This town is the shopping center for the people from the east and the trade link with India. It is possible to drive from Samdrup Jongkhar to Phuentsholing in the west via the Indian territories of Assam and West Bengal. There are not many places to see in Samdrup Jongkhar except for the scenic drive and the few places while driving from Trashigang. The primary reason for driving to Samdrup Jongkhar would be to reach the nearest airport at Guwahati in the Indian State of Assam, from where you can fly to Calcutta, New Delhi and other major Indian cities.
En route from Trashigang you will stop at the Zangdo Pelri temple in Kanglung near Sherubtse College the first university in Bhutan, Khaling Blind School for the visually impaired, Khaling Weaving Center before descending to Samdrup Jongkhar near the Indian plains.