Antique Expedition in Bhutan

Eastern Bhutan

Eastern Bhutan welcomes travelers into a world of unexplored trekking, historical and cultural escapades, great scenery, textiles highlights and natural wonders. The districts of Mongar, Lhuntse, Tashi Yangtse, Tashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar include the eastern circuits. Of culture we offer you lots of spiritual festivals that include some of the rare animist rituals and Bon practices. Explore the hub of the country’s unexplored destination. For the first few years, this unique destination is offered to adventure spirited tourists. Only those who like to experience the Spartan accommodation and tented or farmhouse stays, will enjoy these least visited regions.

Here are some of the Attractions and Festivals in Eastern Bhutan

  • Trashigang

    Trashigang: The Jewel of the East.

    Trashigang spans the easternmost corners of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, and is the country’s largest district. The district has an altitude ranging from 600 m to over 4000m and Bhutan’s largest river, the Dangmechu, flows through the district. Trashigang town, on the hillside was once the center for a brisk trade with Tibet.

    Today it is the junction of the east-west highway, with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and then into the Indian state of Assam. Trashigang town is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose way of dress is unique in Bhutan.

    Trashigang Dzong:

    Built in 1659, atop a spur overlooking the Dangmechu river, Trashigang dzong or the fortress of the auspicious hill has been the political stronghold of eastern Bhutan for over 300 years. The Landscape on which the Dzong stands is not only picturesque but arouses curiosity. The hillock like Mount Meru is the site of the palace of the Druk Chhoglay Namgyal (victory of Bhutanese Over enemies in all directions). It is accessible only from the north, through a slender road, paved by blasting the cliff. Due to its location Trashigang Dzong is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan. The present Dzong was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola, in 1936.

    Chador Lhakhang:

    An hour and a half drive away from Trashigang through a feeder road will take you to the village of Bartsham. One can visit the Goemba Ringbu or the popularly known Chador Lhakhang that is known for fascinating tales revolving around its famous thumbsize replica of Chador, Vajrapani.

    Bremung Lhakhang:

    A ten minutes drive from Bartsham will take you to the village of Bidung where you can visit the most venerated temple in Trashigang, the Bremung lhakhang. It dates back to the 15th century and a sacred relic is the embalmed remains of its founder Kuenga Wangpo, son of Terton Pema Lingpa.

    Kupijigtsam Lhakhang:

    On the other side of the valley across Dangmechu, is the village of Yangneer where one can visit the Kupijigtsam lhakhang or the temple of the cuckoo. Built in the 15th century, this lhakhang is another sacred monument in Trashigang. Besides one can visit the Tsengmi lhakhang in Gongthung village and the Jarung Khashor temple.

    Kanglung Zangdopelri:

    A 22 kilometres drive on the highway that connects Trashigang with Samdru Jongkhar will take you to Kanglung where one can visit the Zangdopelri lhakhang. Built in the early 1970’s at the initiative of the late Tamzhing Jagar, the Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs, the lhakhang houses some of the most intricately designed statues besides a Shedra, a monastic school headed by a Khenpo.

    Sherubtse College:

    In Kanglung, besides the Zangdopelri, another place of visit is to Sherubtse College or the Peak of Learning. Founded in the late 1960’s as a Higher Secondary School, Sherubtse College was until recently the only Institute of Higher Learning in the Country. It was run by the Jesuits from Canada and Late Father William Mackey was its first Principal. The College has been instrumental in providing the much needed human resource for the country as much of the Graduates were employed by various Ministries, Corporations and Organziations.

    Yonphu Lhakhang:

    Further up the road from Sherubtse College is located the oldest temple in Trashigang – the Yonphu Lhakhang whose establishment cannot be ascertained. It houses several sacred relics and a Tercham that is conducted twice in a year commemorates the feats of religious luminaries like Guru Padmasambhava.

    Rangjung Lhakhang:

    Further east from Trashigang, driving north will take you to another commercial hub in Trashigang, the Rangjung town. This once sleepy town is today a major commercial center where people from five gewogs congregate and carry out brisk businesses. Besides the town one can visit the Rangjung temple located on a small hillock overlooking the town. The temple built in the architectural style of the Tibetans has a monastic school supported by HH Garab Rinpoche.

    Radhi village:

    Above the Rangjung town is the famous Radhi village known as the Rice Bowl of the East. A drive through the terraced rice fields is an unusual experience and one can visit the traditional farm houses and peep into women folks strapped to the traditional looms. Radhi women are experts in weaving and are known for the silk textiles that has found their way into many handicraft shops in the capital town of Thimphu.

    Namdru Choling lhakhang:

    An hour’s drive from the Rangjung town will take you to Phongmey a quiet but a quaint village through the rice fields. At the end of the road is the Namdu Choling lhakhang widely known as the Phongmey lhakhang. Built in the late 1890’s this lhakhang serves the spiritual needs of the village. Opposite the lhakhang across the Gamri Chu river is the abode of the local deity Meme Ralang where one can see hermitages on its top.

  • Mongar

    Mongar: The Bastion of the Zhongarps

    Mongar, one of the six districts that make up eastern Bhutan borders Bumthang, Lhuentse, Pema Gatshel and Trashigang. The district covers an area of 1,954 sq.kms with elevations ranging from 400m to 4,000m and has a population of about 38,000. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs an gorges and dense conifer forests. The region is known for weavers and textiles and fabrics considered one of the best in the country.

    It was known in the past as the bastion of the Zhongarps for it produced some of the finest administrators in the country whose descendants still continues to lay an active part in the political scene of Bhutan.

    Mongar Dzong:

    Although built in the 1930s and one of Bhutan’s newest dzongs, it is constructed in the same way as all earlier dzongs, without plans or nails. However unlike the earlier Dzongs, that are located in strategic positions, Mongar Dzong is located on a small gentle slopy area just above the town. A visit to Mongar Dzong shows one how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.

    Zhongar Dzong:

    The ruin of Zhongar Dzong endures to this day as a testimony to the skill of its builders, most notably the renowned master craftsman, Zowo Balip. It is located on a hilltop overlooking the village of Themnangbi and is visible as one descends to Lingmenthang from the highway. Built in the 17th century, the Dzong is believed to have been built at a site where the master architect Zow Balip saw a white bowl. Embedded inside is a life frozen in time, a wealth of history that can be still recounted orally by those who also heard it from their grandparents. A visit to the ruins can be a memorable experience and will give you a sense of the medieval Bhutanese administration.

    Dramitse Lhakhang:

    One of the most notable religious sites is the Dramitse Lhakhang built in the 16th century by Ani Cheten Zangmo, the daughter of the renowned terton Pema Lingpa. The Dramitse Ngacham or the “Dance of the Drums of Dramitse,” was born in this lhakhang in the 16th century. Today, it is a popular dance performed at all major festivals. It is also on the esteemed UNESCO World Heritage list.

    Aja Ney:

    Another sacred site in the district is the renowned Aja Ney where pilgrims from all other parts of Bhutan converge to receive blessings and wash away their sins. A rock that bears 100 renditions of the sacred syllable “Aa,” is said to have been discovered by Guru Padmasambhava. It is located at an altitude of more than 3,500 meters and falls under Ngatsang geog. It is approximately a two days trek from Serzhong village.

    Yagang Lhakhang:

    The Yagang lhakhang in a small village next to the town is another sacred monument in the Dzongkhag. It was built in the 16th century by Sangdag, the youngest son of Terton Pema Lingpa. It was built after having built the Kupijigtsam Lhakhang in Yangneer village in Trashigang. Today, the lhakhang plays an important role in the religious life of the people.

    Jarung Khashor Choeten:

    The Jarung Khashor Choeten in Lingmethang next to the bridge over the Kurichu river is another monument in the district that is worth paying a visit. The Choeten is modelled after the Jarung Khashor Choeten in Nepal.

  • Lhuentse

    Lhuentse: The Ancestral Home of the Kings

    In the north-eastern corner of Bhutan lies the ancient region of Kurtoe or Lhuentse as it is known today. It is the ancestral home of our Kings and boasts some sacred sites of pilgrimage in the country. It is located 77km from Mongar (3 hours’ drive) and is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular, with stark cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is famous for its weavers, and their distinctive textiles are generally considered to be the best in the country. Kishuthara is one textile that the Kurtoep women are deft in weaving.

    Lhuentse Dzong:

    Popularly known as Lhundub Rinchentse, the Dzong was built in 1654 by the Trongsa Penlop Chogyal Minjur Tempa at a site where once stood a small temple built by Nagi Wangchuk in 1552. Built on a hill overlooking the Kurichu, the dzong is today the administrative and the religious centre of the district. The Dzong houses many sacred artifacts that was installed by the 4th Druk Desid Tenzin Rabgay.

    Kilung Lhakhang:

    A twenty minutes drive from the Dzong on the route towards Kurtoe Dungkhar will take you to the small village of Kilung inhabited by the Tshanglas who migrated during the late 1880’s and settled there. In the village one will come across the Kilung Lhakhang situated on a ridge overlooking the Kurichu river built on the former site of the Kilung Gyalpo, a regional chieftain. It houses the sacred chain mall once used to recapture a statue that miraculously flew away from the Lhuentse Dzong.

    Jangchubling monastery:

    This is another monastery worth paying a visit. It was founded in the 18th century by Pekar Gyatso and till recently was under the patronage of the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorji. The daughter of 1st King, Ashi Wangmo lived here at the monastery as a nun. The monastery is well connected by a feeder road.

    Dungkar Nagtshang:

    Among the noble lineages to emerge from Kurtoe, the house of Dungkar was home to the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal, progenitor of the Wangchuck dynasty. Dungkar Naktshang the ancient home of the Dungkar Chojie and the ancestral domicile of the Wangchuck Dynasty, stands tall amid the scenic backdrop of towering mountains overlooking the tiny Dungkar village below. It is a 40km rough road from Lhuentse leading up to the Dungkar Lhakhang. The Dungkar expedition will surely be a voyage into Bhutan’s past.

    Gangzur village:

    At a distance of two kilometers from the Dzong is situated the Gangzur village that is most popular for pottery. The women folk from the village are skilled artisans and adept in the art of pottery. A dying art, the Government has now tried to revive it through financial support. You can witness the women folk displaying their skills.

    Khoma village:

    A walk to this village will truly be a pleasant trip. Situated about two hours walk from the Dzong through gentle slopes amongst pine trees, this village is known throughout the country for its woven textile, the Kishuthara. A culture that has evolved over the years is a row of women in a makeshift textile cottage, weaving intricate designs and patterns. Picking up a Kishuthara will be much cheaper than buying one from the handicraft shops in the capital.

    Singye Dzong:

    The famed Singye Dzong, one of the most important sites of pilgrimage in Bhutan is a three days uphill walk from Lhuentse Dzong. It is located at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, the Precious Tantric Master once meditated here. Singye dzong is the main sacred place where Guru Rinpoche meditated. A journey to Singye dzong will be a rewarding experience.