7 Least Explored Paths In Eastern Bhutan

7 Least Explored Paths In Eastern Bhutan

Eastern Bhutan is perhaps the most mysterious part of the kingdom. It is not as visited by tourists and travelers because of the distance from the International Airport found in Western Bhutan, but Eastern Bhutan is idyllic for the adventurer and trekker at heart. The population wanes and what dominates the senses are thick conifer forests, deep cliffs and gorges, with unique villages found in areas with the highest elevation.

If you’ve visited the charming Tiger’s Nest Monastery, the rich modern culture in Thimphu, and the trading vibe in Punakha, you might want to wander into these districts, with the satisfaction of knowing that not many travelers have ventured here. If this isn’t off-the-beaten-path, what is?

1. East-West Junction in Trashigang

Trashigang town-Bhutan-2008-01-02
Source: Photo by user Christopher J. Fynn used under CC BY 3.0

Trashigang is one of the most rustic parts of Bhutan. Its commercial areas are not as developed, but what it lacks in amenities, it more than makes up in natural wonders, earning it the name “Jewel of the East.” Its elevation ranges from 600 meters to 4,000 meters above sea level, so pace yourself when acclimatizing. Other than being the main area of cross-country barter between countries like India and Tibet, the East-West Junction is also one of the principal markets of the Brokpas, a semi-nomadic group whose origin is still being debated. They can easily be spotted because of their unique mode of dressing. The surrounding valley where they live is said to be inhabited by yeti.

Lingkhar Lodge

Address: Lingkhar, Trashigang, Bhutan

Price: from 3,960 BTN or 60 USD

Contact: +975 77116767 / +975 77116768 / +975 17116766

Book Now

2. The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill

Tashigang Dzong 111120
Source: Photo by user Christopher J. Fynn used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Also known as Trashigang Dzong, the Fortress of the Auspicious Hill overlooks the Dangmechu River, the longest river in Bhutan. At one time, the fortress was the center of power of all of Bhutan’s Eastern Region. Inside the courtyard, there is a painting of the yeti, said to roam this area, as well as Choegi Gyelpo, the god of death. Their three-day Tsceshu or festival held sometime at the end of every year is dedicated to Gyelpo or Yama in order to appease him.

Trashigang Dzong Tour

Address: Samdrupjongkhar-Trashigang Hwy, Trashigang, Bhutan

Price: from 250 USD

Contact: +975-2-323270, 322965

Website: Trashigang Dzong Tour

3. Trashiyangtse

Tashi Yangtse Dzong
Source: Photo by user Christopher J. Fynn used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Trashiyangtse is made up of 1,500 sq km of forest land, the majority of which belongs to the Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. Trashiyangtse is home to Bhutan’s national butterfly (yes, you read that right), Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory, considered as the holy grail for many butterfly enthusiasts, and is found in this region of Bhutan. The Wildlife Sanctuary is also home to other animals such as the red panda, barking deer, Himalayan black bears, and several big cats like leopards and tigers.

Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary

Address: Trashiyangtse, Eastern Bhutan

Price: from 250 USD

Contact: +975 77617874 / +975 17617874

Website: Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary

4. Mongar

View of Mongar town
Source: Photo by user Christopher J. Fynn used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Mongar offers some of the most outstanding sights in Bhutan. As you make your way to the town proper, you will be greeted by deep gorges and cliffs, as well as thick fir forests. In Mongar, you’ll find the ethereal Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden. Rhododendron is a flowery woody plant that usually signals spring as it blooms from late winter to early summer. It also happens to be the national flower of Nepal. At the garden, you will see over 1,000 species and varieties of rhododendrons, collected from all over the world.

Apart from offering flora and fauna, Mongar is also home of some of Bhutan’s most prominent religious sites such as Dramitse Lhakhang, Aja Ney, and Yagang Lakang. Dramitse Lhakhang is where the “Dance of the Drums of Dramatise” originated, a dance that is protected by UNESCO and is performed in major Bhutanese festivals all over the kingdom. Dramatise Lhakhang was founded by the daughter of renowned “treasure seeker” Terton Pema Lingpa, and Yagang Lhakhang was founded by his youngest son.

Rhododendron Tour

Address: Rhododendron Botanical Garden

Price: from 250 USD

Contact: +975 2335423

Website: Rhododendron Tour

5. Lhuntse

Khochung Lhakhang, Lhuntse, Bhutan
Source: Photo by user Christopher J. Fynn used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you really want to go off the beaten path, Lhuntse is three hours away from Mongar, and is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. This area is covered by three national parks: Thrumshingla, Wangchuk Centennial, and Bumdeling Wildlife National Park. There are very few developed roads and only one gas station. While it is isolated, it holds an administrative significance as the ancestral homeland of Bhutan’s royal family. Because of the elevation and isolation, the people of Lhuntse are known to be heavy ara drinkers, a type of alcohol made from fermented rice. Must-visits in Lhuntse are Lhuntse Dzong, the administrative and religious center, Kilung Lhakhang, and the Jangchubling Monastery.

Lhuntse Dzong

Address: Lhuntse, Eastern Bhutan

Price: Free

Contact: +975 2323251

Website: Lhuntse Dzong

6. Khoma Village

Source: Photo by user Cfynn used under CC BY-SA 3.0

There are no paved roads going to Khoma Village. It is a two-hour walk from Lhuntse Dzong. But if you are really into culture and textiles, Khoma Village is a worthy endeavour. Some of the most talented Bhutanese weavers are found here, weaving the distinct pattern called Kishuthara, the most complicated patterns, which takes about six months to finish. The Khoma people have made weaving their main livelihood with most women introduced to the loom as early as eight years old. Kishuthara is considered a status symbol as it is quite expensive to acquire, and is usually applied on women’s kira or dresses, retailing at 30,000 BTN or 450.00 USD.

Khoma Village Tour

Address: Lhuntse, Bhutan

Price: from 250 USD

Access: 2 ½ hours from Kurichu

Contact: +975 5252704

Website: Khoma Village Tour

7. Samdrup Jongkhar

Samdrup Jonkhar - Gebetsmühle im Zentrum 02
Source: Photo by user Franzfoto used under CC BY-SA 3.0

This is the oldest town in Bhutan, and it is an intercultural mix of Indian, Tibetan, and Bhutanese lifestyles. It shares a border with Assam, India. Since cross-border trade is the main livelihood, Samdrup Jongkhar is a little more developed as a town and was where the British used to hold their forces during the occupation. Unlike other areas, Samdrup Jongkhar is found on flat land along with its administrative center, the Samdrup Jongkhar Dzhong, and its Dratshang. Make sure to also visit the Zangdopelri, a collection of statues in the middle of town that serves as the religious center of Buddhist faith in Samdrup Jongkhar.

Hotel Mountain

Address: Upper Market, Sandrup Jongkhar, Bhutan

Price: from 15 USD

Contact: +975 5252704

Book Now

Have the heart of a trekker

It must be said that due to the isolation and elevation of Eastern Bhutan, one must be physically fit to visit. Needless to say, some of the places require a two or three-hour trek by foot, or else you won’t be able to see much. There aren’t a lot of hotels in this area so your guides will probably recommend a homestay, or camping out underneath a blanket of stars, which, without any light pollution, seem just a little bit brighter here.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Johanna Michelle Lim is a brand strategist, creative director, and travel writer based in Cebu City, Philippines. She swims in jellyfish-infested oceans, treks through mountains, rides rickety...Read more

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