Map of Bhutan and Location

Bhutan Map

Getting to Bhutan

The best way to enter Bhutan is by Druk Air, the national flag carrier. Following stations are connected with Druk Air flight:

COUNTRY STATION
India Delhi, Calcutta
Nepal Kathmandu
Thailand Bangkok
Bangladesh Dhaka

Druk Air is the only airline operating to/from Bhutan.

Entry and exit to and from Bhutan by land is also possible through Phuntsholing, the southern Bhutanese border town with India. Bagdogra in West Bengal is the nearest airport approximately 4 hours drive. For travelers wishing to visit Indian state of Sikkim, West Bengal (Darjeeling, Kalimpong) along with Bhutan, Phuntsholing serves as the convenient point.

Exit from Bhutan can be made through Samdrup Jongkhar also. This frontier Bhutanese town is approximately 3 hours drive from Guwahati, the capital town of Indian northeastern state of Assam. Samdrup Jongkhar is the authorize exit point only and an important link for visiting further Indian northeastern states.

As per our government's rule, it is mandatory to travel at least one way by Druk Air. It can be either entry or exit or both.

Druk Air Flights and Schedules

Route MapBhutan is well connected with the modern world through the Drukair (Royal Bhutan Airlines), equipped with the two new Airbuses A319-114 There are daily flights to and from Bangkok via Calcutta and Gaya (India) and Dhaka (Bangladesh), four flights a week from New Delhi (India) via Katmandu (Nepal). The Drukair flight schedule changes every after six months (winter schedule and summer schedule). You can contact us or see for yourself the latest flight schedule to make your international connection for entry and exit from Bhutan. Ask us to book your tickets in advance for the limited number of seats.

 

Druk Air Flight Schedule

Visa Application

A visa is required for traveling to Bhutan and it is processed and arranged by us. No foreign mission grants tourist visa.

Please fill up the Visa Application Form after downloading and forward it to us atleast three weeks prior to date of travel, for processing visa with the concerned authorities.

Download Visa Application Form

In addition, four copies of original passport size photographs should be mailed to us along with these information. Actual visa is stamped on arrival in Bhutan while visa is cleared in advance and a visa clearance number issued.

For all travelers, entering Bhutan by Druk Air, the visa clearance number is forwarded to concerned overseas Druk Air stations and without the Clearance Number; passengers are not allowed to board the flight. Visa Clearance Number is also required while issuing Druk Air tickets.

For all travelers, entering into the country by surface through Phuntsholing (the border town south of Bhutan), the visa is stamped on arrival and Clearance Number is forwarded to Foreign Ministry's office for references and record.

Visa fee is US$ 20.00 per person for 14 days visa, which can be further extended with additional fee of US$ 15.00. Visa fee is payable on arrival in cash.

For FITs/GITs travelling during festivals, visa particulars must be sent to us at least 6 weeks prior to your date of travel as festivals are peak time for tourists and all tour formalities are required to be completed well in advance.

Custom Regulations

The Bhutanese authorities strictly prohibit the export of any religious Antiquity or antiques of any type. All personal electronics, Cameras, Video Cameras, Computers and personal electronic equipment may be brought into the country but they must be listed on the customs form provided on arrival at Paro and will be checked on departure. Two liters of Alcohol and reasonable quantity of cigarettes may be brought in to the country without duty.

Climate

The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general, the east of Bhutan is warmer than the west of the country. The central valley of Punakha, Wangdiphodrang, Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuntse enjoy a semi tropical climate with very cool winters, while Thimphu, Trongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate, with heavy monsoon rains in the summer and heavy snow fall in winter. Winter in Bhutan starts from mid-November till mid-March, and at this time of the year the climate is dry with day time temperature of 16-18° C and night time temperature falling below zero. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with the rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. Autumn starts from the end of September, after the last of the big rains, and it is a magnificent season for trekking-lasting till mid-November.

Annual Average Temperatures of different places are as follows:

Place Jan/Feb Mar/Apr May/June July/Aug Sep/Oct Nov/Dec
Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min
Paro +13 +3 +15 +3 +23 +13 +25 +15 +22 +10 +12 +3
Thimphu +14 0 +16 +6 +22 +14 +27 +17 +20 +13 +16 +1
Punakha +18 +7 +24 +9 +22 +10 +26 +13 +25 +11 +22 +9
Wangdi +17 +7 +24 +11 +28 +18 +29 +20 +26 +17 +22 +7
Trongsa +12 +1 +16 +2 +20 +14 +18 +14 +17 +13 +16 +9
Bumthang +10 +1 +16 +5 +18 +10 +21 +13 +19 +11 +15 +2
Mongar +23 +10 +27 +11 +30 +20 +35 +22 +30 +18 +25 +8
Trashigang +16 +4 +19 +7 +20 +13 +22 +14 +20 +11 +16 +9

The temperature listed above are all in degree centigrade.

Clothing

Due to wide range of temperature and climatic conditions, it is advisable to bring appropriate clothing. From May to September normal traveling cloths plus a light woolen sweater or a light jacket and a light walking boots are sufficient. From November to end of April on the other hand, you will need very warm cloths including underwear or woolen tights to wear under trousers, thick socks, strong boots and down jacket.

You will be offending people if you walk around in skimpy or tight fitting clothes. Although there are normally opportunities to wear skirts or loose trousers, men should not wear singlets. During visit of monasteries, Dzongs and other religious sites, you should not wear shorts and hats.

The following is a fairly exhaustive list of what you should pack for the trip:
Clothes as per season, sunglasses/spare glasses or contact lenses, pair of casual shoes, washing kit, shaving kit, towel, hat umbrella, camera, film and accessories, maps, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, sun screen cream, lip salve or soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, preparation for the relief of sunburn. You may not be tuned to the Asian drugs so it is always better to bring own brand.

Food and Drinks

Bhutanese food is a tantalizing blend of hot Himalayan flavours. Northern Indian cuisine mixes with the chillies of the Tibetan plateau and traditional recipes from Bhutan's villages to create sizzling and memorable tastes. Chanterelle mushrooms, apricots, asparagus, a wide variety of chillis and a host of spices grow in abundance in Bhutan's valleys.

These spices, fruits and vegetables are prepared with beef, chicken, pork, and dried yak or with each other to make dishes that resemble elements of both Chinese and Indian cuisine. Bhutanese dishes are traditionally served with ample portions of indigenous red rice. The food prepared for tourists is tempered to western taste. The tourism authority imported the knowledge of selected European hotel experts to improve the quality of food and beverage.

Postal and Communication

The Bhutanese postal system is reliable, you can send mails from hotels and post offices and no special procedures are necessary. If you mail cards or letters from the Thimphu post office, you can buy exotic Bhutan postage stamps from the philatelic bureau and use them on your letters and postcards. Bhutan Post offers outgoing EMS [expedited mail service], which is a reliable and fast international mail delivery facility that is cheaper than courier services. It also has a LUM [local urgent mail] service for delivery within Bhutan. DHL is the only international courier to operate from Bhutan.

Most of the country’s major towns have both domestic and international direct dial facilities. Nearly all hotels and some PCOs have facilities to send and receive faxes. Bhutan has its own Internet and email services.

Distance and Driving

All mode of transport within Bhutan is by motor vehicle as there is no domestic airline or trains. However, motor roads are well maintained and link all parts of the country. The mountainous terrain and winding roads restrict the average driving speed of vehicle to less than 35 kilometers per hour.

FROM TO DISTANCE (KM) DRIVING TIME (APPROX)
Thimphu Paro 54 2 hrs.
Thimphu Phuntsholing 172 6 hrs.
Thimphu Wangdue Phodrang 70 3 hrs.
Thimphu Punakha 76 3 hrs.
Punakha Wangdue Phodrang 17 40 Mins.
Wangdue Phodrang Trongsa 129 5 hrs.
Trongsa Bumthang 68 3 hrs.
Bumthang Mongar 198 7 hrs.
Mongar Lhuntshi 76 3 hrs.
Mongar Trashigang 91 3 hrs.
Trashigang Chorten Kora 52 2 hrs.
Trashigang Samdrup Jongkhar 180 7 hrs.
Samdrup Jongkhar Guwahati (India) 110 3 hrs.
Samdrup Jongkhar Phuentsholing 380 10 hrs.
Phuntsholing Bagdogara 170 4 hrs.

Tourist Place

Not all religious establishments are open for tourists but still tourists get a good insight into the Kingdom's unique cultural heritage. The closure of religious institutions is to ensure that monastic life can continue unhindered. Given below Dzongs, monasteries, festivals open for tourists.

Thimphu

  • Tashichhodzong (open in winter months when the monks are in Punakha)
  • Thimphu Tshechu (festival)
  • Memorial Chorten
  • Changlimethang Lhakhang

Paro

  • Paro Tshechu (festival)
  • Ta Dzong (National Museum)
  • Drukgyal Dzong
  • View of Taktsang Monastery from the cafeteria

Punakha

  • Punakha Dzong (open in summer months when the monks are in Thimphu)
  • Punakha Dromchen (festival)

Wangdue Phodrang

  • Wangdiphodrang Tshechu (festival)

Trongsa

  • Tongsa Tshechu (festival)
  • Chendbji Chorten (stupa)
  • Ta Dzong

Bumthang

  • Jakar Dzong
  • Member Tsho
  • Peling Sermon Chorten (stupa)
  • Ura New Lhakhang (temple)

Mongar

  • Mongar Dzong

Trashigang

  • Tashigang Tshechu (festival)
  • Zangtho Pelri Kanglung Lhakhang (temple)
  • Khaling Lhakhang (temple)
  • Radhi Lhakhang (temple)
  • Tashiyangtse Dzong

Phuntsholing

  • Kharbandi Gompa (monastery)
  • Kamji Gompa (monastery)

Samdrup Jongkhar

  • Zangtho Pelri Lhakahng (temple)

Special permission can be granted upon request to enter some of the religious institutions, Dzongs and monasteries.

Music and Dance

Bhutanese religious dances are called "CHAM" and there are a large number of them. Dancers wear spectacular costumes made of yellow silk or rich brocade often decorated with ornaments of carved bone. For certain dances, they wear masks, which may represent animals, fearsome deities, skulls, manifestation of Guru Rimpoche or just the simple human beings.

Religious dances can be grouped into three categories; INSTRUCTIVE OR DIDACTIC DANCES; which are dramas with a moral (Dances of the princes & princesses, the Dance of the stag and the hunting dogs, the Dance of the judgement of the dead), DANCES THAT PURIFY AND PROTECT A PLACE FROM DEMONIC SPIRITS (the dance of the master of the cremation grounds, the dance of the stags, the dance of the fearsome gods, the dance of the black hats, the dance of the Ging and the Tsholing) and DANCES THAT PROCLAIM THE VICTORY OF BUDDHISM AND THE GLORY OF GURU RIMPOCHE (all dances with drums, the dance of the heroes, the dance of the celestial beings, the dance of the eight manifestations of Guru Rimpoche).

Like the dances, religious music reflects a strong Tibetan influence. Music gives rhythm to the dances and religious ceremonies, and it punctuates the singing or recitation of the texts.

Festival Dates

S.N. FESTIVAL LOCATION YEAR 2014
01 PUNAKHA DRUBCHHEN Punakha Dzong, PUNAKHA 15th - 19th February
02 PUNAKHA TSHECHU Punakha Dzong, PUNAKHA 20th - 22nd February
03 CHHORTEN KORA Chorten Kora, TRASHI YANGTSE 25th February & 11th March
04 GOMPHUKORA Gom Kora Lhakhang, TRASHIGANG 20th - 22nd March
05 PARO TSHECHU Rinpung Dzong, PARO 23rd - 27th March
06 CHHUKHA TSHECHU Chhukha Dzong, CHHUKHA 25th - 27th March
07 URA YAKCHOE Ura Lhakhang, BUMTHANG 21st - 25th April
08 NIMALUNG TSHECHU Nimalung Dratshang, Chummi, BUMTHANG 16th - 18th June
09 KURJEY TSHECHU Kurjey Lhakhang, Choekhor, BUMTHANG 18th June
10 THIMPHU DRUBCHEN Tashichho Dzong, THIMPHU 9th - 13th September
11 WANGDUE TSHECHU Wangdi Dzong, WANGDUEPHODRANG 12th - 14th September
12 TAMSHING PHALA CHHOEPA Tamshing Lhakhang, Choekhor, BUMTHANG 13th - 15th September
13 THIMPHU TSHECHU Tashichho Dzong, THIMPHU 14th - 16th September
14 THANGBI MANI Tangbi Lhakhang, Choekor, BUMTHANG 18th - 20th September
15 JAMBAY LHAKHANG DRUP Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor, BUMTHANG 18th - 22nd October
16 PRAKHAR DUCHHOED Prakar Lhakhang, Chummi, BUMTHANG 19th - 21st October
17 CRANE FESTIVAL Pemagatshel Dzong, PEMAGATSHEL 11th November
18 MONGAR TSHECHU Pemagatshel Dzong, PEMAGATSHEL 9th - 12th November
19 PEMAGATSHEL TSHECHU Pemagatshel Dzong, PEMAGATSHEL 9th - 12th November
20 TRASHIGANG TSHECHU Trashigang Dzong, TRSASHIGANG 10th - 13th November
21 NALAKHAR TSHECHU Nga Lhakhang, Choekhor, BUMTHANG 17th - 19th November
22 TRONGSA TSHECHU Trongsa Dzong, TRONGSA 9th - 11th January 2014
23 LHUENTSE TSHECHU Lhuentse Dzong, LHUENTSE 9th - 11th January 2014

Source: Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO)

Bhutanese Calender

The Bhutanese calendar was adapted from Tibetan Astronomical traditions, which in turn were influenced by the Chinese and Indian calendars. The calendar is based on the lunar system. A year has 360 days, with some days omitted to make it correspond with the waxing and waning of the moon. An extra short month is added to the 12 months every third year to adjust it to the solar calendar.
The year begins with losar, which normally falls in the Gregorian calendar months of February with the rise of the new moon. The months (Dawa) do not have names, an are simply called first, second, third and so on. A week is divided into seven days (Za). Years are named by combining the 12 animals of the zodiac with the five elements of fire, earth, iron, water and wood to produce a 60-year cycle.

The complete list of 60 years is as follows:

Years in Bhutanese Sexagenary cycle

YEAR ELEMENT YEAR ELEMENT YEAR ELEMENT
1952 Water Dragon 1972 Water Mouse 1992 Water Monkey
1953 Water Serpent 1973 Water Ox 1993 Water Hen
1954 Wood Horse 1974 Wood Tiger 1994 Wood Dog
1955 Wood Sheep 1975 Wood Hare 1995 Wood Pig
1956 Fire Monkey 1976 Fire Dragon 1996 Fire Mouse
1957 Fire Hen 1977 Fire Serpent 1997 Fire Ox
1958 Earth Dog 1978 Earth Horse 1998 Earth Tiger
1959 Earth Pig 1979 Earth Sheep 1999 Earth Hare
1960 Iron Mouse 1980 Iron Monkey 2000 Iron Dragon
1961 Iron Ox 1981 Iron Hen 2001 Iron Serpent
1962 Water Tiger 1982 Water Dog 2002 Water Horse
1963 Water Hare 1983 Water Pig 2003 Water Sheep
1964 Wood Dragon 1984 Wood Mouse 2004 Wood Monkey
1965 Wood Serpent 1985 Wood Ox 2005 Wood Hen
1966 Fire Horse 1986 Fire Tiger 2006 Fire Dog
1967 Fire Sheep 1987 Fire Hare 2007 Fire Pig
1968 Earth Monkey 1988 Earth Dragon 2008 Earth Mouse
1969 Earth Hen 1989 Earth Serpent 2009 Earth Ox
1970 Iron Dog 1990 Iron Horse 2010 Iron Tiger
1971 Iron Pig 1991 Iron Sheep 2011 Iron Hare

Packages and their cost

International Tourist Tariff is set by the Royal Government of Bhutan and is valid for all-inclusive package. Please contact us for Tariff information. The minimum tariff for the tourists (International Tourists) visiting in a group of three persons or more is as follows:

Peak Season

Month: Janurary, Feburary, March, April, May, June, September, October, November & December)
Cultural Tours: US$ 250.00 per night per person
Trekking: US$ 250.00 per night per person


Off Season

Month: July & August
Cultural Tours: US$ 200.00 per night per person
Trekking: US$ 200.00 per night per person

Fit Surcharge

Single: US$ 40.00 per day
Group of 2: US$ 30.00 per day, per person
Three pax and above: No surcharge

The surcharge will not apply to representatives of foreign travel agents on business study or promotional visit duly approved and cleared by the TAB.

The above package tariff includes excellent services within Bhutan for all land transport (luxury coach, cars), horses and yaks for trekking within Bhutan, the best available hotels, meals (catered to personal orders and tastes), sightseeing, experienced and friendly guides.

Rates for children and students

  • Free for children up to 5 years of age.
  • 50% discount on children from 6 to 12 years year old (accompanied by the elders/guardians) normal rates for 12 years and above.
  • Full time students below the age of 25 years with valid ID cards from their institutes will be given 25% discount on daily tariff.

Not included in the package tariff are:

  • Flight ticket costs
  • Visa fees (US$ 20)
  • Airport tax (US$ 10)
  • Drinks
  • Personal expenses
  • Laundry and emergency evacuation
  • Agency commission

We pay 10% of the gross tour payment to the principal agents as commission, which is deductible at the source. This commission shall be calculated from the net amount after deducting the discounts mentioned above.

Reservation
For all cultural tours the booking must be completed at least 4 weeks in advance but for tours during festivals, 8 weeks advance confirmation required. Festivals held in autumn and spring are the peak time for the tourists and without early reservation it is difficult to confirm flights and hotels.

For trekking groups, it is important to do bookings at least 8 weeks in advance, as it requires plenty of planning. Bhutan Mystical Tours & Adventures will use its immense resources, built over years of experience and successful operation, to offer a choice of the finest trekking in the entire Himalayas.

Photography and Filming

The photography opportunities on a trip are immense. Photography is permitted nearly everywhere in Bhutan and the local population has no aversion to being photographed. If you wish to record the local population, their houses, shops etc, always ask by gestures if it is okay to do so. Photography inside the Dzongs and Monasteries are not permitted. Please follow your guide's instruction carefully while visiting Dzongs, monasteries and religious institution.

Of late, the Royal Government encourages the filming groups. Any commercial Filming must pay a royalty to obtain the permit from the Royal Government of Bhutan. We will assist you to get the permit.

Filming royalty: All proposals for filming are subjected to payment of a royalty at the following rates.

Duration of the final Edited version Amount in (US dollars)

S.No. Duration Royalty
1 First 30 minutes or part thereof 10,000.00
2 Next 30 minutes or part thereof 6,000.00
3 Every additional 30 minutes or part thereof 3,000.00

What to see

Although the interiors of some temples, monasteries and Dzongs [fortress] are forbidden to foreign travelers at present, the tourists can still get a good insight into the unique cultural heritage of the Kingdom. The closure of religious institutions is to ensure that monastic life can continue unhindered.

Western Bhutan

Paro Valley

The first thing you will notice as you disembark is the transparent purity of air and the absence of noise. The Paro valley has kept its bucolic nature inspite of the airport and the existence of development projects. Fields, brown or green depending on the season, cover most of the valley floor, while hamlets and isolated farms dot the countryside. The houses of Paro valley are considered to be among the most beautiful in the country. Paro is believed to be one of the first valleys to have received the imprint of Buddhism.

Places to visit in and around Paro

  • Kyichu Lhakhang [Lhakhang means Temple]
  • Taksang Monastery or Tiger's Nest [Taksang means Tiger]
  • Drugyel Dzong [Dzong means Fortress]
  • Dungtse Lhakhang
  • Ta Dzong [National Museum]
  • Paro Dzong

Thimphu

Thimphu lies in a wooded valley, sprawling up a hillside on the West Bank of the Thimphu Chhu [Chhu means River]. Thimphu is unlike any other world capital. Small and secluded the city is quiet and there are never the traffic jams familiar in other Asian Capitals. It is often said that Thimphu is the only world capital without traffic lights. Thimphu's main shopping street is a delight not so much for what you can buy there, but for the picturesqueness of the architecture and national costume. Beautiful weaves in wool, silk and cotton, basketwork, silver jewellery, thangkas and other traditional crafts of the Kingdom are available in various Handicraft Emporiums.

Places to visit in and around Thimphu

  • The Memorial Chorten [Chorten means Stupa]
  • Changlimithang [Battle Ground]
  • Weekly Market [Saturdays and Sundays]
  • Tashichoe Dzong [The biggest fortress in Bhutan]
  • National Library
  • School of Arts and Crafts
  • Royal Academy of Performing Arts
  • National Institute of Traditional Medicine
  • Zangto Pelri Lhakhang
  • Zoo
  • Changangkha Lhakhang
  • Drubthob Goemba [Nunnery]
  • Dechencholing Palace
  • Pangri Zampa Temple
  • Tango Goemba
  • Chari Goemba
  • Simthoka Dzong

Day Hikes

  • Tala Monastery
  • Phajoding Monastery
  • Thadra Monastery
  • Trashigang Nunnery

Punakha

Punakha plays a primordial role in the history of Bhutan, in fact it was the country's winter capital for 300 years. Punakha Dzong, or Punthang Dechen Phodrang, was built in 1637. The Dzong resembles a gigantic ship exactly covering a split of land at the confluence of two rivers. The history of Punakha Dzong dates back to the year 1328 when a saint named Ngagi Rinchen build a temple there which can still be seen today opposite to the great Dzong. Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel a key figure in the History of Bhutan built the Punakha Dzong and his body is preserved in one of the Dzongs temples, Machen Lhakhang. The Dzong was damaged six times by fire, once by floods and once by earthquake. The coronation of Ugyen Wangchuk, the first king of Bhutan, took place at Punakha Dzong on 17th December 1907.

Places to visit

  • Punakha Dzong

Wangdue Phodrang

Wangdue Phodrang, meaning 'the palace where the four directions are gathered under the power of the Shabdrung. However the popular story has it that the Shabdrung arrived at the river and happened to see a boy building a sand castle. He asked for the boy's name, which was Wangdue, and thereupon decided to name the Dzong Wangdue Phodrang or 'Wangdue's Palace.' Wangdue Phodrang Dzong is perched on a spur at the confluence of 02 rivers. The position of the Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view over both the north-south and east-west roads. The main road climbs the length of the spur and on the left, across the river, comes the first glimpse of the picturesque village of Rinchengang whose inhabitants are celebrated stonemasons.

Phuentsholing

This small modern town in the south is the gateway of Bhutan for overland travellers. Like all other border towns, it is also a prelude. Phuntsholing is also a fascinating mixture of Bhutanese and Indian, a lively center for the mingling people, languages, customs and goods. On top of a low hill at nearby Kharbandi, a small Gompa situated in a garden of tropical plants and flowers overlooks the town and surrounding plains.

The Amo Chu, commonly known as the Torsa river flows alongside this town and it is favorite spot for fisherman and the picnickers. From Phuntsholing, the road winds north over the southern foothills, through lush forested valleys and around the rugged north-south ridges of the inner Himalayas to the central valleys of Thimphu and Paro. It is a scenic journey; forests festooned with orchids cover the mountains on the other side and exciting hairpin curves greet travellers with colourful sculptures of Tashi Tagye(The eight auspicious signs of Buddhism).

Central Bhutan

Trongsa

Trongsa means 'the new village' and the founding of Trongsa first dates from the 16th century which is indeed relatively recent for Bhutan. It was the Drukpa lama, Ngagi Wangchuk (1517-54), the great grandfather of Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, who founded the first temple at Trongsa in 1543. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular, and for miles on the end the Dzong seems to tease you so that you wonder if you will ever reach Trongsa. The view extends for many kilometres and in the former times, nothing could escape the vigilance of its watchmen.

Places to visit

  • Trongsa Dzong
  • Chendebji Chorten [Stupa]
  • Ta Dzong

Bumthang

The Bumthang region encompasses four major valleys: Choskhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume. The Dzongs and the most important temples are in the large Choskhor valley, commonly referred to as Bumthang valley. There are two versions of the origin of the name Bumthang. The valley is supposed to be shaped like a Bumpa, a vessel that contains holy water, and Thang meaning flat place. The religious connotation of the name aptly applies to the sacred character of the region. It would be difficult to find so many important temples and monasteries in such a small area anywhere else in Bhutan.

Places to visit

  • Jakar Dzong [Castle of the White Bird]
  • Wangdichholing Palace
  • Lamey Goemba
  • Kurje Lhakhang [Ku means "body", Je means"imprint"]
  • Tamshing Lhakhang [Temple of Good Message]
  • Kencho Sum Lhakhang [famous for its broken bell and Lamae Gompa]
  • Member Tsho
  • Peling Sermon Chorten [Stupa]

Day Hikes

  • Choskhor Valley
  • Sey Lhakhang
  • Jambey Lhakhang
  • Kurje Lhakhang [Ku means "body", Je means"imprint"]
  • Chakhar Lhakhang
  • Thankabi Goemba
  • Ngang Lhakhang [Swan Temple]

East of the Valley

  • Tamshing Goemba [Temple of Good Message]
  • Kenchosum Lhakhang

Tang Valley

  • Membartsho [Burning Lake]
  • Kunzangdrak Goemba
  • Ugyen Tsholing Palace
  • Thowada Goemba
  • Ura Valley
  • Ura village

Mongar

The Mongar district is the northern portion of the ancient region of Kheng. Mongar is the district headquarters and hardly more than a stopping place surrounded by fields of maize. It is also the first town built in a mountain side instead of in a valley, a characteristic of eastern Bhuytan where the valleys are usually little more than riverbeds and mountain slopes which rise abruptly from the rivers, flattn out as they approach their summits. One would never imagine that the upper parts of the mountains are so densely populated.

Shongar Dzong, Mongar's original Dzong, is in ruins and the new dzong in Mongar town is not as architecturally spectacular as others in the region. Dramtse Goemba, in the eastern part of the district, is an important Nyingmapa Monastery, but it is difficult to get there.

Places to visit

  • Dramtse Goemba
  • Mongar Dzong

Lhuentse

Lhuentse is an isolated district although there are many sizeable villages in the hill throughout the region. It is very rural and there are fewer than five vehicles, including an ambulance, and not a single petrol station, in the whole district.

Formerly known as Kurtoe, the region is the ancestral home of Bhutan's Royal Family. Though geographically in the east, it was culturally identified with central Bhutan, and the route over the Rodung-la was a major trade route until the road to Mongar was completed. To see and appreciate Lhuentse properly, with its many small villages and ancient temples, you should really explore on foot.

Trashigang

Trashigang is one of the most densely populated districts in Bhutan. After Thimphu, Trashigang is the biggest urban center in mountainous Bhutan. It is the heart of eastern Bhutan and was once the center of important trade with Tibet. There are several goembas and villages that make a visit worthwhile, but it is a remote region and requires a lot of driving to reach.

Places to visit

  • Zangtho Pelri Kanglung Lhakhang
  • Khaling Lhakhang
  • Radhi Lhakhang
  • Trashigang Dzong
  • Tashiyangtse Dzong
  • Gom Kora
  • Chorten Kora

Samdrup Jongkhar

The small frontier town is situated at the precise point where the mountains meet the plains. There is almost nothing of interest to the traveler in south-eastern Bhutan. It is the headquarters of a district boasting a brand new Dzong, although it is basically a town of small shopkeepers who serve all of eastern Bhutan as far as Mongar and Lhuntshi. The tropical heat gives a languid air which is accentuated by a lack of busy traffic.

Things to buy

Thangkas
Thangkas are Buddhist paintings, usually on canvas. Traditionally, they are mounted on a background of brocade and hung by a stick sewn across the top. You can also buy an un-mounted painting.

Textiles
Hand-woven cotton fabric is the most traditional and useful item you can buy in Bhutan. The quality is almost always good, but the price will vary depending on the intricacy of the design and whether any expensive imported silk is used in the weaving.

Other Items
Brass statues and Buddhist ritual items, such as bells, cymbals, trumpets and dorjees are available form specialist shops. Jewellery and other silver items are best purchased from a reputable shop or from the artisans themselves. Excellent wood pieces can be bought. Useful items such as picture frames and furniture is available, as are wooden masks similar to those used in the tshechu dances. Wooden bowls, either plain or lined with silver, are a speciality of eastern Bhutan.

Bamboo work is available in most of the handicraft shops and sometimes at roadside stalls. The round bangchung baskets are a typical Bhutanese item. Another unusual item are the large bamboo pipes covered with weaving that is used for carrying local liquor.

Handmade paper
Handmade paper is available in large sheets and is packaged into handy packets of letter-writing size.

Carpet manufacturing
Carpet manufacturing is recent innovation in Bhutan.

Handicrafts
Bhutan boasts a variety of high quality handicrafts.