Known as the Kingdom between the earth and the sky, the world has few secrets left, but Bhutan is one of them. Isolated from the outside world for three centuries, this forbidden Kingdom in the Himalayas provides a setting for a bewitching adventure amongst widely varying peoples and terrain.
Eastern Bhutan is one the least explored regions of Bhutan, making it reason enough to want to get over there and discover and experience what is on offer. Nature and adventure loving travellers who visit this remote part of Bhutan will be rewarded with wild, rugged, unspoilt beauty, dzongs (forts) and temples. Gorgeous silk and embroidery work, towering cliffs, pristine emerald forests and a terrain with such great variations in altitude and climate, there really is something for everyone.
This region is perfect for those seeking a day hike or longer treks. Accommodation in this part of the country is rustic and perhaps a little spartan but the experience of camping out beneath the stars or the genuine warmth and hospitality of the locals in a homestay are moments you will never forget.
Where to visit:
Spanning the eastern most corners of the Kingdom, Trashigang goes all the way to the Indian border. The countries largest river, the Dangmechu, flows through Trashigang. The town itself, nestled on a hillside, was once a major trading hub with Tibet. Today it is the junction of the East-West Highway with connections into India.
Brimming with sub tropical and alpine forests, Trashiyangtse is a treasure trove of natural, historical and cultural resources making it one of the most memorable destinations in Bhutan to visit.
A short drive from Trashiyangtse is Chorten Kora, where local residents and the Dakpa people from Arunachal Padesh gather in February/March for a festival that involves circumnavigating the chorten. Bumdeling to the north is home to the black-necked cranes of the winter, and to the iconic butterfly of Bhutan, known as Lodlow’s Bhutan Glory.
Trashiyangtse’s people include the Yangseps, the regions indigenous dwellers, Tshanglas, Bramis from Tawang in Arunachal Padesh, Khengpas from Zhemzang and Kurtoeps form Lhuentse. This rich cultural and ethnic diversity has resulted in an interesting mix of languages and cultural practices in the region.
The people in this region are incredibly skilled at woodwork and paper making, and their traditional crafts are prized throughout the country.
The road to Mongar is quite spectacular. It passes over sheer cliffs and through beautiful fir forests and green pastures. On the way lies the interesting Rhododendron Garden, with innumerable varieties of rhododendrons. If you’re passing this way on a clear day, you may even manage to capture a glimpse of Gangkhar Puensum, the world’s highest unscaled mountain.
The landscape here is a mixture of stark cliffs and deep gorges set amidst dense conifer forests. Mongar is renowned for its weavers and textiles. Some of the countries finest fabrics come from here.
The town itself sits atop a hill. The main street is lined with traditionally painted stone buildings with wooden facades and verandas.
The ancient region of Kurtoe or Lhuntse lies in the North Eastern corner of Bhutan. It is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s kings and is home to many sacred pilgrimage sites. This is one of the most remote districts in Bhutan.
The landscape sees cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. Lhuntse is also famous for its weavers, and their distinctive textiles. Kurtoep women are especially adept at weaving a textile called Kishuthara.
Samdrup Jongkhar lies in the South Eastern region of Bhutan and borders the state of Assam in India. It is the oldest town in Bhutan, and the largest urban centre in east Bhutan. A bustling settlement of shopkeepers and hawkers, it is also the entry point to Bhutan for those who are travelling overland.
Pemagatshel is in South Eastern Bhutan and over 70% of its landscape is covered by broadleaf and coniferous forests; the rest is mostly farmland.
This area is famous for its artisans and weavers. Relgiious musical instruments like Jailings (oboe like instruments) and Dhungs (long ritual trumpets) are made here, and are highly prized and sold throughout the country.
The weavers of Pemagashel produce fine Kira’s (traditional dress worn by women) from Bura (sraw silk). The region is also famous for Tsatsi Buram, a local sweet made from sugarcane that grows locally.
Looking to explore Bhutan? Be sure to check out our Bhutan Unveiled small group tour for further inspiration.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.