The southern circuit is actually the ecological hub of the country. In this promotion we have highlighted the two districts of Sarpang and Zhemgang. Zhemgang is ideal for nature oriented tours though the cultural highlights are irresistible. The famous Dunmang hot spring is in Zhemgang district. The other hot spring that is highlighted is in Sarpang district. Other tour activities are the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, the Royal Manas National Park, the tropical fruits and numerous species of medicinal plants and the culture of the Khengpas and the Lhotsampas. The Lhotsampas are the ethnic race of Nepalese origin, settled in the southern part of Bhutan. Mostly Hindus, their rituals and festivals are very colourful.
Though there is not much in the way of an actual town the surrounding area is extremely beautiful. A large portion of the Dzongkhag falls under the Royal Manas National Park, a preserve with a incredible biodiversity.
The country’s first and only safari experience will soon be offered here and it is well worth a visit. This small settlement is ethnically diverse with members of every ethnicity in Bhutan present here. The diverse population gives visitors an interesting cultural experience with a wealth of disparate religions and traditions.
Zhemgang is a region blessed with incredibly rich biodiversity. Its lush forests are home to 22 endangered animal species including the Golden Langur. Though much of the district has warm and humid climatic conditions, its northern regions have moderately cool temperatures.
Zhemgang is notable for being one of the last regions where ancient Bon (Animist) religious practices are still carried out. Though Buddhism has been growing in popularity every region of the district still continues its animist traditions and Bon priests known as Bonpo are considered respected religious leaders.
There are also a number of famous Buddhist temples in the region such as Buli Lhakhang and Tharpa Choeling Lhakhang. These ancient temples were built by the Terton Pema Lingpa, a famous revealer of the lost religious treasures of Guru Rimpoche.
The inhabitants of Zhemgang are famous for their rich culture, particularly their folk songs and dances. They are also famed for their skill at crafting various goods out of bamboo such as Bangchungs (matted bamboo bowls), Palangs (alcohol containers), Balaks (hats), mats and boxes. They are also adept potters and their earthenware products were highly prized throughout the country in the past.
One of the most interesting features in Zhemgang is the Royal Manas National Park. This protected park is the oldest nature preserve in the Kingdom of Bhutan. It’s incredible biodiversity includes hundreds of rare animal and plant species such as Golden Langurs, Gangetic Dolphins and the Asian One-horned Rhinoceros that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. The park is the most biologically diverse protected area in the kingdom as well as one of the most outstanding nature preserves worldwide.
Samdrup Jongkhar town holds the distinct honor of being the oldest town in Bhutan. This border town is a bustling little settlement packed to the brim with shopkeepers and hawkers from across the border.
There are several well maintained hotels, most of which serve a good mix of Bhutanese, Indian and continental cuisine. As a border town, Samdrup Jongkhar is often used as the entry point for merchants and tourists entering Eastern Bhutan overland.
A little way outside the town you can find the Mithun Breeding Farm. Mithuns are widely considered to be the best breed of cattle in Bhutan and this farm supplies farmers from the six eastern districts with this magnificent animal.
Samdrup Jongkhar: Gateway to Eastern Bhutan
The gate way to Eastern Bhutan, Samdrup Jongkhar is situated in the south eastern region of the country and shares borders with the Indian state of Assam. It is by far the largest urban center in eastern Bhutan. It lies at elevations ranging from 200m to 3,500m. In the past, many British Political Officers stationed in Sikkim took the route from Samdrup Jongkhar to enter into Bhutan. Historically the region was administered by the Gyadrung stationed at Dewangiri.
Today the road from Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar, completed in the 1960s, connects the eastern and southern regions of the country, allowing them to benefit from trade, especially through trade across the Indian border. In the past Samdrup Jongkhar was the main trading center for the Bhutanese and it is still a convenient exit town for tourists who have arranged to visit the neighboring Indian state of Assam.
Samdrup Jongkhar Dzong
This Dzong serves as the administrative center of the district and is one of the newest Dzongs to have been built in the country. Unlike other Dzongs that are built on strategic locations atop mountains or between rivers, the Dzong in Samdrup Jongkhar is built on a flat and fairly wide-open area.
This Dratshang was only recently constructed next to the Dzong. It houses the monk body and has many new novices looked after by the religious functionaries.
This three storied temple set in the middle of town, is adorned with the work of the master Bhutanese craftsmen. Its intricate frescos and beautiful statues are truly a sight to behold. Due to its religious significance and convenient location Zangdopelri is at the heart of the spiritual lives of the people of this area.
Dewathang is the site where Jigme Namgyal, the father of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck led the Bhutanese troops in a final battle against the British in 1884. Though the Bhutanese put up a strong resistance against the British, Jigme Namgyal ultimately signed the treaty of Sinchula with the British in 1865.The office of the Gyadrung, the district administrator was once located in this small town situated 18 kilometers from Samdrup Jongkhar.
Mithun Breeding Farm
The only Mithun breeding farm in the east is located at Orong, along the highway reroute to Samdrup Jongkhar, above the town of Dewathang. The Mithuns are considered the finest breed of bison in Bhutan and it will be worthwhile to stop for a while to observe and photograph magnificent animals. The Mithuns raised here are supplied to the farmers of the six eastern districts.
The town in Samdrup Jongkhar is one of the oldest in Eastern Bhutan and has seen gradual development over the years. It is a bustling little town with shopkeepers and hawkers coming from the nearby border of Assam to sell their wares. It also houses the oldest cinema theatre in the country that is popular among the Assamese from across the border for the Bollywood films it screens.