Mongar situated on a hill overlooking the Kurichu valley and surrounding villages marks the beginning of Eastern Bhutan. The second largest town in the sub-tropical east, Mongar like Trashigang further east, is situated on the side of a hill in the contrasts to other towns of Western Bhutan which was built on the valley floor.
Places of Interest in Mongar (Altitude 1,600m)
The most celebrated site in Mongar is the Dzong itself (fortress) built in 1930s. Yet the Dzong is built in the same method and traditions of all the other Dzongs; no drawings and nails have been used. A visit gives visitors an impression of how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.
Drametse Lhakhang is one of the largest and most important monastery in eastern Bhutan, founded in 16th century by a highly accomplished Ani (Nun) named Choten Zangmo, the granddaughter of the famous religious master Terton Pema Lingpa. The lhakhang is deeply associated with Terton Pema Lingpa and the Peling tradition of Buddhism. It houses wide range of spiritual treasures & other sacred objects and is the source of spiritual inspiration to the people of Drametse and neighbouring communities. This is also the place of origin of the famous Drametse Nga Chham, a masked dance with drums.
Geographically, Kurtoe (or Lhuentse as it is known today) is one of the remotest districts in the north-eastern corner of the Kingdom, located 77km and approx 3 hours drive from Mongar. The ethnic mosaic of the region is made up of the Kurtoep people ; who live in the upper valleys of the Kurichhu river, the Kurmed ; who inhabit the valley downstream and the Khomapas & Tshanglas ; who are scattered throughout the rest of the district. Some of the best textile weavers in the country come from Kurtoe region, and the exquisite Kishuthara, famed and treasured as women’s kira all over Bhutan, comes from the Khoma village in Lhuentse. The people of Lhuentse are mostly paddy farmers but they also grow maize, millet, barley, wheat and buckwheat to supplement rice cultivation. Kurtoeps are also adept singers and the valleys often resound with region’s folk popular songs.
Places of Interest in Lhuentse
Lying on eastern side of the Kuri Chhu river and perched on a spur at the end of a narrow valley, it was built in 1552 by Ngagi Wangchuk and later enlarged in 1656 and renamed as Lhundub Rinchen Tse Dzong. Since then, it has undergone several renovations and most recent has been repair work, after earthquake of 2009. Today the dzong is the administrative and the religious centre of the district and also the venue of Lhuentse Tshechu (festival) held in December / January.
The tiny village of Kilung located about 20 minute drive from Lhuentse Dzong, is mainly inhabited by Tshanglas who settled here in late 1880s. The Kilung temple is situated on a ridge overlooking the Kuri Chhu river and was built on the former site of the Kilung Gyalpo, a regional chieftain. This temple houses a sacred chain mail that was said to recapture a statue that miraculously flew away from the Lhuentse Dzong.
This monastery was founded in the 18th century by Pekar Gyatso and until 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 easily accessible from a feeder road.
It was built by Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal, father of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk, the first King of Bhutan. Dungkar Naktshang, the ancestral home of the Wangchuck Dynasty, stands amid a scenic backdrop of towering mountains overlooking the tiny Dungkar village below. There is a 40km dirt road from Lhuentse leading up to Dungkar Lhakhang.
Famous for its intricately woven cloth made of silk called Kishuthara, this village is an hour walk from the main road to Lhuentse Dzong. On a visit, you can see women sitting in a row at makeshift textile cottage, weaving intricate designs and patterns. It is a pleasant excursion to Khoma village over gentle slopes amongst pine trees.