Mongar Dzongkhag is one of the districts in eastern Bhutan. Mongar Bhutan is indeed a terminal point for eastern Bhutan tourism. You’ll either stop or pass through Mongar District when you travel to Merak-Sakteng, Chorten Kora, and Singye Dzong; some of the popular attractions and places to visit in Eastern Bhutan.
Mongar is popular for its numerous local dialects, ruins of Zhongar Dzong and humorous stories about affairs of a Dzongpon who didn’t have nose and his girlfriend from Chali. Mongar Dzongkhag is also popular for its Kurichu Hydro Project and beautiful wooden masks, bamboo baskets and hand-woven clothes.
Otherwise for Gyelpozhing and Mongar towns, Mongar Bhutan is basically a district of sparse villages that are spreaded between altitudes of 400m and 4,000m. Therefore, just by looking at Mongar Dzongkhag map and settlement patterns, you can say Mongar can be a great getaway. Tourists can experience authentic rural lifestyles of Bhutan and eastern Bhutan tourism.
To provide insights of Mongar tourism, we have prepared a list of 10 places to visit in Mongar Dzongkhag. As you read this Mongar travel guide, you’ll know things to do in Mongar Bhutan and also get an idea in coming up with a good itinerary for your next travel to Mongar Bhutan.
#1 Mongar Dzong (Fortress)
You’ll not come across many towering Bhutanese architectural structures in Mongar like in Paro and Thimphu. Therefore, Mongar Dzong is a hard-to-miss structure in Mongar for tourists.
Mongar Dzong history has that it was built sometimes in 1930s to replace Zhongar Dzong. It’s a centre of Mongar Dzongkhag Administration offices and district monastic community now. Unlike other Dzongs in the country, Mongar Dzong is on a gentle slope. Therefore, let me know if you can by chance manage to get a good picture of Mongar Dzong.
Mongar Dzong is the only Dzong in Bhutan that has 4 temples. Those 4 temples are individually in dedication to various principal religious figures of Bhutan. But people from Mongar consider Sangay Lhakhang as the most important of all.
No matter which side of the town you stay, you can reach to it in 30-40 minutes. To squeeze further, stay in Wangchuk Hotel. It’s at about 5 minutes’ walking distance. The best time to visit Mongar Dzong is during Mongar Tshechu, in November every year. There are not many best tourist hotels or places to stay in Mongar.
#2 Drametse Monastery
When I travelled Drametse Monastery last time, its major repair works were in progress. I couldn’t explore it well due to dusty environment, widespread of construction materials and presence of many workers.
Drametse Monastery is where at about 150 monks study Buddhist scriptures under religious guidance of Sungtruel Rinpoche. All the episodes of Drametse Ngacham are performed only in this monastery during Drametse Tshechu.
Drametse Monastery was first started by Ani Cheten Zangmo, the grand-daughter of Tertoen Pema Lingpa to spread Nyingmapa teachings in the east. It’s one of most popular monasteries in the region. People from Drametse and also nearby districts visit it mainly during annual festival.
It takes about 1.2 hours from Mongar-Trashigang highway. Though the road is narrow and strewn with pebbles, its every bend on uphill ascend provides good view of valleys and distant mountains. You can get views of Ozorong village of Trashigang Bhutan.
#3 Zhongar Dzong Ruins
In oral traditions about Zhongar Dzong history, it was built by Zochhen Balip sometimes in 17th century on demand of Zhongar Gyalp Karpodung. When the construction was done and farewell dinner was held for chief architect, it’s said that Balip’s hands were cut off to avoid coming up of similar fortress in other places.
Zhongar Dzong, earlier acclaimed to be one of the largest fortresses in Bhutan where even archery tournament can be held within its boundary walls, now stands amidst jungles – ignored and choking with wild climbers. Even locals don’t find reasons for going there.
However, for tourists travelling to Zhongar Dzong is to have visual experiences of medieval Bhutan. It’s on Bumthang-Trashigang highway, between Lingmithang and Thridangbi village. As per another line of an oral tradition, Zhongar Dzong was architecturally a compound of four Dzongs that are built on 4 compass directions.
#4 Yagang Lhakhang
If you have read my article about Dongkola Temple, you’ll know how this Yagang Lhakhang has a historical relationship with Bumthang Mebartsho, Jakar Dzong and Dongkola. When Choekhor Deb was about to crush a box of treasures revealed by Tertoen Pema Lingpa, three small statues were said to have escaped flying to Yakgang Lhakhang, Jakar Dzong and Dongkola Temple.
Yakgang Lhakhang of a small village next to Mongar town was built by the youngest son of Tertoen Pema Lingpa sometimes in 16th century. This temple is not only an embodiment of many Bhutan’s historical anecdotes but also a house of prayers and blessings for local community.
This two-storied temple resembles Trashigang Yangneer Lhakhang in designs. Its architecture is just like any other traditional Bhutanese buildings. Barshong Lhakhang and Kilikhar Shedra temple also look very much similar to Yagang Lhakhang.
#5 Kilikhar Shedra
It’s one of the few Buddhist Colleges in Eastern Bhutan. People also call it as Keydeykhar Shedra or Kedheykhar Monastery. Kilikhar is an educational home for about 120 Buddhist monks. It’s on a hilltop at a distance of about 5km from Mongar town.
Kilikhar Monastery is one of the places to visit in Mongar Bhutan which is closer to main town. Its temple isn’t only an architectural icons but also a good viewpoint. Views of Wengkhar, Yakpogang, Tongsang and even Korela Pass are its best offers for landscape photographers.
People consider its temple as a replica of Machen Lhakhang of Punakha Dzong. During weekends, you can have playful moments with young monks as they leisurely debate over some religious topics or wash their clothes. They have also guest house where you can stay.
#6 Aja Ney
There is a belief that Omba Ney of Trashiyangtse, Aja Ney of Mongar and Hungrel Dzong of Paro are three equally important religious sites in Bhutan. Because their names start with letters of Om, Ah and Hung to complete Buddhist mantra of Om Ah Hung.
Religion practitioners make sure to visit these sites chronologically at least once. Ajay Ney, just like other two sisters is a place personally blessed by Guru Padmasambhava. However, given its far flung location from main town or road, not many aspirants can reach to Ajay Ney.
Ajay Ney isn’t only one of the best holy places to visit in Mongar Bhutan, but also one that offers good hiking excursion, Himalyan Birds watching tours and wonderful natural sights. On normal walking speed, people would take 2 days to get at Aja Ney from Serzhong.
#7 Mongar Chorten
This chorten is near Kurichu Bridge in Lingmithang. The stupa that is like Chorten Kora of Trashiyangtse and Chendebji Chorten of Trongsa was built on an inspiration from Jarung Khashor Chorten (Bodhanath Stupa) of Nepal.
When you are at Mongar town or Gyelpozhing, Mongar Jarung Khashor Chorten is a popular landmark in that area which is worth your visit. Just near Gyelpozhing College, there is also a smaller chorten that looks like this Jarung Khashor Chorten.
#8 Lemon Grass Oil Unit
When you travel from Mongar to Trashigang or vice versa, you’ll see a group of people stacking lemon grass for oil extraction at Zangpong. The private lemon grass oil unit is a platform for visual experiences of lemon grass oil extraction. There are many popular herbal perfumes in Bhutan out of which one is lemon grass perfume.
The overall oil extraction process is nothing much of scientific. Workers first boil lemon grass over an open fire and then put through weight. Except for distillation part, all other works are as laborious as traditional farm works. However, you can at least know what it’s like in getting lemon grass oil herbal perfume.
Lemon grass oil is very aromatic. Therefore, it’s one of the aromatic therapy ingredients and body massage oil. Mongar Bhutan is the largest producer of lemon grass oil. So don’t forget to buy a bottle of lemon grass oil when you are at Mongar Bhutan.
#9 Thrumshingla Park
Thrumshingla National Park is one of the largest parks in Bhutan that is home for world’s rare birds. There are birds like babblers, hornbills, nuthatches, crimson pheasants, partridges, and trogons.
This park is one of the best places to visit in Mongar Bhutan for ornithologists and bird watchers. It has good views ranging from sub-tropical to bushy alpine regions. It stretches over 900 Sq. Km. You can also see mammals like black bear, red panda, languars, Himalayan black bears, and Malayan giant squirrels.
The best way to get inside Thrumshing National Park and get the best out of it is through trekking and outdoor camping. Some of the popular trekking tours for this are Kheng Shingkgar Trek, Latongla Trek. Ura-Gezamchu Trek and Rodungla Mountain Trek.
You can ask your tour operator for those trekking tours if you want to get into Thrumshingla National Park. Many agencies also have Mongar Birding tours. But you cannot undertake them in all seasons excepting spring and autumn.
#10 Mongar Weekend Market
If you want to see people of almost all walks of life in Bhutan, you have to visit weekend markets. So much Sunday Markets of Paro and Thimphu provide insights about lifestyles of people in those regions, Mongar Weekend Market also helps you understand people of eastern Bhutan.
You can purchase organic vegetables; fresh and dry. This market is where you can purchase all the things before you start off some of the trekking tours of Mongar Bhutan. During favourable seasons, you’ll also see women selling hand woven clothes and lemon grass oil.
However, this is just an incomplete list of places to visit in Mongar Bhutan. Mongar Dzongkhag has many more places to visit and travel. It’s just for the interest of time, we have listed 10 places to visit in Mongar Bhutan.
The next time you are at Mongar, besides those places we have mentioned, you can also visit Chali, Paper Factory, Takchu Goemba, Kengkhar and Kurichu Power House. Chali is a village of mysterious dialect of more than 100 other dialects. Kengkhar is a maximum producer of Bhutan’s wooden masks and bamboo baskets that you see in handicraft shops of Paro, Punakha and Thimphu.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and exciting travel stories from Bhutan:
- Tango Monastery and Drolung Goemba – One day’s Hike in Thimphu.
- Tachog Lhakhang – Temple of Bhutan’s 900+ years old iron Bridge.
- 13 Arts and Crafts of Bhutan – Journey through Zorig Chusum.
- Taktsang Monastery – Seeking Smiles from a Familiar Face.
- 8 Tourist Places in Phuentsholing – Don’t Need Bhutan Permits.
- Interesting walk over the suspension bridge of Punakha Bhutan.
- Dochula Pass – Travel Experiences with Indian Tourists.
- Royal Botanical Park in Lampelri – A good tourist Place to Rest.
- Trekking to Chele La Pass – The Best ViewPoint of Haa and Paro.
- Trekking to Great Dungtsho – Bhutan’s Lake amidst Rocky Castles.