Bhutan Jewel Travel

Photo Courtesy : Dept.of Tourism,Bhutan

Far Out East Bhutan Trek

Choice of trekking route for the tourists in Bhutan has become wider with an additional route. The new route, Far-Out East Bhutan, has been developed in an effort to also promote Trashi Yangtse which is an exotic tourism destination not visited by many tourists to Bhutan.

The trek, which starts just below the ruins of Tsenkharla Dzong, could last for almost 3 till a week. It routes through lhakhangs, villages and waterfall before reaching Omba Ney, the main attraction.

The holy place of Omba Ney is believed to be visited by Guru Rinpochoe, and has ‘Om’ inscribed on a rock.

The route has been made easier with the construction of two traditional bridges. Railings have been also constructed at the Ney site.

This trek route passes through dozens of villages. The trek ends after descending to Gonza Gonpa and walking through Gongrichhu to the end of the road
 near Doksum.

As and when this new Trek Route Itinerary is finalized we will be putting it up on this page for information.

(Above Information Courtesy to BBS-National TV Broadcaster of Bhutan)

The Far-out East Bhutan (Omba – Gongza) Trek
This trek is in one of the remotest area of Bhutan. It starts and finishes in Khamdang Gewog in Trashiyangtse passing through many villages and sacred temples. The two most impressive temples are Omba Ney and Gongza ney. This trek can be done throughout the year.

An all year round trek with pristine nature, authentic
culture and unique history of Trashi Yangtse
The F a r – O u t East Bhutan Trek

Omba Gonpa
Highlights and Key Info
 Gongza Ney & Gonpa
 Omba Gonpa & Ney
 Tsenkharla Dzong Ruins
 Tsangphula Viewpoint
 Broadleaved & Pine Forests
 Sub-alpine Pastures
 Homestays and Camping
 Relaxed or moderate pace
 Mostly 1,500 – 2,500 m
 Mostly cool weather
 No leeches in summer
2 Gongza Gonpa
1. Introduction
East Bhutan and certainly Trashi Yangtse is little known and little explored. However, it offers a wealth of nature, culture and history. The first Dzong in the country was Tsenkharla. Omba Ney is one among three unique pilgrimage sites where holy letters can be seen in the rocks and Omba gonpa has been called the Taktshang of East Bhutan. At Gongza ney you find one of the most peaceful monasteries in Bhutan, set among paddy fields and naturally sculptured rocks at the banks of the Gongri river.
The trek passes through broadleaved forest, chir pine savannah with lemon grass, sub-alpine pastures, agricultural areas and small villages and ends along the Gongri river. The trek can be done in 3-6 days, at a moderate or very relaxed pace. It can also be done the whole year round as Khamdang and Toedtsho Gewogs are among the driest in Trashi Yangtse and most of the rain falls at night, while only the highest viewpoint receives some snow in winter. Moreover, there are no leeches. Existing camping sites and homestays will be improved as more tourists visit.
2. Best times of the year
The trek can be done all year round. Night time rain occurs in summer and clouds move in and out of the valleys, while the Gongri valley gets hot in daytime. Snow in winter at higher elevations will hardly affect the trek or the area with snow can be left out. Spring and fall are best for views and weather in general.
• If you hate rain or muddy trails, avoid the months of June to September.
• If you do not like snow but want to reach the 3000m Shangphula viewpoint come from April to November.
• If you do not like heat, come from November to March.
4 Monk at Darchen Gp
3 Monk at Darchen Gonpa 5 View of Tshongtshongma from Toedtsho on a sunny summer day
3. Where to stay?
There are camping sites in or near most of the villages. Facilities are to be improved over time, but for sites where no toilets are in place a toilet tent can be built nearby by your support crew. Camping near Shangphula is recommended to see the sun rise over Arunachal Pradesh and set in southern Bhutan. If you want to enjoy the local hospitality, there is a homestay in Omba which offers good food, including pancakes, while another one is planned in Jangphu.
4. Itinerary
Short descriptions
Day 1: 8 km between 1,950 and 2,650 m.
Start walking just below the first Dzong built in Bhutan in the 9th century (Tsenkharla) and follow the ridge with excellent views past several gonpas to Shakshing Gonpa.
6 Homestay in Omba village
7 Tsenkharla ruined Dzong
If you are late, you can walk directly to the campsite near Nangkhar Gonpa. Otherwise continue up the ridge past a small lake to Darchen Gonpa and several sacred sites in the pastures above. Descend from Darchen through broadleaved forest to Nangkhar Gonpa and your campsite.
Day2: 12 km between 2,400 and 1,800 m
From Nangkhar Gonpa walk down past maize fields and 3 chorten to the irrigation channel of Sep, which you follow to Septshekhang Lhakhang on a steep ridge.
Back-track to a trail down through a sokshing (leaf litter oak) forest and a bigger trail to a river. After crossing another small stream you climb back up to a chorten just above the neat village of Omba, which has a pleasant homestay and a small camping site. In the afternoon visit Omba Ney and Gonpa (the Taktshang of East Bhutan) and the Gonpa at the cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated.
Day 3: 8 km between 1900 and 2650 m.
Follow your local guide to the hamlet of Phekti, from where there is a small trail up a ridge with views of the Omba cliffs and Gonpa. You emerge from the forest into pastures and keep climbing until you reach Shangphula, just above 3000m.From the “border-egg” at Shangphula, you have excellent views of parts of Bhutan and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Camp in the pasture and enjoy the flowers, sunset and sunrise.
Day 4: 8 km between 3000 and 2100 m.
Enjoy the views and your breakfast at your leisure and make your way down the pastures along the ridge into the forest below. You emerge at a lookout point of the village and the Gongri valley. Find you way to the campsite at the school or near the army camp or to the homestay after it has been
8 Septshekhang Lhakhang
9 Shangphula peak in subalpine pasture
10 Jangphu village
established. Shop for local bags mainly produced for the Tawang market, visit the lhakhang and relax.
Day 5: 9 km between 2,100 and 925 m
Follow your guide through the maze of trails to a larger trail through broadleaved forest to Kheni. Just before a chorten on a ridge turn left down a steep small trail. After Changmashing and Chemkhar village it improves and reaches a small saddle from where you can find your way to Phamkhar ruins (mainly defense walls and trenches left; built to defend Tsenkharla against attacks from Tibet. Then descend to the paddy fields and the peaceful Gongza Ney and Gonpa along the Gongri river with lots of sacred rocks and stones. The gonpa holds a petrified treasure chest, a demon’s heart, a shoe of Guru Rimpoche and a devil’s egg.
Day 6: 7 km between 925 & 860 m.
Start early if you want to avoid the heat and make your way down the valley past some paddy areas and sand beaches to the end of the road near Doksum, a couple of km from Gom Kora. From there continue to your next destination. If that is the natural rock bridge (dozam) in Thragom you can in a few years walk upstream to and get picked up at the Melongkhar bridge, and dropped at the school and walk along a gentle trail with chortens and mani walls to Thragom village, 1.5 hrs above which you find the dozam.
11 Gongza Gonpa and ney along Gongri river
12 Gongri river
13 Trail to Thragom
14 Capped Langur
15 Gom Kora

16 Jangphu Lhakhang

17 Chortens below Nangkhar Gp
18 Ney above Darchen Gonpa

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    All pictures: ©Piet van der Poel, free to use with indication of photographer