Mongar is the kind of place where the journey is as beautiful as the destination itself. The entire route is dotted with rhododendron gardens. The main attractions of Mongar are its main town, dzongs, the sacred site Aja Ney, Yagang Lhakhang, Jarung Khashor Chorten and Dramitse Lhakgang, where the main attraction is the Dramitse Ngacham, or, “Dance of the Drums of Darmise”. The major festival which is celebrated in Mongar is Kharphu Bonchoed. People from different places attend this festival to perform rituals and make offerings to the local deity.
The roads leading to Mongar are as beautiful as the destination itself. They cross fresh fir forests, wide green pastures and steep cliffs, and all the while, keep reminding you of the kind of beauty that awaits you ahead. While visiting Mongar during your sightseeing trip to Bhutan, you will be able to visit the rhododendron garden. The garden itself is home to various species of rhododendrons. On any given day, with clear skies and a little bit of luck, you may even be able to spot Gangkhar Puensum, which stands at a height of 7541m approx. It holds the record of being the world’s highest unclimbed mountain.
After that wonderful drive, you finally arrive at Mongar, a top tourist attraction in Bhutan. Like so many other places in Bhutan, its geography is marked by an incredible diversity in elevation, from 400m to 4000m. The landscape is such that you fall in love with it immediately. Much of it is characterised by steep cliffs, deep gorges and dense conifer forests. Apart from its natural beauty, this place is famous for hosting the world’s best weavers and textiles, with the fabrics produced here considered the best in the country.
The district of Mongar is associated with certain interesting facts. For example, its lemon grass, which is extracted to produce essential oils. At one point in time, some of the finest administrators in the country originated from this place and whose descendants continue to play an important part in its political affairs of Bhutan. The diversity, which is reflected in its landscape, is also reflected in its dialects, of which there are at least three to four. In fact, the dialect changes with every few kilometers. While the town is beautiful in itself, its beauty is enhanced by the presence of eucalyptus trees dotting the town on all sides. Another sight which will catch your attention during your trip to Mongar are the houses. Most of them are built from stone, while the facades and verandahs are made from wood. This combination is visually appealing, and certainly makes for some wonderful photography.
There are many things to see and do in Mongar. One of them is the Dzong. The original Shongar Dzong was unfortunately destroyed in a fire accident in 1929. The construction of this dzong was ordered by King Jigmye Dorje Wangchuk, the third king of Bhutan. What makes this dzong special is its location. Unlike others, it is gracefully seated on a slope rather than perched on a cliff. Further, unlike most of the other dzongs in the region, it consists of two entrances.
The other famous tourist attraction in Mongar which you should check out is Zhongar Dzong. During the past days, it was known as a major power hub. Today, it is spread over an impressive area of eight acres. The dzong stands as a reminder of the excellence in art and architecture achieved by ancient Bhutanese builders. It is believed that in the 17th century, Zow Balip, the renowned architect, came across a holy white bowl at this very spot and decided to build a dzong at this very spot. A mysterious aura surrounds the place, one which compels you to imagine what this place might have looked like in the ancient days.
Aja Ney is a popular tourist place to visit in Mongar because of its immense religious importance. That importance is magnified several times over by the fact that it is believed to have been specially blessed by Guru Padmasambhava. To reach it, however, you must be prepared to undertake a two days trek from the village of Serzhong. The trek is much looked forward to by trekkers, not just for the natural beauty which they see along the way, but also because it provides a glimpse into the rural life of eastern Bhutan. It is also a major pilgrimage attraction, as pilgrims from all over the world come to see the rock on which the letters “Aa” have been inscribed in a hundred different ways. This rock was discovered by the renowned and highly respected Buddhist saint and philosopher, Guru Padmasambhava.
Dramtse Lhakhang is another famous place to see in Mongar which you should not miss out on your tour to Bhutan. Besides being one of the oldest structures in eastern Bhutan, it is also known to have had a profound influence on the dance movements of Dramtse Drums or Ngacham. It is a rare form of dance whose importance has also been noted by UNESCO. During the dance, the performers, dressed in rich brocades and silken robes, don masks resembling several deities. The dance reenacts the episodes occurring in the mythical Buddhist heaven, Zanglo Peri, which is characterised by lovely copper mountains. It is also believed to be the heavenly abode of Guru Padmasambhava.
Quite a different experience awaits you at the Ugyen Dorji paper factory. Here, you are introduced to the process of paper making by artists belonging to the local communities. A certain kind of plant known as Daphne plant is used to manufacture darker and stronger paper which is easily identifiable with its raw finish.
The local residents of Mongar await the arrival of Sundays with great enthusiasm. On this day, farmers and villagers gather at a place lying in close proximity to the new park to sell their fresh produce. Other places where such weekend markets are famous are Thimphu and Paro. Some of the vegetables on display are potatoes, mushrooms, bananas, eggplants, fiddlehead ferns and onions. A special item to look out for is the Bhutanese red chillies.
The kind of weather that Mongar receives is not different from that received by other places like Trashi Yangtse and Trashigang. The best part about planning a trip to Bhutan is that it receives wonderful weather throughout the year. The best time to visit Mongar depends on you.
Dubbed the eastern beauty of Bhutan, Mongar has moderate connectivity with other parts of the country by road. There are buses thrice or more for Mongar from Thimphu, Trashigang, Samdrup Jongkhar and several other towns in Bhutan.