Gomkora Tshechu Festival Tour in Eastern Bhutan takes you to the heart of Trashigang in the Gomphu Kora for a ceremonial annual event observed by the ethnic tribes of Bhutan. The 13 days tour is not just limited to eastern Bhutan but crosses the central and western region while visiting the cultural and architectural marvels of the country.
Your visit to the Gomphu Kora on the festival day lets you intermingle with the ethnic tribes to understand the significance of religion in their lives through their folk songs, traditional dresses, celebratory dances, and even marriages. The tour traverses through rhododendron and pine-clad forests through the valleys of Sherichu, Kuri Chhu, Bumthang, and Paro while visiting the villages of Narphung, Womrong, Khaling, Kanglung, Ura, and Yadi. Passing through these landscapes lets, you stop at the places of worship and cultural significance that witness vibrant festivals in different months of the Bhutanese calendar. In essence, the Gomkora Tshechu tour introduces you to the annual festival of Eastern Bhutan then cuts through the country's midsection towards the western side in search of treasured heritage.
|Day 1||Drive from Guwahati to Samdrup Jongkhar and sightseeing - 2 to 3 hours (104km) drive|
|Day 2||Drive from Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang - 5 to 6 hours (180km) drive|
|Day 3||Enjoy the Gomkora festival|
|Day 4||Drive from Trashigang to Mongar - 3 to 4 hours (90km) drive|
|Day 5||Drive from Mongar to Bumthang - 6 to 7 hours (181km) drive|
|Day 6||Bumthang sightseeing hike|
|Day 7||Drive from Bumthang to Punakha - 6 to 7 hours (216km) drive|
|Day 8||Excursion hike in Punakha|
|Day 9||Drive from Punakha to Thimphu via Dochu La pass (3,100m/10,170ft) - 2 to 3 hours (74km) drive|
|Day 10||Sightseeing hike to Thimphu|
|Day 11||Drive from Thimphu to Paro and sightseeing - 1:30 hours (55km) drive|
|Day 12||Sightseeing Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery|
|Day 13||Final Departure from Paro|
Gomkora Tshechu Festival Tour in Eastern Bhutan takes you on an adventure from the eastern to the western region of Bhutan while enjoying the Gomkora festival and visiting the cultural icons of Bhutan. Gomkora Tshechu Festival is celebrated in the eastern region of Bhutan for three days in the second month of the Bhutanese calendar, falling sometime in March or April annually. It is held at the Gomphu Kora situated near the Trashigang Dzong. The tour lets you enjoy the festival while intermingling with the nomadic and ethnic tribes of the nearby villages and even from some states of India. The reunion during this annual festival sees men and women in their finery, partaking in the unique dances, folk songs, and ancient practices, which is the major attraction of this tour.
You will begin your tour from the airport at Guwahati, India, and head to the eastern entry point of Bhutan at Samdrup Jongkhar. It is regarded as one of the oldest towns in Bhutan a. The next day’s trip takes you past the villages of Narphung, Womrong, Khaling, and Kanglung, where you can make quick stops to interact with the local ethnic people of Bhutan to get an insight into their daily life and their traditional practices. The day’s drive ends at Trashigang after passing through the Yongphu La pass.
The third day of your tour is the most important and exciting as you get to visit the Gomphu Kora near the Drangme Chhu river for the Gomkora festival. The festival is as vibrant and enjoyable as you could imagine. It is a mixture of pure spirituality towards Buddhist religion followed by the traditional practices. You can join along with the nearby villagers, nomadic tribes of Merak and Sakteng, and the Dakpa tribe from India, to enjoy traditional dances, folk songs, and celebratory practices. You can walk around the Kora and also crawl through the narrow passway, which is meant to cleanse your soul of any sins.
The next day’s drive takes you to Mongar, passing through a Chazma, to Sherichu valley, and the village of Naktshang. Crossing the Kori La pass and Kilikhar lands you in Mongar town, which is known as the oldest educational hub of Bhutan. On the next day, you will head towards the religious heart of Bhutan at Bumthang. The drive, although long, is filled with an exciting landscape. You will pass through pine forests downhill to the Kuri Zampa bridge, then head to the Kuri Chhu valley and cross the Thrumsingla pass at 3750m which is the highest elevation of the trip. Your drive through the dense forest of Thrumsingla National Park will lead to Ura village with a cobblestone street before finally making a stop at Bumthang.
Your next day will be spent sightseeing around Bumthang. Some of the religious places that you will visit are the Jakar Dzong, also called the castle of the white bird. Kurjey Lhakhang, where Guru Rimpoche is believed to have left his imprint; Jambay Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built in the 7th century; and Tamshing Lhakhang with its ancient paintings and arts. All these religious sites hold distinct festivals in different seasons round the year.
The next day’s drive will take you to the old capital of Bhutan at Punakha and introduce you to the largest fortress of Trongsa Dzong and the Nepali styled Stupa, Chendebji Chorten, on the way. On the next day, you will stay at Punakha for sightseeing. Some of the religious places you can visit are the Punakha Dzong situated between the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers; Chimi Lhakhang, built by the Divine Madman, featuring phallus objects and paintings; and the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten built in 2004.
From Punakha, you will head to the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu, by crossing the Dochu La pass (3,100m/10,170ft) on the next day. Dochula Pass is the major highlight of this day, with the 108 memorial chortens and the open yard known to hold the annual Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival. The next day’s tour around Thimphu takes you to the King’s Memorial Chorten, tall bronze Buddha Dordenma statue, Tashi Chhoedzong, and the Motithang Takin Preserve a protected area for Takin, the national animal of Bhutan.
The next day’s drive takes you to Paro town, where you get to engage in some nearby sightseeing. You will visit the Rinpung Dzong and the old temple of Jowo at Kyichu Lhakhang. Both the monastery and Temple are closely related to the spiritual leader Guru Rimpoche. As a bonus to the tour, you will be heading to the very famous Tiger’s Nest monastery on the next day. The hike takes you through a 900m ascent to a cliff. Situated on the cliff is the Paro Taktsang/Tiger’s Nest monastery, which gains its significance from the mythology that Guru Rimpoche flew on a Tiger’s back and mediated on the caves of Thulo Phuk and Pel Phuk, respectively.
After enjoying the ancient architecture, culture, and landscape of Bhutan, you will take a drive to the Paro international airport on the final day for your departure homewards.
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On this day, you will land at the Guwahati airport, the main airport in the North Eastern end of India. Upon landing from the plane, you will continue the documentation process and be greeted by our representatives, who will escort you to Samdrup Jongkhar. As you transfer from Guwahati to Samdrup Jongkhar, you will pass a tea garden, farms, and the Brahmaputra Rivers. Along the way, you will cross Dora Kahara, Baihata Chariali, Lahapara, Gerua, Kumarikata, and finally Darangamela to enter Samdrup.
Samdrup Jongkhar is the eastern entry point in Bhutan. It is one of the oldest towns in Bhutan and borders the state of Assam in India. You can spot the hustle and bustle of the large urban center in Samdrup. Upon reaching Samdrup, you will be transferred to your hotel.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Samdrup Jongkhar.
On this day, you will begin your long drive from Samdrup towards Trashigang. You will pass through some Sal forest then head towards Doethang, which is dominated by army camps. Eventually, the trail crosses a ridge to climb up to 1,920m. You will be steering off to Melong Brak then to the Pemagatshel junction. From the junction, the Pemagatshel town is about 29km away. Ultimately, after your drive continues, you will reach the Wamrong town to make a stop there and interact with the locals. Conversing with the locals lets you understand their way of life and how religion and culture are interwoven into their traditional practices.
The drive continues to Kharungla fields and small scattered villages. Eventually, you will reach Khaling, where you can make a stop for an excursion around the small town. From thereon, the road takes you to Yongphu La pass at 2,190m/7,185ft. You will be mesmerized as you enter Kanglung as you get to witness the terraced field while entering the town of Trashigang. After reaching the town, you will be transferred to your hotel or guest house.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Trashigang.
On this day, you will get to witness the amazing Gomkora Festival in the district of Trashigang. Trashigang sits on the valley above the Drangme Chhu river. On this day, you will head to the Gomphu Kora, which is a one-hour drive from Trashigang, following the road to Yangtse. The Gompa Kora loosely translates to ‘Meditation Cave Circumambulation.’ A popular song that chants, ‘Go around Gomphu Kpra Today, for tomorrow may be too late.’ It is believed that Guru Rimpoche, the spiritual leader of Bhutan, meditated here and left an imprint on the rocks. According to Bhutanese mythology, Guru Rimpoche slew an evil dragon into the rock, leaving the dragon's imprints and hat. Minjur Tempa built Gomphu Kora in the 17th century. The kora holds statues of many relics.
The major attraction of Gomphu Kora, situated between the rice fields, is indeed the Gomkora Tsechu, an annual festival held on the 8th to 11th days of the second Bhutanese Month, which falls around March or April, before the start of the farming season. The festival witnesses Bhutanese pilgrims descending to the narrow valley, wearing their authentic ethnic dresses to celebrate. The neighboring Dakpa tribe for Arunachal Pradesh in India and nomadic tribes from Merak Sakteng in Bhutan also flock to Gomphu Kora to observe this festival. Their religion and beliefs can be seen when they travel on foot for many days to the kora.
During the festival, in the evening, all the pilgrims join for a clockwise circumambulation around the temple while chanting prayers. The pilgrims crawl through a narrow and twisting passway to test your negative actions and cleanse them. They celebrate the festival throughout the night for 3 days. It is also auspicious to get married at the Kora during the last day of the celebration. After enjoying the festival, you will head back to your hotel in Trashigang.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Trashigang.
On this day, you will head from Trashigang to Mongar on a short drive. The road begins from Chazma, which is a junction between Gomkora to Tashiyangste. Chazma is an iron bridge built in the 15th century above the Drangme Chhu river. You will enter Tungdari, after which a valley takes you along the Drangme Chhu river to Sherichhu valley. You will gradually reach the Yadi village through the Yadi loops. Here you will stop for a cup of tea and talk to the locals.
The drive continues past the mustard fields and into the village of Naktshang. You will be heading to the forest and reach the Kori La pass at an elevation of 2,450m/8,038ft. You will stop here to enjoy the views of mani walls and prayer flags. Some tourists even enjoy birdwatching. Through some rhododendron-clad forests, you will descend on the side of cliffs that open up to fields in Kilikhar. Finally, you will reach your hotel or guesthouse in Mongar town for a hot meal. Mongar is one of the oldest educational hubs of the country, characterized by standard hotels, hospitals, and colleges. In the evening, you can head out to the street of Mongar to visit the regional hubs.
Overnight stay at the hotel or guesthouse in Mongar.
Your long drive marks the day from Mongar to the religious hub of Bhutan at Bumthang. The drive begins from Mongar and passes through cultivated fields and Pine forests and then downhill to the Kuri Zampa bridge. From the bridge, the drive continues through terraced fields into the Kuri Chhu valley. You will pass through many streams, waterfalls, and rock cliffs from the valley and then ascends to Sengor. You will be driving to a high pass on this day, Thrumsingla pass, at the elevation of 3,750m/12,303ft and make a brief stop here and enjoy the views of Gangkar Phuensum. Eventually, crossing the pass leads you through a dense forest and into Thrumsingla National Park.
From there on, you will enter the Ura village sitting at an elevation of 3,100m/10,170ft. There are around 40 houses in the village. You can walk past the cobblestone streets where you will watch women and men wearing authentic dresses.
Overnight stay at hotel in Bumthang.
As Bumthang is Bhutan's cultural and religious heart, there are numerous sightseeing tourist attractions that you can visit on this day. Jakar Dzong, also called the ‘castle of the white bird,’ houses the regional administration of the Bumthang District. From the monastery, you can get views of Chokhor valley. The monastery is known best for the sacred masked dances that take place once a year during the Jakar Tshechu festival.
Kurjey Lhakhang is a beautiful temple that comprises three temples in the vicinity that are as old as Bhutan. It is believed that Guru Rimpoche left his imprint in the rock here as he meditated. 108 Chorten walls surround the temple. It also witnesses the Kurjey Tshechu festival in the summer.
Jambay Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples, which is located a few minutes away from the town of Jakar. King Songsten Gampo constructed it in the 7th century. There are many festivals held here all around the year.
Tamshing Lhakhang is near the Kurjey Lhakhang and is best known for the ancient paintings and arts, particularly the 1000 Buddhas and 21 Taras paintings. In the autumn season, this temple observes the famous Tamshing Phala Chhoepa festival.
You can also visit the local Red Panda Brewery and Cheese Factory to taste the amazing Emmenthal and Gouda cheese made by some swiss nationals. You can also enjoy the apple cider and Weiss Beer made by the brewers.
After the visit to these tourist attractions, you can stroll around the streets of Bumthang to interact with the locals and understand the importance of religion in their livelihood.
Overnight stay at hotel in Bumthang.
On this day, you will be taking one of the longest drives of the tour towards Punakha. It is an exciting trip as you get to view the hills surrounding the valley of Bumthang. You pass through roads filled with pine trees on the sides. You will be heading to Trongsa on the way, where you can make a stop to visit the Trongsa Dzong. It is the largest fortress in Bhutan, which overlooks the gorge of the Mangde River and Nagi Wangchuk built it in the 15th century. You can visit the Chenrezig Lhakhang, Maitreya temple, and see the monks walking around doing their usual chores.
You can also stop at Chendebji on the way and visit the Chorten of the same name. The stupa was built in Nepali style in the 18th century. According to myth, it covers the body of an evil spirit. After having your lunch in the area, you will head on to Wangdue Phodrang Trongsa Highway into the village of Wangdue Phodrang after a swift turn. From there on, you will cross Pajo, Khuruthang, and reach Punakha. After the long drive, you will be transferred to your hotel for a rest.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Punakha.
After having breakfast, you will visit the Punakha Dzong for your sightseeing tour. The dzong is situated between the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu river and is the second largest and second oldest Dzong in Bhutan built in the 16th century. It was the old administrative center of the seat of the Government of Bhutan when Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1955.
After the visit to Punakha Dzong, you will take a short drive to Lobesa and take a short hike through rice fields towards Chimi Lhakhang. It is a temple built by Ngawang Choegyel, also known as the Divine Madman, for his distinct ways of promoting Buddhism in Bhutan. The temple is unique because it is filled with phallus paintings and objects, which the Divine Madman promoted. As it is called ‘The Fertility Temple,’ Bhutanese women come here to get blessings.
After you visit Chimi Lhakhang, you will have lunch, then walk past a suspension bridge uphill towards Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. It was built not long ago, in 2004, by the Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. It was built to spread peace in the world. The exterior is in the form of a pagoda, while the four-story interior has mandalas of Vajarakilaya. After enjoying the sightseeing tour, you will head back to your hotel.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Punakha.
On this day, you will be leaving the old capital of Bhutan, Punakha, and heading towards the new capital, Thimphu. It is a lovely drive that crosses the Dochu La pass at the elevation of 3,100m/10,170ft. You can stop at the pass to enjoy the views of the snowcapped Himalayas. The pass also consists of 108 memorial chortens called the Druk Wangyal Chortens. Its open yard hosts Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival each year.
From the Dochu La pass, you continue to drive and head to Thimphu city. You can enjoy the evening by strolling around the streets, which are different from those seen at Trashigang.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Thimphu.
On this day, you will enjoy some sightseeing tours in Thimphu city. The visit will begin from King’s Memorial Chorten. It is popularly dubbed as ‘the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan’ with its golden spires and bells. The Tibetan styled Chorten is richly carved and decorated with mandalas, statues, and shrines dedicated to the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. From there, you will head on to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine and the School of Arts and Crafts.
You can continue your tour to the Buddha Dordenma, which has a 57m/177ft tall statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, depicting peace and prosperity in the world. Then you can head to the Motithang Takin Preserve, a wildlife area particularly for Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. You can then visit the Tashi Chhoedzong, known as the ‘Fortress of Glorious Religion. Another exciting activity in Bhutan is to enjoy observing the archery of professional archers in the local playing grounds.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Thimphu.
On this day, you will be taking a drive from Thimphu city to Paro town. It is a short drive that begins after breakfast. You will be passing the Chhuzom, which is a confluence of the Pa Chhu river of Paro and the Thimphu Chhu river of Thimphu. Along the side of the road, you can buy apples, cheese, vegetables from the locals.
After you reach Paro, you will be transferred to your hotel, where you can get refreshed. In the afternoon, you will head out on a sightseeing tour in Paro. You will head towards the nearby Rinpung Dzong by crossing a wooden bridge. The monastery houses the administrative office of Paro. You can visit the fourteen shrines and chapels in the vicinity. From there, you will head to Kyichu Lhakhang, which has one of the oldest temples, the Jowo Temple, built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor, Songtsen Gampo. After enjoying the sightseeing tour, you can head back to your hotel, and on the way, stroll around the streets, which are filled with women drying the red chilies.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Paro.
The final day of your tour will conclude with one of the best hikes in Bhutan. You will be heading to the Paro Taktshang, also known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The hike takes you 900m above the Paro valley floor, bypassing a forest of pine. The monastery is situated on the side of a cliff at 3,180m. It holds high value among Buddhist pilgrims because of the mythology surrounding it. It is believed that Guru Rimpoche/ Padmasambhava rode on a Tiger’s back and landed on the caves here to meditate for months on end. He is known to be the leader who brought Buddhism to Bhutan.
The sacred Thulo Phuk cave is known to be where Guru Rimpoche came on his Tiger’s back, and the Pel Phuk is known to be the cave where he meditated. You can visit these caves and walk-through stone stairs to reach the different buildings. The paintings and statues of ancient relics are fascinating. Apart from the main shrine of Taktshang, you can visit the Urgyan Tsemo shrine and the Prayer wheel in the vicinity. You will later hike back to the valley floor and drive off to your hotel.
Overnight stay at a hotel in Paro.
It is your final departure from Bhutan on this day. You will be driven to the Paro International Airport by our Bhutanese guide, who will bid you farewell. After the amazing time in the valleys of Paro, Bumthang, Trashigang, and the opportunity to observe one of the most significant festivals of Bhutan, Gomkora Tshechu, you will head homewards. You can contact us again for similar amazing tours to experience various Bhutanese festivals in different seasons.
Images Credit: Pema Gyamtsho,