Samdrup Jongkhar town holds the distinct honor of being the oldest town in Bhutan. This border town is a bustling little settlement packed to the brim with shopkeepers and hawkers from across the border.
There are several well-maintained hotels, most of which serve a good mix of Bhutanese, Indian and continental cuisine. As a border town, Samdrup Jongkhar is often used as the entry point for merchants and tourists entering Eastern Bhutan overland.
A little way outside the town you can find the Mithun Breeding Farm. Mithuns are widely considered to be the best breed of cattle in Bhutan and this farm supplies farmers from the six eastern districts with this magnificent animal.
Samdrup Jongkhar: Gateway to Eastern Bhutan
The gateway to Eastern Bhutan, Samdrup Jongkhar is situated in the southeastern region of the country and shares borders with the Indian state of Assam. It is by far the largest urban center in eastern Bhutan. It lies at elevations ranging from 200m to 3,500m. In the past, many British Political Officers stationed in Sikkim took the route from Samdrup Jongkhar to enter into Bhutan. Historically the region was administered by the Gyadrung stationed at Dewangiri.
Today the road from Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar, completed in the 1960s, connects the eastern and southern regions of the country, allowing them to benefit from trade, especially through trade across the Indian border. In the past Samdrup Jongkhar was the main trading center for the Bhutanese and it is still a convenient exit town for tourists who have arranged to visit the neighboring Indian state of Assam.
Samdrup Jongkhar Dzong
This Dzong serves as the administrative center of the district and is one of the newest Dzongs to have been built in the country. Unlike other Dzongs that are built on strategic locations atop mountains or between rivers, the Dzong in Samdrup Jongkhar is built on a flat and fairly wide-open area.
This Dratshang was only recently constructed next to the Dzong. It houses the monk body and has many new novices looked after by the religious functionaries.
This three storied temple set in the middle of town is adorned with the work of the master Bhutanese craftsmen. Its intricate frescos and beautiful statues are truly a sight to behold. Due to its religious significance and convenient location, Zangdopelri is at the heart of the spiritual lives of the people of this area.
Dewathang is the site where Jigme Namgyal, the father of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck led the Bhutanese troops in a final battle against the British in 1884. Though the Bhutanese put up a strong resistance against the British, Jigme Namgyal ultimately signed the treaty of Sinchula with the British in 1865.The office of the Gyadrung, the district administrator was once located in this small town situated 18 kilometers from Samdrup Jongkhar.
Mithun Breeding Farm
The only Mithun breeding farm in the east is located at Orong, along the highway reroute to Samdrup Jongkhar, above the town of Dewathang. The Mithuns are considered the finest breed of bison in Bhutan and it will be worthwhile to stop for a while to observe and photograph magnificent animals. The Mithuns raised here are supplied to the farmers of the six eastern districts.
The town in Samdrup Jongkhar is one of the oldest in Eastern Bhutan and has seen gradual development over the years. It is a bustling little town with shopkeepers and hawkers coming from the nearby border of Assam to sell their wares. It also houses the oldest cinema theatre in the country that is popular among the Assamese from across the border for the Bollywood films it screens.