In one of the furthest corners of Bhutan lies Trashiyangtse, a former sub-district of Trashigang that was only established as a dzongkhag of its own in 1992. With sub-tropical and alpine forests as far as the eye can see, the town and its surrounding countryside is ideal for exploring by foot. Trashiyangtse is also an ethnically and culturally diverse district whose inhabitants include some of Bhutan’s indigenous dwellers, such as the Yangtseps, Tshanglas, Bramis, Khengpas and Kurtoeps.
Known officially as Gomphu Kora — gomphu denoting a sacred meditation site for Guru Rinpoche and kora meaning ‘circumamabulation’ — this temple overlooks the Dangme Chhu river in Trashiyangtse. Set against a lush green fields backdrop, its yellow roof and red-robed monks make for a picture-perfect scene.
Built in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Lodrö, the grandson of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state, the temple was erected to subdue a demon believed to have been living onsite. Taking 12 years to construct, its spherical design was inspired by the Bodhnath stupa in Nepal.
Spanning most of Trashiyangtse, the sanctuary is home to some 100 species of mammals, including endangered creatures like the snow leopard, royal Bengal tiger and red panda. Thanks to its 1,500 to 6,000m elevation, it gives visitors sprawling views of alpine lakes and Bumdeling Valley below. The sanctuary is also one of two wintering sites that support the black-necked cranes.