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Merak & Sakteng in east Bhutan
Bhutan Tourism : Places to Visit in Bhutan : Merak & Sakteng in Eastern Bhutan

Places to visit in Merak & Sakteng Bhutan

Merak & Sakteng (alt. 3,500m / 11,480 ft)
Merak-Sakteng stands out as a distinct attraction in Bhutan. Unlike anywhere else in the country, it offers visitor to experience a unique semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture and vernacular of Brokpas (or Takpas) people in one of the most scenic pastoral valleys in the protected area of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) of Trashigang district, in Eastern Bhutan.merak sakteng Bhutan

The area officially opened for tourism in 2009 and since then only a handful of foreign visitors have visited this remote highland region. Undeniably, being remote and isolated, Merak and Sakteng offer pristine nature and unique culture. Visiting the Merak-Sakteng villages at this early stage of tourism development promises an unforgettable experience.

Merak and Sakteng valleys fall within the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, which was created in April 2003 with a strong agenda for conservation and to protect the unique assemblage of biological and cultural diversity in the region. The Sanctuary protects the easternmost temperate forest eco-systems in Bhutan and includes endemic vegetation species such as eastern blue pine as well as scores of endemic bird species found only in Eastern Bhutan. The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary was primarily set up to protect the elusive Migoi, or yeti, which is historically rooted in the belief system of the Brokpas people and part of their worship ritual practices. Other wildlife in Merak-Sakteng forests includes snow leopard, red panda, Himalayan black bear, barking deer, Himalayan red fox and the hoary-bellied Himalayan squirrel. The Merak and Sakteng highlands possess also a rich variety of bird species. The Sanctuary is typical of the diversity of Himalayan terrestrial eco-systems, combing alpine meadow, temperate forest and warm broad leaf forest. According to the surveys conducted by the World Wildlife Fund some 203 species of plants, 119 species of birds and 18 species of mammals have been confirmed in Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. It is also connected to Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary by a biological corridor, a part of the Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex.

The Brokpas people remain semi-nomadic, migrating through the seasons with their yaks and still engage in the barter system, trading cheese, butter and dried meat for grains and other goods that are not readily available to them. The first glimpse of the Brokpas confirms that their origin lies in Tibet whence they had migrated from some 500 years ago. Men wear animal skins over their clothes which as that worn by women is made of home-spun cloth woven on simple back strap looms. All Brokpas wear a distinctive yak felt hat with characteristic five tassels spun to channel water runoff from the top of the hat needed especially during the rainy summer season.

Merak and Sakteng are the two main Brokpa villages. The villages are compact settlement and the houses are built of stones with small windows. The architecture of the Brokpa strongly resembles that of other high mountain dwellers of the Himalayas, whether the Layap of the Laya Gasa region of north-western Bhutan or the Lhomi Tibetan of the upper Arun river and other regions of Nepal Himalayas.


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