Bhutan is a country of south-central Asia, located on the eastern ridges of the Himalayas. It is a landlocked country bordered by China to the north and India to the south, east, and west. With around 754000 population and 38,394sq. In of land territory, Bhutan is a small kingdom that flourished as a tourism destination.
Bhutan is historically a remote Kingdom and became less secluded in the second half of the 20th century. By the early 21st century a trip from the Indian border to the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu was possible with transportation improvements. The governmental structure also changed when initiated by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in the 1950s and ’60s led to a shift away from absolute monarchy in the 1990s. Besides, Bhutan now became the institution of multiparty parliamentary democracy in 2008. It is divided into three regions from north to south: the Great Himalayas, the Lesser Himalayas, and the Duars Plain.
Similarly, Bhutan is a culturally rich country. With more than thousands of monasteries and Gompas, it has become an attraction for tourism as well. Similarly, the stunning natural scenery and the enduring image of the country for most visitors is the strong sense of culture and tradition binding the kingdom and clearly distinguishes it from its larger neighbors. Bhutan is the only Vajrayana Buddhist nation in the world. However, the profound teachings of this tradition remain well preserved and exert a strong influence in all aspects of life.
Because of its pristine environment and harmonious society, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan is also known as “The Last Shangrila.”
History of Bhutan
For many years Bhutan was not open to the outside world. Buddhism was introduced to Bhutan in the 7th century AD. Padmasambhava in the 8th century encouraged the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan. Since then, Buddhism has been an integral part of the culture of Bhutan. On the other hand, for centuries, the people of Bhutan were not united. After Ngawang Namgyal became the spiritual leader of Bhutan, he then took the title Zhabdrung Rinpoche. By the influence of Guru Rinpoche, it then became a united country. He classified the government of Bhutan into spiritual and secular. Likewise, the Zhabdrung became the spiritual leader while the Desi ran the secular administration.
In 1627, two Portuguese priests became the first Europeans to visit Bhutan. The era of Political stability was around the 18th century when many desi was assassinated. Furthermore, the British in India were increasingly powerful India. Therefore, Bhutan made the 1st treaty with the British in 1774. However, there was a war between Britain and Bhutan over the Duars, the lowest hills of Bhutan, which finally broke out in 1864 with the Duars taken by the British.
Ugyen Wangchuk, in 1907 was elected king of Bhutan. Then, the treaty was signed in 1910 by Bhutan and Britain. Britain agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan as long as the Bhutanese accepted British advice on its external relations. After the independence of India In 1947, Bhutan and India signed a treaty where India agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese affairs. From the 1960s, Bhutan joined several plans and also became a member of the UN in 1971.
Besides, the king introduced several reforms and created the National Assembly and the Royal Bhutanese Army. Bhutan allowed satellite TV for the first time in 1999. Then it became a democratic country in the early 21st Century. In 2005 the king unveiled a new constitution and the first democratic elections for parliament were held in 2008.
Location of Bhutan
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small landlocked country located in the southern foothills of the Himalayan mountain range, between China in the north and India in the south.
Location in Asia
As a part of Asia, Bhutan is a country in South Asia. Asia is one of the largest continents in the world, Bhutan lies in the center of the southern part of the continent. Bordering China to the north and east, India to the west, and the Indochinese area of Southeast Asia to the southeast, Bhutan is surrounded by a variety of Asian nations of different demographic origins.
Bhutan, a small country in South Asia, is a culturally rich country. Many cities in Bhutan showcase cultural heritage sites and the capital city is one of them. The capital city of Bhutan is Thimphu. Thimphu is the capital and largest city of Bhutan. Situated in the western central part of Bhutan, the city in the surrounding valley is one of Bhutan’s dzongkhags. Before the capital of Bhutan was Pumalha and it was replaced by Thimphu in the year 1961 by the 3rd Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The capital city, Thimphu is home to almost 100000 inhabitants including the Royal family.
Thimphu is the center of commerce, religion, and government in the country. The ancient traditional monasteries, gompas, and modernity make Thimphu the ideal location for visitors to immerse themselves in the contemporary Bhutanese lifestyle. Thimphu is a city with an abundance of restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs, and shopping centers. However, this place still holds onto its cultural identity and values the signs of modernization as well. Likewise, being one of the few towns in Bhutan that have been equipped with ATM banking facilities, Thimphu is a good place to stock up on some currency.
On the other hand, the major attraction sites of Thimpu are the National Post Office, the Clock Tower Square, the Motithang Takin Preserve, Tango and Chari Monasteries, Buddha Dordenma, National Memorial Chorten, Centenary Farmers Market, Simtokha Dzong to name a few. Every year thousands of tourists make their way to Thimphu for cultural exploration.
The national flag is the symbol of national pride and glory to any country. The same goes for Bhutan as well. The national flag is the national symbol of Bhutan featuring a dragon from Bhutanese mythology. The national flag was taken on in the year 1949. However, the flag before 1949 was a yellow field with a dragon at the center referencing the relationship of the country with the emperors of China. After signing the Indo-Bhutan treaty in 1949 the first official national flag was chosen with square yellow and red bicolor and a green dragon in the center. The dragon signifies the ‘Druk’ which is the name of the Bhutanese thunder dragon.
In 1969 Jigme Dorji Wangchuck made the flag a rectangle and the red part changed to orange where the dragon’s body was relaxed. This new flag is the present flag of Bhutan. However, It wasn’t until 1972 that a code of conduct was enlisted to specify the flag’s size and conditions in which it should be flown. Likewise, the color in the flag has a specific meaning. The white dragon represents purity, the yellow represents the Kingdom of Bhutan’s yellow Kagney. Similarly, the orange represents the Buddhist tradition and the jewels represent Bhutan’s wealth and security.
Some facts about the Bhutanese National Flag
Like every other flag in the world, the flag to Bhutan carries some facts as well and they are:
- The Bhutan flag is one of the more vibrant contrasting orange and yellow that meet in the middle at a detailed white dragon.
- The flag of Bhutan has been in use since approx 1965.
- Bhutan being a private and secretive country that only a few knew about. The flag was unknown to the world as well.
- Bhutan needs a flag because of its geographical location.
- The white color on the Bhutan flag was originally green. Green was changed to white which symbolizes purity.
- The symbolism of the Bhutan Flag
Yellow – Authority of the King
Orange – Drukpa Monasteries
White – Purity
Dragon – Thunder Dragon
- The yellow color from the Bhutan flags comes from the official color of the Bhutan government which is yellow.
- The yellow color symbolizes the power and authority of the King who is the ruling power in Bhutan.
- Similarly, the orange symbolizes the different Buddhist groups in Bhutan and enhances the importance of the Buddhists in Bhutan.
- However, the dragon design in the flag was influenced by China.
Why is Bhutan So Rich and Happy Nation?
The small kingdom in the Himalayas, Bhutan has everything including the ambitious task of pledging happiness for all of its citizens. Bhutanese people and government prioritize GNH, the Gross National Happiness of its people, over the country’s GDP. Bhutan is a rich country and one of the happiest and most peaceful countries in the world. The people in Bhutan appeared to be happy and content.
Furthermore, counting the smiling citizens, there are more definitive criteria behind the philosophy
Conservation of the Environment
A healthy and fresh environment leads to a happy and rich lifestyle. Currently, 70% of Bhutan is covered in forest and this figure should never drop below 60%. On the other hand, Bhutan is one of the bio-diverse countries in the world. The conservation of the forests has an obvious effect on wildlife and it is home to an incredible variety of birdlife and rare animals, such as snow leopards and Himalayan blue sheep. There is a positive connection between nature and well-being which can increase self-esteem and improve mood; reduce stress levels and blood pressure – essentially make us happier and healthier.
Therefore, it is obvious that Bhutan’s preservation of its natural environment contributes positively to its high GNH.
Apart from environmental conservation, this peaceful kingdom surveys development proposals that come along, both for its impact on the environment and the local population. Likewise, they prioritize social and ecological considerations over commercial interests. Furthermore, this ‘sustainability perspective is also applicable to tourism in Bhutan, with a focus on low volume, high-value visitors.
Promotion & preservation of culture
The distinct cultural identity and age-old traditions in Bhutan are another reason for its happiness and richness. The numerous dzongs and monasteries throughout the country, peaceful gompas, bring shrines and peace to the mind and soul of people. Besides, several colorful village festivals continue to be part of the annual calendar with the national dress throughout the country. The conservation and protection of Bhutanese culture are widespread in Bhutan. Studies and research prove that when people feel connected to others around them and have a sense of group identity, they feel happier and more secure.
The situation of the country fully depends upon the governance of the country. Bhutan was converted from an absolute monarchy to democratic parliamentary rule as of 2008. Good governance is one of the fourth elements of GNH. A democratically elected government without corruption is an essential part of GLH for Bhutan. Besides, free healthcare for all and free education up to the tertiary level can thereby contribute to the general happiness and wellbeing of Bhutan’s citizens.
What is Bhutan Famous For?
The tiny kingdom of Bhutan, in the Himalayas between China and India, is mostly famous for its GNH where the happiness of the citizens matters most to the government. GNH stands for Goss National Happiness, a measurement tool used to incentivize policies that increase the well-being of its people.
On the other hand, It is highly famous as a Buddhist country with several dzongs, monasteries, and Gompas.
Why is Bhutan So Expensive?
A trip to Bhutan is one of the most fascinating experiences. However, the Bhutan trip is one of the most expensive trips in the world. The expenses in Bhutan according to the Government fee are around USD 200 per day per person in the low season and USD 250 per day per person during the high season.
Here are some of the reasons why it is expensive.
All internal Taxes and Charges
The internal taxes and charges to the tourist destination are some of the reasons that Bhutan is so expensive. It doesn’t mean that they are very expensive but adding this amount to your expenses can make it costly.
Tourism Royalty Fee
The portion of tourism fees and expenses contributes towards free education and free healthcare, plus helping towards the building and renewal of infrastructure. This helps Bhutan stand out sustainably. So, the fee may be a little more expensive, but it is for the welfare of the country.
Accommodation and foods
Those extra amounts you spend on food and accommodation also add up to your expenses. There will be the facilities of accommodation of every standard from a normal one to a lavish one. So, the choice is yours.
Because of differences in culture, and language the visitors should hire a tourist guide.
Must Visit Places in Bhutan
Some places in Bhutan are incredibly amazing and one cannot miss out on this place.
Bumthang Dzongkhag consists of four main valleys, Ura, Chumey, Tang, and Choekhor where Choekhor is the largest of all. The valleys are broad with the ancient glaciers. Bumthang is one of the richest districts in terms of historical and spiritual legacy. Several old temples and monasteries are found in Bumthang, including Jambay Lhakhang. Besides, the land of Bumthang showcases the wonderful scenario of Bhutanese landscapes.
The Trashigang Dzong or ‘The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill’, built-in 1659 was to defend against Tibetan invasions. This fortress is strategically high atop overlooking the Dangmechu River.
A trip to Bhutan is incomplete without visiting Taktsang or Tiger Nest monastery. It is one of the pilgrimages in Bhutan where Guru Rinpoche came to this place on a tigress’s back to suppress a local demon. This monastery hangs on a cliff above the lush forest of thousands of species of rhododendrons and blue pine. Thus, the key attractions of this place are the tiger’s nest, the cave temple inside the monastery, the majestic views, as well as the many small temples inside the premises of the monastery.
The second-largest dzong, known for its brilliant structure is Punakha Dzong. These dzongs tell beautiful stories and traditions of Buddhist culture. The Dzong is at an elevation of 1,200 meters where there is no risk of altitude sickness. The building has no usage of nails because this dzong took a year to be completed. This place has its historical importance as the king of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck got married to Queen Jetsun Pema in 2011.
Chele La Pass
The Chele La pass is one of the major attractions of Bhutan. Located at an altitude of about 3,989 meters, Chele La pass is the magnificent pass en route to the Haa Valley in Paro. It is at an elevation of 13000 feet. Likewise, on a clear day, one can encounter the amazing view of Jomolhari mountain. Similarly, the adjacent peaks from the northwest side and also the wonderful view of Haa and Paro valley are something that trekkers must see.
Dochula Pass is a beautiful pass consisting of 108 Chortens or Stupas. It was built in the memory of the Bhutanese soldiers who died in a war against the insurgents from India. The pass is on the way from Thimphu to Punakha and is a popular location for every tourist who visits the country. The pass showcases the stunning view of the Himalayan mountain – Chomolhari, Druk Wangyal Lhakhang temple, and the fusion paintings on the temple walls. On the other hand, one can enjoy small holidays and picnics here.
Jigme Dorji National Park
If you are into nature and natural resources then you must not miss Jigme Dorji National park. It is the second-largest national park in Bhutan stretching to a vast area of 1316 square km. Some of the rare species found in this national park are the Bengal tiger, snow leopard, Himalayan blue sheep, and black bear. Therefore, Bhutan is not only about culture and tradition but also about nature and natural species.
There are plenty of monasteries in Bhutan and Rinpung Dzong is one of them. If you want to witness the top-notch architecture of Bhutan, then this Dzong is for you. The name Rinpoche translates to ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewel’. The Dzong houses 14 shrines and chapels. However, most of the chapels are not open to tourists. This dzong is on the steel hillside offering breathtaking views of the hills. Besides, Nyamai Zam spanning over the Paro Chhu River is also a major attraction.
Phobjikha is a small town in the central part of Bhutan. The valley showcases the wonderful scenery of mountains and lush greenery making it one of the top Bhutan attractions. Besides, this place is famous for its beautiful landscapes and passes. Furthermore, a day’s hike will take you through the town and the woods in this valley. Phobjikha valley is at an elevation of about 3000-meter and is in the shape of a bowl. The key attraction of these places is the Black-necked cranes who migrate to Phobjikha in November. This is heaven for those who are fond of birds and nature.
Another locally and culturally rich valley is Haa Valley. It is only 13 miles away from the India-China border, connecting major Bhutanese villages like Chhukha, Paro, and Samtse. Stretching over an area of 1700 square kilometers, the valley was just opened to the public in 2002. Despite being one of the major tourism areas, do not expect to find any luxury hotels in Haa Valley. The homestay in this valley is far more homely and meaningful. Therefore, the amazing hospitality with the mesmerizing view of the landscapes is what the Haa valley is famous for.
Things to Do in Bhutan
Bhutan is all about cultural tours and a short hike. Hiking through wonderful landscapes stopping in the middle just to witness an ancient monastery is wonderfully an amazing experience.
Bhutan Cultural Tours
The cultural tour to Bhutan lets you explore various culturally rich cities including the capital city, Thimphu. Along with this, the cultural tours let you witness the rare sides of cities in Bhutan such as Paro, Punakha, and Thimphu. Also, the tour lets you witness a glimpse of Bhutan’s rich religious and cultural heritage all along the way. The cultural tours provide a wonderful opportunity to directly interact with local people, experience culture. The cultural tours bring travelers close to a vibrant Buddhist way of life. Similarly, one can take a stroll to the culturally rich monasteries of Punakha and Bumthang.
Besides, this tour offers the wonderful package of visiting numerous sacred sites, Dzongs, temples, landmarks, monasteries, markets, farmhouses, schools & museums. Therefore, these cultural tours provide a depth of culture and Bhutanese people and discover the reason why Bhutanese are among the world’s happiest people.
Walking and Hiking Tours
Apart from the cultural tour in Bhutan, walking and hiking are what Bhutan is famous for. Taking a short stroll to the religious place of Bhutan in the evening gives you a wonderful feeling. Bhutan’s landscapes are filled with villages, hills, farmland, cliffside monasteries, forests, and mountains, which are ideal for day-long and short hikes. There are several places where you can hike in Bhutan and they are.
Moderate: Taktsang Goemba (Tiger’s Nest Monastery)
Easy: Dochu La (10,006 feet) to Lungchutse Lhakhang (11,482 feet)
Easy: Gangtey Nature Trail, Phobjikha Valley
Moderate: Ngang Lhakhang to Taichung in Tang Valley
Hike to Khamsum Chorten, Punakha Valley
Other Things to Do in Bhutan
Bhutan is just more than hiking and taking a cultural tour. There are several other things one can do during their stay in Bhutan and they are:
One can go bird-watching in Bhutan. You can find wildlife sanctuaries like Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, Jigme Dorji National Park, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, and Thrumshingla National Parks for bird watching in Bhutan.
Try Bhutanese Cuisine especially local. A local food tour is a must for things to do in Bhutan.
Everyone wants to have some memories of their tour in any place. Therefore, you can go shopping in Bhutan. There will be handmade stuff available at a cheap price.
Want to try something fun then go for archery competitions that are one of the best Bhutan attractions and its national sport too.
Finally, Fishing, cycling, horse riding, camping, rock climbing are other fun activities you can consider doing in Bhutan.
Facts about Bhutan
- It is a landlocked country in the world and is about half the size of the state of Indiana.
- The word “Bhutan” translates to “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” The name originates from the fierce storms that often roll in from the Himalayas.
- At least 60 percent of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times.
- One-third of Bhutan’s population is under the age of 14
- The capital city of Bhutan, Thimpu is one of just two cities in Asia without a single traffic light.
- The sale of tobacco is illegal in Bhutan
- Anyone found killing a black-necked crane could be sentenced to life in prison.
- Bhutan is the happiest country in the world where the government gives priority to GNH, Gross National Happiness.