Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. In the High Himalayas, peaks such as 7,326m Jomolhari are popular trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest) clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley.
Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas between China and India, the small Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan opened itself to the outside world only in 1960s. Hithertho, it had been largely mysterious even to its neighbours but abandoning its self-imposed policy of isolation had it grappling to find a precarious balance between modernization and the preservation of its culture and traditions.However, it does seem that Bhutan has found the perfect balance between the two and now though it is making tremendous developments in all sectors, it also manages to hold onto its unique identity that makes it unlike any other country in the world with a population of just over 0.7 million.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is nestled between two neighboring giants: China to the north and India to the South. Bhutan lies between 88 degrees 45′ and 92 degrees 10′ longitude East and 26 degrees 42′ and 28 degrees 15′ latitude North. It is a landlocked Himalayan nation that has managed to preserve its sovereignty and strong cultural identity despite infiltration of foreign cultural forces especially with the advent of television and internet in 1999.
Bhutan has a rich culture, the result of self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world until five decades ago. Even today the government strongly emphasizes promotion and preservation of its unique culture which is reflected through its magnificent architecture, dress, traditional ceremonies, everyday life of the Bhutanese people, and traditional beliefs. Bhutan follows Driglam Namzha to preserve its tradition and culture. It is a set of etiquette as what to wear, how to eat, talk, bow down and so on. It was introduced and implemented since the 90’s. Looking at the ancient infrastructure, textiles, farming traditions and way of living and the performing of cultural and spiritual rituals and ceremonies, we can say that Bhutan boasts of a singularly unique identity.
Bhutan measures prosperity by taking into consideration the citizens’ happiness levels and not the gross domestic product.
We call this development philosophy Gross National Happiness; a term coined by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King of Bhutan, in 1972.
Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a holistic and sustainable approach to development. The objective is to achieve balanced development essential for people’s happiness. The concept of GNH consists of four pillars: socioeconomic development, conservation and promotion of culture, protection of the environment and good governance.
With 72 percent of Bhutan under forest cover Bhutan has a rich variety of plants and animals. Bhutan has three different zones: the alpine zone (4000m and above) above the tree line, temperate zone (2000 to 4000m) and subtropical zone (150m to 2000m).
Almost 60 percent of plant varieties found in the eastern Himalayan region is endemic to Bhutan. Bhutan has 5,400 varieties of plants which include 300 varieties of medicinal plants, and 46 varieties of rhododendrons.
Bhutan has four seasons and the climate varies depending on the altitude.
March to May is spring when the weather is pleasant and the flowering trees blossom. June to August is summer, also referred to as the monsoon season because there is plenty of rain. September to November is Autumn and December to February is winter.
Thimphu is located 2,200 meters above sea level and the temperature ranges from 15 to 26 degree Celsius in summer and -4 to 16 degree Celsius in winter.
Central Bhutan usually experiences cooler temperature in the summer and is colder in winter.
The climate in southern Bhutan is hot and humid ranging from 15 to 40 degree Celsius throughout the year.
Rain varies in different parts of the country and in different seasons and years. Similarly, while central Bhutan usually enjoys snowfall every year, in the western region it is unpredictable.