The Kingdom of Bhutan referred as ‘The Last Shangrila’ is hidden in-between India and the Tibetain region of China. It is believed that the name Bhutan is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Bhotant', meaning 'the end of Tibet', or from 'Bhu-uttan', meaning 'high land'. Historically the Bhutanese have referred to their country as Druk Yul, 'land of the thunder dragon'. Bhutanese refer to themselves as Drukpa people.
The Bhutanese are mostly Buddhist by Faith adhering to the Drukpa Kargyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism. Colourful Monasteries and Temples dot the mountainsides of valleys. The Drukpas have treasured their natural environment as it is seen as a source of all life and the abode of the Gods and Spirits. Buddhism has been the predominant Religion since the 7th Century and has inculcated deeply the value that all forms of sentient beings, not just human life, are precious and sacred. Given such a prevailing ethos, which respect the natural environment, it is not surprising that the Bhutanese have lived in harmony with nature and that the nation has its environment still pristine and intact today. The country has been identified as one of the ten Bio-diversity hotspots in the world and as one of the 221 global endemic bird areas. Its eco-system harbours some of the most exotic species of the eastern Himalayas with an estimated 770species of birds and over 50 species of Rhododendron, besides an astonishing variety of medicinal plants and orchids. Bhutan also has a rich wildlife with animals like the Takin, snow-leapord, golden-langur, blue-sheep, tiger, water buffalo and elephants.
When the rest of the world has mostly adopted the blue jeans or the western suit culture, Bhutanese have deliberately safeguarded their ancient way of life in all its aspects. Immediately on landing at the country’s only airport by the national airliner, the visitor is in the midst of people dressed in ‘Ghos’ and ‘Kiras’, a landscape with Dzongs, Temples and houses with architecture found no where else in the world.
While crowds, traffic jam and multi-storeyed buildings marks most countries in the region, Bhutan is a serene land in the heart of Himalayan Mountain. With an area slightly larger than Switzerland, there are only about 700,000 people. It is to safeguard this natural environment, culture and a unique way of life that a policy of ‘High Value, Low Impact’ slogan is adapted by the Government of Bhutan for the Tourism sector. In 2003, around 6000 tourists visited Bhutan. For the few who do travel to Bhutan, a wide variety of activities from Snowman Trek to Kayaking down the Mochu (River); from witnessing the colourful festivals in the Dzongs/Fortress to the panoramic mountain flights on Druk air.
We hope that visitors who make the journey to Bhutan enjoy their experience and return home with glowing memories under the loving care of Himalayan Adventures.
Himalayan Adventures Team are a group of professionally trained people in the field of Tourism, who take into account the minute details of our guests with our personalised services and our slogan ‘Friends Forever’
“Bhutan is truly an unforgettable destination’’
Bhutan has a mysterious history, as books and papers were lost in consecutive fire at the national printing works at Punakha Dzong in 1828 and 1832, and then massive earthquake in 1896 and a fire in Paro dzong destroyed all but a few of the records that outlasted the first disaster. Despite this setback, enough reliable information has been recorded to piece together a history, which sets apart this small kingdom from others in its vicinity.
It was in 747AD that Padma Sambhava who is known as Guru Rimpoche arrived in Bhutan and brought Buddhism in the country. He is the founder of Tantric Budhism in Bhutan and his eight manifestations are worshipped in temples throughout the kingdom and wherever he visited in the kingdom is today a pilgrimage site highly revered by Bhutanese. Guru Rimpoche introduces the Nyingmapa religious school in Bhutan.
It was in the early Middle Ages that Buddhism blossomed in Bhutan. The Tibetan based Kagyupa School was established at the beginning of the 12th century and missionary were sent south to spread its teachings. The Lhapa school, a Kagyupa sect, was set up in Western Bhutan at the end of the 12th century and the Drukpa school (another subdivision of Kagupa ) in the first half of the 13th century. For the next 500 years, dispute between the two theories of Buddhist practice were common. In the end, the Drukpa School reigned supreme and was even accepted in the eastern and central areas where Nyingmapa monks had previously dominated.
Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan Lama of the Drukpa School came to Bhutan in 1616 and designed the present system of intertwined religious and secular government. Before he came to Bhutan there was regional conflict in the country, he took advantage of this and he gained support of many powerful families, constructed the Dzongs (fortress monasteries), fought many battle and became the first secular and religious leader in Bhutan.
During the next two centuries civil war intermittently broke out and the regional penlops became increasingly powerful. At the end of the 19th century the Penlop of Trongsa ( who controlled Central and Eastern Bhutan) overcame his greatest rival, the Penlop of Paro ( who controlled western Bhutan), and was soon afterwards recognised as the overall leader of Bhutan. The Penlop of Trongsa, an assembly of representatives of Monastic community, civil servants and the people, elected Ugyen Wangchuck the First King of Bhutan in 1907.
This monarchy has thrived ever since and the present King his Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the first King’s great grandson, commands the overwhelming support of the people after assuming the throne in 1974, the present King continues his father’s policy of pragmatic development. He actively pursues Industrial progress, countrywide education, and medical care and ensures at the same time, Bhutan’s culture remains intact.
In1998, His Majesty empowered the National Assembly to make all legislative decisions independently of Royal decrees.
His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
The American news magazine, Time, lists His Majesty the King of Bhutan among the 100men and women in the world whose “power, talent or moral example” is transforming the world. They are called “People Who Shape Our World”.
A Time writer talks about the concept of Gross National Happiness, which his Majesty initiated three decades ago, long before “positive psychology” became a boom in the west. “if most politicians are inherently suspect because they seem so eager to grab power and so reluctant to surrender it, what does one make of a leader who voluntarily gives up his position, as if placing his people’s needs before his own?” the writer asks.
Bhutan is nestled between China in the North and India in the south, located in the heart of the Himalayan mountain range. Bhutan is a landlocked country surrounded by mountains in the north and west, with a total landmass of 47000sq.km.
The population of appx 700,000 is made up primarily of indigenous Bhutanese. Many naturalised citizens came originally from Tibet and India. In the higher reaches of the Kingdom and in some isolated valleys, hill tribes assuming Bhutanese nationality thrive on the land. Some, like those from Merek and Sakteng in the east and Laya in the north, have no contact with Western civilisation and trade only in bartered goods.
Lhotsampas inhabits the lower southern regions. Most industrial areas are also located in the south. Altitudes in the south range from 1000 to 4500ft.Altitudes in the more populated central region range from 4000ft. in the east around Trashigang to a high of 17000 ft over the highest pass. The altitude at Thimphu, the capital is 7700 feet.
Bhutan has four distinct seasons, should be taken of the predictable weather patterns before making decision when to visit. Remember even predictable weather can vary dramatically in different areas and in 24 hours periods, the southern plains are warmer than higher central valley.
Spring is arguably the most beautiful time of the year in the kingdom, tour operator waits to bud out the willow, blossom the Rhododendron with the spectacular flaming red, pink and white on the hills. This is the best time to visit for trekking. Monsoon begins with the heavy rain in south and when the north inhabited nomads return to the higher plains to tend their yak. The end of monsoon is also a best time to visit, where the days are filled with glorious cobalt skies and warm weather.
The autumn months of September to November bring a shorter days and cooler nights. The days remain lovely with crisp clear skies. Views over the high Himalayas are usually only possible from September to March. Come the end of November and the weather takes on its winter. The days remain warm and the nights turn cold, clear skies bring with them cold weather bit it’s also the best time of the year to view the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan.
For centuries Bhutan’s isolated location and its self-reliant character kept the kingdom outside the path of economic development. Although this seclusion prevented Bhutan from fully benefiting from many of the medicinal, technical and scientific advances of the day, it also protected the country from many of the detrimental side effects of poorly planned development. As a result, while most of the Himalayan region has seen its natural resource base severely compromised through deforestation, soil degradation, erosion and pollution, Bhutan’s natural treasure in the form of varied forests, productive farmland, and pristine water and air remain largely intact. Today environmental conservation is an integral aspect of Bhutanese culture and approximately 26% of the country has been declared as protected areas and reserves.
The flora of Bhutan is exceptionally diverse as a result of a great range of altitudinal zones and varied climatic conditions. Over 72% of the country is covered with forests of varied types from broadleaf to mixed coniferous species. The royal Government of Bhutan is determined to conserve this wealth and has set a national policy to maintain at least 60% of land under forest cover. Bhutan’s ecosystem harbours some of the most exotic species found in the Eastern Himalayas. An estimated 770 species of birds and more than 50 species of rhododendron alone, besides a large variety of medicinal plants and orchids, are found in the country. Spring is rhododendron season in Bhutan and the mountainsides all over the country are ablaze in shades of red and orange.
Bhutan’s indigenous population is the Drukpa. There are three main ethnic groups, the Sharchops, Ngalops and the Lhotshampas (Nepalese origin) make up today’s Drukpa.
Bhutan’s earliest resident, the ‘Sharchops’, occupies eastern Bhutan, who were believed to be the tribes of north Burma and northeast India. The Ngalops migrated from the Tibetan plains that had brought in the Buddhism to the Kingdom. Most of the Lhotshampas settled in the southern plains that were migrated in search of fertile agricultural land.
The geography of the land kept each ethnic group separate until the middle of this century when roads were built between the east and the west. As result, the Sharchops have retained their influence over the east, while the Ngalops predominate in the west. And the Lhotshampas have retained their homes in the south of Bhutan. The different group of people speaks different language and their dialects throughout the kingdom. The Dzongkha is adopted as a National Language, that teaches in the Schools, while growing number of People speaks English especially people in the urban areas. Currently English is medium in the schools of Bhutan and most subject were tough in English whereas Govt. is putting their efforts to change write more books in Dzongkha and make Dzongkha as a principal language of instruction.
The Buddhist faith has played and continues to play a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of Bhutan and its people. It permeates all strands of secular life, bring with it a reverence for the land and its well- being. Annual festivals (Tshechu and Dromches) are spiritual occasions in each district. They bring together the population of the district and are dedicated to either Guru Rimpoche or the other deities.
Throughout Bhutan, stupas and chortens line the roadside commemorating a place where Guru Rimpoche or another Shabdrung may have stopped to meditate. Prayer flags are even more common. Fluttering on long poles, they maintain constant communication with the heavens. Bhutan is the only country in the world to retain the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism as its official religion.
To ensure the perpetuation of Buddhism in the kingdom, one son from each the normally attends monastic school. While the dzongs are the centres of administrative and government activities for the valley; they are predominantly the hoes and temples of the monastic community.