For centuries, a tiny mountain kingdom called Druk Yul (Land of the Thunder Dragon) was hidden by the mighty, fortress-like Himalayas from the rest of the world, leaving it blissfully untouched. Shrouded in myths and legends, the kingdom chose to remain in fiercely guarded isolation – a mystical, magical, inaccessible land. Then in 1974, the world was allowed a glimpse in for the first time. And there was no looking back.
Welcome to Bhutan.
Lying along the lofty ridges of the eastern Himalayas, bordering the Tibetan Autonomous region of China in the north and India in the south, Bhutan is no ordinary land. A place of unspoilt natural beauty, rich culture, and unique heritage, the Himalayan kingdom protects and preserves its ancient Buddhist traditions and distinct identity. Nevertheless, this is a country of finely educated, modern, fun-loving, friendly, and vibrant people – who happily embrace global progress and welcome visitors with warmth. Buddhism, introduced to Bhutan in the 7th century CE by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, is integral to the Bhutanese way of life.
Following a sustainable way of life inherited from their forefathers, the Bhutanese have always revered nature, regarding it as the source of all life. Today, Bhutan is 100 per cent committed to protecting and preserving its natural environment. Over 72 per cent of the land area is under forest cover. One of the ten bio-diversity hotspots in the world and one of the 221 global endemic bird areas, Bhutan’s ecosystem harbours some of the most rare and exotic species of both flora and fauna in the eastern Himalayas.
Bhutan has banned plastic bags since 1999; in 2004, it became the first country in the world to outlaw tobacco. The capital Thimphu is the only capital city in the world with no traffic lights, using instead, traditional traffic policemen. With a conscious return to traditional methods of farming, Bhutan will be the first country to turn wholly organic in its food production and has banned the sale and use of pesticides and fertilisers.
In 1972, the Bhutanese government pioneered the unique concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) – coined by King Jigme Singye Wangchuk – as an indicator of Bhutan’s prosperity and its peoples’ overall happiness.Magnificent dzongs (strategic fortresses), sacred lhakhangs (temples), beautiful goembas (monasteries), and tranquil chortens (stupas) dot the landscape like timeless images from the past; colourful prayer flags flutter high in the mountain breeze; snow-capped mountains stand in tall glory; ancient arts and crafts surprise with their exquisite workmanship – come see it all in Bhutan.