Bhutan is located in the Eastern Himalayas in the southern region of Asia. It is a landlocked country, with Thimphu as its largest city and capital. Bhutan also has a financial centre in Phuntsholing.
Bhutan has never in its history been colonised and therefore has a distinct and independent national identity with its foundations in Buddhism. Michael Kern has travelled extensively in the Himalayas and has twice visited Bhutan, along with Ladakh, Nepal, India and Tibet.
Ancient monasteries in Bhutan majestically stand at vantage points across the country amongst a diverse natural landscape, flora and fauna. Bhutan also ranks first in South Asia for peace, ease of doing business and economic freedom, and the concept of gross national happiness was pioneered there. You can learn more about the gross national happiness philosophy in the PDF attachment to this post.
The long history of independence in Bhutan has contributed to a unique cultural heritage that is rich in tradition. Bhutanese architecture relies on ancient traditional techniques such as wattle and daub, rammed earth, woodwork and stone masonry construction methods, with no iron bars or nails used in constructing buildings. The dzong is a type of castle fortress characteristic to the region.
The Bhutanese people have several forms of national dress, which are determined according to status and gender. Government employees and any citizen visiting a government building or school are required to wear the national dress and many choose to adopt this form of dress as their natural attire.
Festivals in Bhutan feature dance dramas and masked dances, with traditional music accompanying the dancers. More modern Bhutanese music is influenced by the popular music of India.
The Natural Environment
Bhutan has a bio-diverse natural environment with myriad species of flora and fauna to be found. Animal species residing in Bhutan include clouded leopards, Bengal tigers, red pandas, barking deer, blue sheep, Tibetan wolves and sloth bears, among others. There are also a variety of rare and endangered species in Bhutan, such as the golden langur, the wild water buffalo and the white-winged duck.
There are more than 5,400 individual plant species recorded as growing in Bhutan, including many fungi. Bhutan has many conservation areas and is seen as a model for proactive initiatives in conservation. The landscape of Bhutan varies drastically, from the sub-alpine region in the north around the Himalayas to the sub-tropical plains in the southern regions.
Some facts about conservation and environmental issues in Bhutan can be viewed in the embedded infographic.
Bhutan’s history and culture are founded in the Drukpa branch of Himalayan Buddhism and this can be seen in the number and magnificence of the monasteries that can be found across the country.
In the Paro region lies one of the most famous and spectacular of these, Taktsang Monastery. Taktsang is in the upper Paro valley at an altitude of 3,120 metres and features a cave temple, gold-plated dome, golden prayer wheels and more, all situated in a white building with breath-taking views from the mountain.
The Memorial Chorten in the Thimphu region sits within a beautiful garden, with golden spires surrounded by murals, statues, carvings, paintings and more.
Punakha Dzong is the present winter residence of the ‘Je Khenpo’ (head lama) of Bhutan and has many impressive sights, including the chapel for the Queen of Nagas and an assembly hall with 100 pillars.
In the short video attachment, you can learn more about Bhutan’s Head of State, known locally as the Dragon King.