If there is a place that can take the cliché out of Shangrila, then that place is Bhutan. Druk Yul or the Land of the Thunder Dragon does justice to the legend of that wonderland, hidden far and away from the prying eyes and humdrum ways of the modern world. It is still as much about magic and mystery, simplicity and tranquility, and about a way of life that has escaped the clutches of time.
Bhutan was first unified as a country in the 17th century by a Tibetan Saint known as ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyel after establishing a dual system of governance whereby he instituted both spiritual and temporal leaders. In was on December 17, 1907 that the institution of monarchy was instituted after the people of Bhutan unanimously enthroned His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary King of Bhutan.
Bhutan is a Constitutional Democratic Monarchy with the King as the head of state and Prime Minister as the head of the government, elected once in every five years. With a total area of 38394 square kilometers, Bhutan is a small kingdom located towards the extreme east of the Himalaya mountain range between China to the North and India in the South.
It has 20 Administrative Districts known as Dzongkhags; 15 sub-districts known as Dungkhags, 205 blocks known as Gewogs and 1044 villages known as Chiwogs or the basic electoral precinct. It has a total population of 757,042 with about 65% falling in the productive age group and a male to female of almost 1:1. Dzongkha is the National language while English is also widely used as the medium of instruction. Ngultrum, Bhutan’s currency is pegged at par with the Indian Rupee.
Bhutan has embraced development with consciousness,guided by a unique development paradigm known as Gross National Happiness. While pursuing development, preserving and promoting the culture; conserving the environment and ensuring good governance are considered equally important to ensure a holistic approach to nation building.
Bhutan is one of the 10 global hotspots.Centuries of isolation, a small population, and topographical extremes have led to Bhutan maintaining one of the most intactecosystems in the world. Bhutan has currently 72% of its total area under forest cover and the constitution mandates 60% forest cover for all times.
There are 5603 species of angiosperm and gymnosperms including 579 wild orchids, 46 rhododendrons, and over 300 medicinal plants. At least 30 bamboo species have been recorded. Bhutan creates a heaven for wide range of animals. Close to 200 species of mammals have been recorded in Bhutan including some of the globally significant Royal Bengal Tiger (Pantheratigris), Snow Leopard (Uniciauncia), Red Panda (Ailurusfulgens), Takin, (Budorcastaxicolor), Golden Langur (Trachypithecusgeei), Asiatic Elephant (Elephusmaximus), and the Himalayan Musk Deer (Moschuschrysogasterleucogaster).
Bhutan’s climate is as varied as its altitudes and is affected by monsoons. The climate is humid and subtropical in the southern plains and foothills, temperate in the inner Himalayan valleys of the southern and central regions, and cold in the north, with year-round snow on the main Himalayan summits.
The highest point in Bhutan is Gangkhar Puensum, which has the distinction of being the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, at 7,570 metres (24,840 ft). Bhutan has four major river systems: the DrangmeChhu; the Puna Tsang Chhu, also called the Sankosh; the Wang Chhu; and the AmoChhu. Bhutan is home to at least 59 natural mountain lakes as well as some 2,674 glacial lakes.
Today, it is the last bastion of Mahayana Buddhism. The religion, which influences every aspect of life here, was also the main impetus behind the birth of Bhutan.
Bhutan is regarded as one of the most exclusive travel destinations in the world. With its high value low volume tourism policy, Bhutan remains a hidden paradise accessible only to a fortunate few. Even the most seasoned travelers consider a privilege to visit Bhutan. As soon as you land in Paro, the only International Airport in the country, you will realize that the Druk Yul has something distinctively enchanting to offer!