Bhutan Travel Information
kingdom lies east of Nepal and west of the Indian state of Arunachal pardesh.
It is south of the Tibetan hinterland and north of the Indian territories of
Assam and west Bengal.
Located in the heart of the high Himalayan mountain range, Bhutan is a land-locked
country surrounded by mountains in the north and west. The rugged east, visited
by few Western travelers, borders the spares and largely unknown Indian state
of Arunachal pradesh. The high Himalaya in the northern steppes separates the
kingdom from Tibet.
The population of 600,000 is made up primarily of indigenous Bhutanese. Many
naturalized citizens came originally from Tibet and India. In the higer reaches
of the kingdom and in some isolated valleys, hill tribes assuming Bhutanese
nationality thrive on the land. Some like those from Merak and Sakteng in the
east and Laya in the north, have no contact with Western civilistion and trade
only in bartered goods.
The lower southern regions are inhabited by migrant Nepalese who have been granted
Bhutanese nationality. Most of them are agricultural workers who take advantage
of the fertile southern land. Most industrial areas are also located in the
south. The southern districts are less populated than central districts but
more populated than the northern mountainous regions. Altitudes in the south
rang from 1,000 to 4,500 feet. Altitudes in the more populated central regions
range from 4,000 feet in the east around Tashigang to a high of 17,000 feet
over the highest pass. The altitude at Thimphu, the capital, is 7,700 feet.
Until roads were built in the early 1960s,it took travelers at least five days
to make the journey from the Indian border at phuentsholing to Timphu. Ahigh
mountain range separates the lowlands of the south from the central valleys.
Befor the Chinese closed the broder with Tibet in 1959, the Bhutanese used to
trade across the lower passes in the north of the country as they remained open
during the cold winter months.
Bhutan has four distint sesons. Each has its advantage and disadvantage for
the visitor. Notice should be taken of the predictable weather patterns before
making decisions when to visit. Remember even predictable weather can vary dramatically
in different areas and in 24-hour period. The southern plains close to the Indian
border are warmer and more tropical than higher central valleys.
Spring is arguably the most beautiful time of the year in the kingdom. The fierce
cold that characterizes the winter months tends to subside towards the end of
February(around Bhutanese New Year, Lhosar). Rhododendron beings to bloom, first
in the warmer east. At the heiger of spring , the end of March, the whole kingdom
comes to life with the spectacular flaming red, pink and white of the rhododendron
The annual monsoon from the Bay of Bengal affects the south and central regions.
The north is inhabited in the summer months when nomads return to the higher
plains to tend to their yak herds.
The end of the monsoon, also a popular time to visit, marks the closing months
of summer. The days are filled with glorious cobalt skies and warm weather.
The autumn months of September to November bring shorter days and cooler evenings.
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 weather takes on its winter coat. The days remain
crisp and the nights turn cold. The southern areas, being much lower, have a
more temperate climate and considerably warmer winters.
Clear skies in the winter months brings with them cold weather but its
also the best time of the year to view the snowcapped peaks of the high Himalayan
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 stands of secular life, bringing with it a reverence for the land
and its well-beings. Annual festivals(tsechus and dromchose) are spiritual occasions
in each district and dedicted to either Guru Rimpoche or detities.
Throughout Bhutan, stupas and chortens line the roadside communication a place
where Guru Rimpoche or another Shabdrung may have stopped to midtate. 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
Buddism as its official religion.
To ensure the perpetuation of Buddhism in the kingdom, one son from each family
normally attends monastic school. While the Dzongs are the centers of administrative
and government activities for all the valley; they are predominantly the homes
and temples of the monastic community.
Early records suggest scattered clusters of inhabitants had already settled
in Bhutan when the first recorded settlers arrived 1,400 years ago. Bhutans
indigenous population is the Drukpa. Three mnain ethnic groups, the Sharchops,
Ngalops and the Lpotshampas (of Nepalese origin) make up todays Drukpa.
Bhutans earliest residents, the Sharachops, reside predominantly in eastern
Bhutan. Their origin can be traced to the tribes of north Burma and north-east
India. The Ngalops migrated from the Tibetan plains and are the importers of
Buddhism to the kingdom. Most of the Lhotshampas migrated to the southern plains
in search of agricultural land and work in the early 20th Century.
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 a result,
the Sharchops have retained their influence over the east, while the Ngalops
predominate in the west. And the Nepalese have retained their homes in the south
The contrasting ethnic diversity of the Bhutanese people has meant that a number
of different languages and dialects are spoken throughout the kingdom. The national
languages is Dzongkha, which is taught at all schools. So different are the
dialects that eastern and western neighbours can have great difficulty understanding
The national newspaper, kuensel, is written in Dzongkha, English and Nepali.
A growing proportion of the people, especially in the urban areas, speak English.
The current medium of instruction in Bhutan is English. However, increasing
efforts are being made to write more textbooks and to introduce Dzongkha as
the principle language of instruction.
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