The Kingdom of Bhutan is known for its culture, architecture and archery, but in many ways it has remained a mystery until half a century ago. This serene country, which is about half the size of Indiana, is cradled between its husky neighbors, China to the north and India to the south. Its lands include subtropical savannahs to forests to the unforgiving Himalayas that guard the country’s eastern border.
On the other hand, the Bhutanese call their country Druk Yul, Land of the Thunder Dragon, because of its violent snow storms. Its isolation, domestic policies and decision to limit tourism have helped to protect its culture and its natural beauty. These are among the reasons it is referred to as the Last Shangri-la and the crown jewel of the Himalayas.
Come explore one of the most guarded and untouched places in the world, the Kingdom of Bhutan!
Packages in Bhutan:
The country has three horizontal regions. The southern layer is the most agricultural where farmers grow fruit, rice, spices, tea and tobacco. The middle portion has thick forests and copper and coal mines. Agriculture and timber make up about 60 percent of the country’s small and under-developed economy. The northern part, which includes the Himalayas, is non-agricultural and, frankly, can be downright inhospitable.
The landlocked country spans 18,147 square miles. It is served by several small rivers that eventually empty into the Bay of Bengal. The country’s three main ethnic groups are the Ngalongs, Sharchops and the Lhotshampas. The Ngalongs live in the western and central regions. They are descendants of Tibetan immigrants who arrived in Bhutan in the 9th century. The Sharchops live on the east side of the country. They are considered the original inhabitants of Bhutan. The Lhotshampas are the ethnic Nepalese who live in the south.
The language is Dzongkha, but several Tibetan or Nepalese dialects are used throughout the country. Dzongkha means, “the language spoken in fortresses.” It has 30 consonants and four vowels. Most Bhutanese men wear the gho, which is a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt called a kera. Women wear a kira, a bright, woven ankle-length dress with traditional patterns. It is clipped at one shoulder and tied at the waist. The females also wear a long-sleeved blouse, a toego, under the kira.
Bhutan’s national sport is Dha, or archery. Matches are conducted regularly in most villages. It differs in some ways from Olympic standards including technical details such as the placement of the targets 140 feet away, as opposed to 55 yards in the Olympics. Fans cheer and dance for their teams while they belittle their opponents with chants about their parentage and sexual prowess.
Bhutanese have begun to participate in other sports including cricket, wrestling, darts and digor, which is like a combination of throwing the shot put and a horseshoe. During the last few decades, international sports including basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball and ping-pong also have become popular.
Politically, five generations of the Wangchuck family have ruled the country since 1907. Every king has moved Bhutan a little farther out of the shadows. Some examples include approval of a friendship agreement with India, the creation of a National Assembly for greater local representation in government, and the recent effort to move toward a constitutional monarchy. The country had its first democratic elections in March 2008.