A Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge sandwiched between powerful neighbours India and China, is known for monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys as well as being a fantastic wildlife destination.
Almost completely cut off for centuries, Bhutan has tried to let in some aspects of the outside world while fiercely guarding its ancient traditions. The Bhutanese name for Bhutan, Druk Yul, means “Land of the Thunder Dragon” and it only began to open up to outsiders in the 1974. The Wangchuck hereditary monarchy has wielded power since 1907, but Bhutan became a two-party parliamentary democracy after elections in March 2008.
In the High Himalayas peaks such as 7,326m Jomolhari are popular trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest) clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley and other must sees include Punakha Dzong and Tashiccho Dzong in the capital Thumpu.
More than 35% of the area of Bhutan is under some form of protection or conservation management and the Royal Government of Bhutan has pledged to maintain at least 60% forest coverage at any time. Fruit bearing trees and bamboo forests provide habitat for the Himalayan black bear, red panda, squirrel, sambar, wild boar and barking deer. The alpine habitats of the great Himalayan range in the north are home to the snow leopard, blue sheep, marmot, Tibetan wolf, antelope and Himalayan musk deer. There are also over 670 bird species found in Bhutan,as it is located at the junction of a major avian migration route, and Bhutan is considered a “safe haven” for sixteen critically endangered bird species including the rare Black Necked Crane and the White bellied Heron.