Bhutan, the land of “The Land of Thunder Dragon” is entirely a Buddhist country. It was in the 8th century only when the Guru Rinpoche arrived in Bhutan from Tibet and started practicing Buddhism.
There is some disagreement on the origin of the name "Bhutan," but many people believe it is derived from the Sanskrit term "Bhotanta," which means "the end of the land of the Bhots." "Bhots" is the Sanskrit term for "Tibetans." The Bhutanese themselves refer to their country as "Druk Yul"--"the land of the Peaceful Dragon"--and to themselves as "Drukpa." They refer to their religion as "Drukpa Kagyupa," which is currently practiced in Western Bhutan. "Druk" means "dragon." The name was given to a Tibetan monastery by a Tibetan lama (Tsangpa Gyare) after he heard the thunder dragons in the sky when he was searching for a place to build his monastery. The Drukpa Kagyu lineage of Buddhism is named after that monastery and the term was brought to Bhutan by the Drukpa lamas who left the Tibetan monastery and settled in Western Bhutan in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Until the beginning of the 16th century, Bhutan was a fragmented country with many local chiefs controlling their own areas. In 1616, a lama by the name of Ngawang Namgyal, a descendent of Tsangpa Gyare, came to Bhutan from Tibet, after being instructed to do so by the deity Mahakala. As he wandered Western Bhutan, teaching Buddhism, he became more politically powerful, and eventually became the religious and political ruler of Bhutan, bearing the title "Shabdrung Rinpoche.Over time and through many battles, he finally managed to unify Bhutan. He remained the religious leader and appointed a governor to help him rule the country. He is credited with introducing the present-day dual system of religious and secular government. He was also the first person to begin building the current system of dzongs in Bhutan, starting with the Simtokha Dzong.
When the Shabdrung died, various governors ruled the country for the next 200 years, and during that time there were many civil wars and much internal conflict. Ugyen Wangchuck, the son of the 50th governor, was a powerful warrior, and after the country's last internal battle in Bhutan (in Thimphu), he established himself as the ruler. He was the current king's great-grandfather. Representatives of both the religious and secular bodies of Bhutan supported him, and they unanimously elected him as the first king of Bhutan in December 17, 1907. The current king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, is the fourth king of Bhutan.
The Bhutanese pride themselves on a sustainable approach to tourism in line with the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Foreign visitors famously pay a minimum tariff of US$250 per day, making it seem one of the world's more expensive destinations. However, this fee is all-inclusive – accommodation, food, transport and an official guide are all provided, so it's not a bad deal. You don't have to travel in a large group and you can arrange your own itinerary. What you won't find is budget backpacker-style travel.
Bhutan holds many surprises. This is a country where the rice is red and where chillies aren't just a seasoning but the main dish. It's also a deeply Buddhist land, where monks check their smartphones after performing a divination, and where giant protective penises are painted beside the entrance to many houses. Yet while it visibly protects its Buddhist traditions, Bhutan is not a museum. You will find the Bhutanese well educated, fun loving and well informed about the world around them. It's this blending of the ancient and modern that makes Bhutan endlessly fascinating.
So why spend your money to come here? Firstly, there is the amazing Himalayan landscape, where snow-capped peaks rise above shadowy gorges cloaked in primeval forests. Taking up prime positions in this picture-book landscape are the majestic fortress-like dzongs and monasteries. This unique architecture sets the stage for spectacular tsechus (dance festivals) attended by an almost medieval-looking audience. Then there are the textiles and handicrafts, outrageous archery competitions, high-altitude trekking trails, and stunning flora and fauna. If it's not 'Shangri La', it's as close as it gets.
Environmental protection goes hand in hand with cultural preservation in Bhutan. By law, at least 60% of the country must remain forested for all future generations; it currently stands above 70%. Not only is Bhutan carbon neutral, but it actually absorbs more carbon than it emits! For the visitor, this translates into lovely forest hikes and superb birding across a chain of national parks. Whether you are spotting takins or blue poppies, trekking beneath 7000m peaks or strolling across hillsides ablaze with spring rhododendron blooms, Bhutan offers one of the last pristine pockets in the entire Himalaya.
Although archaeological exploration of Bhutan has been limited, evidence of civilization in the region dates back to at least 2000 B.C. Aboriginal Bhutanese, known as Monpa, are believed to have migrated from Tibet. The traditional name of the country since the 17th century has been Drukyul, Land of the Drokpa (Dragon People), a reference to the dominant branch of Tibetan Buddhism that is still practiced in the Himalayan kingdom.
For centuries, Bhutan was made up of feuding regions until it was unified under King Ugyen Wangchuck in 1907. The British exerted some control over Bhutan's affairs, but never colonized it. Until the 1960s, Bhutan was largely isolated from the rest of the world, and its people carried on a tranquil, traditional way of life, farming and trading, which had remained intact for centuries. After China invaded Tibet, however, Bhutan strengthened its ties and contact with India in an effort to avoid Tibet's fate. New roads and other connections to India began to end its isolation. In the 1960s, Bhutan also undertook social modernization, abolishing slavery and the caste system, emancipating women, and enacting land reform. In 1985, Bhutan made its first diplomatic links with non-Asian countries.
Bhutan's currency is the ngultrum, whose value is fixed to the Indian rupee. The rupee is also accepted as legal tender in the country. Though Bhutan's economy is one of the world's smallest, it has grown rapidly in recent years, by eight percent in 2005 and 14 percent in 2006. In 2007, Bhutan had the second-fastest-growing economy in the world, with an annual economic growth rate of 22.4 percent. This was mainly due to the commissioning of the gigantic Tala Hydroelectric Power Station. As of 2012, Bhutan's per capita income was US$2,420.
Bhutan's economy is based on agriculture, forestry, tourism and the sale of hydroelectric power to India. Agriculture provides the main livelihood for 55.4 percent of the population. Agrarian practices consist largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry. Handicrafts, particularly weaving and the manufacture of religious art for home altars, are a small cottage industry. A landscape that varies from hilly to ruggedly mountainous has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive.
Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. The reigning monarch is Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The current Prime Minister of Bhutan is Tshering Tobgay, leader of the People's Democratic Party.
The Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) is the head of state. The political system grants universal suffrage. It consists of the National Council, an upper house with 25 elected members; and the National Assembly with 47 elected lawmakers from political parties.
Executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers led by the prime minister. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. Judicial power is vested in the courts of Bhutan. The legal system originates from the semi-theocratic Tsa Yig code and has been influenced by English common law during the 20th century. The chief justice is the administrative head of the judiciary.
Bhutan is located on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, landlocked between the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh to the west and south. It lies between latitudes 26°N and 29°N, and longitudes 88°E and 93°E. The land consists mostly of steep and high mountains crisscrossed by a network of swift rivers, which form deep valleys before draining into the Indian plains. Elevation rises from 200 m (660 ft) in the southern foothills to more than 7,000 m (23,000 ft). This great geographical diversity combined with equally diverse climate conditions contributes to Bhutan's outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems.
Bhutan has a rich and unique cultural heritage that has largely remained intact because of its isolation from the rest of the world until the mid-20th century. One of the main attractions for tourists is the country's culture and traditions. Bhutanese tradition is deeply steeped in its Buddhist heritage.Hinduism is the second most dominant religion in Bhutan, being most prevalent in the southern regions.The government is increasingly making efforts to preserve and sustain the current culture and traditions of the country. Because of its largely unspoiled natural environment and cultural heritage, Bhutan has been referred to as The Last Shangri-la.
The country currently has no UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but it has eight declared tentative sites for UNESCO inclusion since 2012. These sites include Ancient Ruin of Drukgyel Dzong, Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, Dzongs: the centre of temporal and religious authorities (Punakha Dzong, Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, Paro Dzong, Trongsa Dzong and Dagana Dzong), Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP), Royal Manas National Park (RMNP), Sacred Sites associated with Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and his descendants, Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS), and Tamzhing Monastery. Bhutan also has numerous tourist sites that are not included in its UNESCO tentative list. Bhutan has one element, the Mask dance of the drums from Drametse, registered in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Bhutan is also well known for mountain adventure trekking and hiking. Jhomolhari Base Camp Trek, Snowman Trek, and Masagang trek are some of the popular treks in Bhutan.
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, perhaps the world's most exclusive tourist destination
Quiet and peaceful city with its streets lined with traditional shop fronts. Beautiful textiles in wool, silver jewellery, thangkas and traditional crafts of the kingdom are available in various Handicrafts Emporiums.
It is the winter capital of Bhutan and 52 km far away from Thimphu. With Patchwork fields, willow glades,murmuring trout filled streams and scattered hamlets. Paro is one of the most attractive valleys of Bhutan..Bursting with colour and tradition, this tiny town is overlooked by a dramatic Dzong while hamlets and isolated farms dot the countryside.