The Kingdom of Bhutan is the happiest country in Asia(ranked consecutively for many years). It is the first country that focuses on its citizens Happiness rather than Economic growth, and the only carbon-negative(produces more oxygen than carbon dioxide) country in the world. It has one of the most unique cultures and beautiful sceneries in the world.
The landlocked Himalayan kingdom has kept itself cut off from the world for centuries to protect its culture. It has only recently opened its doors to the world, and has since been regarded as one of the most exclusive travel destinations in the world due to its unique culture, natural environment, and amazing mountain scenery.
It also offers free education and healthcare to all citizens, has a very safe environment, and is one of the few Asian countries those culture has equal rights for women.
Surrounded by the Himalayas, Bhutan is a small country sandwiched between India and Tibet, just east of Nepal and north of Bangladesh.
Bhutan also believes in ‘High Value, Low Impact’ tourism. To deter low cost tourism, Bhutan requires visitors to spend a minimum amount per day—some hundreds of dollars. To ensure compliance, visitors must sign up with a registered Bhutanese tour agency such as Zamu Travels before arriving. A large part of the minimum daily spending from tourism goes to free education and healthcare in Bhutan.
Climate and Weather
The climate in Bhutan is extremely varied, which can be attributed to two main factors-the vast differences in altitude present in the country and the influence of North Indian monsoons.
Climatic Zones of Bhutan
In the Central parts of the country which consists of temperate and deciduous forests, the climate is more seasonal with warm summers and cool and dry winters. In the far Northern reaches of the kingdom, the weather is much colder during winter. Mountain peaks are perpetually covered in snow and lower parts are still cool in summer owing to the high altitude terrain. Southern Bhutan has a hot and humid subtropical climate that is fairly unchanging throughout the year. Temperatures can vary between 15-30 degrees Celsius (59- 86 degrees Fahrenheit).
The 2 main districts tourists visit (Paro and Thimphu) are in the Central part of the country.
Bhutan has four distinct seasons in a year.
*Do note that temperature may vary due to different elevation in different cities or towns.
Bhutanese people can be generally categorized into three main ethnic groups. The Tshanglas, Ngalops and the Lhotshampas. Together the multi-ethnic Bhutanese population number just over 700,000.
Bhutanese society is free of class or a caste system. Slavery was abolished by the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the early 1950s through a royal edict. Bhutanese society has always maintained relative gender equality. In general our nation is an open and a good-spirited society.
Normally, greetings are limited to saying “Kuzuzangpo” (hello) amongst equals. For seniors and elders, the Bhutanese bow their head a bit and say “kuzuzangpo la” (a more respectful greeting). Recently, shaking hands has become an accepted norm.
The Bhutanese are a fun-loving people fond of song and dance, friendly contests of archery, stone pitching, traditional darts, basketball and football. We are a social people that enjoy weddings, religious holidays and other events as the perfect opportunities to gather with friends and family.
The openness of Bhutanese society is exemplified in the way our people often visit their friends and relatives at any hour of the day without any advance notice or appointment and still receive a warm welcome and hospitality.
Bhutan is a Buddhist country and people often refer to it as the last stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. Though Bhutan is often referred to as the last Vajrayana Buddhist country, you can still come across animistic traditions and beliefs being practiced by the people such as nature worship, worship of a host of deities, invoking and propitiating them.
The Bhutanese constitution guarantees freedom of religion and citizens and visitors are free to practice any form of worship so long as it does not impinge on the rights of others. Christianity, Hinduism and Islam are also present in the country.
The national language is Dzongkha, the native language of the Ngalops of western Bhutan. Dzongkha literally means the language spoken in the Dzongs, massive fortresses that serve as the administrative centers and monasteries. Two other major languages are the Tshanglakha and the Lhotshamkha. Bhutan is linguistically rich with over nineteen dialects spoken in the country.
The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillis are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy.
Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. Vegetables commonly eaten include Spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, onions and green beans. Grains such as rice, buckwheat and barley are also cultivated in various regions of the country depending on the local climate.
Bhutan is a remarkably safe destination, almost completely devoid of the scams, begging and theft. Bhutanese society is quite respectful of both genders and it is extremely safe for even women travellers to travel alone in Bhutan.
The currency in Bhutan is known as the ngultrum. The monetary symbol when referenced at an exchange facility is "Nu." Should you decide to look the currency up through a Forex trading service, it will either be listed as Nu or under the code "BTN" (short for Bhutanese Ngultrum). A single Ngultrum is divided into 100 Chetrum.
Anything under Nu. 1 comes in coin form. All paper denominations include the Nu.1, Nu. 5, Nu. 10, Nu. 20, Nu. 50, Nu.100 and the Nu. 500. As the value of the bill increases so too does the size (while the Nu. 500 is slightly smaller than the Nu. 100, it is not commonly circulated). There is also a recently released Nu. 1,000 bill, although much like the Nu. 500 this is rarely used in day to day life.
The ngultrum is minted within Bhutan by the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan. As the Kingdom of Bhutan is a smaller nation without major exports, the country has pegged its currency value to that of the Indian rupee. This has been a commonality since 1974 when new financial reform took place within the Kingdom of Bhutan. The exact exchange rate does vary slightly yet remains connected to the Indian rupee. Currently, as of 13 June, 2017, 1 Bhutanese ngultrum is equal to 1 Indian rupee.
One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress, unique garments that have evolved over thousands of years. Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe somewhat resembling a kimono that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as Kera. The pouch which forms at the front traditionally was used for carrying food bowls and a small dagger. Today however it is more accustomed to carrying small articles such as wallets, mobile phones and Doma (beetle nut).
Women wear the Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Tego with an inner layer known as a Wonju.
Bhutanese wear long scarves when visiting Dzongs and other administrative centers. The scarves worn vary in color, signifying the wearer’s status or rank. The scarf worn by men is known as Kabney while those worn by women are known as Rachus.
Bhutan is rich in cultural diversity and this richness is further enhanced by the wide variety of elaborate and colorful religious festivals that are celebrated throughout the country. Every village is known for their unique festival though the most widely known is the annual Tshechu, an annual religious festival.
As the Tshechu begins, the villagers and the general populace dress in their finest clothes and congregate at their local temples and monasteries where these festivals take place. Tshechus are usually occasions to mark important events in the life of the second Buddha, the Indian/Pakistani Tantric master known as Guru Rinpoche or the Precious Master. Various mask dances are performed together with songs and dances for three days on average.
These religious celebrations are lively, high-spirited affairs during which people share meals of red rice, spicy pork, Ema Datshi and Momos (pork/beef dumplings) whilst drinking the heady traditional rice wine known as Ara. These occasions provide the villagers with a respite from the hard labor of their day to day lives and gives the community an opportunity to catch up with family and friends.
The political system of Bhutan has evolved over time together with its tradition and culture. It has developed from a fragmented and a disoriented rule of the different regions by local chieftains, lords and clans into the parliamentary democracy we have in place today.
The organs of the Bhutanese government comprise of the Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive. The ruling political party, the opposition and the National Council now forms the legislative body.