The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan lies along the lofty ridges of the eastern Himalayas, bordering the Tibetan Autonomous region of China in the North and North-West and the Indian states of Sikkim in the West and South-West, Assam in the south, Arunachal Pradesh in the East and South-East and West Bengal in South and South-West. The country within these borders forms a giant staircase, from a narrow strip of land in the south to some of the highest unclimbed Himalayan peaks on earth.
It was the mighty Himalayas which protected Bhutan from the rest of the world and left the Kingdom blissfully untouched. The Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Mahayana Buddhism provided the essence of a rich culture and fascinating history. The Bhutanese people protected this sacred heritage and unique identity for centuries by choosing to remain shrouded deeply in a jealously guarded isolation.
With a relatively small population of 700,000 people, Bhutan enjoys a sustainable lifestyle which they inherited from their forefathers. About 85% population of country still live in small villages sparsely scattered over rugged mountain land. Buddhism, prevalent in the country since the 7th century and continues to play important role in their peaceful lives.
For centuries, Bhutanese have treasured the natural environment and have looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has delivered Bhutan into the 21st century with an environment still richly intact. More than 72% of the land area is still under forest cover. The country has been identified as one of the ten bio-diversity hot spots in the world and as one of the 221 global endemic bird areas. Its Eco-system harbors some of the most exotic species of the eastern Himalayas with an estimated 770 species of birds and 50 species of rhododendrons, besides an astonishing variety of medicinal plants and orchids. Many parts of the country which have been declared as wildlife reserves are the natural habitat of rare species of both flora and fauna.
During the second half of the 20th century, Bhutan has seen its isolation steadily eroded by the inexorable forces of progress and development. Until then it was a country shrouded in mystery, untainted by any foreign influence. Although its seclusion prevented the Kingdom from fully benefiting from many developments of the modern world but it also shielded the country from many of the detrimental side effects of unplanned or haphazard development. As a result, while most of the Himalayan region has seen its natural resource base severely compromised through deforestation, soil degradation, erosion and pollution, while Bhutan’s natural patrimony of extensive and varied forests, limited yet fertile and productive farmland, and pristine water and air remains largely intact.
Bhutan’s national carrier, Druk Air, and Bhutan Airlines both provide international flights into Bhutan’s international airport located in Paro. Paro airport is well networked with significant airports like Bagdogra, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Guwahati.
If you wish to travel overland, you can enter and exit Bhutan through its southern gateway of Phuentsholing into the Indian state of West Bengal. It is approximately a five hour drive from Thimphu. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, located approximately four hours by road from Phuentsholing. This border point is an ideal junction for those wishing to combine their exploration of Bhutan with the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal.
For those who would like to journey across Bhutan, there is an exit only border crossing at Sumdrup Jongkhar in southeast Bhutan to India. The closest airport is 110 km away in Guwahati. From here you a number of destinations you can fly on to including Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata and Bangkok. This is convenient for those flying into Paro in the west and touring across Bhutan without back tracking.