Secluded in the foothills of the Himalayas between China and India, Bhutan is a unique nation, which has found the delicate balance between traditional cultures and modernization. It is a national pride for about 799, 749 Bhutanese to claim that they are the happiest individuals in the world, not merely due to the national approach to the Gross National Happiness philosophy, but because there is a prevalence of a strong communion between ecological aspects, religious doctrines, cultural heritage and traditional values.
Since 2008, the form of Government practiced in Bhutan is a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. The reigning monarch of Bhutan is the fifth King His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and the current Prime Minister is Tshering Tobgay. Additionally, the political system, which grants universal suffrage, also consists of the National Council (an upper house) and the National Assembly (elected lawmakers from political parties).
Apart from the political system, most of the Bhutanese follow Buddhism as their spiritual heritage, which is also the state religion. The national language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, and the national dress is Gho (men) and Kira (women). Bhutan is popular for a rich and idiosyncratic cultural and environmental heritage which is still thriving despite the advent of modernization. One of the many reasons behind the infallibility of the Bhutanese culture, tradition and environment is due to its spirited connection with the Buddhist heritage, in which every living being (both rational and irrational) is believed to be sacred and sacrosanct. The Kingdom of Bhutan, often referred as The Last Shangri-La is a successful amalgamation, where traditional and cultural values concurrently exist along with modernity; consequently, following her distinct approach to progress.
Bhutan – The first Carbon-neutral country.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is globally recognized for her dedicated commitment to the conservation and preservation of biodiversity as mandated in her constitution, “a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan’s total land shall be maintained under forest cover for all time”. This is reflected in the allocation of more than 40 % of country’s territory as national parks, reserves and other protected areas; moreover, a further 9 % designation of the land area as biodiversity corridors connecting the protected areas. Despite the temptation of rapid industrialization to address the existing economic crisis, Bhutan pledged to remain as a carbon-neutral country, thereby entitling herself as a global biodiversity hotspot. And of course a trending tourist destination.
Gross National Happiness
Bhutan is well-known for its unique development and cultural philosophy of Gross National Happiness, which recognizes the need to balance material well-being with the spiritual, emotional and cultural well-being of the individual and society for holistic development. Although the core of GNH philosophy is rooted in the profound Buddhist doctrine of ‘Middle Path’, in layman or surface terms it could be defined as a holistic perspective on the trajectory of development by balancing its economic, social and environmental aspects. This philosophy is composed of four primary pillars, which are elaborated into nine domains:
- Sustainable and Equitable socio-economic development
- Environmental conservation
- Preservation and Promotion of Culture
- Good Governance
- Living standards
- Community Vitality
- Psychological well-being
- Good Governance
- Cultural resilience and promotion
GNH is the espoused desire of the Bhutanese government. It can be seen as not only to be supporting the vision, but also as a set of values and processes which would act as the boundaries of desirable and acceptable behaviour and shape future policies. This philosophy eschews the prevalent and general standard for evaluating the nation’s progress in terms of economic growth or GDP but rather measures its advancement under the heading of GNH, which takes into account of individual happiness. The philosophy does not completely negate the significance of economy for the country; however, it does undermine the imperative emphasis on the economic development, which compromises cultural and environmental aspects. This distinctive national aspiration marks a major difference in approach to development in Bhutan as it was valiantly claimed by the fourth King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.”
Bhutan Visitor Facts
Area: 47,000 sq km.
Location: The Eastern Himalaya between India and China.
Population: 0.75 million (approximately).
Time: Bhutan is plus 6 hours GMT.
What to Pack: During the warmer Spring and Summer months (Mar-Aug), light clothing with an additional layer for the evenings (jacket or jumper) is advisable. In the Autumn and Winter months (Sep-Feb), a warm jacket, hat, gloves and fleece are recommended. Our travel consultants will provide a detailed list of what to bring when you book your trip.
Politics: Constitutional Monarchy.
Official Religion: Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism in Drukpa Kagyupa sect.
Currency: Ngultrum (at par with Indian rupee).
Exchange Rate: US$ 1 = Approx Nu. 60.
Electricity: 220-240 volt.
National Bird: Raven
National Flower: Blue Poppy
National Tree: Cypress
National Animal: Takin
National Day: December 17
National Dress: Gho for Men and Kira for women.
Tipping: Tipping is entirely discretionary. However, the guide and driver expect some tipping at the end of your trip.