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Bhutan General Information

Bhutan is best known to the world today as the last Shangri La. The few visitors who make the rare journey into this extraordinary kingdom will discover that there is no other destination like this land of pure and exotic mysticism. In this country known as Druk Yul or the ‘Land of the Peaceful Dragon, the fortunate visitor will find a rare combination of harmony and accord, amidst a landscape of incredible natural beauty.

Laya Village | Bhutan General Information
Laya Village, Gasa Bhutan

The Royal Government of Bhutan recognizes that tourism is a worldwide phenomenon and an important means of achieving socio economic development, particularly for developing countries like Bhutan. It also recognizes that tourism, in allowing traveling, can help in promoting understanding among people and building closer ties of friendship based on appreciation and respect for different cultures and lifestyles.

Interesting facts about Bhutan

Towards achieving this objective, the Royal Government, since the inception of tourism in the year 1974, has adopted a very cautious approach to the growth and development of tourism. The Bhutanese tourism industry is based on the principle of sustainability ‘tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable, and economically viable.

  • Full Country Name: The Kingdom of Bhutan
  • Population: 716,896 (July 2012 est.)
  • Capital City: Thimphu (Population: 90,000)
  • Language: Dzongkha, English, Sharchop, Nepali, etc
  • Religion: 70% Buddhist, 25% Hindu, 5% others
  • Government: Democratic Constitutional Monarchy
  • King: His Majesty the fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
  • Prime Minister of Bhutan: Dr. Lotay Tshering (3rd PM after becoming democratically elected government)
  • Time Zone: Bhutan time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only a one-time zone throughout the country.
  • National newspapers of Bhutan: Kuensel, Bhutan Observer, and The Bhutan Times are the local newspapers published in English. Kuensel is also published in the local language Dzongkha and Nepali.

Bhutan welcomed international visitors in 1974, aiming to share its distinctive spiritual, cultural, and natural heritage. Recognizing tourism as a key driver for socioeconomic development, the country sought to generate valuable foreign exchange to finance various developmental projects.prayer flags in Bhutan

Since 1974, Bhutan’s tourism has been steered by the “High Value, Low Volume” policy. This strategy involves a prepaid pricing and payment system with a minimum daily rate that includes an all-inclusive package. This approach ensures a balance between economic benefits and the preservation of the environment and culture, with visitor numbers managed according to the carrying capacity of local services to ensure the well-being of visitors.

Archaeological evidence suggests that people have lived in Bhutan for around 4000 years, although the lifestyle of early inhabitants remains unclear. The historical period with verifiable events can be divided into three main eras:

  • Before the Founding of the Country by Zhabdrung (7th to Early 17th Century): Bhutan was unified as a nation only in the 17th century, but its cultural roots extend back much further. Since the 7th century, Bhutan, as the southernmost part of the Tibetan cultural sphere, was significantly influenced by Tibet. According to tradition, Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo (581-649) built Buddhist temples like Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro. Indian yoga practitioner Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) is also believed to have visited Bhutan in the 8th century, establishing temples such as Taktsang Temple.
    With the collapse of the Tibetan dynasty in the 9th century, Buddhism in Tibet declined but revived in the 11th century. Tibetan Buddhist sects began spreading their beliefs into Bhutan, which was rich in resources like rice, wood, and herbs, making it attractive to Tibetans. The Drukpa school, which later became Bhutan’s national religion, began its expansion into Bhutan in the 13th century.
  • Druk Lineage Era (First Half of the 17th Century to 1907): The Drukpa lineage, with its base in central and southern Tibet, underwent significant changes in the 17th century. Following the death of Pema Karpo (1527-1592), a conflict over his reincarnation led Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651) to move to Bhutan. There, he faced and overcame local Buddhist factions, ultimately unifying Bhutan and establishing it as a distinct nation, known locally as “Druk Yul.” The name “Bhutan” is derived from the Sanskrit “Bhoṭānta,” meaning “the end of Tibet.” The Drukpa religious regime continued to rule for a long time.
  • The Wangchuck Dynasty (1907): The 19th century saw instability due to British and Indian interference, leading to civil wars. Ugyen Wangchuck (1862-1926), the lord of Central and East Bhutan, unified the country and became its first king in 1907. Under King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1929-1972), Bhutan joined the United Nations in 1971 and embarked on modernization and internationalization. His successor, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (1955-), further advanced these efforts and introduced the Gross National Happiness (GNH) policy, positioning Bhutan as a leader in global happiness initiatives. The current king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (1980-), oversaw the enactment of Bhutan’s constitution in 2008, transitioning the country to a constitutional monarchy with national elections.

Check Bhutanese Newspapers online


Radio & TV in Bhutan

Bhutan Broadcasting Service has programs in Dzongkha, English, and Nepali. Television started in the year 2000 and various channels are now available for the viewers such as BBC, CNN, Discovery, Star TV, ESPN, etc.


‘Dzongkha’, one of the Tibetan family of languages is Bhutan’s national language. English is commonly spoken in main towns and also it is the medium of education in schools throughout the country.

Bhutan Tourist Spots: Distances & Driving Times

All mode of transport within Bhutan is by road and there are no domestic airlines or trains. The motorable roads are well maintained and connect most of the places. However, the mountainous terrain and winding road restrict the average driving speed of vehicles to about 35 km per hour.