The Kingdom of Bhutan, with an area of 28,394 square Kilometer is a gem in the eastern Himalayas with a population of just about seven hundred thousand. With seventy percent of the country with forest coverage, Bhutan is like a gem in the Himalayas. Flora and Fauna flourishes in great varieties as the mountainous terrain rises from southern foothills about 150m above sea level to unclimbed peaks over 7000m.
It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava a Tantric master traveled to Bhutan in the 8th century and spread Buddhism. Legend says that he flew to the cliff of present day Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest) Temple on the back of a tigress and meditated there. Taktshang temples are built on the cliff above the valley of Paro (2900m), is considered one of the holiest Buddhist spots in the world. Anybody with a taste of Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism will find Bhutan spiritually delightful.
Lama Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal unified the country under one rule in the 17th century. He codified a system of laws and built many Dzongs (fortress) to protect from the invading enemies and many of them still serves as religious and administrative centers. Pre-Buddhist faith in Bhutan was animism and nature worship. This animist tradition protected the uniqueness of Bhutan’s social, cultural and ecological tradition.
After Lama Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the country was once again divided into many regional fiefdoms with countless civil wars for almost two centuries. Only by the end of the 19th century, the Trongsa Governor, Penlop Ugyen Wangchuck, who then controlled the central and eastern regions, overcame all his rivals and united the nation. In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously enthroned as the 1st King of Bhutan thereby establishing a hereditary monarchy system. The present and fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck became King on 9th December 2006 after his father Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated the throne in his favour. A public coronation ceremony was held on 1st November 2008, an auspicious year that marked 100 years of monarchy in Bhutan.
Bhutan opened for tourism in 1974, after the coronation of the Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Bhutan is perhaps the world’s most exclusive tourist destination today. The country still retaining all the charm of the old world, and the tourists experience the full glory of this ancient land as embodied in the monastic fortresses, ancient temples, monasteries and chortens (stupas) which dot the countryside, prayer flags fluttering above farmhouses and on the hillsides, lush forests, rushing glacial rivers, and – perhaps most important of all – the warm smiles and genuine friendliness of the people. Each moment is special as one discovers a country which its people have chosen to preserve in all its magical purity.