Perched in the eastern Himalayas between India and China lies the landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan. It is largely closed to the outside world to protect its culture; TV was banned until 1999.
Geography: Low, tropical southern strip rising through fertile central valleys to high Himalayas in the north. Around 70% of the land is forested.
Climate: South is tropical, north is alpine, cold, and harsh. Central valleys warmer in east than west.
People a Society: The king was absolute monarch until 1998, and the first democratic elections were held a decade later. Most people are devoutly Buddhist and originate from Tibet. The Hindu Nepalese settled in the south. Bhutan has 20 languages. In 1988, Dzongkha (a Tibetan dialect native to just 16% of the people) was made the official language. The Nepalese community regard this as “cultural imperialism,” causing considerable ethnic tensions.
The Economy: Reliant on India for trade. Most people farm their own plots of land and herd cattle and yaks. Steep land unsuited for cultivation. Development of cash crops for Asian markets.
Insight: In 2004 Bhutan became the first country in the world to ban smoking and the sale of tobacco
Official Name: Kingdom of Bhutan
Date of Formation: 1656
Total Area: 18,147 sq. miles (47,000 sq. km)
Density: 38 people per sq. mile
Languages: Dzongkha*, Nepali
Religions: Mahayana Buddhist 70%, Hindu 24%, other 6%
Ethnic Mix: Bhute 50%, other 25%, Nepalese 25%
Government: Mixed monarchical– parliamentary system
Currency: Ngultrum = 100 chetrum