Located in the heart of Himalaya, Bhutan is a land-locked country surrounded by mountains. The rugged east borders the little known Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The high Himalaya to the north separates the kingdom from Tibet. The population of 700,000 is made up of primarily indigenous Bhutanese. In the higher reaches of the kingdom and in some isolated valleys , many nomadic tribes bearing close affinity to similar tribes across the border thrive on the land. Some, like those from Merak and Sakteng in the east Laya in the north, have almost no contact with western civilization and trade only in bartered goods.
The lower southern regions are inhabited by migrant Nepalese who have been granted Bhutanese nationality. Most of them are agriculture workers who ply the fertile southern land. Most industrial development areas are also located in the south. The southern districts are generally less populated than the northern mountainous regions. Altitudes in the south range from 1000 to 4500 feet. Altitudes in the more populated central regions range from 4,000 feet in the east around Trashigang to a high of 17,000 feet over the highest pass. The altitude at Thimphu, the capital city, is 7,700 feet. The immense beauty of the Himalayas is contained in its diverse landscape. Cascading rivers, conifers, wild rhododendron and blue poppies, long sweeping valley, fields of maize and tall, imposing white-capped peaks: these are only a few poetic references. From the lowlands of the south where the weather is more sub-tropical and the land more lush to the rich farmland of the central valleys to the high peaks close to the Tibetan border. Bhutan’s land changes with the altitude and with the latitude. In the east, where the valleys are narrower, towns such as Trashigang and Mongar are built on the sides of hills.
The land also changes with the striking different seasons. In winter the high peaks and most of the northern land are constantly snow-covered. Snow falls sporadically on the central valleys and the days are crisp. In Thimphu and Paro, winters are surprisingly mild with only a few snow falls each year. The skies above the high mountain passes are mostly clear in winter and visitors are able to view the entire Himalayan range.
Spring is rhododendron season in Bhutan. The mountain-sides all over the country are ablaze in shade of red and orange. Days are warm but nights are still cold. As the monsoon rises from the Bay of Bangle, Spring turns to summer and three months of heavy monsoon rains. The rains come mostly in the afternoons but landslides and weather-related delays are most common during summer monsoon. In late September the rains slow and autumn begins. Arguably the loveliest time of the year in Bhutan, autumn brings clear skies and warm days.
Spotting unusual fauna in Bhutan is almost obligatory. Golden Langur, the species of long tailed monkey unique to Bhutan, can often be found along the central road bisecting the kingdom. Yaks are ubiquitous as are takin on higher slopes. The Himalayan blue sheep is common in Bhutan, as are many unusual and rare butterfly species.