The raw and natural beauty of the earth characterizes much of Bhutan’s environment that has made it so stunning and captivating to visitors. From the tropical plains right up to the alpine highlands, Bhutan’s environment is as diverse as its culture. The Land of the Thunder Dragon is, today, one of the world’s top ten global hotspots, boasting a rich and varied biodiversity.
The country ranks amongst the top ten percent of highest species density (species richness per unit area) in the world, and it has the largest proportion of land under protected areas with about 26.23% of the country’s area designated as national parks. More than 35% of the country’s area is under the protection of some form of conservation management.
Bio-diversity & Conservation Effort
There are more than 5,500 species of vascular plants, more than 770 species of fauna and more than 165 species of mammals, many of them endemic to Bhutan.
The large forested tracts of the country provide shelter to many plants and animals and in recent years, evidence is beginning to show that many animals have chosen Bhutan to be their home. The Royal Bengal Tiger, generally known to live in tropical and sub-tropical areas, has been found in Bhutan in the rich forests above 4,000 m where they are known to breed.
Bhutan’s National Conservation Plan has records of 178 species of animals including 24 internationally threatened species. The national animal of Bhutan, the takin, is one of the unique animals that have become a symbol of the country. In a land of abundant natural life, Bhutan is also home to elephants, tigers, and rhinoceros in the south, and snow leopards, bears and red pandas in the north.
Bhutan also enjoys a reputation as a birdwatcher’s paradise. The country boasts 675 species of birds which includes the endangered Black-Necked Crane that winters in Bhutan.
The country’s flora offers much to delight botanists with more than 7,000 plants, 300 species of medicinal plants, 50 species of rhododendron, 600 species of orchid commonly found up to 2,100 m, and some plants that also grow above 3,700 m.
Trekking and Adventure
Trekking in Bhutan is a unique experience unlike many of the more crowded treks offered in Asia. The variety of treks range from a simple three-day trek from the district of Thimphu to Paro (and vice-versa) to the 25-day legendary Snowman’s Trek that takes veteran trekkers through some of the most exquisite spots in the country. The Snowman Trek is also labelled the world’s toughest trek as it goes over 12 mountain passes, all of them over 4,500 m.
Almost all the treks offer a combination of natural discovery and an insight into the country’s delicate and unique daily life. Many of the trails take walkers past remote and ancient monasteries, through deep forests, and close to villages. The trails pass grasslands and pastures for livestock, and meadows of wild flowers, butterflies, and grazing animals. Trekkers often get to spot blue sheep, takin and a variety of bird life including the wild pheasants. Bhutan’s treks are also famous for the majestic views of the Himalayas peaks that provide a sense of awe and wonder and a point of contemplation for trekkers along the way.
One of them is the Jomolhari trek where trekkers go to the base camp for Mt. Jomolhari, Bhutan’s most deeply venerated peak on the border of Bhutan and the Tibet region of China. Trekkers often come back with a sense of the majesty of high altitudes, where life ticks to a different time. The Bumthang trek is a cultural trek that takes you through villages and heritage sites in the valley.
Check out: Trekking Season in Bhutan and Jomolhari Trek
Bhutan in Four Seasons
Spring is a botanist’s delight as rhododendrons, wild azaleas, and masses of wild flowers including the edelweiss cover the meadows like carpet. Pear and apple blossoms add a dainty touch to the valleys as their pink and white blooms add a sense of new wonder to the land that is about to burst with abundant growth again.
Summer is an abundant time of the year as flowers are in bloom and the valleys are covered in green, weeping willows sweep the banks of many of the rivers and the pine cones glisten in the sun, so full with resin they are ready to plummet to the ground.
Autumn casts a bright golden glow on the vast landscape and is one of the more crowded times of the year for tourism to Bhutan. In fall, rice fields ripen to a golden brown under crisp blue skies. The merry pink and white of cosmos flowers dot the countryside.
Winter has its moments. The days are full of sunshine while evenings can turn chilly. The winter landscape lays bare the majesty of the mountains and the sweeping valleys. Soft tufts of cloud drape lazily over mountain tops as if waiting for new life to blow it across the landscape.