The geographical background
Situated along the southern slopes of the great Himalayan range between 26º5’ & 28º5’ North latitude & 88º & 92º East longitude, the kingdom of Bhutan, with an area of 18,000 square miles & a population of about 1.2 million, lies like a picturesque fairyl& between China to the north & India to the south, east & west.
The British emissary captain R. Boileau Pemberton, who visited the country a century & a half ago, dramatically described Bhutan’s topography: “with the exception of the narrow strip of l& at the foot of the mountains, the whole of Bootan (sic) territory presents a succession of the most lofty & rugged mountains on the surface of the globe, the consequence is that the traveler appears to be shut out on every side from the rest of the world”.
The area now occupied by the Bhutan Himalayas is described as the site of the shallow Tethys Sea millions of year ago; during the tertiary period, powerful forces of earth, water, & ice transformed it into a l& of irregular mountain masses. Concurrent elevation & erosion during a period of millions of years formed the present mountain system.
Geographers divided Bhutan into three distinct zones: southern, central, & northern. Southern Bhutan consists of low foothills covered with dense tropical forests. The subtropical monsoon climate of this region is hot & humid, & the average temperature is 20º Celsius.
Central Bhutan, where the majority of the population lives & where the capital, Thimphu, is located, lies at the foot of the majestic northern mountains & consists mainly of fertile valleys at altitude ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 meters. In these valleys are grown a wide variety of crops, including rice, wheat, & maize, while on the surrounding slopes thrive fruits such as apples, plums, & peaches. The central zones are rich in forest of oak, pine, & fir. With the exception of a few valleys like Punakha & Wangduephodrang situated at comparatively low altitudes, valleys are extremely cold during winter, when the temperature drops to -10º C or lower. Strong winds sweeping through the valley increase the cold.
The valleys of the northern region, which are at heights of between 3,000 & 5,500 meters, are sparsely populated, mainly by nomadic yak herdsmen. The zones forms part of the great Himalayas, with high peaks along the Tibetan borders, the most prominent among which are the Chomolhari in the west (7,326m), & Masa Gang (7,165m) & Tshering gang (6,789m) in the north. The tree line is generally at 4,000m, with coniferous forests of pine & fir.
Bhutan abounds in a rich variety of wildlife, including elephants, rhinos, tigers, musk deer, snow leopards, brown beers, red p&as, takins & blue sheep, & there is a widespread belief in the existence of the exclusive yeti.