In pictures: Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon

Taktsang Palphug Monastery (Tiger's Nest Monastery), Bhutan, is set precariously on a mountain cliff overlooking Paro Valley. Pic: MC_Noppadol/Shutterstock

ONE of the best known things about Bhutan, a landlocked kingdom in the Himalayas, is that they use happiness as a gauge on national health.

It is also one of the most environmentally-friendly countries in the world – its Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, gave a TED Talk this year regarding the nation’s pledge to remain carbon neutral, which means to have a net zero carbon footprint by balancing the amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset.

In fact, he said Bhutan is carbon negative: “Our entire country generates 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, but our forests, they sequester more than three times that amount, so we are a net carbon sink for more than four million tons of carbon dioxide each year.”

But gross national happiness and being carbon negative are not the only unique things about Bhutan. It was an absolute monarchy until 2008, when the King literally abdicated, made the nation a constitutional monarchy, and handed the reins to his son.

The nation is committed to its unique culture and Buddhist spiritual values. In 1999, a ban on television and Internet was lifted, but with a warning from the former King that they could erode Bhutanese values.

The country’s current monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, was married in October 2011 in one of Asia’s most beautiful Royal weddings, and the nation’s largest ever media event.

These images attest to some of the timeless beauty of the nation, from its colourful markets and friendly people, to its inherent Buddhist culture.

Welcome to Bhutan – a view in the vicinity of the Paro airport.


Buddhist monks perform at a ceremony in the capital Thimpu.


Takstang monastery beyond the prayer flags – a prominent Buddhist temple known as the Tiger’s Nest.


Agricultural fields near Paro.


Bhutanese school girls in traditional dress, Thimpu.


Prayer flags are a common sight around Bhutan. These were for sale in the Thimpu market.


A local man in the Thimpu market.


Dried yak cheese for sale in Thimpu.


A monk looks out a monastery door.


A lady in Thimpu market.

Monks with small dogs in the Bhumtang Valley

All images here are by Joanne Lane,, except for main image.