A photo journey of Bhutan (part 1) – Architecture and environment

All photographs are copyright of the author unless otherwise stated. Future posts will cover education, life, religion and government.

An edcation exchange trip to Bhutan

In March 2011, I went with a group of 11 other educators to the Kingdom of Bhutan on an education exchange programme. It was self organised and self funded, with team leader and former MOE principal, Mr Koh Boon Long making the contacts with Bhutanese schools to tie down the 5-day programme.

Group arriving at Paro International Airport, 13 March 2011. I was not in the picture as I was the photographer.

That was my first trip to Bhutan and an enlightening one. This blog documents life in Bhutan in the form of a photograph journey, as I saw the country. The photographs in this blog are reduced in size for ease of download.

The small Drukair aeroplane that brought us from Bangkok to Bhutan. There are limited airports that connect into Bhutan. The most convenient for Singaporeans is from Bangkok, where there is a daily flight in the early morning. We stayed a night in Bangkok to be on time for this flight. Druk means dragon, the symbol of Bhutan. Drukair is the national airline.

Paro International Airport, at an elevation of 2,200 metres. It is 6 km from Paro town and sits in a valley at the bank of the Paro river. With surrounding mountains with peaks of up to 5,500 metres, it is one of the world's most challenging airport to fly into. Flight timings are often changed due to wind conditions. Our flight had to be push forward 1.5 hours because of impending strong winds. We heard some passengers missed their flight due to the change of timing and had to wait for the next day's flight.


Bhutan has its unique architecture, with buildings that seemed to have come from the 18th century. There is a blend of ancient Chinese and Indian influence in the designs. There are not many modern and tall buildings yet in this country of around 700,000 population.

Decorated wooden window frames of an entertainment centre in Paro town. There are some discos and night dancing entertainment places even in this reclusive country, a sign of globalisation influencing its culture. Smoking is banned but liquour is widely available and permitted.


New buildings in capital city, Thimphu. These buildings have less intricate designs and are more functional compared to traditional Bhutanese architecture

Village houses by the mountainside and beside padi fields, farms and rivers.


Houses by the countryside near town


A typical house by a mountain road

A roof made of zinc and wood with heavy stones holding the pieces down due to frequent strong winds.
Some houses, even in towns still have such roofs.

A hotel / commercial building in capital city Thimphu. Indian architectural influence on new buildings is quite strong. India has strong influence in Bhutan. They provide much of the defence and support in infrastructure development.


Interior of a dzong. A dzong is a fortress that contains both the administrative centre (government) of the area, temple and housing for monks. There are many dzongs in Bhutan.


Close up of wall and windows in a dzong. Walls are typically white and windows are crafted with fine designs.


A temple inside a dzong

A dzong by the river. Dzongs and houses dot the mountainside and valleys, often beside streams of fresh mountain waters.


Bhutan’s terrain is some of the most rugged in the world. There is huge variations in altitude for a relatively small geography. Bhutan’s elevation rises from 150 metres to more than 7,500 metres. Preservation of the environment is taken seriously by the Bhutanese. It is worded into its constitution to provide for the adoption and support of environment friendly practices and policies. At least sixty percent of Bhutan’s total land must be maintained as forest for all time. It currently stands at around 70%.

Bhutan is smoke free. Import and sale of cigarettes is illegal and punishable by a jail term.

Bright and warm morning sun on a mountainous route

Evening view from the window of our hotel facing a river near Punakha


View of the Himalayan mountains from Dochula pass at elevation of 3,150 metres. The pass separates capital city Thimphu and Punakha valley. Mount Everest can be seen from this pass.


Coniferous trees high up in Dochula pass with Himalayas in the background


A cuckoo bird hides amongst the tree branches near the Tiger's Nest


The takin is the national animal of Bhutan. It is found only in the eastern Himalayas. It has the body of a cow and the head of a goat.


Close up of cones. There are many coniferous trees on the mountains of Bhutan.


Red cherry blossom at a temple


5 comments on “A photo journey of Bhutan (part 1) – Architecture and environment

  1. Thanks for the pictures and description about Bhutan. It is very helpful for me, I am planning to volunteer there for a year or two 🙂 hope to share more about the school three. Anne tan

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