Reading list

For reading material we recommend:

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: a Journey into Bhutan (Jamie Zeppa) – if you only read one book make it this one! A beautifully told tale of an unseasoned traveler getting to grips with life in the undeveloped world and falling in love with the country and its people.

Hidden Bhutan: Entering the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon (Martin Uitz) – a wonderful collection of anecdotes in easy to read snippets offering an informed perspective on Bhutan’s culture and customs.

Bold Bhutan Beckons (Tim Fischer and Tshering Tashi) – a fascinating study offering both western and eastern perspectives on ancient and modern Bhutan (by virtue of its dual authorship); the sections written by Tshering Tashi are painstakingly researched and are of particular interest as they allow the reader to gain an insider’s insight into the lives and customs of the Bhutanese.

The History of Bhutan (Dr Karma Phuntsho) – a comprehensive and exhaustively researched history of Bhutan combining both traditional perspectives and modern academic analysis, with substantive discussions on Bhutan’s geography, culture, language and society, this impressive tome offers an incisive introduction to Bhutan.

Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon: Journey into Bhutan (Katie Hickman) – an account of a voyage to the little visited East of the country long before Bhutan was a tourist destination.

Butter tea at Sunrise: a Year in the Bhutan Himalayas (Britta Das) – another Canadian following in the footsteps of Jamie Zeppa.

Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (Isabel Allende) – a novel set in a mythical kingdom loosely based on Bhutan.

The Blessings of Bhutan (Russ and Blyth Carpenter) – a study of contemporary Bhutan, written in a somewhat quirky style, which gets under the surface to connect with the reality of the life and culture of Bhutan and its people.

Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan – written by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, the first wife of the fourth King and containing interesting insights into the life of the royals and their perspective on the country at large.

Kingdoms Beyond the Clouds: Journeys in Search of the Himalayan Kings (Jonathan Gregson) – an account of his journeys through the Himalayan region and his attempts to interview the (somewhat elusive) royal families of the region, only two of whom (those of Nepal and Bhutan) remain in power.

In the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon (Joanna Lumley) – an account of her grandparents’ travels in Bhutan in the 1930s and her thoughts and impressions as she retraces their steps.

As travel guides we recommend:

Lonely Planet Guide to Bhutan – 8th edition March 2023

The Footprint Guide to Bhutan – 2nd edition September 2010

Bhutan: Himalayan Mountain Kindom (Francoise Pommaret) – 2009
(the author is a Tibetologist and ethnologist who has lived and worked in Bhutan)

Bhutan – A Trekker’s Guide by Bart Jordans (2018) which has maps and in depth summaries of 22 treks across the country.

For visual pleasure try:

The Monk and the Gun this latest offering from the director of ‘the Yak in the Classroom’ has been put forward for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ category of the 96th Academy Awards in 2024 and captures the wonder and disruption as Bhutan becomes one of the world’s youngest democracies.   A rich and comic tale beautifully shot.

The Yak in the Classroom set in Lunana, this film tells a modern tale of a young Bhutanese teacher yearning to leave for Australia – instead he gets sent to a school in the remote Lunana valley and gradually becomes transformed by his interactions with the local villagers.

Travellers and Magicians – a beguiling film directed by one of Bhutan’s most revered lamas, this box-office hit intertwines twin love stories alternating between the real and spiritual worlds in an enchanting way.

The Other Final – an enjoyable documentary showcasing the talents of Bhutan’s footballers playing against Montserrat as the two lowest ranked teams in the world on the occasion of the 2002 World Cup final.

And for those brave enough to try the language:

Vol 1 of Languages of the Greater Himalayan Region: Dzongkha (George van Driem)
which comes complete with CDs and is available from CNWS Publications at Leiden University in the Netherlands.