Geography

Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country falling between longitudes 88° 45´ and 92° 10´ E and latitudes 26° 45´ and 28° 30´ N.

Bhutan spans the foothills skirting the plains of India to the snow-clad eastern Himalayas. Tibet borders it to the north and India on the rest of the country: West Bengal and Assam to the south, Arunachal Pradesh to the east and Tibet, Sikkim and the Darjeeling district of west Bengal to the west. It has an area of approximately 47 000 km2, extending roughly 300 km from east to west and 150 km from north to south.

The country is covered with high mountains and valleys with the exception of the lowlands in the southern and south-eastern regions. The northern half of the country is formed by a series of valleys separated by mountain ranges that are accessible only through high passes. There are four main rivers: Torsa, Wong, Sankosh and Manas, that flow from the Himalayas to join the Brahamaputra River in India. Depending on altitude and location the country can broadly be divided into three zones:

  • The northern zone is a belt 30 km in width running east to west with snowy tracts and extensive grasslands just below snowline between 4 300 to 4 600 m. The main backbone of mountains rises up to 7 320 m in the west and runs eastward into two prominent peaks about 6 400 m high;
  • The central zone is a belt some 70 km wide running from east to west between 1 000 to 3 000 m at the foothills of the northern mountains with valleys at heights between 1 800 and 2 750 m. The most important mountain range separating the valleys reaches heights of 3 650 to 4 550 m. Punakha, Paro, Ha, Wanguphodrang and Thimpu valleys are part of this zone, which is also often described as the Inner or Higher Himalaya. The Manas is the most important river, other important ones being the Wong, Sankosh, Tongsa and Kuru. This zone contains the most valuable forests of the country;
  • The southern zone is about 50 km wide, consisting of low foothills covered with dense tropical vegetation. All the rivers of the country flow down through this zone to meet the Brahamaputra River in India. The altitude ranges from about 900 m to 1 500 m.

The climate of Bhutan varies widely with the altitude, from tropical to temperate and alpine. Up to 1 500 m the climate is tropical/subtropical having monthly average temperatures varying from 4° C to 28° C. Between 1 500 and 4 000 m the annual rainfall is 1 000 mm and temperature varies from 0° C to 7° C. Above this altitude the climate is typically alpine. The snowline starts between 4 500 and 5 000 m.

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

last updated:  Monday, May 28, 2012