Welcome To The Land of the Thunder Dragon!
Why Bhutan? Why now?
Situated in the eastern Himalayas and bordered by China and India, Bhutan rises in just a few hundred miles from steamy jungles to some of the world’s highest peaks. No roads led outside of the Kingdom until the 1960s, and access by air became possible only a few decades ago. This isolation throughout its history has provided refuge for its people to live and practice their rich cultural traditions freely.
The marathon lets international participants a peek into Bhutan’s special approach towards life in the 21st century, which, as national policy, is described as the pursuit of “Gross National Happiness.” The Bhutanese have chosen a different path towards development, rooted in deep respect for and protection of the Kingdom’s unique resources. The program places emphasis on the Kingdom’s protection of its diverse culture, community, and environment.
With approximately 95 percent of its people practicing traditional farming, Bhutan is a truly agrarian society where people live close to the land that sustains them. Their eco-friendly practices are in part responsible for Bhutan’s designation as a biodiversity “hot- spot.” This designation recognizes the country’s remarkably healthy diversity of life. Bhutan also is the last country where the Vajrayana form of Mahayana Buddhism is practiced extensively and influences all aspects of daily life.
Each year on the second Saturday of March the rich but virtually unknown cultural and environmental life of the land of “Happiness” in the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan celebrates distance running with the Bhutan International Marathon (BIM). The marathon was created in 2014 by the Bhutan Olympic Committee and hosted 176 runners on Feb 22, 2015 in its second year of operation. Sixty-seven of the participants were international.
Bhutan has a cautious approach to tourism and takes great pride in the relevance of the ecological footprint associated with mass tourism. With those values in mind and some operational experience under the belt, the BIM is now embarking on the sustainable growth of its marathon event.
For most people—runners included—Bhutan is a remote and exclusive place and journeying to the Kingdom is a dream vacation. The Sister Marathons membership community has the ability to turn dreams into reality by offering exclusive package trips to the 2016 race, and giving away free trips to the 2017 race through the upcoming Sweepstakes Promotions!
Why Is Bhutan So Special?
Due to its pristine environment and harmonious society, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan has been called "The Last Shangri-La." Here are a just of the few attributes that make The Kingdom of Bhutan such a unique and exciting travel destination.
- Bhutan is the only country in the world to use a Gross National Happiness index, which encompasses social, health, and environmental wellness into economic productivity for a more holistic view on the nation’s progress and prosperity.
- Bhutan remains the world’s only Buddhist Kingdom and sovereign country.
- Thimphu is one of the few capital cities in Asia that does not have a traffic light.
- Bhutan is the first country in the world with specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Constitutional law requires that at least 60 percent of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times- and that for every tree that is cut down, 4 must be planted to replace it.
- One-third of Bhutan’s population is under the age of 14; its median age is only 22.3 years.
- Bhutan is the only nation in the world where the sale of tobacco is banned and smoking in public is illegal.
- Bhutan has one of the highest concentrations of endangered and exotic animals on the planet, including: The Royal Bengal Tiger, Asian Elephant, Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros, & Clouded Leopard.
- Bhutan is the world’s only carbon sink, that is; it absorbs more CO2 than it gives out. It sells hydro-electrical power, making it the only country whose largest export is renewable energy.
- Mountaineering is banned in Bhutan because the culture believes the mountaintops are sacred land.
- Bhutan’s unique “all-inclusive” government regulated travel program ensures low-volume, low-impact, high-quality travel demographic (no budget backpackers or independent travelers.
Impressive Facts About Bhutan
- Least urbanized country in the world (no traffic lights)
- World’s only modern Kingdom & Asian Dynasty - founded in 1907
- Highest unclimbed peak in the world: Gangkhar Puensum (24,840 feet)
- Ranked “Happiest Country” in Asia (8th In the World)
- The World’s Longest Trek (The 28-day Snowman)
- Constitutional Rights to Nature
- One of the most “self-dependent” economies in the world
- One of the world’s only ‘Carbon Sinks’ (net producer of carbon credits)
- World leader in clean hydro-electric
- Biodiversity Hotspots (Himalayan to Sub-Tropical)
- In 1962 Bhutan begins “modernization” with development of paved roads, telephone, postal system and electricity infrastructure and the first automobiles.
- In 1974 Bhutan opens it’s borders and allows the first foreign visitors to enter their country
- In 1999 Bhutan bans production of plastic bags
- In 1999 Bhutan becomes last country in the world to adopt TV and Internet
- In 2008, Bhutan had the second-fastest growing economy in the world.
- In 2010, Bhutan becomes first country to ban smoking
Experience More In The Land of Happiness
The Kingdom of Bhutan is a magical country nestled in the eastern Himalayas where the King rules by a 72 page document entitled Gross National Happiness. Any experience in this Buddhist country, is a rare and unique cultural adventure.
Bhutan is flanked by India to the south, west and east, Tibet and China to the north, and has a famous neighbor, Nepal. But Bhutan’s rugged landscape and unique cultural and spiritual grandeur have caused it to be touted as an oasis of innocence in a frenzied and competitive world—a kingdom where compassion and wisdom are the benchmarks against which all things are measured. And, unlike Nepal, Bhutan’s rigid tourist restrictions close these treasures to many foreigners, which only make it more tantalizing as a destination for adventure and spiritual seekers.
The country of Bhutan is one of the few places on earth that has never been colonized—boasting of a heritage going back to prehistoric times. With belief systems steeped in magic and mysticism, they have protected their natural environment as a haven that World Wildlife Fund calls, the ‘hot spot of biodiversity’. As a deeply Buddhist country, the Western world has labeled Bhutan as The Last Shangrila.
In addition to being one of the most recent nations to accept TV and Internet (1999), and install a democratic government, Bhutan is home to the highest unclimbed mountain on the planet, Gangkhar Puensum (24,840 ft.). It is a testament to Bhutan’s leadership that it rejected revenues from foreign climbers and instead prioritized the spiritual wishes of villagers that the mountain remain untouched.
Bhutan has fewer cars than cattle, and no traffic lights or McDonalds. There are more monks than military personnel and social progress is measured NOT not in terms of economic development or GDP, but in terms of happiness, as defined in their ruling document entitled Gross National Happiness.
For a small nation, it dares to be different. As there are revolutions around the world rivaling corrupt leaders, Bhutan’s absolute monarch the 4th King, not only abdicated the throne to his son against the wishes of the people, but initiated a transition into democracy to give more power over to an elected government and its citizens. But despite this switch up in power, the country remains deeply in love with its Royal Family and this heartfelt loyalty is palpable.
Bhutan houses less than 1 million people; 70 times smaller than that of its southern neighbor India and 205 times smaller than the northern neighbor China. Yet it has remained harmonious with these giants while maintaining its own unique and traditional culture. And while capturing the hearts of less than thirty thousand visitors that the country allows in every year.
The peacefulness of Bhutan’s Buddhist traditions flourishe in harmony with residents and visitors alike - at a tranquility unlike any other permeates the air and every being that breathes it.
Come experience for yourself a land of happiness in the Kingdom of Bhutan!