A worthy activity to capture the essence of tour packages to classical Bhutan is interacting with the different ethnic communities of the country. The three major groups here are the Ngalops, Sharchops and Lhotshampas, named according to the regions they occupy.
Ngalops migrated here from Tibet in 9th century AD and now form the second-largest ethnicity in the nation. Their Dzongkha language is the national tongue and they are credited with introducing Buddhism to the region. They mostly live in the western and central regions of Bhutan and follow the Drukpa branch of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. These inhabitants traditionally grow red rice, barley and potatoes, and build houses with bricks, clay, stones and timber.
The Sharchops, known as easterners, form the largest ethnicity in this Himalayan nation. They migrated to the region from either Assam in India or Myanmar, between the 12th and 8th centuries BC; thus making them the earliest inhabitants of this mountainous country. The majority of Shrachop inhabitants speak Tshangla, a language of Tibeto-Burmese origin, and a minority speaks Olekha. As per the national policy, they also learn the national language Dzongkha, which traces its origins to the Ngalop community. Their chief religion is Tibetan Buddhism, with some adhering to Bon and Animist faiths. Since ancient times, they have practised slash and burn agriculture, but this has been forced into gradual abandonment after the government outlawed it in 1969.
The last of the three mentioned groups to meet while touring the country with Bhutan travel packages is Lhotshampa. These inhabitants started migrating from Nepal in the 19th and 20th centuries, after the country gave the authority of its foreign relations to British colonisers. In 1989, the government forced them to abide by local customs, such as learning Dzongkha and wearing the official attire. Many of them settle in one place and grow crops while others keep moving from place to place. Most of the members of this group are Hindus and as per customs, do not eat beef. There are some who follow Himalayan Buddhism and its various sub-sects. They are known as southerners in the local tongue as they mostly inhabit the said part of the kingdom.