It is one of the most remote, beautiful and difficult to visit countries on the planet but if you’re Google, no place is out of bounds.
The internet search giant has unveiled its latest Street View project, a sneak peek into the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, featuring panoramic views of its majestic mountains, miles of crystal-clear rivers and ancient monasteries.
The country – known as the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ – is one of the most closed countries in the world: TV was only introduced in the late 1990’s and tourists have to pay $200 for each day they plan to visit the country.
But in a sign of its more recent embrace of technology, the government allowed Google to film some of the country’s natural treasures for internet users around the world.
“Most governments love Street View because it promotes tourism – they are drawn to its commercial benefits,” said Divon Lan, a manager at Google Street View.
“In Bhutan, the conversation was very different – essentially along the lines of ‘how can we bring Bhutan to the world without having floods of tourists turn up and erode our culture?'”
The project kicked off in March last year with a Street View car travelling the country’s 3,000-kilometre road network.
The car, mounted with a custom-built camera containing 15 lenses that recorded more than a million photos, drew some curious responses during its journey, Lan said in an interview in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu.
“Villagers would see this strange-looking car and ask the driver about it. When he told them it was being used to take photos, they would get very excited and try to peer inside,” added Lan.
The resulting stream of rapid-fire 75 megapixel images offers audiences a view of a land seen by very few, with the country welcoming its first tourists just 40 years ago.
Among the images are the Punakha Dzong administrative headquarters, one of the country’s most beautiful buildings.
There are also images from the capital, Thimpu, and the towns of Paro and Trongsa, as well as panoramas from a highway and photos of the country’s National Museum.
The new photos should allow people who are unable to visit Bhutan to experience to country, while local hotels can also use the images to show prospective guests what their facilities look like, Google says.