The Detours series celebrates lesser-known locales worth visiting across the state.

The University of Texas at El Paso’s unlikely relationship with the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan dates to 1917, when the institution—then the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy—moved to the foothills of the Franklin Mountains. Inspired by National Geographic photos of the remote country’s mountain fortresses, the dean’s wife pushed for campus buildings to be designed in the Bhutanese architectural style. Visitors today can admire their thick, sloping walls, high inset windows, overhanging roofs, and brick-mosaic borders. They can also see an authentic Bhutanese structure. Originally constructed for a festival in Washington, D.C., the Lhakhang (which roughly translates to “temple”) was given to the school in 2008 to honor a special friendship—Bhutanese students have attended UTEP for decades. Built without nails by artisans in Bhutan, the temple consists of pieces fitted together like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Tours are available only a few hours each week, but they are worth it to take in the dazzling interior.

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “From Bhutan to the Border.” Subscribe today.