Updated: Jul 5
Discover the magic of the great Himalayan Kingdom
Bhutan is one of the most beautiful and intriguing countries in the world. Remote, yet untouched and steeped in beauty, this wonderful country should not be excluded from one’s travel bucket-list.
Here are some 30 interesting and sustainable facts about Bhutan.
Bhutan is a magical landlocked kingdom in eastern Himalayas nestled between two spiritual hubs, Tibet and India in Southeast Asia.
Undeniably beautiful landscapes that comprise of subtropical plains in the south to sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north.
Bhutan is called the “Druk Yul” which means the Land of the Thunder Dragons because of the fierce storms that occur in the Himalayas and roll into Bhutan. It is a belief that the thunders are an element of the dragons, a reason why there is a dragon on the Bhutanese flag.
Often deemed as ‘Mini Switzerland’ by European visitors, much of Bhutan’s terrain is made up of mountainous slopes.
Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world, i.e. it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces; possibly the most environmentally friendly country in the world.
Bhutan’s lush forests (which covers 72% of the land) act as a carbon sink and by law, 60% of the country (2/3rds of the land) must remain protected national forest - the first country in the world to mandate such specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment.
Plastic bags have been banned in Bhutan since 2019, though many previous attempts were made to ban it earlier.
Bhutan is the only nation in the world where the production and sale of tobacco products are banned and one could be fined heavily and even jailed for smoking in prohibited public places.
Environmental conservation is taken pretty seriously in Bhutan where hunting and killing of animals and birds are banned, and anyone caught killing endangered species such as the Bengal tiger, snow leopard, red panda and the Himalayan black bear, could face life in prison. However, the Bhutanese are largely meat-eaters which is sourced from across the border from India.
Feminism isn't much of an issue in Bhutan, it’s a matriarchy system all the way. Women head the families and run all businesses from shops to farms. Inheritance (land, house, and animals) is generally inherited by the eldest daughter, and a man moves into the house of his wife after marriage.
Bhutan is the only country in the world to officially measure national happiness. The country’s wider philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) Prevails Over GDP as an indicator of economic growth and development. GNH is measured through its four pillars - sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, establishment of good governance and conservation of the natural environment.
Bhutan’s homes get their electricity from hydropower through special turbines placed in rivers so they don’t have the need to construct dams. In remote villages without power lines, the government provides free solar panels.
Bhutan has carefully managed tourism with a $250 daily travellers’ fee to help preserve its pristine landscapes, unique traditional culture and deep Buddhist traditions.
To receive a travel visa, all visitors to Bhutan must book through a government-approved tour agency and pay the full price of the trip before arrival.
Bhutan has never been colonised, conquered or ruled by an external entity, largely due to its inaccessible terrain and the smart strategies used by various kings and gurus who negotiated smart deals, including with the British during their expansion in India and Nepal.
The previous King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who studied in Oxford, abdicated the throne in favour of democracy - one of the rare instances in history where a king voluntarily stepped down. A constitutional monarchy was thus established in 2005, with a two-party system. Until then, Bhutan was ruled by the monarchs, by the House of Wangchuck.
The royal family are highly respected in Bhutan and it is not surprising why when you see the King sitting with the locals on the ground for a meal during festivals.
Bhutan was isolated entirely from the world until 1974 when the UN recognised Bhutan as a country, and when the media were allowed into the country to cover the new king’s coronation, almost 64 years since it was found.
Bhutan recorded the lowest reported case of Coronavirus in the Indian sub-continent – and has had only one death.
There are no traffic lights in Bhutan but you will see a traffic police officer manually directing traffic in the capital, Thimphu. He’s quite a celebrity with many a tourist taking his pictures guiding traffic in the town center.
There is only one international airport in Bhutan – and it is considered the most dangerous airport in the world to land on. Very few pilots (8 as per last count) are trained to land a plane here.
The highest unclimbed peak in the world is the Gangkhar Puensum in Bhutan which has never been conquered and access is prohibited since 1987.
Bhutan’s buildings must, by royal degree, be constructed using traditional architectural style - constructed with multi-colour hand-painted, wooden facades, small beautiful arched windows and sloping roofs.
The national animal of Bhutan is “Takin”, which is an incredibly rare animal with the head of a goat and the body of a yak, and once thought to be a mythological creature before being discovered by an Englishman.
The national sport of Bhutan is archery, and the Blue Poppy is the national flower, a very rare Himalayan wildflower.
Bhutanese meals are extremely spicy where chillies are not considered a seasoning but rather a vegetable.
Here's a hilarious fact about Bhutan. A phallus is drawn on the walls of houses, or placed in wooden forms at home, shops and restaurants as a symbol of good luck and fertility and to ward off evil forces and negative energy.
Bhutan has a mandatory national dress code where specific colours represent the individual’s social class and status. Men wear traditional, knee-length robe-like garments called ‘Gho’ and women must wear long dresses pinned at the shoulders called ‘Kira’.
Bhutan has just under 800,000 people, largely Buddhist population.
30% of the people in Bhutan live under the poverty line, however, you will not come across any beggars or slums in Bhutan, as agriculture and livestock rearing are the mainstay of their sustenance.