If you are looking for fascinating Bhutan facts, you are at the right place! Very little is known about Bhutan, the mysterious country nestled in the Himalayas. Okay for many of you who don’t know the answer to is Bhutan a country – Yes, it is! In this post, I am going to share some fascinating facts about Bhutan that will blow your mind, including Bhutan fun facts that no one tells you.
Over my 2 weeks trip to Bhutan, a country steeped in enigma and beauty, I witnessed a lot of things apart from the destinations itself, befriending the locals to hear some bizarre, funny, and unknown things about this country, some of which I experienced myself. These things made me fall in love with the country head-over-heels as I exclaimed in surprise getting to know about interesting Bhutan facts.
Interesting Bhutan Facts
In this post, I am sharing all about Bhutan, beginning from the interesting facts!
Bhutan is a land of Enigma
Bhutan is called by many intriguing and fascinating names – The Land of the Thunder Dragon(the most popular), The Kingdom in the Sky, The Land of the Hidden Treasures. A country that has been only known of its existence since the last 50+ years, Bhutan leaves a lot to the imagination, and is also called the Shangri-La – the perfect paradise, envisioned and fantasised heavily in the west, even today.
The immense natural beauty of the country does make it feel as if you are in heaven. The fact that it was fully disconnected from the world makes Bhutan special as the country developed its unique ways many of them unknown and new to the world, which partly forms the source for enigma and beautiful facts.
There remain mysteries about this country’s unique culture, traditions, people and the hundreds of legends around Bhutan’s main religion Buddhism.
Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in the world
Where is Bhutan? Bhutan is a tiny nation located in the eastern Himalayas sandwiched between India to the South and Tibet in the north bifurcated by the mighty Himalayan Mountains.
Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in the world. To give you an idea, India is 86 times bigger than Bhutan or the USA is 256 times bigger than this country!
Bhutan is home to the highest unclimbed mountain in the world
Among the interesting Bhutan facts are about the mountains the country boasts of. Bhutan has 18 to 20 of the highest Himalayan mountains in the world. But unlike Nepal, where trekking is almost a pilgrimage, Bhutanese don’t encourage trekking these gigantic mountains, with hiking allowed only up to 6,000 meters.
Hence, the highest mountain in Bhutan and the 40th highest in the world, Gangkhar Puensum, which is visible from the Duchola Pass on the way between Thimphu and Punakha remains unclimbed to date. A few attempts in the past have failed.
The Bhutanese believe that the higher mountains are the abode of supernatural powers, and climbing them would be an interference and would incur the wrath of the Gods.
It is illegal to smoke cigarettes in Bhutan – You may be jailed!
Bhutan is the only country in the world to ban the use of tobacco and you may be jailed if found smoking in the prohibited areas. The drivers that I traveled with used to smoke in the car, though, not kidding! Yes, there are some designated areas for smoking in a few hotels.
What is the alternative to smoking for the Bhutanese, then? You will find them chewing betel leaf with betel nuts, which are also consumed with a tinge of tobacco leaves – there you have it – even stronger hallucinogen than cigarettes!
Only 8 Pilots are allowed to fly in the only airport in Bhutan
Flying to Bhutan is one of the best ways to travel to Bhutan, hands down. If the sky Gods are in the mood, you’ll witness some of the best views of the Himalayas in your life!
But Paro airport, the only international airport in Bhutan, is on the list of the most dangerous airports in the world, thanks to the Himalayan range of mountains and a very narrow runaway.
The pilots take off and land manually ,and only 8 pilots are qualified to fly from this airport! Isn’t this one of the most interesting facts about Bhutan!
Thimphu is the only capital without traffic lights, wait, the entire country has none!
Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan has little traffic. And not that the city needs traffic lights, but there are no automatic traffic lights, which makes it the only capital in the world without traffic signals.
You’ll find traffic police on duty manually guiding the vehicles on the main street, and he is quite a celebrity as the tourists never miss clicking this spot.
Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world
One of the most admirable Bhutan facts is that it is the only country in the world which consumes more carbon dioxide than it actually releases. This has been possible because of the constitutional law in Bhutan that mandates that at least 60% of the country or 2/3rds of the land be covered with forests.
Currently, Bhutan is covered by an area of forests up to a whopping 72%, which has ensured that Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world. Something to take a leaf out of the book, right?
Recommended read: What is the best time to visit Bhutan?
Bhutan Facts – Healthcare and Education is free for all
One of the things in which the country sets an example to many other advanced and bigger countries around the world is in the field of education.
Although the country is still developing and not among the richest, healthcare and education is free for all in Bhutan. The healthcare is free for the visitors too.
The consumption of plastic is banned as well
Since the 1990s, the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has been a strong propeller of no-plastics, and hence the use of plastics has been banned since then. Instead, you will find pretty paper bags and bags made of clothes or jute, which is widely used by the locals while buying groceries or vegetables and fruit.
While many of the developed nations around the world are battling the havocs of plastic and trying hard in overcoming the challenges to curb the use, this tiny nation seems to be way ahead in the protecting the environment, contributing to a better earth, and again an example from whom all countries can learn.
Happiness is a serious thing!
One of my favorite Bhutan facts probably is this wise concept of happiness. The Bhutanese are one of the most contented people in Asia and in the world. It is not the happiest county in the world as many parameters are taken into consideration in calculating the rankings.
But the nation has a metric called Gross National Happiness against the regular Gross Domestic Product. Gross National Happiness is not just an abstract term, but a unique concept found on four elements – Sustainable development, preservation & promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment and establishment of good governance.
The conservation of the environment, one of the elements has resulted in Bhutan to be one of the most advanced nations in terms of being eco-friendly, practising sustainable living and responsibility towards our planet. Being isolated from the world, the presence of nature’s abundant beauty and the pride that keeps the people happier in Bhutan.
If you are to be considered successful in Bhutan, the amount of wealth doesn’t decide your success but how happy are you measures it.
Bhutan practices democratic monarchy
Until 2005, Bhutan was ruled by the monarchs, by the family of Wangchuck. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, owing to the modern times and the uncertainty of monarchy in the growth of the country, opted to move to democracy holding elections and drawing a constitution – one of the rare instances in history where a king voluntarily stepped down – without any form of force or de coup or war!
Today, Bhutan is a Buddhist democratic monarchy, a combination similar to Thailand.
More awesome Bhutan Facts
Bhutan has never been colonised
Bhutan belongs to the list of one of the few countries in the world that have never been colonised. It is a surprising fact considering its neighbours like India and China, that have had a great history of colonization. The tough geography and smart politics have favoured the country well!
Recommended read: 4 Things You Shouldn’t Miss Trying in Bhutan
The interesting legend behind its name – Druk Yul
Bhutan in the local language Dzongkha translates to Druk Yul, meaning the land of the thunder dragon, and the name was derived because of the strong thunders that the region receives, and the belief that thunders are an element of the dragons. That’s also the reason that you see a dragon in the Bhutanese flag.
High Value, Low Impact Tourism – Tourists aren’t entirely welcome!
It was only in 1974 that the UN recognized Bhutan as a country, which means that it was a land inaccessible to foreign tourists before that.
The international tourists started arriving in Bhutan only in the 1970s. But they intentionally do not want to promote tourism on a large scale to protect the culture and nature, which is termed as high value, low impact tourism, which is probably one of the most unheard interesting facts of Bhutan.
This has been achieved by setting minimum fees to be borne by international travelers. This is $250 per day per person during the peak seasons and is $200 during the low seasons. The daily fee includes – a minimum of 3-star accommodation, all meals, a licensed tour guide, all transportation inside Bhutan (excluding flights) and all entrance fees.
The prices may vary depending on how many of you are traveling. If you are traveling solo, you might have to pay an additional fee apart from this.
This means two things – Independent travel is not possible in Bhutan and it is expensive, which would imply that the tourists wouldn’t stay longer. This also eliminates the option of backpacking, and hence it might not be possible to travel cheaply in Bhutan, which is the reason why tourists aren’t very high in number. You also need a visa which would be granted at the Paro airport.
Recommended read: How To Reach Bhutan From India?
As for Indians though, these rules don’t apply and it is possible to travel independently. However, the permit that has to be obtained upon arrival is only valid for 7 days and gives the permit to travel only in Western Bhutan including Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha.
You have to obtain an additional permit at Thimphu to travel to the rest of Bhutan, which grants you 15 more days.
Internet & TV didn’t exist in Bhutan until now
Like the country itself, which was cut off from the rest of the world until recently, technology was also kept at bay in Bhutan until the 1990’s as the TV was introduced only then.
The internet was introduced as recently as 2001 and the internet speed lags behind compared to the rest of the world.
Phalluses are for driving away evil!
People may be alarmed looking at the paintings of Phalluses everywhere, and I was no exception as well. It is one of the many different cultural beliefs in the country, which was introduced by the Mad Man monk, who preached the worship of the phallus.
The phalluses in the forms of paintings, wooden statues or images exist to ward off negative energy and evil forces. Hence you will come across wooden phalluses kept at homes, shops and restaurants where also walls are painted with them.
There is also a temple dedicated to the phallus where couples seeking children visit to seek blessings for their wishes to come true. The woman is touched with a sacred wooden phallus on her head to bless them with children.
Recommended read: A trek to Tiger’s Nest in Paro
The national animal Takin isn’t what you expect
The uniqueness quotient only multiplies as you further explore the country, with interesting Bhutan facts about so many things. The national animal Takin is a mountain mammal, which has the head of a goat and the body of a small cow. It is one of the rarest animals just found in Bhutan and a few eastern regions.
It is believed that a saint created this out of the bones and the flesh that remained after he had a scrumptious lunch consisting of a goat and a cow.
Animal slaughter is banned in Bhutan
Did you know? One of the interesting Bhutan facts is that no animal is ever killed in the country. A majority of the Bhutanese are Buddhists and endorse peace. It is probably the only country where animals can exist without the fear of being hunted and killed!
But the Bhutanese love to meat despite being Buddhists. I saw people consuming meat in all the meals, but absolutely no animal slaughter isn’t carried out in the country. Most of the animals and fish are butchered in India from where they import over the road.
There is a festival to welcome the migrating bird
The black-necked cranes are revered by the Bhutanese. They migrate from the Tibetan plateau to central-eastern regions of Bhutan to Phobjhika valley during November, and the locals celebrate a festival every year to welcome these endangered birds.
Recommended read: 11 Festivals of Bhutan That You Should Attend At least Once!
People love and respect their King very much
Although the constitutional monarchy was introduced in the country, people of Bhutan revere their royal family The House of Wangchuck.
It is common to find the pictures of the royal family in the houses and shops in Bhutan. The kings have been respected throughout history, and it is admirable and surprising to witness that.
The Bhutanese are proud of their local attire
People also love flaunting their traditional Bhutanese Gho for men and Kira for women, which consists of knee-length wear for men, and a blouse and a skirt for women with additional accessories.
It is mandatory for the Bhutanese to wear the traditional dress to schools, public offices, Bhutanese government holidays and Bhutan festivals. But you will notice that most of them don’t see it as a rule as you can see many in the traditional dresses every day.
Gho and Kira are both made of thick fabric(a combination of wool, cotton or silk), and they wrap them around with a belt. Kira is similar to Sarong or more like Japanese Kimono – more vibrant and decorated, which is worn with a shirt or a big blouse.
Gho is a knee-length skirt similar to Scotland’s Kilt tied with a belt that is worn with knee-length socks. The strap is wrapped in such a way that the pockets are accessible.
When to wear stockings – The monks decide
Did you know one of the interesting Bhutan facts about their attire? One of the traditions followed is that the duration for which men wear stockings underneath Gho is decided by the main monk, who retreats to lower valleys after the period starts. Whenever the announcement is made marks the beginning of the winter months and the stocking or socks come out.
The arrival of spring also follows a similar announcement when it is time to do away with the stockings.
Chillies are must in their food
The Bhutanese have a unique cuisine rich in meat, cheese and not to forget the chilies. One of the interesting facts about Bhutan food is that the people of Bhutan like their food with spices, especially with chilies, which they often eat raw during the lunch and dinner apart from being used in the food generously. So if you aren’t used to spicy food, you might want to request them ahead when you place your order.
I spotted many local markets from Paro to Bumthang where people carried huge baskets like above filled with chillies. I must say that I have never seen such big ones in my life.
It is expected that you refuse food when offered
Speaking of food, it is expected that you refuse food when you are offered by your hosts. The locals even close their mouths and say Meshu and accept it the second time.
The food is stocked up for harsh months
One of the many more interesting Bhutan facts is how they proactively prepare for all seasons. The harsh winters in Bhutan, especially in the hilly towns in the west, central and east regions, make it impossible to continue agriculture.
The Bhutanese have adapted by stocking up vegetables, fruits and even meat by drying them. You can find large quantities of chillies and corns on the roofs of the houses if you travel in the fall which is left to dry. Bhutan being a self-sufficient country depends very less on other countries except for meat.
The rice is also harvested in the Autumn where carefully stacked piles of rice are gathered and stored in bags for the winter. A country dependent heavily on agriculture, Bhutan has the best practices to sustain, don’t you agree?
And there is a way to taste the Yak butter tea
If you visit or stay in any Bhutanese homes, you’ll probably be served butter tea made of Yak’s milk, which tastes unique. It is served hot and people chat over their cup of tea, which gets refilled until the conversations end at homes.
Recommended read: A Travel Guide to Bumthang
It isn’t mandatory to register the date of birth
Most of the Bhutanese do not know or celebrate their birthday (it might be changing) as it isn’t required to register the date of birth. As the new year steps, everyone turns a year older!
Bhutan’s national flower was also a mystery to Botany!
Bhutan’s national flower is the Blue Poppy, which is a rare Himalayan wildflower, which was a mystery to the botanical world until the country got known. The botanists claim that it’s one of the rarest flower species that is hard to be found elsewhere.
Patriarchy is almost non-existent
One of the coolest Bhutan facts Unlike most parts of the world, it is matriarchy all the way in Bhutan. Women own it all, where it is outside or at home. Apart from heading the families, women also run shops, businesses and work on farms.
The inheritance, whether it is land, house, or animals, is generally passed to the eldest daughter rather than the eldest son. When a couple marries, a man often moves into the home of his new wife.
Bhutan Facts – Marriage Laws are unique too
Here is one of Bhutan marriage facts. The Bhutanese are forbidden to marry foreigners and so is Homosexuality. But Polygamy is legal in Bhutan, although not common. Divorces and re-marriages are common though.
Plan your Bhutan trip
If you are from any other country except India or Maldives, you can plan your trip to Bhutan with one of the many fantastic tours offered by Get your Guide. You can choose from many combinational tours that also cover sections of India and, even Nepal.
Here are some of the best tours that I can recommend for you:
If you have a week, this 7-days tour is ideal for you to get glimpses of the country’s best including Thimphu, Paro and Tiger’s Nest. Book here.
If you are looking for an economic Bhutan tour, book this 4-day tour covering the country’s oldest temple Kichu Lhakhang, Thimphu, Punakha and Paro, including the Tiger’s Nest. Book the trip here.
If you enjoy a private trip, this perfect 10-day private tour is the best for you, and it covers the highlights of the country including Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa, Bumthang, Gangtey, Phobjikha, Kila Gomba and Taktsang Monastery. Book here.
Love hiking? Then book this 12-day hiking trip that will end at Chomolhari/Jumolhari, beginning from Thimphu, covering Paro, Dodina, Barshong, Shodu, Lingshi, Jangothang, Thangthangka and Shana. You will trek for about 20km every day and is the best trip to get up and close to the Bhutanese ways of life. Book here.
Want to combine India’s pretty hill towns Sikkim and Darjeeling with a trip to Bhutan? Then this 2-weeks tour is perfect for you. Book here.
If you want to know about the rich culture of Bhutan in a week, book this 10-day cultural trip covering beginning at Paro where you will see all the important sites and ancient Buddhist temples. Book here.
So these are the incredible Bhutan facts. Hope you enjoyed reading this!
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OTHER BHUTAN POSTS THAT YOU MUST READ
30 Amazing Things To Do In Bumthang, Bhutan
15 Top Things To Do In Punakha
What is the best time to visit Bhutan?
Best Bhutan Festivals That You Must Attend
Phobjikha Valley – An offbeat destination in Bhutan
How to get from India to Bhutan
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