A tiny nation that long lived in isolation and managed to preserve its culture and its pristine landscapes, the Kingdom of Bhutan has somewhat a mythical status.
This fascinating country with meandering roads and lush green valleys is tucked away in the laps of the mighty Himalayas, and offers a host of surprises for its visitors.
Guess what? It measures its success in terms of happiness and not money! So, here are 60 random Bhutan facts that will simply blow your mind…
Bhutan Facts: 1-5
1. Did you know that the current King of Bhutan became the world’s youngest reigning monarch. He was crowned when he was only 28 years old.
2. The nation is tucked between two of the world’s rising superpowers – China and India. The only relation it has with China is a land dispute. Little to none diplomatic relationships exist between China and Bhutan.
3. On the contrary, Bhutan maintains good diplomatic relationships with India. Indian and Bhutanese can easily cross borders with just a valid ID proof. Nothing else is required. Many Bhutanese people get into India for acquiring higher education.
4. The Kingdom of Bhutan has a very small army of just 16,000 soldiers. They are trained by Indian Army. The total military budget of Bhutan is USD 13.7 million per year.
5. Bhutanese currency is known as Ngultrum and it always remains fixed to Indian currency – the Indian Rupee. Did you know that Indians can pay with Indian currency in Bhutan? It is widely accepted.
Bhutan Facts: 6-10
6. Bhutan has an average life expectancy of 69.8 years. This data comes from a 2015 report of the World Health Organization.
7. Did you know that Bhutanese government provides basic health care for free? That may sound great but there is a tiny glitch. There aren’t many doctors in Bhutan and in 2007, there used to be just 1 doctor for every 50,000 Bhutanese people.
8. Bhutan is a really small country. The total area of the country is 14,800 square miles or 38,400 square kilometers. Comparatively, Switzerland is slightly bigger.
9. Bhutan was recognized as a country by the United Nations only in 1974. That was the year when Bhutan received its first foreign tourists!
10. In order to receive good luck and also as a symbol of fertility, Bhutanese people paint large phallus on their houses!
Bhutan Facts: 11-15
11. State sponsors the primary religion (Buddhism) in Bhutan. Temples and Dzongs in Bhutan are maintained by the Government of Bhutan.
12. The King of Bhutan wears the Raven’s Crown, which in Bhutan is known as Dzongkha. The raven on top of the crown is a symbol of the guardian deity of Bhutan – Mahakala. This raven is also Bhutan’s national bird. The raven is locally known as Jaroq and there was a time when killing a raven was considered as a capital crime.
13. In the whole world, Bhutan is the 8th happiest country while in Asia, the top position is captured by Bhutan.
14. The form of Buddhism considered as state religion is the Vajrayana Buddhism. This form follows tantric Buddhist texts. Did you know that after Buddhism, Hinduism is the second most famous religion in Bhutan?
15. Bhutan is home to the 17th biggest Buddha statue in the whole world.
Bhutan Facts: 16-20
16. Bhutan was one of the founding member countries of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC). SAARC was created in 1985.
17. Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu with Britain after the Duar War of 1865 in which Britain won. The treaty ensured that Bhutan will cede some land to British India in exchange of receiving an annual subsidy.
Towards the end of 19th century, Bhutan’s relation with England improved because of efforts of Ugyen Wangchuck who served as Bhutan’s de facto ruler and became King of Bhutan in 1907.
In 1910, Bhutan and England signed another treaty in which Britain agreed on not interfering into internal affairs of Bhutan and in exchange Bhutan allowed Britain to direct her foreign affairs. After India became independent in 1947, India assumed this role in place of Britain.
18. In 1949, India and Bhutan signed the Indo-Bhutanese accord and India returned the land that Britain occupied to Bhutan and formalized the annual subsidy to be paid to Bhutan. Also, India’s responsibilities in foreign relations and defense was also formalized under this accord.
19. The median age of Bhutan’s population is 27.3 years with around 50% of the whole population being below 17 years of age.
20. The black-necked crane is culturally sacred in Bhutan and anyone found guilty of killing one will be given the punishment of life imprisonment. On November 12 every year, the country arranges the Black-necked Crane Festival for welcoming the birds.
Bhutan Facts: 21-25
21. Only in official correspondences where English is used, the name ‘Bhutan’ is used. The real official name used by the country is Druk Yul. This has been the official name of the country since the 17th century.
22. Bhutan has several other names in different local dialects that are prevalent in the nation. A few of those names include: Mon, Potente, Cambirasi, Broukpa and Lho Men Jong. The last one literally translates into ‘Southland of the Herbs’.
23. Did you know that Bhutan is the prime territory of the elusive (most likely mythical) creature called Yeti? Till the mid-sixties, the Bhutanese people believed in Yeti so much that they even released a postal stamp with Yeti image (not a real image because no one ever saw it) on it in 1966. This belief has been on decline after that.
24. In Bhutan everyone has the same birthday and it is the New Year. Every year on the New Year, all citizens of Bhutan become a year older. No one actually cares or perhaps doesn’t remember their actual age or birth date!
25. In Bhutan, you won’t really get white rice because the ‘red rice’ is popular. With a nuttier flavor, the rice is known for quick cooking and sticky texture. Once cooked, the rice assumes a deep pink color. It is actually really healthy.
Bhutan Facts: 26-30
26. The name ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ possibly came from the fierce storms that often roll in on the nation from the Himalayas.
27. The origin of the name Bhutan is kind of debatable. Some say that it came from the Sanskrit word called Bhotanta where Bho actually is the name of Tibet and Bhotanta means ‘End of Tibet’. Others, however, believe that the name came from another Sanskrit word called Bhu-uttan which means ‘Highlands’.
28. Want to be really polite in Bhutan? Just decline food when someone offers it to you. Utter the words ‘meshu meshu’ and immediately cover your mouth with your hands. It is a good manner in the nation. However, one can accept the food once pushed for it a few times.
29. In Bhutan, the law forbids its citizens from marrying a foreigner. Also, homosexuality is not acceptable by law. On the contrary, polygamy is acceptable, but is rarely practiced and guess what? There are signboards here are there asking people to keep just one sex partner.
30. It is mandatory in Bhutan to wear traditional dresses on formal occasions, in government buildings and in schools. It is one way of preserving the culture of Bhutan. The traditional dress of men is known as Gho while for women, it is called Kira.
Bhutan Facts: 31-35
31. For men, the traditional dresses are short and they need to wear high socks. However, during winter, they cannot wear stockings underneath until the monks are asked to retreat to lower valleys during winter months by the primary Buddhist Abbot of the country.
That coming down of monks is marked as the official beginning of the winter and that’s when men are allowed to wear stockings. So, during Autumn, men in high altitude areas like Thimphu and Paro need to tolerate freezing temperatures on their bare legs.
32. In the same way, men are not allowed to step out without stocking underneath the national dress until the monks retreat to the high mountains. Monks go back during the spring.
33. In case you are thinking that you can stumble upon a few Buddhist monks on Bhutanese roads, that’s not a possibility unless it’s winter. During summers, all monks are found in high altitude monasteries. Those that can be seen in some temples and fortresses are actually caretakers. The real ones are hidden somewhere in high mountains and they are very difficult to reach.
34. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is the current King of the Kingdom of Bhutan since December 9, 2006. He and his wife (the Queen) is really adored by everyone in Bhutan. The King is known to be very humble and is even popular for allowing private meetings with citizens whenever requested.
35. Did you know why mountaineering beyond 6,000 meters is forbidden in Bhutan? That’s because beyond that level, the mountain peaks are located and it is believed by the Bhutanese that those peaks are where the deities live and scaling those peaks will mean disrespect and offence.
Bhutan Facts: 36-40
36. Yak Butter Tea is a fascinating beverage in Bhutan and is pretty much a staple. It is made of yak butter, salt, water and brewed tea. It is oily and thick and is high on calorie.
Oh, in case you are visiting a local family, you will be offered this and after every sip you take, the cup will be refilled until it is time for you to leave.
However, one good way of avoiding continuous refill, if you don’t want more is to leave the cup when it is full but drink it up all when you are about to leave.
37. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was the previous King of Bhutan. He was the father of Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The former king abdicated the throne in favor of his son and set in motion the constitutional monarchy. Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck knew that not all Kings will be good, and hence, a government should be there for control.
38. Bhutan’s national flower is a very rare ‘Blue Poppy’ (locally known as Euitgel Metog Hoem). It was originally thought to be of the species Meconopsis grandis. Turns out that it was a wrong notion. The rare flower is now a new species – Meconopsis gakyi diana. The scientific study of this extremely rare flower has been completed only in 2017. Meconopsis elongata and Meconopsis merakensis are two even rare poppy species that have been found in Bhutan.
39. Bhutanese people like to eat spicy and hot food. Ema Datshi is their national dish and is made of local cheese and chilies. Some of the other really popular dishes of Bhutan include spicy minced chicken (Jasha Maru), spicy pork shoulder (phaksha paa) etc.
40. Education in Bhutan is free and the government pays for it. However, Buddhist teachings get a heavy emphasis. English is always there in the school curriculum.
Bhutan Facts: 41-45
41. Bhutan is a carbon negative country! What really does that mean? It means that Bhutan absorbs more carbon dioxide than what it actually produces.
42. Bhutanese constitution says that 2/3rd of the country needs to be covered by forests and guess what? 72% of the country is actually covered by forests.
43. Renewable energy is the primary export item of the country. The renewable energy it exports is hydroelectricity and the buyer of that energy is her neighbor India.
44. Takin – a really weird looking animal is Bhutan’s national animal. This animal is often referred to as the goat-antelope but the truth is that its body resembles that of a yak and its head resembles that of a goat.
45. There’s a legend that describes the origins of Takin. It is said that a Divine Madman created the Takin using the bones of a goat and a yak. Interestingly Takin is found only and only in Bhutan. What’s even weirder is that Takin feeds on bamboo!
Bhutan Facts: 46-50
46. Did you know that most of the Bhutanese are actually meat-lovers and yet, Bhutan has a law of not killing or slaughtering animals? The meat that is consumed in Bhutan is imported from India. So, animals in Bhutan just roam around freely.
47. Bhutan is the world’s last country to open doors for television and the internet. Ban on TV was lifted in 1999 and the ban on the internet was lifted in 2001.
48. The capital of the country – Thimpu has absolutely no traffic lights! No one needs a traffic light there because not only the locals drive slowly and are patient, but also, the number of cars there are pretty low.
49. Smoking in Bhutan is banned. It has been so in the country since 1916, but an act was formally passed in 2010 which banned tobacco trade. However, good news for smokers is that they can carry cigarettes or tobacco with them. Only bummer is that smoking needs to be indoor.
50. In 1999, Bhutan officially said no to Plastic. Plastics are banned in Bhutan, but not many people listened so another official reinforcement came in 2005. The progress is still slow and Bhutan is contemplating using her plastic wastes for road building.
Bhutan Facts: 51-55
51. Druk Yul is the name of Bhutan in the local language. In English, Druk Yul literally translates into Thunder Dragon. So, Bhutan is the land of Thunder Dragon and the leaders of the country are known as Druk Gyalpo, which translates into ‘Thunder Dragon Kings’.
52. Bhutan never measures its success with its Gross Domestic Product. Instead, it has a different index which is Gross National Happiness (GNH). So yes, if Bhutanese are happy, Bhutan is successful. GNH is measured in terms of protection of environment, preservation of nature, promotion of socio-economic development that is sustainable and of course, Good Governance.
53. Climbing any mountain higher than 6,000 meters is restricted in Bhutan. This makes the Gangkhar Puensum mountain the highest unclimbed mountain in this world. The mountain is 7,570 meters high.
54. Paro Airport in Bhutan is so dangerous that there are only 8 pilots in this world who are qualified to land in the airport.
55. Marijuana grows in the wild in Bhutan. It is far more abundant than common grass. Guess what? No one smokes. The Marijuana that grows in Bhutan is a major source of pig food.
Bhutan Facts: 56-60
56. Anyone planning on invading Bhutan needs to face the Indian Armed Forces. Yes, India has pledged to protect Bhutan from invading forces. As a result of this arrangement, India and China had a military stand off of Doklam Pass – a tri junction point between India, Bhutan and China – when China tried to build roads in Doklam Plateau claimed by Bhutan.
57. With a complete ban on sale and use of pesticides and fertilizers, Bhutan is the only country in the world to fully embrace traditional organic farming.
58. Travelers from around the world are required to pay USD 250 daily tariff. Against this money, the traveler gets a hotel provided by the state and a tour guide. A part of this money goes into educating the Bhutanese children. Bangladesh, Maldives and India are the only three countries whose citizens don’t need to pay the daily tariff. Only a legal ID card is enough for people from these three countries to enter Bhutan.
59. Bhutan has a land ceiling act that was introduced by the 4th King of Bhutan. It prohibits anyone from owning more than 25 acres of land and that includes royal family members, ministers and politicians as well.
60. There are two national sports in Bhutan – Darts and Archery. During archery matches people just become foul mouthed and they bully the opponent players.