27 Interesting Facts About Bhutan You NEED to Know!

The Kingdom Of Bhutan is a landlocked country located in Eastern Himalayas in Southeast Asia. Bhutan is a somewhat mysterious country, appearing to be from an alternate universe. Many people find it enchanting and straight out of a fairytale. What makes Bhutan a hidden jewel? Here are some interesting facts about Bhutan. 

1. The ONLY Carbon Negative Country in the World

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Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world, which means that it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces. In recent years, firewood collection and industrial development have been a pressing issue for Bhutan as they have resulted in pollution and emission of about 2.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. But, thanks to its lush forests which act as a carbon sink and absorb most of the carbon dioxide, it is carbon negative.

2. Isolated from the World Until The 1970s

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Bhutan was isolated entirely from the world until 1974 when media was allowed to cover the new king’s coronation, about 64 years since it was found. Television sets came to Bhutan no sooner than 1990. Now isn't this an interesting fact about Bhutan? 

3. No Traffic Lights in Bhutan

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Roads are a rather dangerous adventure in Bhutan with steep curves in the mountainous regions. Herds of animals like cows and buffaloes can be found freely roaming on these roads. Even people stop to greet each other in the middle of the way. However, the Bhutanese drive very slowly and cautiously, so traffic lights are not required.

4. The King Abdicated the Throne for Democracy

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In, this world of dirty politics and corruption, to stay at the top, it is surprising as well as inspiring to see such selflessness by the king of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck. He realised the fact that Bhutan may not always have a good and honest king, so he favoured democracy and elections were held with the establishment of a constitution in 2005, thus converting Bhutan into a constitutional monarchy. This fact about Bhutan proves how much of a peaceful this one is. 

5. Happiness Prevails Over GDP 

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Yes, you read that right. Bhutan does not believe in GDP as an indicator of economic growth and development. It has introduced another measurement known as Gross National Happiness. Bhutanese people have four pillars or quantitative indicators for the measure of GNH, which are sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, good governance and a healthy environment. That was surely a happy fact about Bhutan!

6. Bhutan Says NO To Plastic

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The first plastic bags ban was established in 1999. However, it failed due to lack of alternatives even after enforcing it again twice in 2005 and 2009. Now, due to the urgent need for managing waste in Bhutan, it has been introduced in 2019. Awareness about alternatives like homemade carry bags, jute bags and hand woven bags is being spread to sensitise the citizens.

7. ONLY 8 Pilots are qualified to fly to Paro Airport

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Paro is known as the most dangerous airport to land on in the whole world. And guess what? ONLY 8 trained pilots are allowed to do this. If you ever get to land in Paro, it's going to be one of a kind. 

8. No Smoking in Public Places

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Now for a healthy fact about Bhutan. Smoking and usage of tobacco products are prohibited in public places in Bhutan like cinema halls, restaurants, streets etc. Designated areas have been created for smokers, and if anyone is caught breaking the law, imprisonment for 3 to 5 years can be imposed.

Cultivation, harvesting and sale are also strictly prohibited. This has been done to make Bhutan the first smoke-free nation. You might wonder, where do they get the tobacco from then? Consumers understand these products as imports from other countries. However, huge taxes are imposed to discourage purchase.

9. Birthday on New Year?

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When was the last time you forgot a close one's birthday? Fortunately, Bhutanese do not have this issue. One thing that is quite interesting about Bhutan is the fact that all citizens officially become a year older on New Year’s Day. If people forget their birthday due to illiteracy or some other reason, it is easier to remember it by celebrating on New Year. Bhutanese give more priority to year than month or date, hence the tradition.

10. The Highest Unclimbed Peak in the World

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Now here's a fact about Bhutan that many might be aware of. Gangkhar Puensum is the highest mountain in Bhutan and has never been conquered. It has an elevation of 7570 metres. Bhutan prohibits access to the mountain since 1987. Before that, many unsuccessful attempts were made to climb the mountain. The first team which tried to attempt the summit could not even find it because the maps were so inaccurate!

11. The National Animal is a Cow, No Wait, A Goat?

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The national animal of Bhutan is “Takin”, a goat-antelope. It is endemic to Bhutan and feeds on leaves, grass and bamboo shoots. Salt is also an essential part of their diet, so they are also found lurking at various mineral deposits. It was thought to be a mythological creature before an Englishman discovered that it existed.

12. It is Illegal to Kill Anything

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This fact about Bhutan makes it a country that cherishes animals. Bhutanese are not allowed to kill any animals or birds. They take environmental conservation pretty seriously. However, they do eat meat, quite a lot. This law comes from the traditional values of Buddhist teachings, which prohibits the killing of any living organism. All the meat is imported from other countries. Recently, the government has been thinking of banning its consumption altogether. 

13. Bhutanese Love Spice!

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Bhutanese love to eat spicy food. It is said that they will not eat a dish until it is spicy enough. Chillies are not considered a seasoning, but a vegetable that is important for providing flavour to any meal.

14. Druk Kul

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Bhutanese call their homeland “ Druk Yul” which translates to the Land of the dragons because of the mighty storms that occur in the Himalayas and can be heard in Bhutan.

15. Phallus for Fertility and Good Luck

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Hold down your giggles for this fact about Bhutan. A phallus is drawn on the walls as a symbol of good luck and for good chances of pregnancy. It has been an old tradition in Bhutan. The belief that it can ward off evil spirits is deeply ingrained in the minds of the Bhutanese people. They are even used in place of a scarecrow.

16. It Has Never Been Conquered

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Bhutan has never been ruled by an external entity, thanks to its inaccessible territory and smart decisions and tactics used by various kings and gurus who negotiated smart deals with the British when they were expanding their base in India and Nepal.

17. Bhutan Was the Last Country to Introduce TV

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This fact about Bhutan will make you think "How did they do without TV for so long?". Bhutan introduced TV in 1999. It was banned until then because the Bhutanese government feared it would corrupt the Buddhist way of life in the country. The first show broadcast was that of the 1998 World Cup Final in France.

18. Education and Healthcare is Free For All Citizens

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The Government has taken necessary steps to ensure free health and educational facilities for all. The infant mortality rate is still a severe issue, but it has improved drastically. Most people still get their education from monasteries, but steps are being taken to increase the literacy rate.

19. Refusing Food the First Time is a Custom

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A fact about Bhutan that travellers must know is that the Bhutanese always refuses food the first time it is provided to show respect and gratitude. They close their mouth and say “Meshu”.

20. Homosexuality Was Decriminalised in 2019

Under the Penal Code of 2004, acts of homosexual nature can lead to imprisonment of up to one year. However, in 2019 two sections of this code which made “unnatural sex” illegal were repealed. Way to go Bhutan!

21. The National Sport is Archery

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The bows and arrows have played a significant role in many Bhutanese myths and legends. Bhutan maintains an Olympics archery team too.

22. Bhutanese Still Believe in the Existence of Yeti

This peculiar fact about Bhutan will get all those supernatural enthusiasts riled up. Yeti and its smaller counterpart Mitchum is found to exist in Bhutan. There are detailed writings about these creatures with a monastery believed to contain a corpse of Yeti. 

23. Patriarchy? More Like Matriarchy

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Women head the families and run all businesses from shops to farms. They even inherit properties, and a man moves into the house of his wife after marriage. Looks like feminism isn't much of an issue here in Bhutan. 

24. Marriage Laws are Unique

Polygamy is allowed in Bhutan. The fourth king of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck is a famous example, who is married to four sisters. Polygamy is, however, becoming non-existent in Bhutan with time. Remarriages and divorces are common, though.

25. Bhutanese Love Their King, A Lot!

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A fact about Bhutan that most people know is that the King of Bhutan is known for his humble personality and humanitarian efforts. Rightly called the “People’s King”, His Majesty Jigme Khesar has met almost every citizen of his country and loves to talk to people personally about their griefs and requirements.  

26. Low Crime Rates

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Since, a majority of the population, practices Buddhism, which teaches love and compassion, the crime rates are very low. Violent crimes are rarely reported.

27. It is Mandatory to Wear the National Dress

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It is mandatory to wear the national dress of Bhutan (Gho for men and Kira for women) to schools, government buildings or on any formal occasion. This way, Bhutan tries to preserve and promote its traditional values. 

Now that we've covered these interesting facts about Bhutan, hope this has helped you see the nation in a very different light. Visit Bhutan to explore the beautiful culture and to experience these yourself when visiting!

This post was published by Aveksha Raina

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