For decades, Bhutan was one of the most isolated countries in the world. With a population of under 800,000, the country is less populated than most metropolitan cities in other countries. Bhutan may be a small country but it has a rich history and culture. Here are the top facts about Bhutan that will blow your mind.
Historical Facts About Bhutan
Bhutan has its fair share of history as the region is believed to have been inhabited since 2000 BC. Here are some historical Bhutan facts to know.
Television Was Introduced In The Country In 1999
People these days can’t even imagine life without their mobile phones or the internet. However, it would shock you to know that people didn’t even have televisions in Bhutan as late as 1999. It was thought that television would have a bad effect on people who lived a simple yet in some cases strict Buddhist lifestyle.
Bhutan Was Isolated From The Rest Of The World Till 1974
Bhutan has been very protective of its country’s culture and natural environment. The country was isolated from the rest of the world for decades until they allowed international media to cover the coronation of their new king in 1974. This was done to limit the influence of other countries on the Bhutanese culture.
Bhutan Joined The UN In 1971
Bhutan entered the UN in September 1971 after spending a lot of years in self-isolation. It is one of the biggest milestones for the country.
Before that, it did not have access to an international organization like this because of its own self-imposed limitations. After that, it also became a part of SAARC.
Plastic Is Banned In The Country Since 1999
Bhutan was one of the first few counties to begin a plastic ban starting in 1999. At that time, the ban failed because there was no other alternative to plastic. However, it has finally been enforced again, as we all know plastic is a big problem, and it needs to be taken care of to curb climate change.
Cultural Facts About Bhutan
Bhutanese culture is unique because of its old traditions and customs. Here are some interesting aspects of it.
Everyone Turns A Year Older On The New Year
Has your significant other ever gotten angry with you because you forgot their birthday? Well, if you were in Bhutan you wouldn’t have to worry about that. Everyone in Bhutan celebrates their birthday on new year’s day.
Even if you were born in the middle of the year, you would be a year older at the moment of the new year. This may be confusing for some but it is how things are in Bhutan. This shows how the Bhutanese culture is more focused on collective progress rather than individual progress.
The Locals Call It Druk Yul
This fact about Bhutanese legends and folklore is like straight out of Game of Thrones. It was believed that there were dragons who lived in the Himalayan mountains.
Lighting strikes during thunderstorms were thought to be fire from the mouth of a dragon. This is why the country is called Druk Yul which means ‘Land Of The Dragons’.
The Groom Moves Into The Bride’s House After Marriage
Arrange marriages are quite common in South Asian countries, and in most cases, the bride moves into her husband’s house after marriage. However, in Bhutan, it’s the other way around.
Women are very much considered the head of family affairs. Once the couple is married, the groom has to leave his house and move into his wife’s house. However, there are some areas in the country where it is more acceptable for the bride to move into her husband’s family.
Refusing Food is Part Of The Culture
When someone offers you food, you might not want to refuse out of politeness, but it is part of the culture to refuse food for the first time. Doing this shows that you are grateful and you have respect for the locals. If you are traveling for the first time, and someone offers you food, just smile and say ‘Meshu’.
The Phallic Symbol Has A Spiritual Meaning In Bhutan
Okay, we know this can be one of the funny facts about Bhutan for some, but the phallus was a symbol of good luck back in the day in Bhutan. It was believed that this symbol was good for warding off any evil spirits, which is why a lot of people also used it as a scarecrow.
It Is Mandatory For Citizens To Wear The National Attire
Wearing anything other than the traditional Bhutanese attire is frowned upon in the country. If you are heading out of your house, it is mandatory to wear national attire.
There are separate national dresses for men and women called Gho and Kira, respectively. This might seem like a strict policy, but it ensures that the Bhutanese people stay connected to their roots and culture
Interesting Facts About Bhutan For Kids
Here are some Bhutan fun facts that the kids will find interesting.
Bhutan Has One Of The Most Unique National Animals In The World
Most countries have common national animals or something that is unique only to their country. Even Bhutan has a unique national animal, and it is the goat antelope, also known as the Takin. It used to be thought of as a mythical creature until it was finally discovered by a foreigner.
Bhutan’s Currency, Ngultrum, Is Pegged To The Indian Rupee
The currency of the country was introduced in 1974, and it was pegged 1:1 with the Indian Rupee. You will find that this exchange rate still exists because of the relationship between India and Bhutan. Besides that, you will also see that the rupee circulates freely throughout the country.
Bhutan Has Never Been Colonized
Yes, Bhutan is one of those few places that has never been colonized by an external force. That is because the territory is a little inaccessible. Besides that, it had smart people such as gurus and kings that made good deals with the British while they were colonizing Nepal and India.
As a result, the British did not end up colonizing Bhutan, even though it lies in the same range as India and Nepal. They turned out to be highly lucky in this matter, as many surrounding countries were colonized by the British.
Bhutan Uses Gross National Happiness To Measure The Country’s Progress
Countries use a lot of different parameters to measure their progress however they usually focus on Gross National Product or Gross Domestic Product.
Bhutan, on the other hand, focuses on Gross National Happiness. No other country gives as much importance to GNH as much as Bhutan does. This also seems a more sensible parameter as the nation that has the highest number of happy and content people can proudly say that they are a successful nation.
Useful Bhutan Facts For Travelers
If you are traveling to the country or planning to travel, here are some fun facts about Bhutan that will make your traveling interesting:
There Are No Traffic Lights in Bhutan
More people own automobiles today than ever before. If you live in a country where there is a lot of traffic on almost all major roads, it would be hard to imagine a world without traffic signals. Well, Bhutan is actually living in that world.
There are no traffic signals in the country and the traffic is controlled by Traffic Police. They are mostly present on busy roads. Generally, people in Bhutan drive very slowly which is why there haven’t been a lot of accidents in the country.
There Is A Daily Visa Fee For Tourists In Bhutan
Bhutan is an expensive place to visit. There are daily visa fees of around $200 for tourists. This fee is then used for the development of the country.
Many people believe that the Bhutanese government discourages people from touring the country. That is true to some extent but it should be noted that Bhutanese people are very hospitable.
The only reason they discourage travelers is to preserve the pristine natural environment that they have painstakingly maintained for so many decades.
The Most Dangerous Airport to Land On
There are a total of four airports in Bhutan and Paro airport is the only international airport in the country. In fact, it was the only airport in the country for many years up until 2011.
The airport is surrounded by high peaks some of which are even higher than 18000ft. This is what makes it one of the most dangerous airports to land on. There are only 8 trained pilots who are allowed to take off and land at the Paro Airport.
Bhutan Is Also Home To The Highest Unclimbed Peak In The World
Gangkhar Puensum is considered the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. The mountain has a height of 7570 meters. There were many attempts to climb the mountain however all of them failed.
No one has ever tried to climb the mountain in over 30 years, as the Bhutanese government banned mountaineers from climbing mountains over 6000 meters.
Tiger’s Nest In Bhutan
There are many sacred sites in the country, and one of them is the Tiger’s Nest. Locally known as Paro Taktsang, it is one of the most famous landmarks in Bhutan.
The monastery is situated in Paro, perched on the side of the cliff. You will almost certainly see photos of this iconic structure when looking pictures of Bhutan.
If you want to make your trip exciting, you can visit this site through a 3-5 hour hike. Make sure you respect the customs as it is a sacred place.
Buildings In Bhutan Follow A Traditional Architectural Design
Just like the values of the country, the architectural designs are also highly traditional in the country. You will find intricate and detailed woodwork, stone masonry, and much more. Besides that, the iron bars and nails used in the construction are also highly noticeable as you pass through the various buildings.
Common Facts About Bhutan
Here are some general yet interesting Bhutan facts to know about.
It Is One Of The Youngest Democracies In The World
The Royal family in Bhutan still hold influence and power in the country but once the world entered the new millennium, the king decided that it was time to change the government format to a democracy.
In 2008, the country changed to a democracy. This shows how much love and care the royal family of Bhutan has for their country. The king is still the head of state while the Prime Minister is the head of government.
It Is The Only Carbon Negative Country In The World
The world realizes that climate change is a big problem but no country does more for climate change than Bhutan. It is the only carbon-negative country in the world. There is so much greenery in Bhutan that it absorbs all the carbon dioxide that is produced in the country.
The expansion of industries and mining in the country is a threat to their ‘Carbon Negative’ title, but the country is trying to introduce laws that will help keep the pollution to a minimum.
It’s Not A Good Place For Chain Smokers
Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world that are actively working on keeping their air clean. This is why the sale of tobacco is forbidden in the country.
There are certain specific areas where people can smoke; however, if you are found smoking in public where it is not allowed, you can be jailed for about 3 to 5 years. The only way to get cigarettes in Bhutan is to import them by paying a hefty tax.
Tourists who are traveling with tobacco products in their possession will also have to pay a heavy amount in customs duties.
They Export Renewable Energy
Not many countries do this, but you will find it fascinating that around 70% of the hydroelectric power is exported from the country to India.
Doing this saves millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year. The most important and clean source of energy in the country is hydroelectric power, which it can also export.
There Is Free Healthcare In Bhutan
You will be happy to know that healthcare is free for the citizens of Bhutan. Besides that, it also offers free education to all, but this doesn’t mean that the country is free from issues.
The infant mortality rate is still incredibly high. There are children that still has to walk 2-3 hours each way to go to monasteries for their education.
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Other Interesting Facts About Bhutan
Finally, here are some fascinating facts about Bhutan that may surprise you.
Marrying A Foreigner Isn’t Easy For Bhutanese People
The marriage laws in the country are strict, and they don’t encourage marriage between a citizen and a foreigner. If you do this, you will receive penalties for your entire life, and there will be a lot of other consequences. Because of this, no one marries a foreigner in the country.
Inheritance Passes Over To The Eldest Daughter
Say goodbye to patriarchy when you are visiting Bhutan because the women here are incredibly empowered. Not only do they inherit property, but women also run businesses and farms that sustain the entire family.
Besides that, at the time of marriage, it is a custom for the man to move into the house of his wife in Bhutan.
So, if you want to check out a country with strong women’s rights, then Bhutan is perhaps the best option. The laws favor women, and it is more of a matriarchy rather than a patriarchy. It will allow you to witness the other side of the coin.
Bhutan Does Not Have Official Diplomatic Relations With Many Countries Of The World, Including the United States
Most countries don’t have international ties with Bhutan, but they share informal and warm relations with one another. That is because India is a protectorate country of Bhutan, and they share a special relationship. Because of this, India doesn’t want another country to have a strong influence on Bhutan.
On the other hand, you will also find that India is incredibly influential in the foreign policy, commerce, and defense of Bhutan.
Polygamy Is Legal In Bhutan
Jigme Singye Wangchuck; one of the former Kings of Bhutan is married to four women. However, he is not the only man in the country who has multiple wives.
Polygamy was once a big part of the Bhutanese culture. It is still legal in the country however the number of women a man can marry has now been limited to four.
To many people’s surprise, polyandry (Women with multiple husbands) is also legal in the country; however, it has been socially shunned now. The rate of polygamy is also declining.
Slaughtering Animals Is Illegal In The Country
It is not allowed to slaughter animals in the religion of Buddhism. Since the majority of the population in Bhutan is Buddhist, you wouldn’t find any slaughterhouses in the country.
However, this does not mean that people don’t eat meat in Bhutan. Meat is still imported in Bhutan from other countries.
Discovering More Fun Facts About Bhutan
These are just some of the interesting and fun facts about Bhutan that make it one of the most fascinating countries you will find. Many people don’t even think about this place, due to the difficulty of access and the cost of visiting.
However, Bhutan does have a lot to offer despite being a small country. It features breathtaking nature and landscapes with deep local traditions. So, if you are looking for a unique place that not many people have visited, Bhutan certainly fits the bill.