20 Fascinating Facts About Bhutan
1. Bhutan was almost completely cut off for centuries and only began to open up to outsiders in the 1970s.
2. Bhutan is a landlocked country located in Asia between China and India. A landlocked country is completely enclosed by land with no access to the sea. There are currently 45 such countries and five partially recognized states.
3. Radio broadcasting did not begin in Bhutan until 1973. In a similar vein, television and the internet did not arrive until 1999.
4. There are no traffic lights in Bhutan. The capital Thimphu briefly had one set of traffic lights – for just 24 hours. They were quickly removed and replaced by a traffic policeman.
5. Road signs are often written in rhymes. Examples include: ‘Going faster will see disaster’, ‘On the bend, go slow friend’, and ‘After drinking whiskey, driving is risky.
6. Bhutan is one of a handful of countries to have never been under complete European control. It did come under the British sphere of influence but was never officially colonized.
7. In 2015, Bhutan set its first world record by planting the most trees in one hour: 49,672.
8. In 2004 Bhutan became the first country in the world to ban the sale of tobacco products. The ban failed to make much of an impact initially, but a new law came in 2011 and a monk was the first to be charged with smuggling tobacco.
9. Bhutan didn’t abolish slavery until 1958.
10. The Bhutanese name for Bhutan, Druk Yul, means ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’.
11. Traditionally, the sound of thunder in the many mountains and valleys of Bhutan is believed to be the voice of dragons.
12. A dragon also features on the country’s flag. The dragon grasps jewels that represent national wealth and perfection. The white dragon symbolizes purity and the loyalty of the diverse ethnic groups in Bhutan. The yellow symbolizes the power of the king and the orange is associated with Buddhism.
13. Bhutan is the world’s only country to measure prosperity by assessing its citizens’ happiness levels instead of GDP (Gross Domestic Produce). The GNH (Gross National Happiness) concept, used in Bhutan since 1971, has now been adopted by the UN – a move endorsed by 68 countries.
14. The national animal of Bhutan is the takin. The takin is a rare species of ungulate native to Bhutan.
15. Tourists are not allowed to travel independently in Bhutan. Foreign visitors must pay a minimum tariff of $250 USD per day. The fee includes accommodation, food, transport, and an official guide.
16. Bhutan’s forests absorb three times more CO2 emissions than its population creates.
17. Mountaineering is banned in Bhutan. In 1994, Bhutan prohibited climbing mountains higher than 6,000m (19,685ft), and then in 2003 mountaineering was completely forbidden.
18. As such, the world’s highest unclimbed mountain is Bhutan. Gangkhar Puensum at 7,570m (24,836ft).
19. Bhutan is famous for its Buddhist monasteries and Dzong fortresses. The most celebrated is the ‘Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Taktshang Goemba). The monastery is perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the floor of the valley.
20. The national sport of Bhutan is archery, known as Dha. Archery is often played at festivals and celebrations.