34 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Kingdom of Bhutan

For those who are on the fence about visiting the beautiful country of Bhutan, Little Bhutan has compiled a list of facts that will hopefully make you want to change your mind and book a ticket immediately.

    1. Sandwiched between India and China, Bhutan is one among the 43 landlocked countries in the world.
    2. The word “Bhutan” translates to “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” It earned the name because of the fierce storms that often roll in from the Himalayas.
    3. In 1865, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchula, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding some border land to British India. Under British influence, a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years later, a treaty was signed whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs, and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. This role was assumed by independent India after 1947.
    4. The United Nations recognized Bhutan as a country in 1974.
    5. Bhutan is the first country in the world with constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Among its requirements: At least 60 percent of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times.
    6. One-third of the Bhutanese population is under the age of 14; its median age is 22.3 years.
    7. Bhutan held its first democratic elections in 2008.
    8. Bhutan is the only nation in the world where the sale of tobacco is banned.
    9. At 24,840 feet, Gangkhar Puensum is the highest peak in Bhutan—and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.
    10. Bhutanese manners dictate that you refuse food when it’s offered. The tradition is to say the words meshu, meshu and cover your mouth with your hands. You can give in, though, after two or three offers.
    11. Anyone found guilty of killing a highly endangered animal could be sentenced to life in prison.
    12. Bhutan’s capital Thimphu has a population of about 742,737. It is the only capital in the world without traffic lights. In fact when traffic lights were installed the people objected and the city reverted back to the use of white-gloved traffic police.
    13. Until the 1960’s Bhutan had no roads, automobiles, telephone, postal system or electricity.
    14. It was only in 1999 that TV and internet came to Bhutan.
    15. Buddhism is the official religion with Hinduism the second popular faith.
    16. Bhutan’s official language is Dzongkha.
    17. The first foreign tourists were allowed into Bhutan in 1974.
    18. Bhutan is the world’s only carbon sink, that is – it absorbs more CO2 than it gives out.
    19. Bhutan sells hydro-electrical power to neighboring countries, making it the only country in the world whose largest export is renewable energy.
    20. Agriculture is Bhutan’s major industry with rice, fruit and dairy products.
    21. Rather than using the GDP as an economic index, Bhutan measures its overall development using the four pillars of Gross National Happiness (GNH). The four pillars are sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation, and good governance.
    22. Plastic bags have been banned in Bhutan since 1999.
    23. Bhutan is the only country in the world to ban the sale of tobacco and tobacco products. The ban came in effect in 2008.
    24. The Takin, a goat-like antelope, is Bhutan’s national animal.
    25. Bhutan’s two favorite sports are archery and darts. But unlike a regulation dartboard, Bhutan’s target boards are smaller and the darts heavy and quite lethal which are thrown over 20 meters toward the target.
    26. In the high mountain pastures of Bhutan can be found the cordyceps, a caterpillar with a fungus growing out of its rear end.  It is very much in demand in Chinese medicine as it can apparently empower the nerve system and is worth the same as gold, gram for gram.
    27. The eldest daughter of a family inherits the ancestral house and not the eldest son.
    28. Throughout the country, houses have striking architecture with ornate wood carving.  Traditionally the houses were made without any nails.
    29. The descent into the only international airport in Paro is quite an adventure with steep turns very close to the mountains.
    30. Chilli with cheese is a much desired part of the daily diet and has been served with nearly every meal. You never know how hot it will be until you try it.
    31. Red rice is the Bhutanese staple with a wonderful nutty flavor.
    32. The Kings of Bhutan are much revered throughout the country. In 2008, the Bhutan moved from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one, at the Fourth King’s request.
    33. The General Post Office in the capital Thimphu has an exhibition that makes postage stamps exciting. You can also get a stamp made featuring a photo of yourself.
    34. A huge bronze statue of a sitting Buddha overlooking the capital is taller than Rio’s Christ the Redeemer and the Statue of Liberty.

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