Bhutan borders India and China and is a predominantly Buddhist country. Rimmed by the Himalayas, its high altitude and inaccessibility has allowed it to remain cut off from the rest of the world (until recently, when it started to allow limited tourism). Here are 10 interesting facts about Bhutan an intoxicating country.
1: Land Of Thunder Dragon
Bhutan is called “The Land of Thunder Dragons” because of the violent and large thunderstorms that whip down through the valleys from the Himalayas. The contrast in temperature from the Indian plains and the high mountains of the Himalayas also creates dramatic cloud-scapes that can be seen as you drive over the high mountain passes.
2: Closed To Tourists
In 1974, the first international tourists were allowed into Bhutan by invite only. Today it’s fully open for tourism, but at the high cost of $250.00 a day per person. You must arrange all your travel through a government authorized tourist agency, but once you arrive everything is taken care of from food through to your transportation and guide.
3: Gross National Happiness
Bhutan is the first country to switch from the western ideal of Gross National Product to “Gross National Happiness,” which is achieved through four foundations: good governance, natural environment, sustainable growth, and cultural values.
4: No Smoking
Bhutan is the first country to have outlawed tobacco in 2004. Although, in 2012 the laws were loosened and smuggling now occurs. It is still rare to see people smoking on the streets, but drugs and alcohol have continued to create problems and the government has started a program to educate and deter citizens from abusing or using the smuggled narcotics.
5: The National Sport
The national sports of Bhutan are archery and darts – I am not sure how darts qualifies as a sport! In the city of Paro, I had the opportunity to whiteness an archery competition and was surprised how far they had to shoot. After watching for over forty minutes not one person had hit the bullseye!
6: No Traffic Lights
The capital city, Thimphu, has no traffic lights– just white-gloved traffic officers. When the city tried to install some lights there was a public outcry, and they were promptly removed.
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7: State Religion
Tantric Buddhism is the official religion, followed by Hinduism. Buddhism is state sponsored and the Dzong’s and temples are maintained and supported by the government. There are even trade schools to teach new artisans that work on the paintings and carvings of these holy places.
8: The Highest Mountain
Gangkhar Puensum is the highest mountain in Bhutan and considered so sacred that no one has yet climbed to its peak (at 24,840 feet). The views of the mountains as you drive across the high passes are jaw dropping and the highlight of any journey through Bhutan.
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9. No Tv Or Internet
In 2001 Bhutan lifted its ban on TV and Internet—the last country in the world to do so. But today it is not strange to see computers and cell phones in the hands of teenagers especially in the capital city of Thimphu.
Bhutan is one of the only countries in the world where citizens have a constitutional obligation to preserve and protect the environment. You need to visit before it all changes. So you should visit Bhutan before it changes – the western world is slowly creeping in despite the governments best intentions. You can learn more about the country and how to start planning a trip on my Bhutan Country Guide Page.