It is safe to say that Bhutan is a pretty mysterious country that most of the people do not really know much about.
It is mainly due to Bhutanese determination to preserve their culture and nature and not to get “involved” in globalization too much.
So here are 18 interesting facts about Bhutan that will teach you something new about this small, yet mesmerizing, country as well as links to further reading, books and guidebooks to th eHimalayas and some accessible adventures for you to sign up to, in this Himalayan Kingdom.
1. Unfortunately, mountaineering is banned in Bhutan. Even though mountaineering was briefly allowed from 1980, it has been prohibited to climb peaks over 6,000 m (19,685 ft) elevation since 1994 and from the year of 2003 it was banned completely.
2. If you are a smoker, either stay away from Bhutan or bring as many packs as you need and hide when inhaling the fumes, because it is illegal to sell tobacco or even consume it there. It is actually the only country in the world to have a ban on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
3. There is a belief that the highest mountain in Bhutan is a 7,570 m (24,840 ft) high Gangkhar Puensum. These short two words translated from Bhutanese have a beautiful meaning of “White peak of three spiritual brothers”. Not only it has the crown of the highest in Bhutan, but also it is the tallest unclimbed mountain in the planet.
4. Despite the fact, that it is commonly believed that the highest mountain in Bhutan is Gangkhar Puensum, some claim that the highest mountain in the country is actually Kula Kangri. Some people believe that the new measurements conducted in 1998 are in fact wrong and Gangkhar Puensum is only 7,541 m (24,740 ft) and Kula Kangri is actually 7,554 m (24,783 ft) high. On the other hand, there is also a dispute about whether or not Kula Kangri is located in Bhutan or China (Tibet) as there is no exact borderline established.
5. In Bhutan, if someone offers you food do not give in too early or you will be considered to have bad manners. Once you receive the offer, you are expected to say “meshu meshu” and cover your mouth with your hands. On the other hand, if you get the offer at least once more you can let yourself to dig in.
6. The black-necked crane is sacred in Bhutan and they take the protection of these endangered species very seriously, in fact, if you kill one, you could be facing a life in prison!
7. With an average 3,280 m (10,760 ft) land elevation above sea level, Bhutan is the highest country in the world!
8. There are over 2,500 glacial lakes, which started to form around 10,000 years ago when glaciers started to shift and melt. From time to time, when a glacier that serves as a damn holding the water of a glacier lake moves, an instant flood hits the surrounding areas. This has been a reoccurring event for as far long ago as Bhutan can remember, but such glacier activity has become more and more often in recent decades.
9. Bhutan has been very isolated from the world, in fact, it first opened up its borders for tourists in 1960s and the first time media had had the opportunity to report from Bhutan was the coronation of a king, in 1974.
10. There are 18 peaks in Bhutan that goes past the 7,000 m (22,965 ft) elevation mark. Only one of them is opened for mountaineering. In fact, as these peaks have not been climbed yet, it also has not been researched, measured and documented properly, therefore, the exact height is not yet known.
11. It is very expensive to travel in Bhutan. Infact it is tricky to plan a budget backpacking trip in this country as all the incoming visitors have to book their trips through local agencies. Travel agencies provide a guide that has to chaperone you at all times. In this matter, Bhutan in same as North Korea, on the other hand, you are allowed to interact with locals and make decisions on where to go and what to see. Moreover, every tourist is obliged to pay a daily tourism fee of 65 $ dollars, which becomes costly when staying for a longer period of time.
12. Bhutan is the only country in the world that produces less carbon dioxide than it absorbs. This is mainly due to strict regulations on preserving the environment, it is literally said in Bhutan’s constitution that at least two-thirds of the land in Bhutan has to be covered in forests.
13. An average life expectancy of Bhutanese people is 66 years, which is 15 years shorter than in the UK. Although, it is a quite young nation as a third of the population is under 14 years old and an average age of all Bhutanese people is 22,3 years old.
14. Bhutan’s national animal is the takin, which is a pretty weird looking goat-cow-antelope like mammal. It lives at the altitudes between 1,000 and 4,500 m (3,281 – 14,764 ft) above sea level.
15. Even though climbing the highest peaks in Bhutan is banned there are still various treks that you are allowed to do. The most popular trek is the 8-day Jhomolhari Trek, on which you are given the opportunity to observe a spectacular view of Mount Jhomolhari - 7,326 m (24,035 ft) – the third highest mountain in Bhutan.
16. Bhutanese people have a strange way to count their age. You could say that they all have their birthdays at the same time – the New Years Day (Losar). So on each Losar, everyone becomes one year older!
17. Bhutan is mainly a Buddhist country. It is an official religion of the country and two-thirds of the population are Buddhist while one-third is Hindu. It is actually the fourth country in the world on the list of the largest Buddhist majority in the country.
18. “Land of the Thunder Dragon” is the translation of the name “Bhutan”. It is believed that the name originated from the fact that during strong storms in the Himalayas loud thunder an howling winds are common events.