Curious to learn a few fun facts about Bhutan?
Whether you’re traveling to Bhutan in the near future or just curious to know more about this small country in South Asia, this article is for you.
Here’s our roundup of the most interesting Bhutan facts:
1. Bhutan is a small, South Asian country tucked in between India and China. As a nation in the eastern Himalayas next to Tibet and not too far from Nepal, much of the country is made of steep mountains and deep valleys. In the Bhutanese Dzongkha language, the country is called Drukyul, which means “the Land of the Thunder Dragon.”
2. Bhutan has never been colonized in its entire known history. One of the few countries to be able to claim this, Bhutan hasn’t ever been occupied, conquered, or governed by another country. Especially for a small country near some pretty large players, it’s definitely one of the most interesting facts about Bhutan.
3. Bhutan pioneered the concept of Gross National Happiness. Gross National Happiness (GNH) was set up by the Bhutanese government as a guiding philosophy and even inscribed in the country’s constitution. Back in 1979, the king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, said that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product,” and it’s been a key part of the Bhutanese culture and identity ever since. The government measures collective happiness, good governance, environmental conservation, and socio-economic development as part of its GNH index.
4. Bhutan has less than 1 million people, making it one of Asia’s smallest countries. With around 760,000 inhabitants as of 2020, Bhutan is one of the least-populous countries in Asia and in the world. It’s also one of the world’s smaller countries by land area, measuring in at 14,824 mi2 (38,394 km2), which makes it one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth, as well. In the Dzongkha language, Bhutanese people refer to themselves as Drukpa, which translates to “dragon people.”
5. The official religion in Bhutan is Buddhism, with more than 75% of the country practicing it. Most of the remaining citizens of Bhutan practice Hinduism. The Bhutanese national identity is closely related to its ties with Buddhism.
6. Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan, as well as its largest city. With around 120,000 inhabitants, it’s one of the world’s smaller capital cities, but it makes up around 15% of the entire Bhutanese population. As the commercial and economic center of the nation, it also accounts for almost half of Bhutan’s GDP.
7. The capital city has no traffic lights for directing vehicles! Instead, drivers in Thimpu are directed by traffic police. The city once installed traffic lights, but, after a public outcry, they were quickly removed.
8. The national sport of Bhutan is archery (datse). Despite being a peaceful nation, archery is quite an important part of the Bhutanese identity. In fact, since taking part in the Olympic Games from 1984 on, they’ve only sent archers to compete (and, thus, only in the Summer Games).
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9. Dzongkha is the national and official language of Bhutan. Written using the Tibetan alphabet, Dzongkha is a Sino-Tibetan language native to the Bhutanese people.
10. Bhutan is a country of rich biodiversity. As a signatory to the 1992 Rio Convention on Biological Diversity and as an integral part of its happiness index, Bhutan is a leader in ecological and environmental sustainability. Also, being a country with such a wide range of altitudes due to its mountainous terrain, it has many species of plants and animals, including many of the most endangered ones.
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11. Bhutan is the first country in the world to ban tobacco! It is illegal to grow, manufacture, or sell tobacco products in Bhutan, and people who get caught breaking the rules on cigarettes and related products will be fined pretty heavily, depending on the level of offense (lowest being smoking in non-smoking areas, highest being smuggling of tobacco). Most public areas ban smoking, but there are certain designated smoking areas if one requires a hit of nicotine.
12. Bhutan’s national animal is the takin. The takin is a large, horned animal related to goats and oxen. On its head is a pair of curved horns, and these horns grow on both males and females.
13. Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy. In 2008, Bhutan got rid of the absolute monarchy and instituted a constitutional monarchy, instead. The king in Bhutan in the Dzongkha language is known as Druk Gyalpo, meaning “the dragon king.”
Well, that’s all our Bhutan facts for now, and we hope you’ve found this post interesting and informative! Do you have any questions, feedback, or other facts about Bhutan we should include on our list? Let us know below in the comments, and thanks for reading!