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10 Surprising facts about Bhutan you may not know!

  Written by : Swotah travel

   Sep 18, 2022


10 Surprising facts about Bhutan you may not know!

Bhutan, a small country in the eastern Himalayas, is often called the "Land of the Thunder Dragon." Despite its size, Bhutan is a country with a rich culture and history. Isolated from the rest of the world for centuries, Bhutan has been largely closed off to outsiders until recently, and even today, tourism is tightly regulated.  

Here are ten surprising facts about Bhutan that you may not know!


1. Bhutan is the world's happiest country.

In Bhutan, happiness is more than just a feeling. It's part of the government's policy! The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) was first introduced in 1972 by Bhutan's fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. GNH is based on the idea that material wealth is not the only source of happiness and that factors like good governance, health, education, and environmental conservation are just as important. The government of Bhutan uses GNH to measure progress, and they've successfully improved the happiness of Bhutanese citizens. Bhutan was named the world's happiest country in 2020 by the United Nations!

2. Bhutan is the only carbon-negative country in the world.

Bhutan is the only carbon-negative country in the world. That means that Bhutan absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits. There are a few reasons for this. First, over 72% of Bhutan is covered in forests, which act like natural sponges, soaking up carbon dioxide. Second, Bhutan has a policy of using hydropower for all of its electricity needs. Hydroelectric dams don't produce any carbon emissions, unlike coal-fired power plants. Finally, Bhutan has a very low population density, so there are fewer people emitting greenhouse gases per square kilometer than in other countries. As a result of these factors, Bhutan plays an important role in the fight against climate change.


3. Bhutan is the only country in the world that doesn't have a single traffic light.

With a population of just over 700,000 people, Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in Asia. And it's also one of the most sparsely populated, with an average of just 21 people per square kilometer. That low population density means there's simply no need for traffic lights in Bhutan! There are a few stop signs, but for the most part, drivers use their common sense and courtesy to navigate Bhutan's roads.

4. Bhutan is one of the world's youngest countries.


When Bhutan's long-ruling monarch was deposed in 2008, the nation became a democracy for the first time. 

The transition to democracy was peaceful and resulted in Bhutan's first-ever elections. Held in 2013, these elections saw the election of Tshering Tobgay as Prime Minister. At just 42 years old, he was one of the youngest leaders in the world!


5. Isolated from the World Until The 1970s

Bhutan was an isolated kingdom for centuries. It wasn't until the 1970s that Bhutan began to open up to the outside world. Television and radio were introduced in 1999, and the first foreigners were allowed to visit in 1974. Even today, Bhutanese citizens need a special permit to travel abroad. And foreign visitors must be part of an organized tour group and have their travel arrangements made in advance. These restrictions help to keep Bhutan's unique culture and environment intact.


6. King Abdicated the Throne to Promote Democracy

In 2004, Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced his decision to abdicate the throne in favor of his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The move was widely seen as an effort to promote democracy in Bhutan, which had been a monarchy for centuries. Under King Wangchuck's leadership, Bhutan had begun to take steps towards democratization, including holding its first-ever elections in 2008. However, many felt that the country was not ready for full democracy and that the monarchy still had an important role in Bhutanese society. King Wangchuck's abdication was therefore seen as a way of ensuring that democracy would continue to progress in Bhutan.


Since taking the throne, King Khesar has continued his father's work promoting democracy in Bhutan. In 2013, he oversaw the country's transition to a parliamentary system of government. Under the new system, the King functions as a ceremonial head of state, while executive authority is vested in the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Bhutan remains a constitutional monarchy, but its move toward democracy is evident.


7. Plastic bags are banned in Bhutan.

To reduce its environmental impact, Bhutan has banned plastic bags. This includes both shopping bags and packaging materials like bubble wrap. The ban was first implemented in 1999, making Bhutan one of the first countries in the world to do so. Since then, other nations have followed suit, with many developed countries now having similar bans.


8. The Highest Unclimbed Peak in the World is in Bhutan.

At 7,570 meters, Gangkhar Puensum is the highest unclimbed peak in the world. Located in Bhutan, it is also the 40th highest mountain in the world. Although it has been attempted by several mountaineers, no one has yet been able to reach the summit. This is large because Bhutan does not issue permits for climbing expeditions. In addition, the terrain around Gangkhar Puensum is extremely rugged and difficult to navigate. As a result, it has become a holy grail for mountaineers looking to conquer the world's tallest peaks. While it may never be climbed, Gangkhar Puensum remains one of the most fascinating mountains on earth.


9. Education and Healthcare are Free in Bhutan.

Education and healthcare are two of the most important factors in ensuring a high quality of life for citizens of any country. In Bhutan, these two essential services are free to all citizens. This ensures that everyone has access to a good education and basic healthcare, regardless of their socioeconomic status. The government of Bhutan recognizes that investing in its citizens is essential for the country's long-term success. Bhutan is laying the foundation for a bright future by providing free education and healthcare.


10. The only country to ban tobacco 

Bhutan is the only country in the world to have completely banned tobacco. 

 The sale, production, and import of tobacco products has been illegal in Bhutan since 2004. This ban was implemented to protect Bhutanese citizens' health and preserve the country's natural beauty. Tobacco use is considered harmful to both individual and environmental health, and Bhutan's leaders felt that a ban was necessary in order to protect their people and their land. While the ban has been largely successful, some still find ways to obtain and use tobacco products. Enforcement of the ban is difficult in a country with such porous borders, but Bhutan remains committed to its Tobacco-Free policy.


Also Read: Best Trekking Peaks in the Himalayas for New Climbers

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Bhutan is a fascinating country with a rich culture and history. It is the only country in the world to ban tobacco, and it has several other unique policies. Bhutan's commitment to democracy, environmental protection, and social welfare makes it an interesting place to live and visit. Its move toward a parliamentary system of government shows that it is committed to progress and modernization. 


If you're looking for an interesting travel destination that's off the beaten path, be sure to add Bhutan to your list!


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