Brush up on Bhutan

Off limits to tourists until the 1970s, the once secretive Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is steeped in mystery. If you want to find out more about this unique land, here are five fascinating facts to whet your appetite.

  1. It’s been said that Bhutan is the happiest country in Asia. In fact, the former King of Bhutan’s greatest legacy was his concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ as a way to measure a nation’s wellbeing as an alternative to the Gross National Product. A survey pointed to the landlocked Himalayan kingdom’s beautiful mountain scenery, isolated culture and strong sense of national identity as reasons for the contentment of its citizens.
  1. In something of a contrast to number 1, in the past the national identity was strictly and sometimes brutally enforced by the country’s ruling monarchy. Foreign tourism was banned, thousands of ethnic Nepalese and Gurkhas were expelled from the country, and people were forced to wear national costume – a tartan judo-style jacket known as Driglam Namzha – during daylight hours.
  1. Television was banned until 1999, when King Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided it would help to modernise his isolated kingdom.
  1. Superstition plays an important role in the lives of many Bhutanese. Some will not embark on a journey unless they have consulted an astrologer first to ascertain the best date to travel. Other superstitions include the belief that cutting ones nails or whistling at night invites demons into the house, and it is also considered bad luck to have a haircut on the 1st or 2nd of the month.
  1. Bhutan’s national sport is a form of archery in which rival teams dressed in traditional costumes face each other across a field and fire sharp arrows at a target. The opposition will attempt to distract the archer by waving their arms, and it’s not unusual for injuries to occur if they stray too close to the target or consume too much ara – an alcoholic drink of fermented rice or maize – during these fun matches.

Every Travelsphere holiday offers exceptional value for money. Included in the price are return scheduled flights/rail travel and internal flights, where applicable, overseas transfers and transportation, carefully chosen hotels, many meals and excursions and the services of a Travelsphere Tour Manager or Local Guide.