Photo by RajKumar1220
Most people know very little -- and there's a reason: Bhutan is one of Asia's most closed-off countries.
Sure, you can arrange a visit through a government-controlled travel agency, however, the cost can average as much as US $250 per day that you spend on the ground! Your trip expenses must be paid in full before you arrive to receive a visa. The agency sets your itinerary and even chooses your hotels.
You're basically only allowed to see what tourists are supposed to see. And needless to say, that prospect is not very attractive for budget travelers or people who like to properly explore a culture.
Regardless, Bhutan is opening a little more each year, and a trickle of travelers go to enjoy the Himalayan scenery. The cap on the number of tourists allowed inside per year has been lifted, and the king -- the youngest ruling monarch in the world -- is making some effort to modernize.
Only in 1999 did the Bhutanese government allow television and internet inside the country, for fear that it would corrupt old traditions.
In 2010, Bhutan became the first country in the world to ban the sales and production of tobacco products. Bhutan is also the only country in the world to measure Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product.
- See some more really interesting Bhutan facts that rarely make the evening news.
In a move to democracy, Bhutan became a constitutional monarchy only in 2008. And fortunately they are a member of the United Nations -- a good thing when you're literally sandwiched between two world superpowers who sometimes like to rattle swords: India and China.