For passengers, the approach to Paro Airport in Bhutan offers some of the most spectacular views.
But for pilots there is no time to admire the scenery as this is one of the world’s most challenging airports to fly into.
Only eight pilots are licensed to land at the remote Himalayan airport, which requires a precision approach and landing.
Most pilots work for Drukair, Bhutan’s national carrier that takes part of its name ‘Druk’ (dragon) from Bhutan’s Tibetan name ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon.’
The pilots making the approach also have to fly like a dragon in zigzag moves that reminded me of slalom skiing.
To soak up the best views, choose a window seat on the left hand side of the aircraft and keep your camera ready, if you can hold it steady!
Drukair has a fleet of two Airbus A319s and an ATR-42, which are the few aircraft permitted to fly into Paro Airport.
Watch this video to see why:
Tashi Air, a domestic airline with a sole eight-seat Pilatus plane also serves Paro airport, which believe it or not, offers free Wi-Fi!
Bhutans hidden treasures
Paro Airport is an hour’s drive from Thimphu, the tiny capital of Bhutan with less than 100,000 inhabitants – overlooked by a huge Buddha statue.
One of the most famous sights in Bhutan is Paro Taktsang, or ‘The Tiger’s Nest’: an amazing Buddhist temple in the clouds. It was built in 1692 and is still in daily use by monks, who may even let you sit in on their prayers: a truly unforgettable experience.
From the airport, the temple is a short drive and a two-hour uphill hike away. It is well worth losing your breath for!
All tourists need a visa to enter Bhutan. Visas will only be approved if you book through a local licensed tour operator or foreign travel agent.
The Bhutanese Department of Tourism sets a minimum daily rate for all visitors to Bhutan. It must be paid in advance and covers your entire trip costs, including accommodation, all meals, transportation and a licensed tout guide. Visit the Tourism Council for more information.