My recent trip to Bhutan was definitely something special, but the journey there itself was an experience on its own.
Onboard Druk Air’s Airbus A319, we took off from Kathmandu and immediately rose above the clouds to find ourselves flying high above the rice terraces and hills of Kathmandu Valley. Once we reached almost 32,000 feet above sea level, a snow-capped mountain peak then appeared before us. Then another peak, and another. Soon, the entire Himalayas was in clear view through my window. We were flying at eye level with some of the highest mountains in the world and I could hardly believe my eyes.
Flying over Mount Everest
Hundreds of mountain peaks sprawled across my horizon, each of them standing high and mighty above the clouds, rising like sharp white daggers poking the skies. Puffy white clouds lay beneath us under a clear cloudless sky, creating a sharp contrast to the white snow that blanketed the mountain peaks. It was as though the peaks were floating in the sky and we were somehow in heaven.
Mid-way through the flight, our pilot’s voice crackled through the speakers. “Right in front of us, you’ll see a sharp black diamond-shaped peak. That is Mount Everest, the planet’s highest peak at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level.” I looked out of my window, and there it was. It wasn’t exactly distinctive, entrenched within a bed of mountains, but I found it and it felt like a privilege. This was after all Mount Everest, a world-famous mountain that is so mysteriously elusive — it can only be seen by trekking to the Everest Base Camp or traveling to the remote Tibetan Plateau.
Towards the end of the 45-minute flight, we crossed the border into Bhutan and flew what seemed like inches away from Bhutan’s second highest peak, Mount Jomolhari. The landing itself was exhilarating as the pilot made a steep descent into the narrow valley of Paro. Most of Bhutan is mountainous, with much of the country covered by steep valleys, winding rivers, and gorges, and having a sneak peek of it from above was the perfect introduction.
The mighty Mount Everest looking almost as if it’s within reach
I’ve flown over many gorgeous parts of the world — from Alaska to Zimbabwe — thanks to my job as a travel writer, but this was by far the most beautiful flight I’ve ever been on. The view of the Himalayas itself was well worth the journey, and not to mention the destination (more on Bhutan later).
A shot of the plane’s wings gives a sense of reality
A sea of mountains from the distance
Descending into the Paro Valley
Paro International Airport
Here’s a video shot from the plane just as we flew alongside Mount Everest:
More Information on Druk Air:
Druk Air is Bhutan’s national airline. Having begun operations only in 1983, the airline has expanded a lot over the past three decades and enjoys an excellent safety record with no crashes to report.. In 2008, Druk Air launched a major cabin refurbishment programme in all its three airbus-a319 aircrafts to increase the carrying capacity of the aircraft. The new seating configuration has 16 business class and 102 economy class seats.
Druk Air flies three times a week from Kathmandu, Nepal to Paro International Airport, Bhutan. In addition to this route, it also flies regularly from Bangkok, Singapore, Mumbai and Delhi. Druk Air now flies to 10 international destinations and four domestic cities.
The price for round-trip flights from Kathmandu to Paro start from US$350. You can book your flights online at www.drukair.com.bt.
Disclosure: Druk Air kindly provided a discount on my flight, but all opinions expressed above are my own.