Until then, it was on foot that Bhutanese trudged the hostile terrains the country is characterized with, through dense forest in the south and over passes that shot up to more than 5,000 metres up north. It is little wonder that most Bhutanese are favoured with beefy calves. Since ancient times, two of the country main entry points were from Tibet in the north and through the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal in the south.
The calves having remained the same, today the country is accessible by road that weaves into some of the most remote corners of the country.
Although most international visitors to the country fly in on the wings of the dragon, the national airline, Druk Air and recently on Bhutan Air, the country’s only private airline, Bhutan’s traditional routes of entry down south – through Phuentsholing that links Bhutan with the Indian plains of West Bengal and through Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar that links the country with the Indian state of Assam – are still vibrant in terms of movement of people.
Travel by Air
Bhutan has only one international airport that flies in visitors to the country. Once inside the country, Bhutan has three domestic airports strategically established. One is based in Bumthang for visitors choosing to fly to central Bhutan, one in Trashigang for those wishing to visit the eastern extreme of the country and one in Gelephu for visitors preferring the salutary southern air.
Bhutan’s only international airport at Paro established in the early ‘80s is located at a height of 7,300 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains and hills as high as 16,000 feet. Druk Air with its three Airbuses flies to several international destinations of Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata and Kathmandu.
The flight between Paro and Kathmandu or otherwise, is one of the most exhilarating as the aircraft passes over four of the five highest peaks in the world. Favoured by a fine weather, visitors can see Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga.
It has an ATR that flies domestic.
Bhutan Airlines, an undertaking of the Tashi Group of Companies, began its first service with domestic operation on December 4, 2011. It had a Pilatus PC12 with capacity of eight passengers. It started international operations on October 10, 2013 with an A320 aircraft between Paro and Bangkok connecting to Kolkata. Bhutan Airlines today has an Airbus A319 with a seating capacity of 122 passengers.
Travel by Land
Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar are the three routes bordering India, open for international tourists. Phuentsholing town is located approximately 170km east of the Indian national airport of Bagdogra, Kolkata. Driving from the plains of Phuentsholing to the interiors of Bhutan entails ascending numerous passes and hills riddled with zigs. Travel time to the capital city of Thimphu, which is about 175km from Phuentsholing is about four hours.
Gelephu in South-Central Bhutan is another entry point to Bhutan. It is about 250km from Thimphu and the journey requires passing through three of country’s 20 districts, experiencing the sub-tropical climes of the south and brushing through the alpine zone before finally entering Thimphu. The travel time is about eight hours.
Samdrupjongkhar is the only entry point in eastern Bhutan. The town borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam and is approximately 150km from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The drive from Guwahati to Samdrupjongkhar is about three hours. Tourists entering Bhutan through Samdrupjongkhar will be introduced to five other districts of Trashigang, the country’s biggest, Mongar, the fastest growing town in the east, Bumthang and Trongsa, the spiritual heartlands in central Bhutan, Wangduephodrang and Punakha before finally entering Thimphu. The entire distance is about 700km or a three-day journey to Thimphu from Samdrupjongkhar.
There are two airlines flying to Bhutan, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines.
New Delhi Tel: 91-11-335-7703
Kolkata Tel: 91-33-240-2419
Paro International Airport
Visit www.drukair.com.bt for more information
(Please include Bhutan Airline’s information)
You can enter Bhutan from any of the three routes: Samdrupjongkhar (southeastern Bhutan), Gelephu (southern Bhutan), and Phuentsholing (southwestern Bhutan)
On arrival at the entry checkpoints (Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar Gelephu), immigration officials will endorse you before issuing a permit. Make sure you go personally. Please carry your passport along with some passport photographs.