As we made our descent into the emerald-green Paro Valley I couldn’t stop myself from thinking I was in a scene from the Avatar. It almost didn’t look real. Just twenty minutes before, we had passed Mount Everest on the lefthand side window of the plane and I was instantly spellbound. After over ten years of dreaming, I was finally almost there.
The landing at Paro airport, the only international airport in Bhutan, is one of the most difficult and dangerous in the world. In fact, only 15 pilots are authorized to land there because it requires a manual, visual landing. Trying to navigate a jet airplane through a country that is known as the most mountainous country in the world requires guts. Especially since Bhutan’s average elevation is 10,760 feet and mountains cover 98.8% of its total area. The only other place I had felt so fearful of landing was over the Himalayas of Nepal. And Nepal is what brought me to Bhutan.
As we descended, I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy by the magical surroundings outside the window. The valley was lush, verdant, and blanketed in trees. Lovely calming music that felt like being more at a spa than on an airplane was gently playing through the Druk Air’s loudspeakers. If this was the world’s last Shangri-La, I was certainly very excited to see it.