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Paro Airport

  • by Emily
  • Last Updated: 2024-04-07

Paro International Airport is a civil airport located in Paro, the capital of Paro District in the western Kingdom of Bhutan. Situated in a narrow valley surrounded by high mountains, it is about 6 kilometers from the downtown. The airport is operated by the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority and serves Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, and Paro. It's the only international airport among the four airports in Bhutan.

Paro International Airport has an altitude of 2,235m, a runway 1,964m long and 29m wide, with two parking bays. Due to its short runway and the surrounding mountains with an altitude of 5,480 meters, it’s considered one of the most challenging airports in the world. Only a selected number of pilots who have trained professionally are qualified to land here. All flights in Paro Airport are only allowed to land and take off under Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) and are restricted to daylight hours.

Paro Airport
Paro International Airport


Paro Bhutan Airport is recognized by its airport code as "PBH" by IATA, as well as by airlines and travel agencies. Its airport code is "VQPR" recognized by ICAO concerning aviation safety and technical standards.

The airport has a passenger terminal that officially operates in 1999, with 4 check-in counters and 1 boarding gate. Additionally, there is a cargo terminal at the airport. Paro Airport serves as a hub for the Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines and Bhutan Airlines, being Bhutan's main gateway to the outside world. It mainly operates international scheduled passenger and cargo services, with destinations primarily in Nepal and major cities in India, including Kathmandu, Delhi, Kolkata, Dhaka, and Mumbai. It also has flights to major Southeast Asian cities such as Bangkok and Singapore. Public facilities at Paro Airport include a post office, bank, VIP lounge, restaurants, cafeteria, taxi service, duty-free shops, and gift shops.

In History

In 1968, the Indian Frontier Roads Organization built an airstrip in the Paro Valley in western Bhutan, 50 kilometers from the capital, Thimphu. Initially, the airfield was used only by helicopters of the Indian Armed Forces operating on behalf of Bhutan.

In 1971, the third king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, abolished the policy of isolation, and three years later, Bhutan welcomed its first batch of foreign tourists. However, at that time, tourists from Western countries had to fly to Kolkata, India, and then take a three to four-day drive to Bhutan, which was unacceptable for most travelers.

In 1981, the fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, issued a Royal Charter and established Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines.

Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines
Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines operates most international flights.

In 1983, Drukair commenced its first commercial flight on February 11. Flight 101 departed from Kolkata, and Flight 102 returned the following day. In the first month, the plane flew three times a week, later increased to once a day.

In 1988, Royal Bhutan Airlines moved its operating base from Kolkata to Paro, taking delivery of the company's first jet, a Bae 146-100, and recruiting seven cabin crew trained by Thai Airways International. The aircraft was in service from 1988 to 2003, after which it was replaced by the airline's first Airbus A319-100 in 2004.

In 1990, the runway at Paro Airport was extended and reinforced from 1,400 meters to 2,000 meters to accommodate large aircraft. India also funded the construction of a hangar as part of the Paro airport expansion project.

In 2011, Bhutan also established its first private airline, Bhutan Airlines, which began operations at Paro Airport in the same year.

In 2015, the Department of Air Transport (DoAT) was established. DoAT is a statutory department under the Ministry of Information and Communications of the Kingdom of Bhutan, formed according to the Civil Aviation Act of 2016.

By 2018, the annual number of passengers passing through Paro Airport had grown to 397,599, and the airport handled 6,761 flights.

In 2021, the interior of the airport underwent infrastructure and aesthetic renovations, adding many works by young Bhutanese artists, including photography, paintings, and more.

Why is Dangerous?

The Himalayas make landing a plane here a thrilling challenge. Pilots need to navigate through narrow valleys. The plane weaves in and out of jagged valleys, descending and dodging air currents, its wings almost touching the hillsides. ILS(Instrument Landing System) ensures that pilots can land safely under low visibility conditions. However, when landing at this Bhutan airport, there is only one VOR(Very high-frequency Omnidirectional range) equipment to guide pilots. They can only judge the distance by visual landmarks, which requires very high aircraft performance and pilot reaction capabilities. With no radar to guide planes into the airport, pilots must fly entirely manually, using visual landmark checkpoints.

When landing, a 45-degree steep turn is required to enter the runway. Pilots can't even see the runway before landing and have to align with it in such a short time. The airport also has a short runway of just 2,265m, which means narrow-body aircraft flying to and from the airport must operate within strict speed and altitude parameters. For these reasons, flights are only permitted during daylight and in good visibility, and they often change flights and routes because of clouds and weather conditions.

Airlines of Paro Airport

Paro Airport serves as the hub for both Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines and Bhutan Airlines, acting as Bhutan's main gateway. The routes are mainly to Nepal and India, including Kathmandu, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and others. The number of flights to and from here is limited, with only two airlines operating: the state-owned Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines and the private Bhutan Airlines.

Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines or Drukair, established in 1981, is the first airline in Bhutan. It operates scheduled flights to domestic and international destinations, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Singapore. There are daily flights to Paro from Bangkok, Thailand, and twice a week (Thursdays and Sundays) from Singapore.

Bhutan Airlines, also known as Tashi Air Pvt. Ltd is Bhutan's first private airline. Established in 2011, Bhutan Airlines is headquartered in Thimphu, Bhutan's capital. It operates two A319 aircraft, accommodating 126 passengers, including 12 business class seats and 114 economy class seats. There are daily flights from Bangkok via Kolkata to Paro and weekly flights from Kathmandu to Delhi.

International Flights to Paro

Paro Airport has domestic and international routes in Bhutan. Since tourists rarely take domestic routes in Bhutan, here we mainly introduce you to the international direct flights in and out of Bhutan.

Kathmandu to Paro

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, offers the quickest flight to Bhutan, with a flight time of approximately 1 hour. As the closest city to Bhutan for tourists, there are daily flights from Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport(KTM) to Paro Bhutan Airport(PBH). Most tourists choose Kathmandu as their starting point for flying to Bhutan because the flight route almost aligns with the direction of the Himalayan mountains. In less than an hour's flight time, tourists can view the snow-capped mountains(8,000m) from the plane(10,000m), and take photos with the distant Himalayas. >>See more about Kathmandu to Paro flights

To see this magnificent view, we recommend you choose a window seat on the left side when flying from Kathmandu to Paro. On the return journey from Paro to Kathmandu, choose a window seat on the right side, which provides an unobstructed view of the continuous snow-capped mountains and a clear view of Mount Everest, the world's highest peak.

See magnificent Mt.Everest and Mt.Lhotse

Bangkok to Paro

In order to meet the needs of tourists traveling between Thailand and Bhutan, flights from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport(BKK) to Paro are operated once a day during peak season. During the off-peak season, with fewer flights, travelers can transit through India or Bangladesh to enter Bhutan. The direct flight from Bangkok to Paro takes approximately 3 hours while connecting flights take longer.

Singapore to Paro

There are two flights per week from Singapore Changi Airport(SIN) to Paro via Guwahati, a city in northern India. The total travel time is approximately 6 hours. Due to the 2-hour time difference between Bhutan and Singapore, the entire trip is mostly in the morning, leaving Singapore in the early morning and arriving in Bhutan still in the morning.

New Delhi to Paro

Bhutan is a popular holiday destination for Indians, with a large number of tourists visiting from India each year. So there are direct flights to Paro from many Indian cities, especially those in the northern regions close to Bhutan. Here, we will only introduce flight information from Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) to Paro. There is a daily direct flight from New Delhi to Paro, with a flight duration of around 2 hours.

Here is the Paro Airport Flight Common Schedule and Destinations:

City Country Frequency Time Distance
Kathmandu Nepal Daily About 1h(direct) 404km
Bangkok Thailand Daily About 1h(direct), 3h(transfer Bagdogra), 4h20m(transfer Dhaka) 1907km
Singapore Singapore 4 times per week About 6h(transfer Guwahati) 3289km
Dhaka Bangladesh 4 times a week About 1h(direct) 435km
New Delhi India Daily About 2h(direct) 1216km
Kolkata India Daily About 1h30m(direct) 551km
Guwahati India 4 times per week About 55m(direct) 270km
Gaya India 4 times per week (seasonal) About 1h10m(direct) 546km

Travel Documents Needed for Paro Airport Flights

For non-Indian tourists to enter Bhutan by air, it is necessary to obtain a Bhutanese visa, otherwise, tourists cannot buy a Bhutanese flight ticket. Tourists can only apply for a Bhutan visa through a licensed tour operator, which typically takes two weeks. After payment, you should inform the travel agency immediately so that they can verify the payment and then they will apply for a visa. If the visa is approved, you will get a visa clearance letter and must present it at the port of entry. The visa is then stamped into your passport.

How to Book Flights to Paro?

Flights can be booked through the official websites of the airlines. All flights to Bhutan are monopolized by the country's two airlines: Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines(flight code: KB), the national airline of Bhutan, and Bhutan Airlines(flight code: B3), a private airline operated by the Tashi Group. The ticket prices are only divided into off-season and peak season, basically no discount.

Tickets can also be booked through Bhutanese Travel agents. However, considering the possibility of ticket modifications or refunds, it is advisable to have the booking done through a Bhutanese travel agency unless the seats are in high demand. It will be more convenient for subsequent air ticket changes and other tasks.


Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. It takes a certain amount of courage to enter this country surrounded by the Himalayas, and it is also a very challenging job for the captain of the aircraft. On the flight, passengers can enjoy the majestic Himalayan range, including Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga, and Gangkhar Puensum. The colors of the rice paddies near the airport change with the seasons, providing a distinctive experience.

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