Bhutan's tiny Himalayan airport is one of the hardest places on Earth to land

Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan kingdom tucked between India and China, has but one international airport.

Surrounded by 18,000-foot mountains.

That airport is called “Paro,” and like the rest of the mostly Buddhist kingdom, it is nestled among the Himalayas, which make getting there a tricky proposition.

Obviously, however, it’s easier to fly in than it is to walk.

Partly due to an unusually short runway, takeoffs and landings are among the world’s most difficult, and very few pilots are qualified to land there.

But for those who can get their hands on a tourist visa, and handle their fear, a trip to Paro also offers breathtaking views of some of the world’s most beautiful mountains, and one of the only ways to visit one of world’s happiest countries.

Bhutan has preserved much of its traditional Buddhist culture, a big draw for the tourists who come from around the world to explore its majestic mountains and centuries-old monasteries.

[An earlier version of this post was written by Alex Davies.]

The runway is short, with little space on either side.

Sometimes, the airport is used for more formal occasions. In April 2010, Bhutan hosted the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit. Here, the Indian prime minister arrives at Paro.

(Source: Reuters)

It is now open to a few more airlines, including private jet service.

(Source: Travel Daily Asia)

As they come in for landing, pilots must navigate a series of quick turns, to avoid the tall mountains and get in position to land on the short runway.

The airport is only used in good weather, but gusts of wind are an ever-present risk.

(Source: The Daily Mail)

They can make landing and taking off quite scary.

(Source: The Daily Mail)

Planes taking off seem to be on a collision course with a hillside.

But they quickly gain elevation and bank right.

If all goes well, they clear the peak and start their journey.

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