Bhutan Specialists

We are a small tour operator specialising in trips to Bhutan. We want all of our clients to experience the authentic culture of Bhutan, especially its architecture, cuisine, handicrafts, spirituality, scenery and the great warmth of its people.

 

Karen Haranis is the founder of Rare Air, an Australian hiker who fell in love with Bhutan the moment
she arrived and now she’s thrilled to take people along with her. Karen has been hiking since her
early twenties, a pursuit that first took her to the Himalayas in 2002. She has returned many times
since and never tires of seeing beautiful mountains or discovering more about the cultures of the
people who live there. Since 2009 she has led many trips in Australia, as well as to Bhutan, and
loves to take people to her favourite places.

Namgyel Dorji and Tashi Wangdi have a combined 23 years’ experience of guiding in Bhutan,
including on all the big treks. They bring a wealth of knowledge of Bhutanese history and culture and
a visit to a cultural site is enriched by their expertise. They bring a high level of professionalism to all
of Rare Air’s trips but, more importantly, they also bring warmth and a sense of humour. Both
Namgyel and Tashi are government trained and accredited.


Karen Haranis in Australia Namgyel Dorji and Tashi Wangdi guides in Bhutan

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Bhutan is sandwiched between the two powerhouses India and China. It lies on the Eastern Himalayan Range with much of the country being quite mountainous. It is geographically quite close to Nepal but separated by the Indian state of Sikkim. It is politically aligned to India and doesn’t maintain diplomatic relations with China.
Most people fly to Paro, Bhutan’s only international airport, which is serviced exclusively by the two Bhutanese carriers Bhutan Airlines and Druk Air. Both use Airbus A319 planes that seat 114. Access to Bhutan by air is via Bangkok, Singapore, Kathmandu, New Delhi or Kolkata. Airfares are expensive. There are also three road crossings into Bhutan from the southern border with India, via Phuentsholing, Gelephu or Samdrup Jongkhar.
Yes. To make it easier for you, we include it as part of your package and will email it to you before departure.

The two high seasons in Bhutan are spring and autumn. Both offer good, usually mild weather with the possibility of an occasional shower. In spring the rhododendrons are in bloom and autumn is lush and green after the summer rains.

Winter can be a marvellous time to visit Bhutan as the skies are wonderfully clear and the views of the mountains are superb. Eastern Bhutan is well worth a visit in winter. The lower altitudes make for mild temperatures and days can often be clear and sunny.

Summer is not recommended as there are frequent showers and some of the walking trails abound with leeches! We offer discounts on some of our trips that can be done in low season: Western Bhutan Explorer, Bhutan Heartland, Textiles of Eastern Bhutan, Bhutan on a Plate, Temples of Bhutan and Bhutan East to West.

Trekking is best done in the high season, March to May and September to November, with some overlap into low season. Early June and early December can still be okay for trekking, when the weather in the mountains is still mostly clear and the nights are a bearable level of freezing! All gear for our treks is carried on horses, unlike the use of porters in Nepal, and the higher incidence of snow on trekking routes during the colder months makes it impossible for the horses to travel then. Spring is the best time to see the rhododendrons and wildflowers.
Everything! We provide a government-accredited English speaking guide, a government-accredited driver, air-conditioned vehicle, all transport in Bhutan, airport transfers, all meals, tea and coffee, twin share accommodation in comfortable 3-star hotels with private bathrooms, visa and all entrance fees to tourist sites. On trek we also provide all camping gear, extra staff, a cook and horses for carrying all gear.
You are unlikely to experience altitude sickness on our walking and cultural tours but trekking can be made more challenging by high altitude. We plan our treks to gain height slowly, with some rest/acclimatisation days factored in. Keeping hydrated is crucial for helping the body acclimatise and you should aim to drink around 4 litres for women and 5 litres for men per day. You should talk to your doctor about preventative medication, particularly if you have suffered from altitude sickness before.
There are no statutory requirements for vaccinations in Bhutan. Unless you are travelling from a country in the Yellow Fever Zone. But it is still highly recommended that you visit an experienced doctor that specialises in travel medicine. For example The Travel Doctor.

For our cultural trips fitness is not a pre-requisite.

For our walking tours you need to have a good level of fitness and for our Walking With The Thunder Dragon tour you will need a very good level of fitness.

For our treks you will need a very good level of fitness and for our remote extended treks you will need a very high level of fitness.

Our day hikes can go above 3,000 metres in altitude and our treks go above 4,000 or 5,000 metres, depending on the grading. You will be likely to experience shortness of breath but having good underlying fitness will help to overcome the altitude and make the whole trip more enjoyable.

Bhutan is a very safe destination. It has a low crime rate, particularly violent crime, and isn’t beset by scam artists. All trips to Bhutan are package tours, so your guide and driver will always accompany you. We only use government-accredited guides and drivers for our trips. It is also a safe destination for women, with harassment being quite rare.

The sale of tobacco is prohibited in Bhutan and you never see people smoking on the street, unlike other destinations in Asia. The Bhutanese are very modest in their dress and expect visitors to wear appropriate clothing. Loose and comfortable is best, with arms and legs covered, particularly when visiting temples or government buildings.

Bhutanese cuisine is very simple but quite delicious. Rice is usually served with several small dishes, banquet style. Vegetarians are well catered for, as are those with gluten intolerance. Vegans are not well catered for, as butter is often the cooking fat of choice, but vegan dishes are available on request. Bhutanese are not big fans of sweets, so dessert is most likely to be a piece of fruit. If you need chocolate, be sure to bring your own. The Bhutanese love chillies and mostly don’t inflict them on tourists but at least one dish will contain them.

It’s not safe to drink the water, but it can be boiled in your hotel room. On treks, pre-boiled water is provided. Tea is the main drink of Bhutan but coffee is available. Herb tea is uncommon but you can often get a ginger or lemon tea that is caffeine-free. Alcohol can be purchased at the hotels but is not included in the tour price.

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