We are a small tour operator specialising in trips to Bhutan. We want all of our travellers 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 26 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.
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.
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.
Level 1 - Easy grade trips: good level of fitness with the ability to walk uphill over short distances of about 1 hour’s duration.
Level 2 - Easy-medium trips: very good level of fitness with the ability to walk sustained uphill distances for 3 hours.
Level 3 - Medium grade trips: high level of fitness with the ability to walk sustained uphill distances for 5 - 6 hours.
Level 4 - Medium-hard grade trips: very high degree of fitness with the ability to walk uphill for up to 7 hours.
Level 5 - Challenging level trips: excellent degree of fitness with the ability to walk uphill for up to 8 hours at altitude over 5,000 metres. There may be other challenges such as river crossings or rocky, uneven terrain and even ice or snow.
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.
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.
We are a plastic bottle free company and ask you to BYO good quality, leak-proof drinking bottles. Bhutan has limited recycling facilities and we would prefer not to contribute more plastic waste.