A Comprehensive Guide to Explore Paro, Bhutan

The picturesque Paro valley is counted amongst the greenest valley of Bhutan and the international airport of the country is located here due to its wide area. This heart of Bhutan is surrounded by the fertile rice fields and serene Paro River (Pa Chu) which flows down the valley.

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It’s also one of the best Bhutanese towns to explore on foot. Together with Jakar and Punakha, Paro forms the golden triangle on the map of Bhutan. This quaint town is known for its significant sites. Sharing my top picks which shouldn’t be missed while in Paro

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Taktsang Lhakhang or Tiger Nest: Taktsang Lhakhang or the Tiger Nest is Bhutan’s most iconic sight and most popular tourist attractions in Paro. The distinctive structure of the monastery combined with its remote location and the stunning green valley view makes it an unforgettable experience. Reaching this monastery requires a trek of 3-4 hours through the mountainous paths, which is moderate in difficulty level, hence suitable for everyone physically fit to trek. This monastery was built in 1692 at a cave where it is believed that Guru Rinpoche meditated in the 7th century A.D to subdue the demons residing in it. He flew atop the back of a tigress (believed to be his wife) and meditated there for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours. Tiger Nest is located at a distance of 10 kms from the main town of Paro, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

Chele La pass: A 2 hours drive from Paro will take you to Chele La pass which is the highest motorable pass of Bhutan. The pass connects Paro to the lesser known valley of Bhutan, Haa. At an elevation of 13000 feet, get mesmerised at the stunning mountain views and the green valley down. The route towards the pass is through lush valleys, pine and rhododendron forest. If the weather permits, on a clear day enjoy the stunning views of the sacred mountain Jomolhari and Jichu Drake from Chele La

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PC: Keith Mason- Own Work

Rinpung Dzong: Rinchen Pung Dzong means ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’, once served as the meeting hall for the National Assembly. Now, Rinpung houses both the monastic body and district government offices, including the local courts. Most of the area is prohibited for the tourists but visit this Dzong for its marvel architecture. Famous as Paro Dzong, it was built in 1644 under the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the holder of Drukpa- Kagyud Buddhist School and the unifier of Bhutan. This dzong has been used on various occasions to protect Paro from the invasion of Tibet. This fort is built on a hillside due to which the front courtyard of the administrative section is 6m higher than the portion of monastic courtyard. Outside the dzong is the ground where dancers perform the popular dance forms of tsechu. Below the dzong is a traditional wooden bridge called Nyamai Zam, which was reconstructed when the original one got washed away in a flood in 1969. The Dzong courtyard is opened daily but on the weekends some areas inside has restricted entry

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National Museum: The National Museum captures the heritage of Bhutan and promotes it through the well preserved arti-facts displayed from across the country. It is among the few educational institutes which capture the country’s transition from as early as 4000 B.C, keeping its cultural inheritance intact. National museum is located very near to Paro Dzong and opens up from 9 AM to 4 PM every day except Mondays. Opened in 1968, the museum was made in a 17th century watch tower from where one can enjoy the panoramic views of Paro valley. The collection of fine arts, paintings and the stamp hall which displays the stamps like 3-D stamps, record stamps the famous triangular stamp depicting the yeti are among the favourites. The other section of the museum showcases the traditional dresses of Bhutanese people, the jewellery they wear and the handicrafts. Preserving culture and its values is one of the Nine Domains of Gross National Happiness, the philosophy for national development of Bhutan

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Drukgyel Dzong: Drukgyel Dzong which translates to the fortress of victory is a famous archaeological site in Bhutan, situated on a ridge in the upper Paro. Now in ruins, the dzong was built in 1649 to mark Bhutan’s victory over the Tibetan forces. There are mixed theory on who built this dzong though. Few researchers believe that it was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal himself to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan army in 1649. While few believe it was Tenzin Drugda, Paro’s Penlop at the time, built it at the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Since its construction, Drukgyel served as a significant base for defence in the region when it got burned out in 1951 by fire. Even after this, the Dzong continued as an imperative monument connecting Bhutanese people with the events that led to the maintenance of country’s sovereignty. It also used to be the summer residence of Ringpung Rabdey If weather permits, Bhutan holy peak, Mt. Jumolhari, can be seen in the backdrop

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Airport view point: The international airport of Bhutan is among the top 10 most stunning and beautiful airports in the world. It is also counted among the 10 most challenging airports in the world, that only 8 pilots are certified to land the flights here. The surrounding peaks as high as 5000 meters makes it a bit of challenge and yet Paro airport is something you should eye for. Getting mesmerised every second with the view of vibrant green valley with gushing sound of Paro river below, stunning blue sky above and high mountains around the Paro valley makes it an enchanting picture. Don’t miss the sight of departing flights which in itself is an experience

photo of Dumtseg Lhakhang

Dungtse Lhakhang: This Chorten like temple is said to be built on the head of the demoness who was causing problems for the inhabitants. It is said that 5 temples have been built across the world on the various body part of this demon, the head of which falls under Bhutan. It is said to be built by the bridge builder, Thangtong Gyelpo in 1421. It is said the founder himself made an appearance in the form of five vultures, on the day of construction, and showered his blessings before he flew towards Tibet. The building was restored in 1841 by the 25th Head Abbot of Bhutan, Sherab Gyeltshen. This temple is a significant arsenal of Kagyu lineage arts and showcases the paintings highlighting the stages of Tantric Buddhist philosophy. Taking photographs inside the main temple is not allowed

Druk Choeding Temple: In the main town of Paro is Druk Choeding temple which was built by Ngawang Chogyel, the prince-abbots of Ralung in Tibet in 1525. Chogyel was also an ancestor of the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. This temple is also known as Tshongdoe Naktsang or Tshongdoe temple. This 16th century old shrine preserves the ancient war artefacts, the deity – Gyenyen and Jampa – the future Buddha and the local protector Gyenyen. From here one can opt to stroll the local market or catch Bhutanese local archery show

Picture CreditDipanshu Goyal

This Guide was written for Happytrips.com first. I took this trip with Bhutan Bookings

Also Read: The Romeo Juliet of Bhutan

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