Paro is one of the districts in western Bhutan. The only international airport in Bhutan is in Paro. Unlike the narrow mountainous terrain of Thimphu, Paro valley is wide and open and although the housing development is catching up to Thimphu, the place doesn’t feel as claustrophobic. This is partly because the settlements are scattered by acres of agricultural land. The plantation and harvesting season lifts Paro valleys aesthetics to a whole new level.
Paro town has one of the most beautiful streets in Bhutan. Rather than constructing modern structures, landlords in Paro have renovated and restored the typical two storied Bhutanese houses. The town houses have successfully preserved the traditional architectural designs while infusing modern design such as floor to ceiling windows and creative interior design. The street has many cafes, restaurants and handicraft shops.
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN PARO
TIGER’S NEST MONASTERY
Perched high up on the cliff 900 meters above the Paro valley is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. It is the most visited tourist attraction in Bhutan. The monastery was built in the 17th century in recognition of the sacred event that had taken place before a thousand years. As per the legend, Guru Rinpoche, a Buddhist master meditated in cave for many years to subdue the evil forces and bless the land and it is said that he had arrived at the site riding atop a flying tigress thus the monastery was named Taktsang which means the Tiger’s Nest. Following a major fire incident, the monastery was renovated and enlarged with beautiful architectural aesthetics. It takes close to two hours hike to get to the monastery from the base of the cliff. The dirt trail navigates the mountainous terrain through the pine forests. Once at the top, the view of the valley below is quite spectacular. It is a must visit destination while in Bhutan.
The national museum in Paro is a 17th century watch tower situated above the Paro Dzong. The structure has a unique circular design reinforced with close to three meter thick wall. In the ancient times, the watch tower was used as a prison that the fort offered unobstructed view of the valley below for the watch guards protecting the Dzong. A secret tunnel is said to have existed which led to the river. The tunnel was used to fetch water during times of war. After remaining uninhabited for long time, the structure was renovated and inaugurated as a museum. The museum has a collection of ancient tools, weapons, paintings and it also has an exhibition of the diverse ecology of Bhutan.
The Dzong was built to commemorate a victory against Tibetan invasion in the 17th century. Drugyel translates to the glorious drukpas (Bhutanese). Anticipating future invasion from the north, the Dzong was built strategically on a hill making three side of the Dzong inaccessible and the only entry was heavily guarded with three towers and a gate. The Dzong is located in the northern region of Paro with an unobstructed view of the ancient trails leading to Tibet. It served as a defense fort. The Dzong had a central tower which housed sacred Buddhist shrines and the Dzong was heavily armed guarded by military personnel. After serving as a military barrack for multiple northern invasions, in an unfortunate fire event, the Dzong was reduced to ruins. The Dzong is listed in the UNESCO world heritage sites and after remaining as a ruin for nearly half a century, the Dzong is finally being restored to its former glory.
Kyichu lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. As per the historical accounts, it is one of the 108 temples built in a single day by a Tibetan King. The herculean task was undertaken to subdue an ogress that thwarted the spread of Buddhism in the region. It is believed that the 108 temples were built across the region and the main temple known as Jokhang was built in Tibet. Kyichu Lhakhang is close to Paro town and is approached by a scenic road with paddy field on either side of the road. The place looks spectacular especially during the plantation and harvesting seasons. The temple has a statue of Jowo who is regarded as the future Buddha.