If you decide to reward yourself, and justifiably so, with a Bhutan travel experience, you will be totally mesmerized by Paro, a wonderful scenic town which offers you a glimpse into Bhutan's rich culture and the mystical treasures of nature. Paro is associated with a myriad of myths and legends that dates back well into the BC era. Home to many of Bhutan's oldest temples and monasteries, the country's only airport, and the National Museum, the Paro valley looks up at Mt. Chomolhari, which stands 7,300 meters tall, and reigns triumphantly in its pristine white glory at the northern tip of the valley. Its glacial waters plunge through deep gorges to form the Pa Chu, the Paro River. This valley happens to be one of the kingdom's most fertile valleys and produces the bulk of Bhutan's world renowned red rice from select terraced fields which are in themselves worthy of a quick sight-seeing tour.
Hanging precariously and magically from a rather steep cliff, the Taktshang monastery is a monument of genuine pride for the Bhutanese nation. It defies architectural principles to the core and amazes tourists from around the world. It is a sight to behold. Taktshang or the Tigers lair as the monastery is called, it is widely regarded is one of the most important monuments of spiritual significance in Bhutan. Its history is deeply associated with the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, the revered Indian saint who came to Bhutan in the 8th century AD. The cave was named Taktshang after Guru Rinpoche flew into the cave from Kurtoe Singye Dzong in eastern Bhutan while riding on a tigress. When he landed in the cave, he took the wrathful form of Guru Dorji Drolo who is regarded as one of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche to decimate the demons. Several saints have chosen this sanctuary to pray and meditate in solitude.
From the road, the hike toward Taktshang follows an uphill route and takes approximately 3-4 hours at an average walking pace on a clear, sunny day. We recommend that you carry sunscreen lotion, large quantities of drinking water, a walking stick just in case you need to shoo of the birds and a hat to further protect yourself from the sun.
Drukgyel Dzong was built in 1646 AD by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders after a long and intense skirmish. The dzong resembles a quaint pictorial village nestled below its ramparts. Although most unfortunately destroyed by a ravaging fire in 1951, the towering outer walls and central keep remain in tact and present an imposing sight. On a clear day, you can take in a splendid view of Mt. Chomolhari from the approach road to Drukgyel Dzong.
Rinpung Dzong was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal on a hill right above the township. Also dubbed the fortress of the Heap of Jewels, it is one of the most impressive dzongs in Bhutan. The approach toward the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called the Nemi Zam. A paved stone path runs alongside the imposing outer walls of the structure. The valley's annual springtime religious festival called the Paro Tsechu is organized each year in the courtyard of the dzong and is attended by tourists from all over the world.
Ta Dzong was built as a watchtower to protect Rinpung Dzong. The Ta dzong is situated on a ridge immediately above Rinpung Dzong. "Ta" means "to see" in Dzongkha, so the watchtower of a dzong is always called a "Ta dzong." According to the function, these watchtowers are always round in shape. In 1968, Paro's Ta Dzong was inaugurated as the National Museum. It now holds an impressive collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings, rare postage stamps, exquisite artifacts, coins and handicrafts and a small natural history collection.
Kyichu Lhakhang was built in the 7th century AD and happens to be one of the two oldest and most revered shrines in Bhutan. The other shrine is the Jambey Lhakhang in Bumthang. Kyichu Lhakhang comprises twin temples. The first temple was built by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century AD. In 1968, on orders of H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, a second temple was erected right next to the first one. It followed the fashion and pattern of the first temple monument. You should surely visit Kyichu Lhakhang even if you can only do so for fifteen minutes. Be sure to take your camera along since your pictures are guaranteed to turn out to be gorgeous.
Paro valley is adorned by beautiful farm houses that dot the entire countryside. The two to three-storied Bhutanese farm houses are handsome in appearance, with colorfully decorated outer walls and lintels. They are traditionally built without the use of a single nail. Every house follows the same architectural style. A farm visit will give you a glimpse into the rustic life of a farming family.
Kila Gompa is the quiet and tranquil home of Buddhist nuns, who have dedicated their lives to spiritual fulfillment. This gompa rests in a craggy patch of rock on the mountainside below the Chele-la pass. It is an ideal abode for religious studies, prayer and meditation. The monastery is approximately one hour's stroll from Chele-la down a path through a dense pine forest with a clearly marked walking path.
Druk Choeding is a famous temple in the town of Paro. It was built in 1525 by Ngawang Chhogyel, one of the main prince-abbots of Raling, Tibet. He was an ancestor of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The temple is known for its unique architecture and its finely crafted exterior. You should stop by for a few minutes to take in the views when you visit the town.