Altitude : 2250m /7382ft
Paro valley extends from the confluence of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom upto Mt. Jomolhari (7214m/23,668ft) at the Tibetan border to the North. This picturesque region is one of the widest valleys in the kingdom and is covered in fertile rice fields and has a beautiful, crystalline river meandering down the valley.
Accentuating the natural beauty are the many elegant, traditional-style houses that dot the valley and surrounding hills. Paro town has been growing rapidly in recent years and there are plenty of restaurants, bakeries and cafes to choose from. One of the distinctive features of Paro town is that it is situated in a flat valley bottom and follows a grid-like pattern. The central plaza is adorned with a large prayer wheel and a small amphitheater at which events such as concerts are often organized.
Visitors often spend several days in Paro as there are over 155 temples and monasteries in this area, some dating as far back as 14 th century. The country’s first international airport is located in Paro. Due to the close proximity of the airport and the many historical and religious sites in the region there are a large number of luxurious, high-end tourist resorts in Paro.
Places To See
The Tsechu is a religious festival that is celebrated in all the Dzongkhags. The performances last for three continuous days. There is a sequence of dances at Paro Tshechu. Most dances are the same as other Tshechus, but the sequence varies. The Paro Tsechu is one of the most festooned festivals in the whole of the country. Tourists are allowed to witness the festival at the courtyard.
Sonam Trophel Restaurant
Opened in 1986, which makes it one of Paro’s oldest restaurants, Sonam Trophel serves an extensive selection of Bhutanese, Tibetan, and Indian dishes.The restaurant is famous for their delicious pork momos (dumplings).
Dungtse Lhakhang, the little three storied chorten-shaped temple, was built in 1421 by Thangtong Gyelpo to subdue the ogress on the top of whose head it is said to be built. The 25th Head Abbot of Bhutan, Sherab Gyeltshen, restored it in 1841. The names of the Paro donors can still be seen written on the wooden pillars of the ground floor. Men of great stature and strength known as the “Nya goe” were employed in the construction to lift the massive pillars used in the temple. It is said that on the day of construction, the founder himself appeared in the form of five vultures, and circled the temple showering his blessings before taking flight to Tibet. One can also see the central tower (utse), the pinnacle of the temple, chained from four directions to the roof of the temple. It is believed that while the consecration was being performed the central tower moved, attempting to fly to Tibet. Thus to stop it from its flight the central tower was chained down.
This temple is unique in Bhutan as its paintings show the progressive stages of Tantric Buddhist philosophy as well as the most important deities and figures of the Drukpa Kagyudpa School.
The temple dates back to the 7th century. According to the Bhutanese legend, Songtsen Gempo, the first Buddhist King of Tibet, established a temple here on the left knee of an ogress in order to subdue her. The temple was restored in the 19th century and a similar one was added in 1968 by Ashi Kesang, the grand Queen Mother of Bhutan.
Chelela Ridge Hike
Chelela, at 3822m/12,539ft is the highest motor able pass in Bhutan and is flanked by Paro and Haa districts. This pass is along the forsaken ancient trade route. The drive itself is scenic with stunning panoramic view of the two valleys and snowcapped Himalayan mountains. You can also opt for the Chelela ridge hike that takes about 3-5 hours. The hike follows the trail used by yaks and yak herders through forests filled with many species of Primula, junipers, firs, pine, oaks and shades of red and orange rhododendrons. The short steep descent from the top will take you to the nunnery of Kila Goemba. The community is one of the oldest of seven nunneries in Bhutan, and was initially established in the early 9th century as a meditation site. After being destroyed by fire, the temple was rebuilt and officially established in 1986 as an Anim Dratshang (religious community of Buddhist nuns).
Jele Dzong Hike
Jele Dzong, at an altitude of 3450m/11,319ft, was built in the 15 th century by Ngawang Choegyel, the great grandfather of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namygyel, the unifier of Bhutan. Under the Tibetan invasion, Zhabdrung escaped from Paro to Thimphu across the Jele Pass. It is believed that he was accompanied by Mahakala, the protective deity of the country, until Jele Dzong where they separated as he was then considered safe on the remainder of his journey to Thimphu. The name Jele therefore comes from je meaning separation. Jele Dzong is currently in ruins. In the medieval times, Jele Dzong served as a night halt for travelers to restock food and rest.
The 2-3 hours’ hike begins at Damchena, an hour’s drive from Paro. Most of the walk is through mixed coniferous forests and often you will see white langurs, Himalayan musk deer and monal peasant. You will also see the magnificent view of the sun setting over the Himalayan peaks if you reach early. The trek trail is rather gradual climb till the dzong and if the weather is clear the Paro valley can be seen with the Mt. Jomolhari and other snowcapped mountains behind the valley.
Bumdrak Monastery Hike
Bumdra Monastery, known as the cave of prayers from 100,000 dakinis, is situated at 3800m/12467ft above sea level. The monastery offers a space for meditation and unimpeded views of the Himalayan range.
The 3-4 hours’ hike to Bumdrak begins at Sang Choekor Lhakhang, which is a Buddhist College a 30 minute drive from Paro town. The trail undulates before the last steep section up to the pretty temple, which offers commanding views south over Paro and northwards to the snowcapped Himalayas.Most travelers prefer to camp at the summit for a night and descend via Paro Taktsang the following day.
Drugyel dzong or the Fortress of the Victorious Bhutanese was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 to commemorate his victory over marauding Tibetan armies and to guard the Paro valley against further aggressions. Though the fortress was destroyed by fire in 1951 and remained in ruins until restoration efforts began in 2016 commemorating the birth of the Crown Prince Gyalsey Jigme Namgyal Wangchuck. The black top road ends here and continues as a small path to the northern border area of Lingshi, home to yak herders. On clear days, the white peak of Mt. Jomolhari stands out behind its ramparts.
Ta Dzong Museum
Housed in a 17th century watch tower, it has a unique character and beautiful panoramic views over Paro Valley. Opened in 1968, its collection of fine arts, paintings and bronzes are famous. There are also textiles, jewellery, and handicrafts sections as well as galleries of stuffed animals and butterflies from Bhutan. The stamps’ hall is very popular and displays, among others, 3-D stamps, record stamps, silken stamps, embossed stamps and the famous triangular stamp depicting the yeti. The top floor of the Museum is a chapel containing a “tree” depicting the main figures of the four religious schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Paro Rinpung Dzong houses district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag. In the 15th century local people offered the crag of Hungrel at Paro to Lama Drung Drung Gyal, a descendant of Pajo Drugom Zhigpo. Drung Drung Gyal built a small temple there and later a five storied Dzong or fortress which was known as Hungrel Dzong. In the 17th century, his descendants, the lords of Hungrel, offered this fortress to the Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Namgyal, the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in recognition of his religious and temporal authority. In 1644 the Zhabdrung dismantled the existing dzong and laid the foundations of a new dzong. In 1646 the dzong was re-consecrated and established as the administrative and monastic center of the western region and it became known as Rinpung Dzong. The dzong is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.
Fun Fact : Some scenes in the 1993 film Little Buddha were filmed in this dzong.
Taktsang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest
Takstang Monasery, considered Bhutan’s most iconic landmark, is a temple complex perched on the side of a cliff at 3100m/10,170ft above sea level. It takes 3-5 hours from the base to reach the complex. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava arrived here riding a flying tigress to meditate in Taktsang Senge Samdup cave for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. Guru Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the tutelary deity of the country. The temple complex was first built in 1692, around the cave by Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye, the fourth Druk Desi. Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye is believed to be the reincarnation of Padmasambhava. It is believed that the builders of this monastery transported all the timbers up to these heights with assistance from dakinis or celestial beings. A fire ravaged the monastery in 1998 and it took the renovation team until 2005 to reconstruct it with the help of a cable lift. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen taktsang or “tiger lair” caves in which he meditated.