Paro Town: Elevation 2,280m
The broad Paro valley is the entry point for all visitors flying into Bhutan on the national carrier, Druk Air. As the plane takes a dramatic sweep into Paro, the flight captain usually warns relieved passengers not to worry if the aircraft’s wings appear to be almost touching the mountainsides.
WHAT TO SEE IN PARO
DRUKGYEL DZONG: This Dzong, with a delightful village nestling at its foot, was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan invaders led by Mongolion Warlord, Gushri Khan. Historically and strategically this Dzong withstood all its glory and had captured western eyes in 1914 vide National Geographic magazine. The glory of Drukgyel Dzong remained even when it was destroyed by fire in 1951. On a clear day, one can see the commanding view of Mount Chomolhari from the village, below the Dzong.
RINPUNG DZONG: Also known as “fortress of the heap of jewels”, it was built during the time of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called the Nemi Zam. A walk through the bridge to the Dzong, over a stone inlaid path, offers a good view of the architechtural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it. It is also venue of the Paro Tshechu, held once a year in spring.
TA DZONG: On a ridge immediately above the Rinpung Dzong is the Ta Dzong, built in 1951 as a watchtower. Unlike the rectangular shape of the Dzongs, Ta Dzong is round, more like parts of a European castle. Since 1967 the Dzong was re-established as the National Museum and holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps.
KYICHU LHAKHANG: The origin of Kyichu Lhakhang dates back to the seventh century, it is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of Bhutan (the other is Jambey Lhakhang in Bumthang). Kyichu Lhakhang is composed of twin temples, the first temple was built by Buddhist Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century and in 1968, H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, arranged for a second temple to be built alongside the first one, in same style.
FARM HOUSE: Bhutanese farmhouses are colorful, decorative and traditionally built without any nails or iron bars. Majority of the houses are with three stories, first floor is utilized for sheltering cattle, second floor for the family to live in and the top for storing and drying of foods and fodder for animal. Almost all the farmhouses follow the same architectural pattern. A visit to farmhouse is interesting and provides you with an experience to the daily life of average Bhutanese.
DAY HIKE IN PARO
Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest): The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue our hike for short while until we see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the Taktsang monastery. Dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric master who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, had taken the wrathful form of Guru Dorji Drolo to subdue the demon that were obstructing the spread of Buddhism in the Himalayas. On the left side of the monastery is the retreat place where the famous Tibetan Yogi Mache Lhabdenma attained enlightenment.
Kila Goenpa: Nestled in a craggy patch on the mountainside below the Chele la pass and perched precariously along the rock face. This small nunnery is home to many nuns who have renounced their worldly life and have chosen to lead the path of enlightenment. The Temple is about an hour walk amidst magnificent wooded area.
Jele Dzong: The ruin is situated at an altitude of 3450m above Paro valley. In the medieval times people often travel from one corner of Bhutan to another on foot and on horses. The Jele Dzong use to give food and shelter during the night halts made by these travellers. The hike to Jele Dzong is five hours walk from the Jeshegang village. 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 views of the sun setting over the Himalayan peaks if you reach early.