Paro valley extends from the confluence of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom upto Mt. Jomolhari 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 amphitheatre 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 14th century. Among them is the temple that is considered Bhutan’s most iconic landmark Taktsang Monastery, the Tiger’s Nest. This awe-inspiring temple was constructed upon a sheer cliff face, hundreds of meters above forests of oak and rhododendrons and the valley floor. Dzongdrakha Temple and Kila Gompa are secondary examples of cliff-side temples that are also located in Paro Dzongkhag.
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.
Paro is also home to the National museum. The museum is set in Paro Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower that now displays hundreds of ancient Bhutanese artifacts and artwork including traditional costumes, armour, weaponry and handcrafted implements for daily life. The collection at the National Museum preserves a snap-shot of the rich cultural traditions of the country.
Paro (alt. 2200m/7218ft) - The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan's oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country's only airport. Mount. Jhomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valley in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields.
Drukgyel Dzong was a fortress and Buddhist monastery, built by Tenzin Drukdra in 1649. It was built at the behest of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, to commemorate victory over an invasion from Tibet. Located in the upper part of the Paro District, Overlooking the majestic mount Jomolhari, the 16th century Fort is now in ruins. In the early 1950s, Drukgyel Dzong was almost completely destroyed by fire. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO world heritage site inclusion.
Located about 15 km away from Paro Main Town, one can see The Mt.Jomolhari at the background of these ruins of Drukgyel Dzong.
In 2016, to celebrate the birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey(the crown prince), as well as to commemorate two other significant events, namely, the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to Bhutan in 1616 AD and the birth year of Guru Rinpoche, the Prime Minister Lyonchen Tshering Tobgay announced that the Dzong will be rebuilt and reinstated to its former glory. The announcement and ground breaking ceremony took place a day after the Prince was born.
It is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of the Kingdom dating back to 7th century (the other is Jambey Lhakahng in Bumthang). The lhakhang complex is composed of two temples. The first temple was built by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century and in 1968, H.M. Ashi Kesang, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, built the second temple in original pattern.
Paro Taktsang is the popular name of Taktsang Palphug Monastery (also known as Tiger's Nest). It is a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex, located in the Cliffside of the upper Paro valley. The monastery is located 10 km north of Paro town and hangs on a precipitous cliff at about 900 metres (3,000 ft) above the Paro valley.
A temple complex was first built in 1692, around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated in the 8th century. Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the tutelary deity of the country. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen taktsang or "tiger lair" caves in which he meditated.
On April 19, 1998, a fire broke out in the main building of the monastery complex, which contained valuable paintings, artefacts and statues. The restoration works were undertaken at an estimated cost of Nu. 135million. In 2005, The Royal Government of Bhutan oversaw the restoration of the damaged monastery and its contents.
The monastery buildings consist of four main temples and residential shelters ideally designed by adapting to the rocky ledges, the caves and the rocky terrain. Out of the eight caves, four are comparatively easy to access. The cave where Padmasmabhava first entered, riding the Tiger, is known as 'Tholu Phuk' and the original cave where he resided and did meditation are known as the 'Pel Phuk'. He directed the spiritually enlightened monks to build the monastery here. The monastery is so precariously perched that it is said: "it clings to the side of the mountain like a gecko". All the buildings are interconnected through steps and stairways made in rocks. There are a few rickety wooden bridges along the paths and stairways also to cross over.
National Museum of Bhutan is a cultural museum in the town of Paro in western Bhutan. It was established in 1968, in the renovated ancient Ta-dzong building, above Rinpung Dzong. The Museum sits on a hill top, overlooking the Paro valley. It offers a Paranomic view of the Paro valley. The necessary infrastructure was created to house some of the finest specimens of Bhutanese art, including masterpieces of bronze statues and paintings. Suitable galleries were constructed to house the extensive collections. Works of art were elegantly displayed on scientific lines.
Today the National Museum houses more than 3,000 piece of Bhutanese art, hosting more than 1,500 years of Bhutan's cultural heritage. The museum’s rich collection of various creative traditions and disciplines represent a remarkable blend of the past with the present and is a major attraction for local and foreign visitors.
The Museum is located on the hill behind the Paro Dzong. Open from 9 am to 4pm everyday except Mondays and some national holidays, a visit takes a good hour. On Sundays, it opens only at 11 am. 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.
Located along the Paro Chhu in NeymeZampa in Paro, The Paro Dzong also known as the Paro Rinpung Dzong is the second largest tourist attraction in Paro valley after Taktsang monastery. Rinpung means “the fortress of the heap of jewels”. It houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro District. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion. The Dzong was consecrated and established by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal in 1646 as the administrative and monastic center of the western region and it became known as "Rinpung Dzong".
The annual Paro Tshechu is held in this Dzong and attracts people from all over the country. Over the years Many Bollywood and Thai movies were shot in Paro such as the 1993 film Little Buddha and recent movie 15th park avenue.
To the west of the road is Dungtse Lhakhang, a chorten-like temple. This unusual building was built in 1433 by the iron bridge builder Thangtong Gyalpo. It has three floors representing hell, earth and heaven and the paintings inside are said to be some of the best in Bhutan.
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. It was restored in 1841 by the 25th Head Abbot of Bhutan, Sherab Gyeltshen and 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.
Dzongdrakha Gompa is often called as mini Taktsang. Dzongdrakha is a cliff-side temple complex on the western side of the Paro Valley. Four shrines make up the complex, dedicated to Drolma (Tara), Tsheringma(Goddess of Longevity), Guru Rinpoche and the Buddha of the Future(Maitreya).
Local oral tradition states that when Guru Rinpoche first came to Bhutan, he came from Nepal, first landing at Drakarpo, and then Dzongdrakha before arriving at Taktshang (Tiger's Nest) farther north up the valley. Located approx. 20 minute drive from Paro, these temples are built on a cliff above Bondey village but the walk is not as strenuous as Taktshang. From the road, it takes only about 30 minutes’ walk to reach here, through forests of rhododendron and oak trees with white monkeys on it.
Dzongdrakha also hosts an annual Tshechu (festival) that takes place the day before and the day after the larger Paro Tshechu held at Rinpung Dzong near the main town. During the festival at Dzongdrakha, one of the main blessings takes place when the Chorten (stupa) of the past Buddha is opened so that attendees are blessed by the relic held within. The Dzongdrakha village has numerous temples and is known for most of their men being either fully ordained monks or Gomchen (lay monks who don’t take vows of celibacy). Ironically it is the women who work in the fields and are the bread earners unlike in any other part of the country.
Ugyen Pelri Palace is in a secluded wooded compound on the south side of the river just west of the Dzong. This Palace was built by the Paro Penlop, Tsering Penjor, in the early 1900s. It is designed after Guru Rinpoche's celestial paradise, Zangto Pelri, and is one of the most beautiful examples of Bhutanese architecture. It is widely believed that the palace used to be on wheel hence it is popular known among the bhutansese as “the palace on wheels”.
Located behind Paro Dzong, this small temple is home to a magnificent statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that was carried all the way from Lhasa and also houses the protector deity of Paro. Legend has it that the statue of Sakyamuni was destined for Paro Dzong and merely placed in the temple for overnight safe keeping. However, when the time came to move the statue, it proved impossible to lift. As a result, it became a permanent feature of the lhakhang.
Located along the Paro – Thimphu highway, across the Paro river is the Tamchog Lhakhang, also known as Tachogang. The monastery was built by the great Tibetan saint, Thangtong Gyalpo, who is best known as the founder of the Tibetan opera. Thangtong Gyalpo was a great Buddhist master, yogi, physician, blacksmith and an architect. He is said to have built 58 iron chain suspension bridges in the late fourteenth and early 15th century.
In order to get to the temple one must cross an iron chain bridge, one of the few remaining of the many that Thangthong Gyalpo built.
This is a private temple, however tourists are allowed to visit if they are given permission. Crossing this very old bridge with its swaying and undulating movements can be quite an experience.
The temple’s location on the ridge and the high rocky barren hills which serve as it’s backdrop makes this a good location to take pictures.
The beauty of Paro valley is embellished by cluster of quaint farm houses. Bhutanese farm houses are very colorful, decorative and traditionally built without the use of single nail. All houses follow the same architectural pattern. A visit to Farm House is very interesting and offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.