Paro valley spreads from the Chuzom conflux of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers to Mt. Jomolhari to the North. This picturesque region with widest valleys of Bhutan and is covered in bountiful rice and paddy fields with a beautiful clear river snaking through the valley.
Highlighting the beautiful landscape there are numerous graceful, traditional Bhutanese communities that mark the gorge and adjacent hills. Paro district has grown rapidly in contemporary ways and there are adequate cafeterias, bakeries, and coffee shops to choose from. One of the typical features of Paro town is that it is positioned in a smooth valley and trails a step-like pattern. The central town is decorated with a giant prayer helm and a small arena at which occasions such as performances are regularly planned. People frequently devote few days in Paro as neighboring 155 temples and monasteries has delightful celebrations year round, some dating back to 14th century AD.
Amongst them is the holy place that is reflected Bhutan’s premier iconic ground-breaking Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). This is an awesome place of religious zeal built upon a steep cliff location, above hundreds of meters directly above afforests of oak and rhododendrons valley floor. Kila Gompa and Dzongdrakha Shrine are another models of cliff-side shrines that are also found in Paro district.
Bhutan’s first international airport a gateway to Bhutan is also situated in Paro. There are the many luxurious, high-end tourist lodging facilities in the proximities of the airport and lots of historical and religious sites in Paro district.
Paro has Bhutan’s National Museum called Paro Ta Dzong, an ancient lookout post displaying many prehistoric Bhutanese artifacts and painting including old-fashioned costumes, a suit of armor, arsenal and handcrafted gears. The assemblage at the Ta dzong Museum reserves a glimpse of the cultural backgrounds of the country dating back to pre-historic date.
Paro (elevation. 2200m/7218ft) - a gorgeous gorge of Paro summarizes within itself a rich ethos, scenic exquisiteness and many mythologies and traditions. Housing to numerous Bhutan's ancient holy place and religious foundation. Jhomolhari peak (7,314m) symbolizing white glory at the northerly horizon of the gorge and its ice-cold water rush through profound valleys to join Pa Chhu (river). Paro is also among the best productive valleys in the territory generating a majority of the famed red rice in its terraced cultivation fields.
Drukgyel Dzong is a giant fortress and religious landmark built by Tenzin Drukdra in 1649 AD. The 16th-century fortification is now in ruins but reconstruction is halfway and its just 15 km away from Paro town. Drukgyel Dzong is at the north side of Paro District, perfect location to view of the magnificent Mount Jomolhari in a clear day. Drukgyel Dzong was completely damaged by fire back in early 1950. Constructed with the directive of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, to celebrate the triumph over Tibet invasion. It is a tentative location in nation’s tentative list for world heritage site UNESCO.
To mark the birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey Namgay Wangchuk (the crown prince), and to commemorate significant events of the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and the year of birth of Guru Rinpoche, current Prime Minister Lyonchen Tshering Tobgay announced to reinstated the Drugyal Dzong to its past glory. The groundbreaking ritual was conducted the very next day after the Prince was born in 2016.
The Kyichu Lhakhang is oldest and considered most holy shrines of Bhutan, built during 7th century AD by Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo to tame Himalayan evil spirit. Out of 108 temples, 2 temples are found in Bhutan, another is Jambey Lhakhang of Bumthang built in the same day. The temple is believed to conceal many spiritual treasures of Guru Padmasambhava. The Queen Mother of the Nation, Her Majesty Ashi Kesang, under her patronage constructed the additional temple of the same design. It is said that the orange trees in the patio of Kyichu Lhakhang bear fruit all through the year.
Paro Taktsang is the famously known in history as Taktsang Palphug Monastery (or Tiger's Nest). It is a remarkable Himalayan Buddhist sanctified site and holy place composite, positioned in the Cliffside towards the north of Paro vale. The Taktshang Lhakhang is about 10 km north of Paro town and it hangs on an impassably steep cliff at about 900 meters (3,000 ft) above the Paro valley.
According to religious account, Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) hovered to this site from Tibet on the back of a According to religious account, Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) hovered to this site from Tibet on the back of a Flying tigress in a form of Dorji Drolo from Khenpajong to pacify the demon terrorizing the valley.
A Taktshang Lhakhang was built in 1692 by the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgy, in the same cave where Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) have meditated in the 8th century. Guru Padmasambhava taught Buddhism religion to Bhutan, he is the tutelary of Bhutan. The Paro Tsechu is celebrated in the Paro vale during the month of March or April in honor of Guru Padmasambhava. Today, Paro Taktsang has become the icon of Bhutan.
The Government of Bhutan administered the restoration monastery when the fire ruined the main complex on April 19, 1998. Valuable paintings, artifacts, and statues were restored cost was Nu. 135million. It was believed the fire was caused by electrical short-circuiting.
The Tigers Nest Monastery consists of four focal temples and housing accommodations designed by adjusting to the rocky ledges, the caves, and the rocky environment. Out of the eight caves, 4 caves are easy to access. The cave where Guru Padmasambhava 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'. Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) directed the 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 of rocks.
National Museum of Bhutan is a cultural national museum within the town of Paro in Bhutan. The Ta Dzong National Musem was established in 1968, after the renovating historic Ta-dzong watchtower, above primary Paro Rinpung Dzong. The Museum sits on a hilltop, overlooking the Paranomic view of the Paro valley. The needed infrastructure was created to accommodate only the best specimens of Bhutanese artwork, together with masterpieces of bronze statues and paintings. Suitable galleries have been constructed to accommodate the intensive collections of works of art have been elegantly displayed on systematic strains.
Today the National Museum houses more than 3,000 items of Bhutanese artwork, hosting more than 1,600 years of Bhutan's cultural heritage. The museum’s rich collection of assorted artistic traditions and disciplines characterize an exceptional mix of the past with the present and is a serious attraction for native and overseas guests.
The Museum is located on the hill behind the Paro Dzong opens from 9 am in the morning to 4 pm in the evening every day except Mondays and some national holidays, a visit would take a good hour. On Sundays, it opens only at 11 am. Put up during 17th-century a magnificent watchtower converted as a national museum in the year in 1968, its collection of fine arts, paintings and bronzes are famous in Bhutan. There are also textiles, galleries for arms and armor, handicrafts, decorative arts, manuscripts, paintings, philatelic items, textiles, numismatic, anthropology, bronzes, jewelry, a good sections of galleries of butterflies and stuffed animals from Bhutan. The stamps’ hall is perfect for stamp enthusiasts where you will see displays of oldest stamps, 3-D stamps, silken stamps, recorded stamps, beautifully embossed stamps, and the legendary triangular stamp depicting the Yeti. The uppermost floor of the National Museum is an altar comprising a “tree” portraying the main figures of the four spiritual schools of early Tibetan Buddhism.
Paro Ringpung Dzong (fortress) is sited just alongside the Paro Chhu opposite to Paro town above NeymeZampa in Paro. The commonly called Paro Dzong is also known as the Paro Rinpung Dzong, the subsequent largest tourist attraction in Paro district after Taktsang monastery (Tigers Nest Monastery). Rinpung meaning “the castle of the stack of jewels”. It is home to the Paro’s Monastic Group and government administrative administrative center of Paro District. The dzong is considered as one of Bhutan's tentative site to be registered as UNESCO World Heritage site. The Paro Dzong was sanctified and established by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal in 1646 as the administrative and monastic center of the western region and it was called as "Rinpung Dzong".
The annual Paro Tshechu is held in this Paro Dzong’s courtyard and it attracts people from all over the country. Over the years many international documentaries, Bollywood, and Thai movie industry shot scenes near Paro dzong, such as the 1993 film Little Buddha and recent movie 15th park avenue.
West side of the Paro town will lead you to Dungtse Lhakhang, a chorten-like temple founded by Thang Tong Gyalpo. This rare stupa like temple was constructed in 1433 AD by the Thang Tong Gyalpo was also known as an iron bridge builder. The interior of the Lhakhang has three levels representing religious dimensions purgatories, earth, and paradise, the paintings on the walls are considered the best of all in Bhutan.
Thangtong Gyelpo constructed the Jangtsa Dungtse Lhakhang to subdue the evil monster, it is said the foundation was laid on the head of the ogress. During 1841 the 25th Head Abbot of Bhutan his holiness Sherab Gyeltshen restored the Lhakhang with the help of rich donors of Paro, the names can be seen engraved on the wooden columns of the ground floor.
Men of strong physique and strength called “Nya goe” were hired during the construction to lift the huge columns used in the temple. According to folklore, the founder (Thang Tong Gyalpo) himself appeared in the form of five vultures and orbited the temple for blessings afore then flew to Tibet. You can still witness the central post (utse), the highpoint of the temple, chained from four directions. It is believed that while the sanctification was being performed the central tower moved, make an effort to fly to Tibet. Hence to stop it from its flight the central tower was shackled down.
This Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang is one of a kind in Bhutan, the paintings in the temple show the progressive phases of the Tantric Buddhist way of life and important figures of Drukpa Kagyupa holy beings.
Dzongdrakha Gompa is often called as mini Taktsang, situated is a cliff-side temple complex on the western side of the Paro Valley. Dzongdrakha Gompa comprises 4 shrines 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 Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) first visited Bhutan via Nepal, first landing at Drakarpo, and then Dzongdrakha before arriving at Taktshang (Tiger's Nest) further up north of the valley. Located few miles drive from Paro town, these shrines are built on a steep cliff right above the Bondey village, perfect location to take a walk. It is not strenuous as Paro Taktshang hike. From the road, it takes only about 30 minutes’ walk to reach here, through forests of rhododendron and oak trees with white monkeys along the way.
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 an isolated woody traditional complex on the south-west side of the Paro Ringpung Dzong. This beautiful palace was built under the direction of the Paro Penlop (Governor of the Province), Tsering Penjor, in the early 19th Century. It is intended to replicate Guru Rinpoche's spiritual paradise (celestial abode) and it is also an exemplary model of Bhutan’s architecture design. It is said the palace used to be on wheel hence it is commonly known among the Bhutanese as “the palace on wheels”.
Jangsarbu Lhakhang right around the corner of Paro town is a small ancient temple, the highlight of your visit is a glorious statue of Sakyamuni Lord Buddha meant for Paro Dzong. The giant statue was brought from Lhasa (Tibet) in centuries ago and the temple also has a statue of guardian deity of Paro valley. The giant statue of Sakyamuni Buddha was intended for overnight safekeeping where Jangsarbu Lhakhang is seated. According to legend, when the time came to move the statue, it proved impossible to simply lift. Hence, it became a permanent home and the temples sacred relic.
Tachog Lhakhang is on the way to Thimphu from Paro district, just a couple of minutes hike above Paro river. The monastery was built by the great Tibetan saint, Thang Tong Gyalpo, it is also known as Tamhogang Lhakhang. The saint is best known as the founder of the Tibetan opera. The Buddhist master Thangtong Gyalpo was also known for yogi wisdom, physician, blacksmith and an architect. As an architect, Thangtong Gyalpo built 58 iron shackle style suspension bridges in between 14 to the 15th century.
Tachog Lhakhang is a private shrine, still, tourists are permitted to visit if they are welcomed by the authority of the lhakhang. Crossing the Paro river over a very old bridge resilient yet swinging buoyantly can be quite an experience.
To visit Tachog Lhakhang you must cross an iron chain bridge located right next to the Paro-Thimphu Highway, the bridge is the few remaining of the many bridges that were built by Saint Thangthong Gyalpo.
The shrine’s site is on the crest of rocky barren hills, it has perfect backdrop making it ideal setting to take pictures that will give an ambiance of Busshist Himalaya.
The traditional Bhutanese houses with a stunning display of artistry are shaped to perfection using pine wood elaborated by a cluster of appealing farmhouses of Paro valley. Bhutanese farmhouses offer traditional meals and add traditional-hospitality of native Parops in decorative and traditionally built without the use of a single nail. Farmhouses follow the same design of the regular house, visiting it gives an interesting idea of regular farmers lifestyle of Bhutan.