Paro is a small town in Bhutan that has several sites of historical importance scattered around the area. Richly decorated buildings housing small wooden shops, cafes, traditional restaurants… are a sight no one can miss. Anyone who loves to spend time in nature or has a passion for photography, Paro offers you some of the most picturesque scenes. Guru Padmasambhava, introducer of Buddhism to Bhutan is known to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks and three days at Paro Taktsang.
Paro is a historic town and has many sacred sites scattered throughout the valley. Around the beginning of the 10th century, Padmasambhava built a monastery overlooking the Paro valley. Again in 1644, Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan Buddhist Lama and unifier of Bhutan, built a larger monastery on the foundations of the older one. For hundreds of years, this monastery acted as a defense against the many invasions by the Tibetans.
Later, the Dzong was named Rinpung and in 1907, fire engulfed the Dzong and all its treasures were destroyed. As of today, the Paro Dzong houses a vast collection of sacred masks and costumes.
How to Reach
There is only one international airport (Paro Airport) in Bhutan and that is located in Paro, on the banks of the river Paro Chhu. Several airlines arrive and depart from this airport such as Druk Air, Buddha Air, Bhutan Airlines and Tashi Air. Druk Air serves both domestic and international locations like Bangkok, Delhi, Mumbai, Jakarta, Singapore, Kathmandu etc. Buddha Airlines also operates charter flights to Paro (just check availability). Bhutan Airlines also serves Paro every day from Kathmandu.
As for reaching Paro by bus, there are several buses that take you from India to Bhutan, passing through Phuentsholing. If you’re coming down from Kolkatta, it should take you nearly 30 hours to reach Paro. Although traveling by bus may not be heavier on your pocket, yet the journey is long and tiresome; most travelers prefer to reach by plane (comfortable and less time consuming).
Best Time to Visit
The ideal time to visit Paro would be in the months of September (beginning of autumn) to November when the air is clear and fresh. The months of January and February can get extremely cold and until April the climate is pleasant again. May to September months is when the humidity is at its highest and monsoon covers the valley. On cool winter and spring months (December to May) the range of temperature can be about 13 degrees Celsius on an average. And from June to August it can go up to about 22 degrees.
Clothes to Be Carried
As with any other travel destination, it depends on the period you plan to visit. If you plan to go in the warmer months, don’t forget to carry a light jacket to keep you warm during the night. Light occasional showers are common which causes the temperature to dip. As for winters, make sure you carry enough warm clothes including a scarf, thick warm jacket, a windbreaker, gloves, cap and warm boots or comfortable shoes that will also keep the cold away. And do not forget to pack a compact umbrella.
Place to Visit
Taktshang Goemba or the Tiger’s Nest is probably one of the most famous highlights of Paro. This is arguably the best tourist spot in Paro and is definitely not for the faint-hearted to visit. To reach this place, one has to make a steep mountain hike as there is no other way to access it. It is built on a cliff edge which is about 3000 meters above the sea level. The best part is that about halfway to the monastery you will also find a cafeteria with a view, also known as Taktsang Jakhang.
Constructed in 1525 by Ngawang Chogyel, this quiet and peaceful small town temple in Paro is also known as Tshongdoe Nakstang Temple or Tshongdoe Temple. Inside the temple, there is a statue of future Buddha, known as Jampa, in the seated posture. Although not very big, this temple does serve a big religious significance for the people of Bhutan.
Built in 1644, Paro Dzong, commonly known as Rinpun Dzong, is the administrative seat of the Paro district. Initially, it used to be a fortress with a watchtower. The original Dzong was destroyed by fire in 1907 and then again by an earthquake in 2015. It houses the head administrator, a monastic body, and about 200 monks.
Perched above the Paro Dzong, this cultural museum was established in 1968 and shows the history and culture of Bhutan through its exhibits. You’ll find a plethora of artifacts, paintings, sculptures depicting the rich heritage of Bhutan. There is also an extensive collection of Thangkas and masks also. The museum also has a 3-D map of Bhutan. A visit to this Museum is going to be well worth it.
Jangsta Dumtseg Lhakhang
Built by the great Buddhist saint Thang Tong Gyalpo, this is a very notable temple in Paro and it is mostly due to its form of a Chorten that makes it a rare sight in Bhutan. It is located in between the Paro valley and the Dopchari valley. It is a unique place to visit and is also privately owned.
If you happen to visit Druk Choeding, it’s well worth visiting the Archery Ground which happens to be nearby. And if there’s the traditional archery game being played, there’s nothing better than that. It’s a great experience to be visiting this archery ground as Archery is Bhutan’s national sport and the locals really seem to enjoy it a lot.
Paro Weekend Market
The colorful weekend bazaar is a must-visit for all those who would like to see some of Bhutan’s local products being sold. The market has a very traditional feel to it and is held only on Sundays. Mornings are the busiest. Although the vegetable produce is stored and sold throughout the week, the other unique products like organic Tsirang honey or dried jelly cow skin can only be seen and bought on Sundays.
Nyamai Zam, spanning the Paro Chhu river, is a traditional wooden bridge built below the Paro Dzong. The earlier bridge was washed away in 1969. The bridge even before that was manually removed during the time of war in order to protect the Dzong. And this footbridge has a length of about 0.02 km. Head to the west bank of the Paro Chhu river if you want to take some of the most beautiful pictures.
Pelri Goemba is an ancient Nyingmapa inspired chapel which is a 15-minute uphill hike or a short drive from the south-east of Paro. Although bigger in size, this chapel was reduced to a smaller one following a rift with the dominant Kagyu school of thought.
Built in the memory of the first King of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck, there are five square chortens built on the road at the foot of Paro Dzong. These five chortens may not be on your must-visit list but visiting it and seeing the history behind it makes you wonder in amazement.
Ugyen Pelri Palace
Enclosed by a perimeter wall, the Ugyen Pelri Thang Palace is located in a secluded wooden compound on the south side of the Paro Chhu river. It was built around 1930 by the then Governor Paro Penlop Tshering Penjor. Right on the road beside the Ugyen Pelri Palace, you will see the five chortens built for Ugyen Wangchuk.
The historic town of Bhutan with many sacred sites and historical buildings, the small area of Paro never ceases to amaze the traveler in you. If you are a nature-lover, curious of the town’s history and don’t mind spending some quiet and peaceful time marveling in nature’s lap, Paro is the destination that should absolutely be on your must-visit list.
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