Location: West of Thimphu
Distance from Thimphu: 65 km (1 hr 30 mins)
Elevation: 2,250m, 7,382ft
Paro is a broad and beautiful valley with a very good network of road and is home to the Paro International Airport, the only port of arrival as well as departure by air for international tourists. Besides 199 Lhakhangs and 428 Chortens, the Ta Dzong which functioned as a sentinel tower in the olden days and is now the National Museum stands above the main fortress.
Comprising of 10 Geogs, Paro is one of the developed dzongkhags in the country. The Paro valley is very fertile with paddy, wheat, millet, potatoes, apple and seasonal vegetables grown as the main crops.
All the houses in Paro are archetypal with brightly painted traditional motifs on the walls and now, corrugated sheet metal roofs. The ground floor normally serves as a cattle barn and the upper floor as the living quarters. Large red phalluses painted on walls and doors are a common sight in Paro. Some decorate their houses with carved wooden phalluses crossed by a sword, and hanging them on the four corners of the house. It is in the Bhutanese belief that this mold will ward off evil from coming into the house.
The dzongkhag has a national highway that links to both Phuentsholing and Thimphu.
1. Paro Dzong
Also called the Rinpung Dzong, the Fortress of the Heap of Jewels, Paro Dzong was built in 1645 by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. It is an imposing square fortress, representative of typical dzong architecture, with a central tower and courtyards housing the administrative quarters and the monastic section.
2. Paro Tsechu Festival
The Tsechu is a religious festival that is celebrated in all the Dzongkhags. The performances last for three continuous days. The dances are performed in the courtyards of the Dzongs. 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.
3. Ta Dzong, the National Museum
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.
4. Kyichu Lhakhang
The temple dates back to the 7th century. According to the Bhutanese legend, Songtsen Genpo, 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.
5. Drukgyal Dzong
The Dzong of victorious Drukpas, was built in the 1960s to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan armies and to guard the Paro Valley against further aggressions. It is located 6 km away from Satsam Chorten. In 1951, it caught fire and was never repaired except for the shingled roof erected in 1985 to prevent further damage. It is now an empty shell, a place to meditate on the past. 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 (7,314 m) stands out behind its ramparts.
6. Taktsang Monastery (view from tourist cafeteria)
The excursion to Taktsang, the Tiger’s Nest is one of the highlights of the visit to Bhutan, and one of the most sacred places and a pilgrimage that every Bhutanese dreams of accomplishing. The monastery, perched on the steep cliff seems impossible to reach. But once there, you are tempted to rest, contemplate the view and enjoy the forest. The tiger’s Nest owes its name to the 8th century saint Padmasambhava who, according to myth, visited here mounted on a flying tiger. Also Known as Guru Rinpoche, he subdued the local deities and converted Paro to Buddhism. He is said to have meditated in the cave, now the lower floor of the monastery, and is enshrined in his fierce aspect of Dorji Droloe standing on a tiger.
7. Dungtse Lhakhang
Dungtse Lhakhang, the little 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. 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.
1. Bitekha Dzong (en route to Haa)
2. Some of the popular trek routes start and end in Paro (Jumolhari, Laya-Gasa Trek, Drukpath)..see Trekking in Bhutan