The picturesque valley of Paro welcomes you whenever you fly to Bhutan. Paro is one of the western districts of Bhutan and has many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered through the district. Paro is a home to Bhutan’s only International Airport.
Following are the list of sites and activities you must include in your itinerary when you travel to Bhutan. Your travel agent may have some surprises in the list too.
1. Paro International Airport
First thing first. Landing on the soil of Bhutan is breathtaking. Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan and also one of the most dangerous airports in the world.
For its location in a valley of 2,235 meters above sea level, surrounded by mountains as high as 5,500 meters, the performance of the airplane is affected and restricted. Only 8 pilots are certified to land at the airport.
Established as an airstrip by Border Roads Organization of India in 1968, the airport began its operation in 1983 with landing of the first 18-seat Dornier 228-200.
2. Rinpung Dzong
The plane lands safe. What’s next? You will see a majestic Paro Rinpung Dzong.
A bit history! Drung Drung Gyal built a temple on the crag of Hungrel in the 15th Century. His descendants offered the temple Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th Century.
In 1644, Zhabdrung dismantled the temple, built a new Dzong as the administrative and monastic center of the western region. The Dzong was named Paro Rinpung Dzong (Heap of Jewels Dzong) and appointed Tenzin Drukdra as the 1st Paro Poenlop (governor) after the construction of the Dzong was completed.
3. Ta Dzong
Ta Dzong, the round watch tower was built in 1649 by 1st Paro Poenlop Tenzin Drukdra to protect the Rinpung Dzong as the Dzong received assaults from Tibet. It was renovated in 1968 and turned into the National Museum of Bhutan.
The museum displays significant artifacts representing history and culture from all over the Bhutan. It is also involved in exhibition, publications and conservation of artifacts.
4. Paro Town
Paro town is better explored on foot. Initially, the town was made up of two storied traditional houses built with stones, mud and wood. The town began seeing new modern buildings but not a complete modern. The law requires all buildings to have a traditional design.
The street has huge number of handicraft and garment shops. There are quite a good number of cafes and restaurants with bar where you can relax.
5. Paddy Field
According to your travel itinerary, you may halt in Paro or leave for other destinations. In both cases, beautiful paddy fields will welcome you.
Rice is a staple food of Bhutan and paddy is cultivated largely for the domestic consumption. Growing paddy adds changing colors to the nature. Spring and summer offers green while autumn offers golden colored paddy, a sign of harvest time. Dry and empty paddy field in winter also makes landscape beautiful.
If you are lucky, you will sight beautiful lady farmers. They sing while they work.
6. Paro Chu
In case you decide to make a halt in Paro, a walk along the Paro Chu is another breathtaking experience. The river flows through the Paro Valley making Paro Picturesque.
Not only can you enjoy the cool and fresh breeze of the glacial river, if you are keen, you can take kayaks and rafts. The river is suitable for kayaks and rafts.
7. Drukgyal Dzong
Drukgyal Dzong (Dzong of Victory) was built by Tenzin Drukdra in 1649 to commemorate victory over an invasion from Tibet. Since then, the Dzong was used as a summer residence by the Ringpung Manastic Body.
1951, the Dzong was completely damaged by fire and only the debris were left. The reconstruction of the dzong began in 2016 to commemorate the Royal Birth, the 400th anniversary of Zhabdrung’s arrival in Bhutan, and Guru Rinpochey’s birth year.
8. Dumtseg Temple
The very rare stupa styled temple was built in 1421 by Thangtong Gyalpo, popularly known as Chagzampa who built 8 iron bridges across Bhutan. It was to subdue the demon that was located on the foundation of the temple and to proclaim the victory of Buddhism.
In 1841, the 25th Jekhenpo Sherab Gyentshen renovated the temple.
9. Kyichu Temple
The Temple of Kyichu is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo. It is considered to be one of the 108 temples he built in a day. Of numerous saints and masters who expanded in size and grandeur, the 25th Jekhenpo Sherab Gyentshen restored the temple in 1839. In 1968, Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck built the second temple alongside the first.
10. Chelee La Pass
Located at 3810 meters, Chelee La Pass is the highest road pass in the country. The pass connects Paro to Valley of Haa. The distance of the pass from Paro is 35 km from Paro and 26 km from Haa on the Bondey-Haa Highway.
On clear days, if you are luck, you can witness the spectacular views of Mount Jumolhari, Jichu Drake, other northern peaks and also the Paro and Haa valleys.
If you are bike enthusiast, bike ride to Chelee La Pass is truly adventurous.
11. Taktshang Temple
The last but not the least, a hike to Taktshang Temple is a must-do in Bhutan but only towards the end of your itinerary for your health and wellbeing.
The image of the temple is used to represent Bhutan to the outside world and is the most visited site in Bhutan by tourists, pilgrims and locals.
To get to the temple, the hike takes about 3 to 4 hours. If you cannot hike the entire way, you can hire a horse to carry you.
Popularly known as the Tiger’s Nest, Taktshang Monastery hangs on a precarious cliff at 3,120 metres. Tenzin Rabgye, the fourth Desi, built a temple devoted to Guru Padmasambhava in 1692.
Padmasambhava, in the 8th century, is said to have flown on to this site on back of tigress from Singye Dzong, Lhuntse.
In 1998, a fire broke out in the main building of the monastery. Restoration works were immediately undertaken at by the Royal under the guidance His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.