Paro is a valley town in Bhutan, west of the capital, Thimphu. It is the site of the country’s only international airport and is also known for the many sacred sites in the area.Paro valley extends from the confluence of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom up to 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 elegant, traditional-style houses that dot the valley and surrounding hills. 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 where events are held throughout the year.
There are over 155 temples and monasteries in the area, some dating as far back as the 14th century. The country’s first and only international airport is also located in the region. Its close proximity to the historical and religious sites in the region has resulted in the development of an array of luxurious, high-end tourist resorts making Paro one of the main destinations for visitors. The region contains one of Bhutan’s most iconic landmarks Taktsang Monastery, the Tiger’s Nest. This awe-inspiring temple was constructed upon a sheer cliff face, above forests of oak and rhododendrons. The national museum, Ta Dzong, is also set in Paro. An ancient watchtower that displays hundreds of ancient Bhutanese artefacts 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. Another site worth visiting in Paro is Drugyel Dzong or The Fortress of the Victorious Bhutanese. It was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 to commemorate his victory over marauding Tibetan armies. The fortress was destroyed by fire in 1951 but the ruins remain an impressive and imposing sight.
Taktsang Lhakhang is Bhutan’s most iconic landmark and religious site. The name Taktsang translates to “The Tiger’s Nest”. This temple is one of the most holy sites in the kingdom and clings impossibly to a sheer cliff face 900 meters above the Paro Valley. It was first built in 1692 at a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 7th century A.D. Legend states that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in order to subdue evil demons residing within it. The cave has been considered a sacred site ever since and many famous saints have travelled to meditate in it. Taktsang Lhakhang is located approximately 10 km north of Paro town at an altitude of 3.120 m. In order to arrive at the temple visitors must trek for around 2-3 hours through beautiful, shady pine forests. No trip to Bhutan would be complete without a visit to this remarkable heritage site.
The museum is set in Paro Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower that now displays hundreds of ancient It was built in 1649 to protect the undefended dzong and renovated in 1968 to house the National Museum. The unusual round building is said to be in the shape of a conch shell, with 2.5m-thick walls. The Ta Dzong suffered damage in the 2011 earthquake but is due to reopen in 2016 as the nation's premier museum. Until then a sample of the exhibits are currently on display in an adjacent annexe. Displays include an impressive collection of thangkas, both ancient and modern, depicting Bhutan's important saints and teachers, as well as fearsome festival masks grouped according to their tsechu dances. There's a natural-history gallery with a 3D map of Bhutan, while the Heritage Gallery contains such oddities as an egg laid by a mule and a horse horn attributed to Guru Rinpoche, plus a few original iron links from the iron bridge at Tamchhog
Rinchen Pung Dzong means 'Fortress on a Heap of Jewels,' once served as the meeting hall for the National Assembly. Now, Rinpung houses both the monastic body and district government offices, including the local courts. Most of the area is prohibited for the tourists. Famous as Paro Dzong, it was built in 1644 under the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the holder of Drukpa- Kagyud Buddhist School, and the unifier of Bhutan. This dzong has been used on various occasions to protect Paro from the invasion of Tibet. This fort is built on a hillside due to which the front courtyard of the administrative section is 6 m higher than the portion of monastic courtyard. Outside the dzong is the ground where dancers perform the popular dance forms of tsechu. Below the dzong is a traditional wooden bridge called Nyamai Zam, which was reconstructed when the original one got washed away in a flood in 1969.
Kyichu Lhakhang is one of Bhutan's oldest and most beautiful temples. The temple is popularly believed to have been built in 659 by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet, to pin down the left foot of a giant ogress who was thwarting the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. Elderly pilgrims constantly shuffle around the temple spinning its many prayer wheels, making this one of the most charming spots in the valley. The third king's wife, Ashi Kesang Wangchuck, sponsored the construction of the Guru Lhakhang in 1968. It contains a 5m-high statue of Guru Rinpoche and another of Kurukulla (Red Tara), holding a bow and arrow made of flowers. To the right of Guru Rinpoche is a chorten containing the ashes of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the revered Nyingma Buddhist master and spiritual teacher of the queen mother, who passed away in 1992, and was cremated nearby. There is a statue of him to the left, as well as some old photos of the fourth king's grandmother and the first king of Bhutan.
Drukgyel Dzong which translates to the fortress of victory is a famous archaeological site in Bhutan, situated on a ridge in the upper Paro. Now in ruins, the dzong was built in 1649 to mark Bhutan’s victory over the Tibetan forces. There are mixed theories on who built this dzong though. Few researchers believe that it was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal himself to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan army in 1649. While few believe it was Tenzin Drugda, Paro’s Penlop at the time, built it at the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Since its construction, Drukgyel served as a significant base for defence in the region when it got burned out in 1951 by fire. Even after this, the Dzong continued as an imperative monument connecting Bhutanese people with the events that led to the maintenance of country’s sovereignty. It also used to be the summer residence of Ringpung Rabdey. If weather permits, Bhutan’s holy peak, Mt. Jumolhari, can be seen in the backdrop.
Tamchog lhakhang is temple that is dedicated to the 13th century saint Thangthong Gyalpo, the bridge builder. This temple is located across the river from the Paro to Thimphu. 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. A new temple at Tachogang was built in the seventeenth century by the Fourth Druk Desi Tendzin Rabgye, as the original was destroyed after it served as the main seat for the Five Groups of Lamas, a coalition of local leaders who had opposed the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.