Things to Visit and Do In Paro, Bhutan

Things to Visit and Do In Paro, Bhutan

Containing the tiny nation’s only international airport, the city of Paro is many tourists’ first glimpse of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan – and there could not have been a better introduction. The planes land straight into the lap of peaceful serenity, lush greenery, and a way of life and living that has been preserved carefully over the centuries, such that everything Bhutan is, is purely Bhutanese.  Dating back to the 17th century, the city of Paro emerged, like many others in Bhutan, after the site became a place for religious monasteries and other buildings. With a rich history, stunning topography, and vibrant culture, Paro delights visitors with numerous sites and destinations. These include – 

  • The Paro Airport Viewing Point – What is it like to navigate a plane successfully through the Himalayan mountains and weather, and then place the giant bird safely onto a very, very small runway? Incredibly difficult. Considered to be one of the most challenging commercial landings in the world, the Paro Airport has less than a dozen qualified pilots cleared to fly planes to it. No wonder then, that simply watching the planes come and go is a very exhilarating experience. The airport viewing point not only enables you to watch this act of daredevilry, but it also provides a beautiful view of the airport and how it has been successfully integrated to become a part of the hillside and its architecture.
  • Taktsang Monastery – The subject of some of the most iconic photos of the Land of the Thunder Dragon, the Tiger’s Nest monastery, or Taktsang, is perhaps the most famous tourist site of all of Bhutan. A two hour trek through the stunning countryside leads up to a monastery complex perched on the edge of a hill, resplendent in the typical white-red-black and gold of the Bhutanese architecture. Associated with the legends of Padmasambhava, one of the most revered Buddhist masters of the country, a visit to the Tiger’s Nest is a delightful combination of physical exercise, spiritual retreat, and a joyful experience for the senses.
  • National Museum – As a country, Bhutan has made every effort to ensure that its culture is not only preserved, but also accessible to the outside world. One such endeavour is Paro’s National Museum. Located in an old watch tower, the Museum houses artefacts dating back to 4000 BCE. Also on display are the national dresses of Bhutan, the jewels people commonly wear, and numerous works of fine arts and handicrafts. As a bonus, the location of the Museum means that people can also go out and enjoy a panoramic view of the Paro valley.
  • Chele La Pass – The highest point of Bhutan through which a car can be driven through, the Chele La pass is a two hour drive from the city of Paro, and a must see area when navigation through Bhutan. Connecting the Haa Valley with Paro, the road has an elevation of 13,000 meters, and provides a view that cannot be compared with any other. The prayer flags placed all around lend an aura of peace and serenity to the region. In times of good weather, high points of the Himalayan range, such as Mount Jumolhari (22,000 feet). As the pass is reached through dense forestry, nature lovers would enjoy the journey a lot.

  • Richen Pung Dzong – An impressive stronghold in the classical Himalayan style, the Richen Pung Dzong serves as an administrative building for the government of Bhutan, and was featured in the 1993 Hollywood production Little Buddha. Rich in history that can be untapped through guides and locals, the building is a great place to begin exploration of Paro. Like other tourist sites, it also has an enchanting natural scenery around it, and a path through which people can walk down the hill and to the river that flows by. Since the building is a governmental one, appropriate dress code is important, as visitors may otherwise be not allowed inside. 
  • Kyichu Lhakhang – An historic religious site, the Kyichu Lhakhang is an epitome of what Buddhist beliefs look like in material form, and was built around the 7th century. A beautifully constructed building, the temple is dotted with trees of apples and oranges and prayer wheels. Statutes, stupas and monks walking around bring alive the religious element of the place. The Lakhang is a part of the legends of Tibetan King Songsten, who constructed 108 temples, including this one, in a single day to help defeat a demoness. A visit to this place cannot be complete without unlocking its rich history through a guide or a friendly monk.
  • Tachogang Lhakhang Bridge – An old iron chain bridge over the Paro river, the small attraction is a big on exhilaration and scenic beauty. Even those not well versed in architecture or engineering would marvel at the strength and design of this 15th-century bridge. The bridge leads all the way to a monastery, and both features have been renovated over time, but still preserve their original charm and beauty.
  • Dzongdrakha Temple – Yet another feature combining spirituality and stunning nature, the Dzongdrakha Temple is a beautifully well-maintained temple, with a typical Bhutanese exterior, and a richly decked interior. An excellent introduction into the value of art and symbolism in Buddhism, the temple has four shrines, and an epic view of the Paro valley thanks to its prime location.
  • Drukyel Dzong – Unfortunately, destroyed in a recent fire, the renovations on the Dzong prevent anybody from currently entering inside. However, many would consider the place worth a visit simply for the surrounding beauty, and a chance to learn about the history of the 17th-century fortress, built to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders.
  • Ugden Pema Zangthopelri – Considered to be a hidden gem of Paro, this stunning monastery breaks from tradition with its bold gray exterior richly decked with orange, gold, and red. The interior design is simply majestic with statues of Buddha and richly painted and muraled walls. The evening lights of the place gives it an enchanting aura, and though the monastery’s night view is visible only from some specific places, the effort is certainly worth it.

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