Year 2017 is coming to an end. This has been a surprising year for me. I saw many ups and downs, many twists and turns throughout 2017. I took trips I never planned, visited some beautiful places around, and met some nice people along.
If you ask me about the best trip I took in 2017, I will name my Bhutan trip. A trip that I initially planned and almost cancelled later, my visit to Bhutan rewarded me with some unforgettable experiences. This trip was the shortest in comparison to my other trips. But it was the most exciting one.
I flew from Kathmandu and reached Paro without making accommodation arrangements prior to my visit. When I reached the Paro town, Sonam – a shop owner and her husband Lhap – a tour operator helped me find a place to stay. I spent next couple of days surrounded by scenic beauty in company of some lovely people. I also ate delicious food and enjoyed the hospitality of locals before moving to Thimphu.
Although I didn’t spend as much time in Paro as I expected, I visited some of the most wonderful places I have visited this year. And I hope that when you visit Bhutan, you too have a memorable experience like me.
So, in this article, I would like to share some must visit places in Paro. There are obviously many places you can visit in this beautiful city but I will leave them up to local tour operators. I will list just five of my personal favorite places in Paro. Have a look.
1. Tiger’s Nest aka Paro Taktsang
“Recommend us the best place to visit in Bhutan.” Ask this question to any local or tour guide and you will hear them say “Tiger’s Nest.”
Tiger’s Nest, known locally as Paro Taktsang and Taktsang Palphug Monastery, is a temple built back in 1692. The temple complex is built around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava is believed to have meditated.
It is said that Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Rinpoche and ‘Second Buddha,’ mediated here for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. Padmasambhava is believed to have introduced Buddhism to Bhutan.
Tiger’s Nest is located 10 kilometres (or about 6 miles) north of Paro. The whole complex hangs on a precarious cliff at 3,120 metres (10,240 ft), about 900 metres (3,000 ft) above the Paro valley.
Its history and location are enough to convince visitors to visit Tiger’s Nest. I highly recommend you visit this beautiful place at least once. Dedicate a whole day to your visit and carry plenty of water, some snacks, and a camera along.
Good to know: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge hiked to Tiger’s Nest during the royal visit to Bhutan in 2016.
2. National Museum of Bhutan
National Museum of Bhutan is a cultural museum established in 1968. It is located above the Rinpung Dzong and is known for its collection of Bhutanese fine arts, paintings, and bronze statues. It possesses over 3000 works of Bhutanese art and covers more than 1500 years of Bhutan’s cultural heritage.
The museum consist of seven floors and each floor houses different types of work. For instance, you will find farming implements, pots, and vessels on the ground floor, and prehistoric and religious items on the fourth floor.
If you are interested in history, a visit to the National Museum of Bhutan is a must. Bhutan has an interesting history, by the way.
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3. Rinpung Dzongkhag aka Paro Dzong
Rinpung Dzongkhag means ‘fortress of the heap of jewels.’ Also known as the Paro Dzong, this building is a Buddhist monastery and fortress which also serves as the administrative seat of the Paro district.
Rinpung Dzongkhag was founded by Drung Drung Gyal in 15th century and was renovated in 1644 under the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. There are 14 shrines and chapels inside the Dzong including the chapel of the head lama and the chapel of the Eleven-faced Avalokiteśvara.
If you happen to visit Bhutan around March or April, you might be able to attend the Paro tshechu annual festival at Paro Dzong. The festival is held from the 11th to the 15th day of the second month of the Bhutanese lunar calendar.
Good to know: The Paro Dzong is listed as a tentative site for UNESCO inclusion.
4. Kyichu Lakhang
I met some young locals in a cafe in Paro and asked them to recommend me some places I should visit in their city. Besides the Tiger’s Nest, they recommended me to visit Kyichu Lakhang.
Built by Tibetan emperor Songtsan Gampo way back in the 7th century, the temple of Kyichu is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. It is said that Padmasambhava or the ‘second Buddha’ visited the temple in the 8th century where he concealed spiritual treasures.
In 1968, Royal Queen Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuk built a temple known as Guru Lhakang next to the Kyichu Lhakang. Referred to as the ‘sacred jewel of Bhutan,’ Kyichu Lakhang is definitely a nust visit place in Paro.
5. Paro Airport Bird’s Eye View
Flying into Bhutan is an experience of its own. Paro International Airport is the only international airport of Bhutan and it is considered one of most challenging airports in the world.
From your plane’s window, you might be able to experience the difficult landing. You can, however, also enjoy the bird’s eye view of a plane’s landing and take-off. Just head over to the Paro Airport Bird’s Eye View point and observe as an airplane lands or takes off.
Tour operators usually include this place in their Paro itinerary. If they don’t, you can ask them do take you there. As very few flights fly to and from here, you should ask your tour operator for the best time to be there.
Bonus: A 100+ Years Old Farmhouse
Alright. I will give you a bonus here. If you want to observe the lifestyle of Bhutanese people, you can’t do it better than at someone’s house. Ask your tour operator to arrange a visit to a local house where you can observe people’s daily routine.
You can also arrange a few nights’ stay at a farmhouse. In Paro, I can suggest a visit to Tshering Farmhouse where I spent three nights and had a wonderful experience. It’s a huge traditional Bhutanese house surrounded by beautiful landscape. This house is said to be more than 100 years old.
Even if you don’t stay there, you can arrange a hot stone bath instead of doing it at a hotel. Want to learn how to cook Bhutanese dishes? You can do that, too.
Want to learn more? You can read my review of Tshering Farmhouse.
Must Visit Places in Paro, Bhutan: Summing Up
There are temples, monasteries, forts and many other places you can visit in Paro. But I suggest you to visit Tiger’s Nest, National Museum of Bhutan, Rinpung Dzongkhag, Kyichu Lakhang, and Paro Airport Bird’s Eye View point to get the most out of your trip. In addition, you should also pay a visit to a local house and observe authentic Bhutanese lifestyle.
If you do not plan to spend much time in Paro, a visit to all these places should present you with best of Paro. If you wish to stay more, make sure to explore other temples and monasteries, too.
Do you plan to visit Bhutan? Have questions? Feel free to ask. Already visited Bhutan? Which were your favourite places? Share your experience with me.
That’s all, folks. This was a short and sweet list of just 5 places every traveller must visit in Paro, Bhutan. I hope you found this article useful and I would like to thank you for reading.
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