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Paro, Bhutan

Paro town centre, Paro, Bhutan
Takshang Monastery (Tiger's Nest), Paro, Bhutan Paro Dzong, Paro, Bhutan Paro National Museum (Ta Dzong), Paro, Bhutan Chele La Pass, Paro, Bhutan
Above: Paro town centre, Paro, Bhutan
  • Paro town centre, Paro, Bhutan
  • Takshang Monastery (Tiger's Nest), Paro, Bhutan
  • Paro Dzong, Paro, Bhutan
  • Paro National Museum (Ta Dzong), Paro, Bhutan
  • Chele La Pass, Paro, Bhutan

Paro town stands at 2280m and offers the first taste of Bhutan for those arriving by air. It is a small, attractive town with a wide main street lined with a variety of shops selling everything from souvenirs to toys and household goods: interesting to explore for an hour or so. There are several tourist hotels and restaurants in the central area, and a weekend market. All the buildings boast traditional Bhutanese architecture, and on all sides are the beautiful green hills and mountains surrounding Paro.

It is about 2 hours drive from Paro to Bhutan's capital city, Thimphu.

Taktsang monastery (1692, with additions and repairs later) hangs 900m from the valley floor on a cliff. It is a wonderful spectacle and an extremely sacred place to the Buddhists who come as pilgrims here. There are numerous temples within, 2 of which are usually open to the public. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown up to the cliff on a tigress to meditate, in the location where the Taktsang now stands. The monastery is stunning for its precarious location, both from the valley, the path and at close quarters. Hiking takes around 2 hours, or ascent can be on horseback (uphill only) approx. US$10 to the cafe half way up or US$20 further – leaving a walk of around 20 minutes.

Paro Dzong is a situated on the hillside above the river, and is an imposing sight from much of the town. Built during the 1640’s, it is well preserved despite fire and earthquake damage over the years, with intricate wooden carving, and paintwork decorating the whitewashed stone and wooden main structure. Today’s administrative and monastic uses are plainly evident.

Drugyal Dzong near Paro was built in 1646 and is remarkable as it was severely damaged by fire in 1951 and unlike many Dzongs in Bhutan to have befallen a similar fate, it has never been refurbished. It now stands as more than a ruin, and retains a quiet dignity.

Paro National Museum (Ta Dzong) occupies the old circular watch tower just uphill from the Dzong. With walls over 2 meters thick, and exhibits ranging from stamp collections (Bhutan is famous for its stamps, and exports them worldwide) and natural history to weapons, Bhutanese fabrics, Thankas and Buddhist relics, it is atmospheric and intriguing, with surely something of interest for everyone: a very broad introduction to Bhutan’s rich culture and history.

The Chele La Pass is a windy hour long drive west of Paro town at an altitude of 3988m, at which one certainly feels the height from sea level – thin, cold air! There is a thicket of poles and prayer flags at the top, and even a passing interest in wildlife: birds, yaks; and (season permitting) a spectacular panorama of the snow capped Himalayas, justifies a 5am start to get up here for sunrise. A particular highlight for keen birdwatchers here are the colourful blood grouse, and spectacular Himalayan Monal.

For more information about Bhutan, please check our Bhutan country guide.

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