25 Years ago all visitors to Bhutan would have had to walk for five days across mountains to reach Paro from the Indian Border. Now the journey by air is only a few hours. If ever a place exists where nature and man consulted to create their dearest image, it must be the valley of Paro. To the north, Mount Jumolhari reigns in sacred glory. The glacier waterways from its five sister peaks plunge through deep gorges, finally converging to form the Paro River that nourishes the rice fields and the apple and peach orchards. Paro valley is one of the most populated areas of the whole country and contains a wealth of attractions.
Our tour ended with a spectacular two-hour hike up to Bhutan’s best-known image — the Tiger’s Nest or Taksang monastery. Built on the rock face of a cliff, the Tiger’s Nest requires a little legwork to get there — with its 2,165-foot elevation gain — but it must not be missed. Those with an aversion to heights might have to fight back their fear, but it’s worth it.
This beautiful spiritual heart of Bhutan was built near the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated for three months.
To say it was a magical spot seems trite. But with those prayer flags whipping around us as we trekked up to the monastery, I experienced yet another humbling moment.
I almost felt like I had found my own lost horizon. And the prayer flags led me there.
Chele La Pass
3988m At 3988 meters high, Chele La pass is the highest motor-able pass in western Bhutan. Chele La offers an abundance of flora and fauna, multi colored wish fulfilling prayer flags and spectacular view towards the holy peaks – Jomolhari, Jichu Drake and a host of other peaks.
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Dzongdrakha cliff-side temple
Dzongdrakha rejoices in an annual Tsechu (festival) that takes place the day before and the day after the Huge Paro Tsechu held at Rinpung Dzong. During the festival at Dzongdrakha, one of the chief blessings take place when the chorten (stupa) of the past Buddha is opened so that people are blessed by the relic held within. The complex is constituted of four shrines, devoted to Drolma (Tara), Tsheringma (Goddess of Longevity), Guru Rinpoche and the Buddha of the Future, Maitreya. As per local verbal custom, when Guru Rinpoche first came to Bhutan, he came from Nepal, first landing at Drakarpo, and then Dzongdrakha before arriving at Taktsang Monastery.
We hiked up to the dzongdrakha Temple. We could hear the monks chanting. The sounds were beautiful, what happened next was far beyond anything I could have imagined. I was invited into the temple where the monks were chanting. I sat down with them and had some butter tea and local rice. I got blessed and parted ways. That moment I will never forget. Thank you Bhutan – Instagram
The ruins of Drukgyel tell you a tale of how medieval warriors defended Bhutan from the invaders from the north. It was originally built to protect this route from possible Tibetan raids’. The small village of Drukgyel is 11 kms from Paro and near it is the (now-ruined) Drukgyel Dzong, built to commemorate victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644. The strategically sited dzong guarded the point where the route from Tibet entered Bhutan via the Paro valley. Once the Tibetan invasions ceased the path became the major Tibet-Bhutan trade route. The Dzong, surrounded by the snowy peaks of the High Himalayas including the sacred Jhomolhari, served as an administrative centre, until burned down in a fire in 1951 which left it in ruins with only its central tower (utse) standing.
The magnificent Paro Dzong, overlooking the Paro Chhu from its hilltop site, is one of Bhutan’s strongest and most important fortresses, and repelled several attacks from Tibet. Dzongs developed as fortified monasteries in Bhutan which performed military, administrative and religious functions by housing monastic communities as well as civil administration. Dzongs featured as far back as the 12th century in Bhutan, but many of the most famous and important surviving dzongs were built in the 17th century as part of a programme to strengthen the valleys from Tibetan invasions. The Paro Dzong is the symbolic center of religious and secular affairs of the Paro Valley.
Ta Dzong – Bhutan National Museum
The museum provides a fascinating insight into the development of Bhutan from Stone Age times to the modern era. This institution highlights Bhutan’s Mahayana Buddhist identity and its multicultural heritage. The museum aims to function as a repository for the valuable artifacts and historical objects that are priceless in documenting the nation’s cultural legacy. The museum’s vast collection of the finest in Bhutanese artworks will appeal to anyone with an interest in the art of the region. A distinctive bridge between the past and the present of Bhutan, the National Museum always makes an impression on the visitor.
Paro International Airport
Paro Airport has the only international terminal in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan. Located in a river valley outside of its namesake town, it is widely considered one of the world’s most challenging airports for pilots. The surrounding mountain peaks are more than 18,000 feet above sea level, while the runway sits at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Two carriers, Royal Bhutan Airlines and newly formed private airline Tashi, provide commercial service to Paro.
Paro’s airport facilities are quite good. The main runway is more than 6,000 feet long, so it can accommodate jet aircraft. However, the surrounding geography and the quickly changing conditions make landing and departing difficult. As an added safety measure, flights are postponed if weather is bad, and all takeoffs and landings occur during daylight hours. Operations shut down at night.