PARO BHUTAN: A SLEEPY TOWN
Paro undoubtedly is the prettiest place to be in Bhutan. A two-hour drive to the west of the capital Thimphu will take you to this tiny valley town that explodes in spectacular natural beauty and magnificent Buddhist architecture. Readout the best Paro travel guide from the experience of actual traveller.
Paro is about 50 km away from Thimphu and you can reach there in about 2 hours if you do not stop en route. On your way to Paro, there are several places that you might want to stop by. Here are a few things to do in Paro. Please note, the first three places are not exactly in Paro. You will reach there on your way to Paro from Thimphu. I recommend you reading the detail Bhutan trip guide from India to plan out your next Bhutan holiday by yourself.
PARO: THINGS TO DO
1. NUN’S MONASTERY
The Nun’s Monastery in the Wang Mama area was established in the 15th century (as the guide told us) is the first place that you might want to stop at. This monastery is situated at one of the rugged hills in the west of Thimphu and you can have a very impressive view of the mountains that surround the nunnery.One notable thing about the nun’s monasteries in Bhutan is that unlike the monasteries built for men and boys, the nun’s monasteries do not receive any funding from the government.
2. CHHUZOM: WHERE TWO RIVERS MEET
As you exit Thimphu and take the turn to the road that leads to Paro, you will see a bridge that connects the two roads across the Chhuzom (where two rivers meet). At this place, the Paro Chu(river) meets the Thimphu Chu (river) and each flows vigorously to meet each other with a roaring sound that echoes against the mountains. Although there is nothing special about the bridge the view of the Chhuzom from the bridge is one sight that you would not want to miss.
You can then have a quick tour of the small stretch where the local vendors put things to display for the passers-by. The white square thing in the picture below is the traditional cheese that is made of Yak’s milk. It is called Churpi in Bhutan and you will find this thing in most places in the Himalayan region. You can find it on almost all the roadside stalls. It will cost you 10 INR a piece and you should try it at least once during your stay in Bhutan.
3. THE PARO CHU (RIVER) BANK
The road that leads to Paro from Thimphu runs parallel to the Paro Chu on one side and high reaching mountain ranges on the other with beautiful pastoral fields on its foot. You can ask the cab driver to stop at the Paro Chu (river) tourist spot where you can have some great time crossing the river on a low hanging ropeway that bridges the two sides of the river. You will also love the sight of the crystal-clear water that makes the rocky river bed visible from the top.
You will not be too far from Paro once you reach the Paro Chu tourist point. The way that leads to Paro is beautiful. Keep your camera handy because you can take back some amazing shots from your cab as you drive ahead.
4. PEMA CHOTEN SHOP
As you just enter the town, you will find a small board to your left which says – Pema Choten Shop. This shop sells many indigenous products at a reasonable rate. From clothes to decorative items and even small mementoes and jewellery pieces, this place has stocked up everything for you. You can also pose for some cool pictures wearing the Bhutanese attire that they rent out for 200 INR.
5. PARO ZHUNG
Just opposite to the Pema Choten Shop is the magnificent Paro Dzong. Built in the 17th century this beautiful fortress is one of the most captivating architectures in Bhutan. Also known as the Rinpung Dzong, this fortress is built of stones and wood. You will not see a single nail being used for the large beams to hold together. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, it served as a bastion against invasion from the north. You will have to buy a ticket t0 enter this Dzong and trust me you will not regret spending for it.
To reach this fortress, you will have to cross a small wooden bridge. You can take a leisurely walk along the bridge and pose for some nice pictures too. The road in between the Pema Choten shop and the Paro Dzong also makes a picturesque landmark.
6. NATIONAL MUSEUM PARO
The National Museum is the next thing that you need to see. It is just a few steps away from the Paro Dzong and you can either take the stairs that leads you to the museum or take the road and drive up to the main gate of this museum. Here you can have a quick glimpse of the national geography, cultural heritage, costumes, religion, art, drama and flora and fauna of the kingdom. This place has an entry fee for its visitors and its different for different nationalities. Entry fee for –
- SAARC visitors is 50 INR
- Local People – 5 INR
- Visitors from other countries – 200 INR
Because it is situated in one of the rugged mountains, you will get a brilliant view of the town once you reach the top. The Paro Chu that calmly flows through the town makes the view even more stunning.
7. PARO VIEWPOINT
The next place you need to check out is the Paro viewpoint. Even though you will get to see the entire town from most of the monasteries and Dzongs here, the viewpoint is one place from where you will get one of the most spectacular views of the town. You can also have an Ariel view of the Paro airport which is considered to be one of the most dangerous airports because of its geographical location.
8. TIBETAN TEMPLE PARO
The next place we went to be the Tibetan Temple. This is a century old Tibetan temple that was established in this town of monasteries and temples. Although the roads leading to the temple might slightly upset you, the view from the top is going to make it up for you. Once you reach there you will be warmly greeted and welcomed by the resident monks of the temple.
9. THE FAMOUS TIGER’S NEST
The next place that we visited was the famous ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This place is also popularly known as the Paro Taktsang. It is one of Bhutan’s most sacred places. Apparently, this is the place where the second Buddha had meditated. This monastery stands on a cliff and overlooks the breath-taking valley of Paro. However, you will have to face some challenges before you get there.
Taktsang is about a 2-3 hour (depending on your walking speed) climb from the valley floor which is already at an altitude of about 7000 kilometers above sea level. You can either walk all the way up to the monastery or hire a horse that will take you halfway up your destination. From there you will have to start walking unless you reach the monastery. Horses are available at the valley itself from where your climb begins.
Here is a picture of the place. Check out the peak that is visible through the trees, just so you have an idea of how high you have to climb to get there. At the entrance of the valley foot, you will find local vendors putting up stalls where you will find various things ranging from beautiful pieces of jewelry, small sculptures for decoration, indigenous decorative items etc.
10. PARO TOWN MARKET
The Paro town market is lined with captivating Bhutanese architecture all painted in white to maintain the uniformity. This is the best place to hang around finding a small memento to take back for your loved ones back home. You can also treat your taste buds with some delicious Bhutanese cuisine that is available in the eateries out there.
Side Tip: If you are a noodle fan, try out the Thukpa (a soupy noodle cooked with lots of veggies and meat of your choice). It is a perfect dish to warm yourself up in the trembling cold climate. You might also want to try out the rice ball that is another popular dish here.