Paro is the second biggest town in Bhutan and located in Paro valley as the name suggests. It is small neat and clean town. There are some beautiful buildings and a small market which consists of two rows of shops on both sides of one road. There are mostly souvenir shops and restaurants in this market, don’t expect something big. Here is my list of places to see in Paro and photo blog.
I traveled by Druk air, so my trip started and ended in Paro because it’s Bhutan’s only international airport. I spent my first two days and last two days in Paro. Here is the list of places I had visited during my stay.
Well…. It may sound strange but it is built beautifully in traditional Bhutanese style and surrounded by mountains. It is the only international airport of Bhutan is located here and it is considered to be the most challenging airport in the world. Paro airport is situated in a deep valley and a select number of pilots are certified to land here. Before landing pilot warns passengers that “you may see the mountains to close, please don’t bother with the distance from mountains”. So, my advice is to look around when you get down from aircraft because your sightseeing starts the moment you put down your foot 😀
Market and Restaurants
It’s a small market or says shops on both sides of one road consist of the market. They have the weekly market on Sunday and it is must visit if one is interested in experiencing local culture. Unfortunately, I was not in Paro on Sunday.
One thing, one must remember in Bhutan. Waiting time for food after ordering is between 30 to 45 minutes because most of the local shops do the final preparations after you order. I had experienced this on my first 2 days and after that made it a point that I make good use of waiting time….Either go out to market or do my calling or internetwork during this waiting time or if the view is nice then enjoy the view.
Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang Monastery)
It is a 3-4 hours hike to Monastery though some people use pony but it is a bit risky because of skidding issue. The Monastery is situated on edge of a cliff. It is considered one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in Bhutan. According to legend Guru Rinpoche (Most scared and high religious figure of Bhutanese Buddhism) arrived here from Tibet on the back of a tigress and meditated here.There is a cafeteria on the way to relax and have tea/coffee. The menu is limited and the food is simple. There are some restriction and code to follow when inside monastery. The place has peaceful vibes. It is almost a full day excursion and somewhat tiring also. Wear sports shoes or comfortable shoes as there is lots of walking involved.
National Museum of Bhutan
We went to National Museum in morning after breakfast. It is located next to an ancient watch tower. The museum has a collection of artifacts from all over the country representing different eras, as early as 4000 BC to the present day. The collections here consist of old coins, stamps, ancient weapons and art/artifacts. They had tried to show the transition of the country from the stone age to a modern multicultural kingdom with its cultural heritage in different galleries.
They had displayed a fragment of the moon’s surface brought by Neil Armstrong here.
Paro Dzong (Rimpung Dzong)
It is a massive fortress and monastery situated on the banks of Paro chu (River). It is a symbolic center of religious and secular affairs. Dzong houses the district monastic body and government administrative offices like Thimpu Dzong. There were some restrictions during my visit, so we can go to a certain point. There is a small wooden bridge over Paro chu and it connects the city with the Dzong. From bridge we went down to river and spend some time relaxing on the banks of a river, water was super cold.
Drukgyel Dzong (Bhutan Victory Fort)
It is on the outskirts of Paro town. This fort was built to commemorate the victory of Bhutan over the invading Tibetan forces but now it is in almost destroyed and it is in ruins. The view of mountain range around it was beautiful. It is a place of historic importance but nothing much to see here.
Chele La Pass
It took us approx two hours from Paro to reach Chele la pass, one of the highest vantage point of Bhutan. The road is winding to the pass and trees are dense and high on both sides of the road. On the way, we saw famous Himalayan Yaks grazing at some distant. In Paro it was pleasant but at Chele la pass, it was cold and very windy. So it is advisable to carry warm jackets even if it is warm in Paro. We spent some time there and moved around, had tea from the small shop at pass and then came back to Paro.
Most of the hotel organize the traditional Bhutanese dance performances. So, check with them for the schedule. I really enjoyed the 1.5 hours performance.
Paro is a laid back town, it is more to relax than site seeing. Roam around and explore it walking or may be cycled if you are comfortable cycling.
Important things to remember –
If traveling by air than Paro is the first city of trip, if traveling via road from Phuntsholing then it will be after Thimpu.
Buy a Bhutanese sim card in Paro and it activate instantly. It is cheaper than using Indian number.
For more details about travel and ethics please read Bhutan Travel guide and Itinerary
More details of Bhutan travel Travel to Bhutan & Ist day in Paro