Paro is one of the most famous districts in Bhutan, second only to Thimpu. One of the main reasons behind the prosperity of this city is that it is home to the one and only airport in the entire country, Paro International Airport. Paro is a valley town, located about 50kms away from the district of Thimpu and is often considered to be the most sacred place in Bhutan. It is home to some of the oldest monasteries and temples within the country.
I had the opportunity to spend an entire day in Paro, on my way back from the Haa Valley. As I breathed in the true beauty of Paro from a viewpoint above the town, I glanced over the panoramic view of the valley and it was simply magnificent. The Paro International Airport and the Paro valley lay across a series of mountains and rain showered over certain regions of the valley. I was enamoured by the magic of the scenery in front of me and I knew that coming to Bhutan had been one of my most wonderful choices.
There is no special permit required to visit the district of Paro. The default permit allows entry into both the districts of Thimpu and Paro. Here are the top 5 things to do, while enjoying your stay in Paro:
- Visit the ‘Jewel of Bhutan’, Kyichu Lhakhang: The 7th Century Kyichu Temple is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava had visited the temple in the 8th Century and concealed several spiritual treasures there. The temple building shows its ancient origins in the form of olden architecture that seems to hold onto mysteries of the past. Considered to be the ‘Jewel of Bhutan’, the Kyichu Lhakhang is covered with antique prayer wheels and colourful prayer flags. These prayer flags are a common sight to be found throughout the country. Legend has it that the Tibetan Emperor, Songtsan Gampo had built the temple to subdue a giant Ogress who had been troubling the Kingdom. The temple was eventually passed onto a different Buddhist establishment who then added to the construction of the temple. Kyichu Lhakhang is located on the outskirts of the Paro district and a one-day taxi tour of the town will help you visit the temple as well as many other sacred sites.
- Try out the National Sport of Archery: This was the most stereotypical “touristy” thing that I had the chance to try out in Bhutan and I must admit that it was a lot of fun! Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. Over the duration of my stay in the country, I observed how all Bhutanese, whether young or old, love to play the sport. Teenagers and even toddlers can be seen walking down the streets with bows and arrows resting on their shoulders, on their way to practice the sport at the stadium. I was excited to try out the sport and visited the Paro stadium where a trial of 30 arrows cost 1000 Nu. One can even choose to try on the national dress of ‘Gho’ for men and the ‘Kira’ for women. It was a rainy day and the winds kept blowing away my arrows in completely different directions but I did manage to pull some close shots. I realised that I don’t really have what it takes to be an Olympic winner, but it was a delightful experience indeed!
- Visit the Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang: The Dumtseg Lhakhang is another Buddhist temple located in the district of Paro. The temple was built in the 15th century and there are a lot of legends regarding the reason behind its unique architecture. The exceptional thing about this temple is that it is built in the form of a ‘Chorten’, also known as a ‘Stupa’. Stupas are a rare sight in Bhutan, which makes this temple certainly special. A ‘Stupa’ is a mound-like structure that contains the relics and remains of the monks who used to meditate there.
- Explore the Bhutanese Culture at the National Museum of Paro: The National Museum of Paro was one of the most vibrant museums that I had ever seen. The Museum is small but it makes up for the size with the help of its perfect representation of the Bhutanese religion, culture, wildlife. The Museum building has been recently re-built as the old building had been damaged due to a natural disaster. The new building overlooks the enchanting Paro Valley. The valley is encircled by a series of overlapping mountains and a wide river makes its way through the middle of the Paro valley. The natural beauty of the place was as lovely as those vivid mountain drawings we used to make as children. The scene had to be one of the most beautiful sights that I have ever seen in my entire life.
- Visit the Rinpung Dzong: The ‘Dzong’ or Fortress is the administrative building of Paro just like Dzong located in Thimpu. The Dzong is a massive fortress full of offices and hostels for the lamas to live in. The fortress has an open corridor which leads to an impressive temple inside the building. I admired the idea of having a temple within an administrative building. It can be counted as a way of bringing in positivity and harmony within the locals and officers alike. One can’t think corrupt thoughts inside God’s own abode. I came across several young monks dressed in their traditional attire, running across the open corridor. The rush in their behaviour made for a very poetic comparison to their poised souls. Every district has its own Dzong and Paro’s Rinpung Dzong is one of the most famous ones.
The district of Paro is not an as big city as the Thimpu district. There isn’t much to do during the night time but the beauty of the valley during the daytime is surreal and shouldn’t be missed. After spending an entire day exploring the town of Paro, I went back to Thimpu to be able to enjoy night time events. My day in Paro was long, but it was totally worth the hectic schedule! I would definitely suggest you enjoy your time in Paro on your next trip to Bhutan.