Paro

Overview

Introduction

The scenic, terraced town of Paro sits in the shadow of 24,000-ft/7,320-m Mount Chomolhari (divine mountain). Paro has Bhutan's only airport, so most travelers arrive there. Though it's really only a large village, we recommend three nights to get used to the altitude, as well as to see the many sights related to Paro's days as capital of the western region.

Among those sights are the 350-year-old Ta Dzong (now the National Museum), the Rinchen Pung or Paro Dzong (sacred scrolls, icons, and the like), where scenes from Bertolucci's Little Buddha were shot, the restored seventh-century Kyichu Lhakhang (holy temple) and the Dungtse Lhakhang (temple). Also worth seeing is the Drugyel Dzong, named after a famous victory of the Bhutanese over Tibetan invaders (about 9 mi/14 km northwest of town).

If you're in Paro on a Sunday morning, be sure to visit the colorful market, where grains, chilies, oranges, bananas and a host of other items are sold. The Paro Tsechu festival is held late March-April.

On a full-day trip, it's possible to visit the Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest), built on a rock ledge overlooking a sheer 2,600 ft/800 m drop to the Paro Valley. It is accessible only on foot or by pony as far as the viewpoint. According to legend, the monastery was founded by Guru Rimpoche, who landed there on the back of a flying tiger.

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