Paro (population 4,500) is a town in the south west of Bhutan.
Paro is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered through the area. In addition, the Paro Valley is wide and verdant and is recognized as one of the most beautiful in all Bhutan. Prefer to stay in Paro if you are someone who is fond of nature and would like to spend a quiet and peaceful time. However, apart from the main street (which is constructed of traditional wooden structures), the bazaar area is a nondescript hodgepodge of concrete buildings that is totally bereft of charm and character. Along with Jakar and Punakha, Paro forms the 'golden triangle' of popular tourist destinations in Bhutan.
Paro has its own airport 1 Paro Airport (PBH IATA), an international airport located in a deep valley. Druk Air, (Royal Bhutan Airlines) is the main airline serving Paro Airport, and offers flights to and from Bangkok, Delhi, Dhaka, Kathmandu and Kolkata. Bhutan Airlines, now serves Paro from Kathmandu, Delhi and Kolkota.
One can hire a taxi from Thimphu and reach Paro in approximately 45 mins. The drive of 30km is very pleasant, as roads keep on unfolding with every turn.
As the main tourist sites in Paro are spread out throughout the valley, a vehicle is required to get around. Taxis are available for hire inside the main bazaar.
- 1 Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest). Precariously perched on the edge of a 1,200 meter cliff, this monastery creates an impressive sight, and is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan. It is about a 2-to-3-hour, totally up-hill hike from the parking lot to the monastery, though there is a cafe located on ridge across from the Taktsang (about 90 minutes into the walk) that provides a welcome opportunity to take a rest and purchase refreshments and snacks. Taktsang was established as a sacred place for meditation by Guru Rinpoche who visited the site on his second visit to Bhutan in 747 CE, though the first monastery was not constructed until 1694. In 1998 a tragic fire destroyed most of the original buildings, but these have since been painstakingly restored to their former glory. There is no entrance fee but a guard at the entrance will make sure that you leave all backpacks and cameras outside of the complex.
- 2 National Museum of Bhutan. Located in a former watch tower (which itself is a museum piece) above the dzong, the museum displays artifacts from Bhutan's history as well as examples of indigenous flora and fauna.
- 3 Rinpung Dzong. Which was constructed in 1646.
- 4 Drukgyel Dzong. This dzong (fortress) was built in the 16th century to commemorate a victory over the invading Tibetan forces. The fortress today lies in ruins, the elements and a fire in the 1950s having taken a toll on the site. Drukyel dzong is about 15 kms from Paro.
- Drakhapo. Above Shaba (keeping Shaba School to the right, follow the dirt road to end. The complex is a five minute walk from here). Drakhapo is a monastic complex perched on a cliff. Guru Rinpoche spent two months here after completing a retreat at nearby Taktsang, and during his stay placed many treasures (terma) into the cliff. The area also has several hand and foot prints embedded in the rock.
- Kichu Lhakang. Is one of the 108 monasteries that are said to have been miraculously constructed by King Songten Gampo in one night. It is located just off the road running between Paro bazaar and the Taktsang.
- Jangsarbu Lhakhang. Located behind Paro Dzong. This small and insignificant looking temple is home to a magnificent statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that was carried all the way from Lhasa, and also houses the protector deity of Paro. Legend has it that the statue of Sakyamuni was destined for Paro Dzong and merely placed in the temple for overnight safe keeping. However, when the time came to move the statue, it proved impossible to lift. As a result, it became a permanent feature of the lhakhang.
- Paro Tshechu - a religious festival normally held around Feb-Mar
- Trek to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger's Nest) - A three-hour trek up to the monastery located high on a vertical cliff. The path is quite clear once you reach the starting point, also there are a lot of people going to/coming back from the same. The trek takes you through very lush green forested areas and very scenic points. Do converse with co-trekkers, especially locals and llamas (monks), as this is a very good way of knowing/understanding/absorbing their beautiful culture. There is a cafeteria at about half-way, in case you need some refreshments or want to have some slightly expensive but tasty meal.
- 1 Watch a game of darts. You can watch the locals playing/practicing a different kind of dart game during evenings at the river bank near the Bhutan Telecom office.
- Kiras - The elegant traditional dress comprising of a cloth wrapped around as a skirt with a jacket for the top worn by Bhutanese women. The kiras are a lot cheaper in stores that are "General stores", as this is where the locals shop.
- Souvenirs - The town is dotted with souvenir shops. Bargaining is recommended, especially if you are purchasing high-value items above Nu 400
- Hotel Peljorling, next to clock tower. Tel: +975 8 271-365. Excellent local and Indian cuisine at reasonable prices.
- Hotel First Floor, main bazaar. Simple, no-nonsense Bhutanese dishes - large helpings at reasonable prices.
- Hotel Tandin, ☎ . Main town, Paro. Contact for fresh dumpling (momo), Bhutanese dishes, noodle. reasonable price.
- Sonam Trophel Restaurant (on the main street), ☎ , . Not a very big restaurant, but one of the best in town. It is advisable to call and book in advance. Some recommended dishes (which are not on the menu but can be ordered) are ginger potato, pumpkin curry and marinated chicken momos.
- Champaca Café, Main Street, ☎ . A relaxing cafe located in a traditional Bhutanese house. Excellent coffee and pastries.
- Zhiwa Ling Hotel has a nice bar serving most top notch Western liquors as well as international beers. Additionally, the hotel has a disco on the ground floor.
- Sonam Trophel Hotel, The hotel is located in the heart of the city. Sonam Trophel is a familiar and distinctive landmark, traditional wooden architect & paintings apart from the glass and concrete conformity of other hotels. There are 10 rooms including 2 luxury suites. The rooms are furnished with basic modern amenities including spacious attached baths with running hot/cold water, color TV with satellite channels, direct dial STD/ISD, laundry. WiFi connectivity and car parking is also available.
- Hotel KK, nice rooms but extremely slow service in food and rude staff.
- Hotel Jor-yangz, on the hill above the airport. Nice rooms with some of them having beautiful views of the Paro valley, efficient service.
- Hotel Holiday Inn, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. PO Box 707 (located near the end of airport complex). A single story hotel convenient for airport and close to main town. Friendly and efficient service. Pleasant rooms.
- Aman Resort, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A very expensive and luxurious hotel. Starting rate for single: US$ 1000
- Como Paro Hotel (Uma), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. An historical building converted into a hotel that features fantastic views over the Paro Valley. They serve "healthy cuisine".
- Nak Sel Hotel and Spa, ☎ . A luxury hotel, owned by Rainbow Tours, with ~40 guest rooms. The hotel rooms have a view of the Tiger's Nest and Mt. Jomulhori.
- Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Satsam Chorten, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A large hotel emphasizing Bhutanese traditional architecture. Located near a number of monasteries.
- There are a couple of internet cafes in the main bazaar - with the most convenient being on the road behind the main square, next to the bakery. However, internet connections in Paro are notoriously slow so be prepared for a very long wait.