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Tourist Places To Visit In Paro
Since ancient times, Paro had been the centre of Buddhism in Bhutan. There are more than a 100 monasteries and temples in Paro, some of them dating back to the 14th century. The history of Paro entwines within itself many myths and legends that give the valley an air of mystery. Paro has a beautiful scenic landscape with lofty mountain peaks suitable for trekking, gushing rivers that you can go kayaking or canoeing in and vast rice fields where farmers harvest the traditional red rice of Bhutan. Here are some places that you would love to visit while in Paro.
Jangsta Dumsteg Lhakhang
What is special about the Dumtseg Lhakhang is that it is built as a chorten or stupa, which is a very rare find in Bhutan. According to legends, the Lhakhang was built by a saint called Thangtong Gyalpo to subdue a snake or some say, a demoness who lived that in the area. Thangtong Gyalpo was a great Buddhist yogi who is known to have built eight iron bridges in Bhutan.
The Lhakhang, built in 1421, has three storeys, with steep steps to climb up and is filled with the idols of many Buddhist and Tantric deities. You can see a great collection of Buddhist paintings and iconography. The Lhakhang is about 1 km away from Paro. Timings to visit are from 9 am-12 pm and from 1 pm-5 pm.
Taktsang Palphug Monastery or the Tiger’s Nest, the sacred symbol of Paro perches perilously on the edge of a cliff, about 3,000 m above Paro Valley. A shrine was built in 1692 to honour Sage Padmasambhava who arrived at the mountain flying on a tigress’s back. Also known as Guru Rinpoche, Sage Padmasambhava who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan, spent 3 years in meditation among the caves in Tiger’s Nest. The cave where Sage Padmasambhava meditated is open to public only once a year.
The Monastery was restored to its former glory after a fire accident. Today, Tatksang is one of the most important tourist sites of Paro. It takes about 3 hours to hike up the hill from the parking lot. There is a refreshment stall snuggled up the incline, along with taps with fresh mountain water for drinking. You have to buy tickets at the base to enter the main shrine. With wild rhododendrons swaying by the wayside, lofty mountain peaks around, smaller temples with gushing waterfalls, the trek is laborious, but enjoyable. There are ponies you can use to climb till the restaurant.
Kyichu Lhakhang, built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo, is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. Legends say that the Emperor built 108 border temples overnight to drive out an evil ogress and Kyichu Lhakhang is one among them. According to legends, when Sage Padmasambhava visited this temple in the 8th century, he hid some spiritual treasures inside the temple.
Outside the shrine there is a magnificent statue of Chenrezig or Avalokiteshwara, the Boddisatva of Compassion, portrayed with a thousand arms and eleven heads. The main entrance door is said to be coated with gold and the wooden floor decorated with semi precious stones. The Guru Lhakhang close by has the idol of Kurukulla, a female Buddha. Check out the two orange trees that are said to bear fruits all through the year.
At about a height of 3,988 m is the Chelela Pass, the highest pass in Bhutan that connects Paro to the Haa Valley. You can hike, drive or ride motor bikes to the topmost point from where you can view the countryside. Looking up and above you can find the peak of Mt Jumolhari and looking down below, you can find the valleys of Paro and Haa. Going uphill, you will find frozen rivers in winter, rhododendrons in Spring or Autumn and yaks grazing on the fields in summer. Chelela is 36.8 km from Paro and takes around 1 hour and 19 minutes by car. It gets windier as you travel up the mountain and suitable warm woollen clothes, scarves and mittens are recommended.
Ugyen Pema Woedling Zangthopelri
This small monastery is situated near the Paro International Airport. It is a charming little quaint place devoted to Guru Padmasambhava. The inner walls of the monastery are decorated with paintings of Buddha. There are beautiful and unique idols of The Buddha, Guru Tshen Geyed or the 8 manifestations of the Guru and the Bodhisatvas. The idol of The Buddha is so serene that it seems to fill one with peace and tranquillity. This little monastery is often unnoticed by tourists.
Built as a watchtower against Tibetan soldiers in 1649, the circular building was later converted into a National Museum. There are six floors, each displaying a variety of masks, paintings, artefacts, weapons, bronze vessels used in the past, stamps and Bhutanese clothes and manuscripts that enlighten us about the ancient history of Bhutan. The Museum has around 3000 objects on display dating back to over 1,500 years ago.
The National Museum has an exceptional treasure - the ‘Star of the Museum,’ which is said to be ‘an egg of mule.’ If you want to find out how mules could lay eggs, visit the National Museum that is open from 9 am to 5 pm in summers and 4 pm in winters.
The ‘fortress on a Heap of Jewels’ was built in 1644 on the orders of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the Bearded Lama, known as the unifier of Bhutan. Also called the Paro Dzong, it was used as a fortress against the invading Tibetans. Today, one side of the Dzong serves as a monastery while the other side holds the government offices and district courts. The Dzong contains about 14 shrines and chapels. The Dzong is built overlooking a steep hillside with the Paro Chuu rippling along merrily under a traditional wooden bridge called Nyamai Zam.
Visit Rinpung Dzong to marvel at its architectural splendour; and if you are in time for the Paro Tshechu Festival, you might see the Thongdroel- a Thangka appliqué work displayed in the Rinpung Dzong.
If you are interested in historical ruins, then this one is for you. In the upper part of Paro is an ancient fortress and Buddhist monastery. It was built in 1649 by Tenzin Drukdra upon the orders of Zhandrung Ngawang Namgyal. Drukgyal Dzong is one of the most illustrious archaeological sites in Bhutan.
The Drukyal Dzong was built as a thanksgiving in memory of Bhutan’s victory over a Tibetan invasion. It is said to have had the most massive collection of armoury in all of Bhutan. In the 1950s, the Dzong was destroyed by a fire. All that remains now are the ruins of this ancient piece of architectural splendour. Overgrown with vegetation, the ruins stand as a mute splendour against the backdrop of the Chomolhari mountain peak. The Dzong is only 14 km away from Paro.