Paro sits at the confluence of the attractive Paro-chu and Do-chu valleys a short distance from Bhutan’s only international airport. The main street of this charming town is lined with colourfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants. The town is an excellent place to explore on foot and is worth an hour or two stroll, if time allows.
Only a few kilometres from the runway, you get a taste of many aspects of Bhutan and her people. Beside the road, farmers plant crops, a water wheel turns a prayer wheel that rings a bell; oxen plough fields and children walk to school.
Paro Dzong, otherwise known as the 'Fortress of the Heap of Jewels', is guarded by a Mongol holding a tiger on a leash, a fact we at Panoramic Journeys like especially! Look out for the superb woodwork on the central tower, the painting of the four friends (bird, rabbit, monkey and elephant) and the impressive cosmic mandalas.
The National Museum, housed in Paro Dzong's ancient watch tower, gives a delightful introduction to Bhutan's history. Artefacts ranging from costumes, armour, masks and stamps to stuffed animals and musical instruments are all housed in the spiral building. Although you can't take photos inside the museum, you may wish to keep your camera with you for the amazing views over Paro valley as you exit.
Legend has it that Kyichu Lhakhang, the first temple at Kyichu, was built in the 7th century because a giant demoness was said to be attempting to prevent the spread of Buddhism by laying across the Himalayas. The Buddhist Tibetan King decided to build 108 temples across her body to subdue her. Lhasa was built above her heart and Kyichu Lhakhang was built on her left foot. Then in the 8th century the temple was visited by Guru Rinpoche and it is believed he concealed many spiritual treasures here.
Also in the valley lies Drukgyal Dzong, this ruined dzong is situated 15km north of Paro. The Dzong was built in 1649 to protect the country against threatening Tibetans and is the best example of a fortified Dzong built in the 17th century. Unfortunately a fire in 1951 destroyed the Dzong but it still shows unique and intriguing design and construction techniques including a false entry to lure invaders into an enclosed courtyard, which along with other tactics, helped the Bhutanese protect their country successfully through the 17th century.