One of Bhutan’s best loved natural settings, Paro valley, located on the picturesque terrain near the confluence of the Paro Chhu and Wang Chhu is an unforgettable holiday destination for adventure seekers, nature buffs and culture aficionados. Your first encounter with this wondrous place is your bird’s etc. view as you fly into the gorgeous valley, which provides the only international air link to the country.
You will be impatient to drop your bags at the hotel and rush out to explore this bountiful outdoor paradise, which is popular with walkers, hikers, trekker and mountain biking adrenalin junkies.
Join other adventure lovers on a walk over the 1300s suspension bridge, over the troubled waters of the merging Thimphu and Paro rivers. Railings on both sides of the bridge, which connects the Tachog Temple with the valley, are lined with gaily coloured prayer flags.
Paro’s spiritual spaces off visitors some of the most enriching experiences for those looking for reflective moments. An unmissable experience is the stiff trek up to the Taktsang Monastery, perched on a precipitous cliff 3000ft above the valley. Stop along the way plenty of times just to savour this unique experience. Soak in the sights and fill your lungs with unpolluted mountain breezes. Refuel at the small café along the way. This ancient monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest, is also one of the country’s most venerated religious sites. Tibetan Buddhism’s founder Guru Padmasambhava, legend has it flew on the back of a tigress to this mountain retreat to spend three months mediating in a cave over which now the monastery is sited.
Spin the prayer wheels and calm your world in the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang Buddhist temple, or the ‘Blue Temple’ close to Paro district. Soak in the traditional lines of Bhutanese temple architecture and the soothing atmospherics while gazing upon the gorgeous murals, reflective statues and the pristine surrounds.
A slice of history
Paro Dzong, also known as Rinchen Pung Dzong is worthy of a visit for the spectacular views, its historical setting and importance as both the district’s secular and spiritual centre. It The fortress was built in the mid -17th century around the period when Bhutan was being unified by Ngawang Namgyal, the Tibetan Buddhist lama. Located here are government offices as well as the district monastic body and government administrative offices. Come here to enjoy the pageantry of the lavish annual Paro Tshechu Festival.
Haggle with vendors, chat up locals and take a leisurely trawl around the market while looking for authentic Bhutanese giveaways for family and friends in the bustling Paro market. Just abandon yourself to the street atmosphere as you browse amongst the stalls hawking many goods from beautiful thangkas, to woven clothing and fabric to wood carved items and local-style jewellery. Sample the dried cheese made from yak’s milk, a favourite snack with locals. It can be hard on the teeth, so don’t bite into it. Just chew! Grab a tumbler of suja, the locally brewed, milky butter tea for a new tea experience.
Your appetite will get quite stimulated in this legendary mountainous valley. You can get a local host to teach you all about cooking Bhutanese favourites such as Ema Datshi, the national dish, a delicious stew comprising the traditional combination of cheese and chillies. While memos are relished both at home and at the market stalls, get a tad more adventurous learning to cook some of non-veg dishes such as Jasha Maroo (spicy chicken) as well.
Quaff a glass a two of the several variants, such as beer from red rice, available at the Namgyal Artisanal the microbrewery in Dumsibu. It becomes particularly lively during the Beer festival.
A song and dance
Bhutanese festivals are not so much about visitor entertainment; rather, they are an intrinsic part of the religious and social traditions. All the same, if you get an opportunity to see one, even if it’s a local one, it will be richly rewarding for vibrant costumes, the exotic dances and the music–the grand theatrics of the entire event.
Return to Paro again and again, because it simply does not allow you to stay away for too long. There’s so much more to discover and love here!