- PARO VALLEY
- Paro Dzong
- THE TA DZONG
- TAKTSANG MONASTERY
- KYICHU LAKHANG
- CHELE LA
Paro valley is truly enchanting- a patchwork of lush green rice fields with clear crystalline river meandering graciously through it, delicate pink and white blooms on fruit trees, azure skies and sunlit air.
The countryside is dotted with elegant farmhouses and traditional homes that are considered the most beautiful in the country. Their size as well as the elaborately carved and painted rows of windows at three levels is testimony to the prosperity of this valley.
Much of its wealth went into a prolific building of monasteries and temples – there are as many as 155 in Paro district.
With the only airport in the country located here, Paro town consists of less than 3000 people.
Since all buildings have to follow the traditional Bhutanese architecture, there is a symmetry and harmony maintained. The market centre was built as recently as 1985 and stretches for about 500m. The neatly arranged shops and houses are only a couple of blocks deep on either side of the main thoroughfare and the only petrol pump is located here.
The correct name for the Paro Dzong is the Rinchen Pung Dzong (more commonly shortened to Rinpung Dzong) which means Fortress on a heap of Jewels.
According to history, in the 15th century a man called Gyelchok went from the Paro valley to Tibet to study theology. Shunned as a pauper on his return, he constructed a little retreat by the river. His descendants came to control a large part of the land around the area and when in 1645 they accepted the Bhutanese Zhabdung (religious leader) as their head he commenced the construction of what is even today a most impressive building.
This Dzong became one of Bhutan’s strongest and most important fortresses.
The courtyard (dochey) that you enter is actually at the third level of this massive structure and has two interesting figures on either side of the entrance – a Mongol holding a tiger on a leash and a man holding a black yak.
The central tower (utse) is an imposing five- storey high structure that is adorned with fine wood work and regarded as one of the best in the country.
It houses four temples within. A flight of stone steps leads down to the monks’ quarters where nearly two hundred monks reside.
The famous Paro Tsechu (festival) is held here on its first day.
On the opposite side of the road from these, you can catch a glimpse of the Ugyen Pelri Palace behind its High walls. It was built in 1900s and is now one of the Queen Mothers official residences and is off bounds for tourists.
The Ta (watchtower) Dzong lies above the Paro Dzong and dates back to around 1650
It is circular shaped building that lay in a state of disrepair till 1965 when the third monarch decided to establish the National Museum here.
It consists of galleries all of which must be negotiated in a clockwise direction because of the enormous religious significance of the objects within.
The National Museum is a repository of not only precious works of art but also costumes, armour and other hand crafted objects of daily life that provides a good snapshot of the rich cultural traditions of the country.
Of special interests is the gallery of Thangkas which exhibits exquisite pieces of different periods. For those interested in stamps, head to the philatelic exhibition on the top floor. The other galleries concentrate on statues, engraved slates, silverwork, armoury, stuffed animals, traditional receptacles and items made of bamboo.
Perched atop a cliff at 9700ft/2950m ,The Taktsang Monastery is the most spectacularly located Gompa in all of Bhutan.
Bhutan’s Titular Deity Guru Padmasambhava is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress to tame a “tiger demon”. He meditated here for three years, three months, three days and three hours in the 8th Century.
It is a continuous and fairly steep climb up to the meadow where a tea house is located- but beyond this point the trail ascends very steeply till you reach a fantastic vantage point above the monastery.
You now have to go down 400 steps, cross a narrow gorge and ascend another 300 steps before you reach this collection of 6 temples clinging to the hill face.
Only please Do Not Forget to carry /water Bottles with you if you intend to make the climb to Taktsang.
This monastery is one of the oldest in Bhutan and revered as one of the sacred monasteries in Bhutan. This monastery is said to have been built in 659 by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet.
The original building burned once and was rebuilt with a large statue of Sakyamuni as the central figure. A large statue of Chenrizig with 11 heads and 1000 hands were added at that time. A new temple was constructed in 1968 by the Queen mother Ashi Kesang. The other statues in the new temple are a 5m high Guru Rinpoche and another of Tara. There is also a statue of the iron bridge builder Thangtong Gyalpo, and another of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a revered Nyingma Buddhist master who passed away in 1992.
Drukgyal Dzong was one of the four principal Dra Dzongs (defense fortress). Accounts differ on the founder of Drukgyal Dzong. Most writers feel that it was Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who built it to commemorate his victory over the Tibetan army in 1649. Others believe that it was Tenzin Drugda, the second Desi, (who was Paro Penlop at the time) who built it at the behest of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal. Despite differences of opinion on the founder of the Dzong, people agree on the fact that it was built to commemorate the victory of the Bhutanese over the allied Tibet-Mongol forces. Hence the name Druk Gyal “the fortress of victory’
The Dzong was used as a summer residence by the Ringpung Rabdey. In 1951, in the 10th month of Bhutanese calendar, on the last day of the three-day annual prayers, the Dzong was burnt. It is said to have been caused by the fire when a butter lamp fell in the central tower. Only the ruins of giant walls, charred gigantic wooden posts, beams and watch towers can be seen of what was once an important fortress that repelled several invasions from the north.
Chele La at over 13,000 ft to the west above the Paro Valley is the highest road pass in the country and has amazing views of the Himalayas and most significantly the magnificent Jhomolari, Bhutan’s most sacred peak at over 22,000 feet. It is a one and a half hour drive from the valley floor in Paro to the pass.
Jom’lhari sometimes known as “the bride of Kangchenjunga”, straddles the border between Yadong County of Tibet and the Paro district of Bhutan. The north face rises over 2,700 metres (8,900 ft) above the barren plains. The mountain is the source of the Paro Chu (Paro river) which flows from the south side and the Amo Chu which flows from the north side.
There is no evidence that the mountain, which official elevation of 7,314 m is suspiciously close to a round 24,000 when expressed in feet, has ever been accurately measured. Its true elevation may be nearer to 7,000 metres.