The beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries & temples. The country’s only international airport situated is in Paro. The valley is also home to Mount Jhomolhari (7300 meters.) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier, water forms the Pa Chu which is flowing through the valley. The valley has many isolated small villages and is known for red rice. It lies at an elevation of 2,280 m.
PLACES OF INTERESTS:
Farm House: A visit to a farmhouse helps us to get a glimpse of how traditional Bhutanese people live. It is a traditional structure normally built without any nails and decorative with paintings in the traditional style.
Rinpung Dzong: This "fortress of a heap of jewels" was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646. It houses Paro Monastic Body and also has the offices of civil administration of Paro. The Annual Paro Tshechu is held here. It is one of the finest example of Bhutanese Architecture. Here you can see intricate wood work, large beams fitted into each other and held together without nails. The Tower of the Dzong is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan with its magnificent wood work.
Ta Dzong: It is an ancient watch tower overlooking Rimpung Dzong built in 1951 which is now converted into national museum. It has an amazing collection of art, antiques and religious thangkas. The round building is said to be in the shape of a conch shell. It has 2.5m-thick walls and was completed in 1656. Inside you can see Thangkas (Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, or silk usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala) depicting important saints and preachers.
The Ruin of Drukgyel Dzong: The Dzong was built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan Invaders. This fort is fifteen minutes’ drive from Zhiwaling and set on a hill with a spectacular view of the valley. It provides a wonderful architectural insight to the structure of forts in Bhutan. The Dzong was destroyed by fire in 1951 and is now preserved as a heritage site. The Dzong is situated in Drukgyel, overlooking the beautiful village with Mountain Jomolhari in the background. Drukgyel is also the starting point of Bhutan’s most famous trekking routes.
Ugyen Pelri Palace: It is also known as Palace on Wheels. It was built by the then Paro Penlop, Tshering Penjor, in early 1900s. It is believed that a carpenter was sent to India to get a sample and the carpenter without any formal education made the sample out of a pumpkin. This palace is located in a secluded wooden compound on the west side of the Paro Rinpung Dzong.
Chhoeten Lhakhang: The tower-like Chhoeten Lhakhang is southeast of Paro's town square. The caretaker may allow you to visit the upstairs chapel, which features a central Jowo Sakyamuni, with Guru Rinpoche and Chenresig to the side.
Chumphug Monastery: Chumphug Monastery (also known as Chumophug or Chumphu) is situated at 3100m above sea level. Among other numerous sacred sites, the main relic is the self-arisen image of flying Vajrayohini or Dorji Phagmo. There are numerous marks and prints of Guru Padmasambhava. It is said that Guru Rimpoche meditated here for 3 months. Hike to Chumphug Nye starts from the Upper Dop Shari (Shari means pure crystal mountain) Valley after a drive for about half an hour on the dirt road from Paro till its end. The total hike is of about 4 – 5 hours from the main road. Here one can also see the statute of Dorji Phagmo, which is believed to be in the air.
Dra Karpo: It is an important pilgrimage place and is also one of the many places in Bhutan where Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated while he was in Bhutan. In the temple there is a huge stone, which as per the legend, Guru shifted from the mountain side for making space for intimate altar room. The views is breath taking. The hike takes around 2 hours to complete and 1 hour to come back. It is located at 20 minute’s drive from Paro Town.
Druk Choeding Lhakhang: This town temple, was built in 1525 by Ngawang Chhogyel (1465–1540), one of the prince-abbots of Ralung in Tibet and an ancestor of the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The main statue is of a seated Jampa (future Buddha).
Dungtse Lhakhang: It is a little three storied chorten - shaped temple which was built in 1421 by Thangtong Gyelpo on the top of head an Ogress. The temple was restored in 1841 by the 25th Head Abbot of Bhutan, Sherab Gyeltshen. This temple is unique in Bhutan as its paintings show the progressive stages of Tantric Buddhist philosophy as well as the most important deities and figures of the Drukpa Kagyudpa School.
Dzongdrakha Goemba: Dzongdrakha Goemba is one of several local sites where Guru Rinpoche suppressed local demons and is well worth visiting. It is a temple complex with four shrines - Drolma (Tara), Guru Rinpoche, Tsheringma (Goddess of Longevity), and Maitreya (the Buddha of the Future). It is located at a cliff which is on the western side of the Paro Valley. This place is also known by the name ‘Mini Takstang’. In order to reach it, we have to drive for 20 minutes from the main city of Paro, followed by walk of half an hour through rhododendrons and oak trees. The temples are actually on a cliff above the Bondey village.
Jangsarbu Lhakhang: It is located behind Paro Dzong. It is a small temple which is home to a magnificent statue of Sakyamuni Buddha. This statue was carried all the way from Lhasa. It also houses the protector deity of Paro. As per the Legend, the statue of Sakyamuni was destined for Paro Dzong was merely kept in the temple for overnight safe keeping. However, when the time came to move the statue, it proved impossible to lift which resulted in it becoming a permanent feature of the Lhakhang.
Kyichu Lhakhang (Monastery): It is one of the oldest monasteries in the country built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demoness lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. According to the legend, he established a temple here on the left knee of an ogress in order to subdue her. This is one of the oldest monasteries in Paro district. There's a belief that the two orange trees here in Kyichu Lhakhang miraculously bears fruits throughout the year.
Taktsang Monastery: It is the abode of gods and monks situated at an altitude of 3100m on the Upper Paro Valley, Bhutan. As per the legend, Guru Padmasambhana (Guru Rinpoche), the tantrum mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, came in the form of Dorje Droloe riding a flying tigress to subdue the demon that was obstructing the spread of Buddhism in the Himalayas. This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. On the left side of the monastery is the retreat place where the famous Tibetan Yogi Mache Lhabdenma attained enlightenment. During the hike, one can see you’re likely to see locals displaying handicrafts for sale along the route to the monastery—evidence of individual enterprise rarely seen until the past few years. The hike is moderate to strenuous. It is also known as “Tigers Nest”. The cave is said to be the origin of Buddhism in Bhutan.
SHORT DAY TRIPS:
Chele-La-Pass: Chele-La-Pass, at an elevation of 13,088 ft., is considered to be one of the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. About an hour’s drive from Zhiwa Ling it passes through lush valleys, pine and rhododendron forest. The pass provides stunning views of the sacred mountain Jomolhari and Jichu Drake.
Kila Goemba: Kila Goemba is home to Buddhist nuns. This is one of the seven oldest nunneries in the Kingdom and is located on a rocky cliff, the main temple and numerous meditation huts dot the cliff and is a serene, peaceful and beautiful place. A visit to the temple will give you an insight into the lives of female Buddhist practitioners and their simple lives of religious studies, prayer and meditation.
Tamchog Lhakhang: While driving from Paro to Thimphu one can visit Tamchog Lhakhang. It was built in the 13th century by Thangtong Gyalpo. He is also known as the Iron bridge builder. Situated on a hill top, we have to cross an ancient style bridge to reach the temple. It is owned by the descendants of Thangtong Gyalpo.