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Paro

The beautiful alpine valley of Paro, located in western Bhutan, is the gateway to the last Himalayan kingdom. Encapsulating a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends, Paro is home to over 155 temples and monasteries, some are the oldest in Bhutan and dating as far back as the 14th century, the country’s only international airport and the National Museum.

Paro is situated on the banks of the Paro Chhu river, which gently carves its way through the wide valley, creating beautiful vistas and fertile rice fields. This valley is one of the Kingdom's most fertile, producing the bulk of Bhutan's famous red rice from its terraced fields.

The charming town itself is fairly simple, with one main street (only built in 1985), dotted with delightful wooden shops and local restaurants, from excellent home-style Bhutanese cooking adapted to foreign tastes to more sophisticated options. The imposing Paro Dzong is one of the highlights of visiting Paro, built in 1644 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This massive structure is the epitome of Bhutanese architecture and is visible throughout the valley. Just beyond and perched above the dzong is the old watchtower, built in 1649 to protect the fortress, and renovated in 1968 to house the National Museum. Housing hundreds of ancient Bhutanese artefacts and artwork including traditional costumes, armour and weaponry, the collection provides a perfect snap-shot of the rich cultural traditions of the country. Paro is one of the best and easiest towns in Bhutan to explore on foot, so we always recommend leaving an hour or two to explore.

Mount Jomolhari, at a height of 7,300 metres, reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley (whilst the town lies at 2,200 metres) and its glacial waters plunge through deep gorges into the Paro river below. The Paro valley is also home to one of Bhutan’s most iconic landmarks, Taktsang Monastery, often referred to as the Tiger’s Nest. This awe-inspiring temple was constructed upon a sheer cliff face, 900 metres above the valley floor and floating above forests of oak and rhododendrons. Whilst a visit involves a bit of uphill legwork, it's well worth the effort!

>> See our gallery: Bhutan Research Trip 2019

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I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.
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