Home to the airport and Tiger’s Nest: Paro, Bhutan
Paro is a small Himalayan town in the south-west province of Bhutan which is home to the famous Taktshang or Tiger’s Nest. The town has a population of around 4500 people and is situated at an altitude of around 7,200 feet above sea level which is 2,200 metres.
Paro also has the only International Airport in Bhutan and is the gateway to the country for the western world. Druk Air also is known as Royal Bhutan Airlines is the main airline serving Paro airport, and offers flight to and from Bangkok, Delhi, Dhaka, Kathmandu and Kolkata.
One can also hire a taxi from the capital city of Thimphu and drive to Paro. The drive is around 51 kms and takes around 90 minutes. The roads are in great condition which makes the entire journey extremely comfortable and enjoyable.
At first glance, the town of Paro will give you a pretty laid back countryside feel. But once you move through the tiny lanes and into your hotel room you’ll realise the place is pretty much modern both inside and out. There are cafes and snooker joints all over.
Paro is heaven for shoppers with every second shop being a handcraft shop selling various Buddhist and Bhutanese artwork. From fridge magnets to prayer bowls and even t-shirts. It’s a great place to shop and take back some souvenirs for your friends and family.
While in Paro, the main attractions are located all around the valley, so a taxi is the only way of getting around.
The main attraction in Paro is Taktsang Monastery also known more commonly as Tiger’s nest or Tiger Monastery. The monastery is situated on the edge of a 1,200-metre cliff and is the unofficial logo of Bhutan.
To reach Tiger Monastery, one has to hike for a good two hours to reach the temple. The hike is mostly an uphill climb with a few flat walks along the way.
Before starting the hike, make sure that you buy an entry ticket which you will need to produce at the entrance of the monastery gate.
The only pit stop for refreshments along the way comes around 45% of the way along a small ridge across from Taktsang Monastery. This cafe serves basic tea, coffee and snacks at a premium rate. But the view from the cafe is simply stunning. It’s the only place along the hike with a proper toilet till the top. Make sure you stop here.
The next major attraction in Paro is the National Museum of Bhutan which is located on a hilltop in a former watchtower above the Dzong. The museum displays artifacts from Bhutan’s history as well as examples of indigenous flora and fauna from the country.
Drukgyel Dzong which is also known as the fortress was built in the 16th century to commemorate a victory over the invading Tibetan forces. The fortress today lies in ruins, and is a good place to visit along the outskirts of Paro. The Dzong is located 15km from the town and makes a great day trip.
While in Paro, just like how it is in Thimphu the nightlife is very vibrant with plenty of cafes serving western food with burgers and pizzas being the most popular option. Local Bhutanese cuisine is also available at every nook and corner.
Accommodation in Paro is basically for higher budget backpackers and family travellers. It’s pretty hard to find a low budget backpacker style room in Paro.
When it comes to cell phone coverage and ATMs, Paro is well equipped. For nearly 80% of the hike to Tiger Monastery you’ll have good 3G network on Tashi cell.
The best time to visit Paro is during the winter months from October to March with monsoons causing landslides during the months of July and August coupled with heavy rains.
Paro is a default halt along the journey across Bhutan. It’s ideal to stay a couple of nights to get an actual feel of the place.
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