Though the impressive Paro Dzong dates from the 17th century there was no real town here until the main street was built in 1985. Bhutan’s international airport, inaugurated only in 1999, is located at Paro (2250m). Hemmed in by mountains, it is reached by air on a heart in mouth scenic flight on the country’s national airline, Druk Air. The fertile flat valley floor, watered by the Paro Chhu and the old trade route from Tibet have led the people in the Paro Valley to be better off than elsewhere in Bhutan. You can see the prosperity in the large houses with rows of windows on three levels that are considered be among the most beautiful in the country.

The Paro, or Rinpung Dzong meaning ’the fortress of the heap of jewels’ is the administrative seat of the district of Paro and contains a community of about 200 monks. One of the most spectaular and popular festivals in Bhutan is held here every year. Above it, the National Museum with its collection of religious paraphenalia, handicrafts and objects from daily life, is housed in the old watch tower Ta Dzong.

Around the valley, several other important monasteries and temples will occupy your time for a few days, but the highlight has to be the hike to Taktsang. The ‘tiger’s lair’ monastery is perched on cliffs 900m above the valley and reached by following the pilgrims’ trail for a couple of hours uphill through forests of oak and rhododendron and passing prayer flags fluttering in the wind.

Paro is a comfortable base for numerous day hikes into the hills as well as the start or end point of the trek along the centuries old Druk Path and a point from which to visit the isolated Haa Valley.

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