Paro – The capital of the last Shangrila

Paro is a very small and the most beautiful city of Bhutan. It is the oldest capital city of Bhutan and only city with an international airport. As soon as I entered Paro, I knew this is the place which I had been searching all my life. Roads with very little traffic, distant view of snowclad peak, a river flowing along the town, greenery all around, soothing sunshine and ever smiling people; I wish I could settle there permanently.

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Staying in Paro

As Paro is a very small city with even smaller population, the availability of hotel can sometimes be a problem. We pre-booked our stay through John at a newly built City Hotel, which was at one end of city. And John even got us an extra 10 % discount.

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Location of City Hotel from city entrance bridge

Talking of hotel, the room was spacious with hot water bath, room heater, free wifi(which was a bit weak on 4th floor) and a restaurant. The rate for standard double bed room is Nu 1400 and deluxe double bed room is Nu 1800. In my opinion standard double bed room on 4th floor is best deal. The room has amazing view of snowcapped peak.  To book – Call +975 17963699 (Utaam Gurung) or mail cityhotelparo@yahoo.com

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Another option: Hotel Pelijorling. If you are looking for a place to crash with basic amenities, this is a place to be. Room rate is Nu 800 for double bed room and room heater charges is Nu 200. No wifi and no TV in the room. Peace!!!

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General useful Information

  • During winter, the water in pipes freezes. So keep a filled up water bucket for your morning ablution activities
  • You can easily walk from one end of Paro to other in just 15 minutes
  • People are very friendly and can go out of the way to help you out. In one instance when we asked a person for good restaurant for Bhutanese food, the guy actually walked us to that place leaving everything aside.
  • Do not buy any souvenirs from Paro. Almost everything is shit expensive. We bought packets of “kokas” as souvenirs and everybody loved it (koka is the best instant noodle I ever had)
  • Stay in the main city if you want to explore different restaurants. However, if you like homestays, there are few options like Aum om homestay somewhat around 5-8 km outside the city.

Exploring Paro

Hike to Taktsang Monastery

It’s the most popular tourist attraction of Bhutan. Tiger’s Nest Monastery is believed to be the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan. The hike takes around 6 -8 hours including ascend and descend. So start early. The climb is worth the views and the monastery. There are two cafés along the way, one of which is Takshang café. It boasts of amazing view of monastery.  Read here for more details.

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Rinpung Dzong (beside river)

This is a small, beautiful and mesmerizingly quite Dzong. The front part of the Dzong houses the district administration while the courtyard in the rear houses the monk body. I sat there in the empty and serene courtyard for hours. The Dzong has survived many earthquakes over the years however, a fire in 1907 caused severe damage. The Ta Dzong (watchtower) which used to house national museum is still under renovation after the damage caused by earthquake.

The mighty Dzong looks beautiful when it is completely lit up in the evening. It stands out in the evening landscape and perfect for long exposure shots.

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Kichu Lakhang (The Blue Dzong)

This dzong is considered as one of the oldest dzong in Bhutan. According to local legend, Songtsan Gampo, the builder of this temple, built a total of 108 such Lhakhangs on a single day. The Lhakhangs are distributed all over Bhutan and Tibet. It is one of the most sacred holy site for the Royal family.

Photography is not allowed inside the Lhakhang but the unique blue themed dzong in the backdrop of two old orange trees (believed to yield fruits throughout the year) is very picturesque.

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National Museum

The museum of Bhutan was housed in a six storied circular Ta Dzhong which is a watch National tower above Rimpung Dzong. However due to the damage caused by the earthquake, museum is now shifted to a nearby building. The Ta Dzhong is still under renovation. The museum is full of information about the history and geography of Bhutan and also picturises local flora, fauna and beautiful pictures.

The added advantage of this place is the view to watch flights landing at the Paro airport. Just explore for the best location and keep the flight timing in mind. We sat there for hours till the sunset. The ambience demands a beer or two.

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Tachogang or the Iron Horse temple

On Paro and Thimphu highway, there is a temple called Tachogang or the Iron Horse temple. It is not popular among the tourists but the best experience about this temple is the super shaking suspension bridge across the river.

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Sitting Idle at some high ground doing nothing

This is my personal favourite. While coming back from national museum, I asked John to park somewhere near the corner of the road to witness the sunset. We sat there for hours doing nothing but observing the tiny city down below. It was a humbling experience and I would recommend it to everyone.

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PEMA gift shop

If you want to try out traditional dresses or play a game of archery, Pema gift shop is the place. It is opposite Kichu Lakhang monastery. Ask your driver to take you there.

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Eating in Paro

Hotel Peljorling
Probably the best restaurant for traditional Bhutanese food and drink. We ate there twice during our stay. The guy who runs this place is very sweet and passionate about running this restaurant.
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Sonem Trophel
There are lot of Sonem name restaurant in Bhutan probably because Sonem is the most popular name of Bhutan. The one in Paro serves Bhutanese cuisine with less of red-hot chilies, dumpling and chinese dishes.

Travellers’ Restaurant 
It is at the center of main market. It was the last place where I thought I could get some decent coffee and I was disappointed. Other dishes are just OK. Nothing so great about this place

John’s Brother’s small outlet
John has a cousin brother who married a Bhutanese girl and is now settled in Paro. They run a small food joint just beside only Cinema Theatre of Paro wherein they serve momo, thukpa, koka etc. The joint has no name but if one has to visit, it is to the left of cinema theatre (if you stand facing it). Everything on their menu is made in small open kitchen cum house and is equally good. What I liked about this place was the warmth with which they treated us. If I ever go to Paro again, I will definitely visit them.

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