The town of Paro takes you into a world of quintessential Buddhist traditions, art and culture in a country rightly called a land of magic, mystery and monasteries. Situated on the banks of the river Paro Chhu, this quaint and tranquil town beckons visitors with its colorfully built Main Street with shops and restaurants. Surrounded by magnificent Himalayan Peaks, crystalline glacial rivers with gorges, pristine woodlands and hiking trails for the enthusiastic hikers and explorers, historic architecture scattered throughout the beautiful valley, Paro offers an experience of a lifetime to the traveler. Nature and nurture come together to create the aura of mystique, so well preserved that even though fire had ravaged one of its most sacred monasteries-- Rinpung Dzong -- in 1907, it was rebuilt as Paro Dzong by the penlop Dawa Penjor and is home to centuries' old Buddhist artifacts of high sacred value. The National Museum of Bhutan, Ta Dzong, towers above the monastery and below it stands the majestic palace and royal residence known as Ugyenpelri Palace. The renowned Tiger Nest, known in Bhutan as Taktsang, is a stunning complex of temples forming a monastery on the very edges of a cliff about six miles outside of Paro in the Upper Valley.
You could spend several days in this enchanting town of Paro, but if all you can spare is just one day, a well-planned itinerary can still give you much to be amazed by and to carry away with you in your mind and spirit.
7 am - Be ready bright and early to depart on the excursion to Tiger's Nest, located six miles from downtown Paro.
To climb the steep mountain rising into the mist is a spectacular ascent and is best done slowly, allowing yourself to immerse in the beauty around you, inhaling the pure, crisp mountain air, as you wind your way up to the Taktsang Monastery Complex that stands gracefully, lining the edges and cliffs. For many, this journey is a pilgrimage and has more than one legend associated with it. Also known as "Tiger's Lair", it is said to be the most sacred of all Bhutan's historic sites. According to one legend, Guru Rinpoche arrived there seated on the back of a tigress 1,300 years ago, and finding the spot immensely peaceful, fell into meditation, inhabiting caves, and brought Buddhism to Bhutan.
9 am - Take a short break to rest at 9, as altitudes can be strenuous and you may need to catch your breath as you take in the captivating views.
11 am - Arrive at Tiger Nest. Spend an hour visiting the complex and its interior.
12 noon - Begin the descent back into the valley.
2 pm - Enjoy a relaxed lunch in the Paro Valley at one of the local restaurants for a tasteful bite of Bhutanese cuisine. Choose from a variety of cafes and restaurants which offer meals prepared from freshly harvested vegetables, locally grown red rice, buckwheat flour, wild flower honey and a host of exotic ingredients. Traditional, fusion and European choices of delicacies will tempt your taste buds. Fine dining or budget-friendly, thereis something for everyone. Among the top-rated restaurants are Bukhari with an ambient atmosphere and a multi-cultural cuisine, including cheese burgers, with all ingredients locally-sourced. Or step into Sonam Trophel Restaurant, a great choice for Bhutanese dishes that will have you licking your fingers. For the lighter appetite, Champaca Cafe offers delicately crafted sandwiches and fresh-brewed coffee and beverages. Don't forget to delve into dessert at the Brioche Cafe with its scrumptious pastries prepared by a five-star chef.
3 pm - Take a tour of another Himalayan jewel - Kyichu Lhakhang - a 7th-century temple built by the Tibetan emperor, Songtsan Gampo, said to house spiritual secrets and a mysterious past. Annual rituals are still conducted for the well-being of the nation of Bhutan in this Jowo Temple.
4 pm - After a busy day scaling heights and visiting ancient marvels, it is likely you will want to do something less rigorous to wind down for the evening. Why not visit the fascinating wooden bridge, Tachogang Lhakhang, which is a feat of engineering in its design and iron chain construction built in the 1300's by Drupthop Thangtong Gyalpo, and is both intimidating and thrilling to walk on. It leads to the Dzong (a fortress of bliss) with limited admission that is a fragrant haven of orange and apple trees. Or, if you prefer, take some time to admire the calm serenity of Rimpung Dzong, a stunning, lama-inspired and built monastery with its arched windows and multi-colored exterior frontages made of wood, overlooking the Paro Valley.
Conclude your day trip in Paro with an unhurried walk down Main Street and choose from one of the many restaurants lining the street to dine as you savor the food and the breathtaking views of the setting sun over the majestic mountains. Heaven couldn't be any closer.