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Enclosed by blue pine forests and understated farmhouses that only accent the vigorous natural beauty of the surrounding valley, Bhutan’s Paro district is known for its tranquillity and peace. With a population half as large as Thimpu, the nation’s capital, Paro is a modest city known for its production of apples, wheat, potatoes, and other vegetables. The only international airport in Bhutan is located here, and venturing to Paro isn’t complete without a hike or a trek, and a visit to one of the region’s many astounding monasteries.
Impossible to miss, Rinpung Dzong dominates the skyline of Paro. A fortress first constructed in the 16th century, the dzong has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times since its original creation, and today stands as one of the finest surviving examples of traditional Bhutanese architecture. The structure—composed of intricately carved woodwork and massive wooden beams slotted together—is currently home to a monastic community of 200 and also serves as the administrative offices for the Paro district.
Travellers craving adventure should head to the Taktsang hermitage, or Tiger’s Nest an astonishing Buddhist temple hanging on the side of a vertiginous 900 metre cliff. Despite its remote location, Tiger’s Nest is still fairly easy to access. A three-kilometre drive followed by an hour-long hike will get you as far as the Taktsang cafeteria, where there is a panoramic view of the hermitage. Further along, a steep ridge supplies another lookout point, located 3140 metres above sea level and marked by a stupa, or a memorial site. From this point, only visitors with a government issued permit can continue the ascent.
After the exploring the monastery it’s on to a trek, the Druk Path trek specifically. This easy five-day trek begins in Dopshari valley and winds its way to Phajoding, a historic temple complex in Thimpu. The trail promises unforgettable encounters with Bhutanese culture and nature, especially in early spring when the rhododendrons are blossoming.