OT Itinerary: Your 3-Day Guide To Paro, Bhutan's Hidden Valley

It’s high time that your long stalled Bhutan tour came to an end. Explore our three day itinerary to Paro valley of Bhutan and travel the place like never before
Two buddhist monks at Punakha Dzong, Bhutan
Two buddhist monks at Punakha Dzong, BhutanShutterstock

Paro is a historic town in Bhutan, located in the Paro Valley, at the base of Mount Jomolhari and west of the capital, Thimphu. The town is known for its numerous sacred sites, as many as 155, including the 7th century temple Kyichu Lhakhang and the Tiger's Nest monastery, which clings to cliffs above the valley. The valley town boasts traditional houses and vast paddy fields, giving it a picturesque look. Formed in 1985, the city is already a buzzing borough that is tremendously developed. Check out our perfect three-day itinerary, embark on your Bhutan tour to Paro, and explore its many wonders.

Day 1: Exploring Paro Town

A view of the Tiger's Nest monastery located  at an altitude of 10,000 feet
A view of the Tiger's Nest monastery located at an altitude of 10,000 feet Shutterstock

Start your Bhutan tour with a visit to the renowned Paro Taktsang, also known as Tiger's Nest monastery. It is located on a cliff at an altitude of 10,000 feet and is one of the thirteen Tiger's Nest caves in historical Tibet. Monks run the monastery, and it is the most popular tourist attraction. To reach the monastery, you must take a moderate hike of approximately 2-3 hours. Along the trail, you will get breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Ta Dzong National Museum, Bhutan
Ta Dzong National Museum, BhutanShutterstock

After descending from Taktsang, you can head to Paro town for lunch. Take Taktsang Cafeteria or Mountain Cafe for local delicacies, and head to Latest Recipe or Champaca Cafe for budget-friendly menus. Later, stroll through the charming streets lined with traditional Bhutanese houses and handicraft shops. While you're there, visit the National Museum of Bhutan, which is housed in a 17th-century watchtower. You can learn about Bhutanese culture, history and art through the exhibits at the museum.

In the evening, you can stroll along the Paro River and enjoy the peaceful ambience around you. You can have dinner at a local restaurant to try authentic Bhutanese cuisine, such as Ema Datshi (chilli and cheese stew) or Momos (dumplings). If you have enough time, you can also visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan's oldest and most sacred temples dating back to the 7th century.

Day 2: Cultural Immersion

A view from the bridge across the river with traditional Bhutan palace, Paro Rinpung Dzong
A view from the bridge across the river with traditional Bhutan palace, Paro Rinpung DzongShutterstock

To start off your day, we recommend visiting Rinpung Dzong. This historic site serves as the administrative and religious centre of Paro. It was built by Ngawang Namgyal and opened in 1645. The formal name of this fortress is Rinchen Pung Dzong, which means "Fortress on a Heap of Jewels." While there, take in the intricate architecture, stroll through the beautiful courtyards and admire the vibrant murals depicting Buddhist teachings.

After lunch, drive from Paro to the beautiful Haa Valley for two hours. Once you arrive, you can explore the serene countryside, visit the local villages, and interact with the friendly locals. Don't miss out on the opportunity to taste the traditional Haa cuisine, known for its unique flavours and ingredients. The Haaps have hoentoe, a popular buckwheat dumpling that is an important part of their culture which you must try.

After spending the day exploring Paro, you can return to your hotel in the evening and indulge in a soothing hot stone bath, which is a traditional Bhutanese therapeutic practice known for its healing properties. Later, you can choose to have a peaceful dinner at your hotel or explore the local culinary scene in Paro.

Day 3: Adventure and Nature

Chele La pass in Bhutan stands over 4,000 metres above sea level and lies between Paro and the Haa Valley
Chele La pass in Bhutan stands over 4,000 metres above sea level and lies between Paro and the Haa ValleyShutterstock

On the third day, embark on an adventurous journey to Chele La Pass, the highest motorable pass in Bhutan, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the Himalayas.  It's 35 kilometres from Paro and 26 kilometres from Haa on the Bondey-Haa Highway. Enjoy a picnic breakfast amidst the stunning mountain scenery and enjoy the fresh mountain air.

After descending from Chele La Pass, you can visit Dzongdrakha Goemba, a group of four cliffside chapels that overlooks the Paro Valley. Each chapel of Dzongdrakha Goemba is dedicated to a specific Buddhist deity, namely Drolma (Tara), Guru Rinpoche, Tsheringma (Goddess of Longevity) and Maitreya (Buddha of the Future). You can explore the temples and enjoy the peaceful surroundings before returning to Paro for lunch.

In the evening, you can take a stroll and explore the local markets in Paro town to find souvenirs and handicrafts to take back home. Alternatively, you can opt for a traditional Bhutanese cultural show that features colourful dances and performances. Finally, you can end your day with a farewell dinner, reflecting on all your memorable experiences in Paro.

Culinary Offerings Of Bhutan

Bhutanese meal with chili cheese red rice, cheesy potato, chicken and vegetables
Bhutanese meal with chili cheese red rice, cheesy potato, chicken and vegetablesShutterstock

Bhutan offers a range of culinary experiences that reflect the local cultural heritage. Some must-try dishes include Ema Datshi, a stew made with chilli peppers and yak cheese, and Momos, steamed dumplings with meat or vegetable filling. For traditional flavours, try Phaksha Paa, a pork stir-fry, or Jasha Maroo, a chicken stew. Bhutanese red rice complements these dishes perfectly. Read more here.

Accommodation

Some places that you can stay in at Paro Town on your Bhutan tour include Nirvana Inn (INR 2116 per night), Hotel Khamsum (INR 1944 per night), Zhiwa Ling Hotel (INR 61551 per night), Le Meridien Paro (INR 42206 per night), Taktsang Village Resort (INR 3096 per night) or Tiger's Nest Resort (INR 5106 per night).

How To Reach

Air: Direct flights from Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi are available for Paro and they drop you at the Paro International Airport.

Road: For those who wish to travel up to Paro by road, West Bengal serves as an ideal hub to reach the city. Kolkata is the nearest metropolitan to Bhutan and offers multiple bus and cab services to Paro.

Information

Indian nationals do not require a visa to travel to Bhutan. However, an entry permit will be issued to them on arrival at the Paro International Airport or any other port of entry. The permit is valid for seven days and must be presented at every checkpoint for verification.

It is important to remember that Indian tourists are required to pay a certain Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of INR 1,200 per person per night. Children aged 5 and below are exempted from the SDF while those aged 6 to 12 get a fifty percent concession. If you are visiting Samtse, Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar towns for 24 hours can also skip the SDF.

Furthermore, Indian registered vehicles are allowed within the deisgnated zone without any charges. However, if your vehicle goes beyond the Rinchending Check Post in Phuentsholing, you will have to pay a Green Tax of Nu 4,500 per day.

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