In & around Paro, Thimpu

Nestled on the edge of a precariously high cliff, the iconic Taktsang Goemba (monastery) is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan and one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, the Father of Bhutanese Buddhism, arrived more than a million years ago from Tibet on the back of a tigress and meditated here.

Unravel mysteries of the past at the National Museum, which holds together a thousand years of history. Located in an ancient watch tower, the museum has a collection of old coins, stamps, ancient weapons and Bhutanese art and artefacts. You can also view a fragment of the moon’s surface here brought back by Neil Armstrong.

One of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture, this massive fortress and monastery offers spectacular views of the Paro Valley. The dzong is a symbolic centre of religious and secular affairs and today, it houses the district monastic body and government administrative offices. To enter the dzong, you have to pass through a traditional covered bridge.

Among Paro’s cultural gems is the Drukgyel Dzong, located a short distance from the town. This delightful village was built to commemorate the victory of Bhutan over the invading Tibetan forces. All that remains of the fort today are ruins. On a clear day, you can enjoy breath-taking views of Mount Jumolhari from the village.

The twin temples of Kyichu Lhakhang is a 7th century marvel and one of the most sacred shrines in the kingdom. According to legend, it was miraculously constructed in one night by King Songten Gampo.

A 2-hour drive from Paro takes you to Chele La Pass--one of the highest vantage points in Bhutan. In winters, you will encounter frozen rivers, waterfalls, alpine flowers and snow on the way to the pass. From the city’s pinnacle, you can marvel at the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys while watching the famous Himalayan yaks grazing in the distant horizon.

The Dumtse Lhakhang, a rather unusual chorten like temple, was built in 1433 by the iron-bridge builder Thangtong Gyalpo. There is a pilgrim path winding up clockwise through the temple, which signifies passing through hell, earth and heaven through its three floors.

The Ugyen Pelri Palace is a secluded wooded compound which serves as the residence of the queen mother and is therefore closed to the public. Built in the early 1900s by Tshering Penjor, this palace is a beautiful example of Bhutanese architecture.