Known as the “fortress of the heaps of jewels”, the Rinpung Dzong is the venue for the annual Paro tshechu held every spring. It was built in 1644 on the order of the dynamic spiritual and political leader Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of the modern-day Bhutan. Every year, as part of the tshechu, one of the oldest thongdrol (a giant appliqué religious art) is ceremonially unfurled at the Rinpung Dzong. Today, this dzong is the administrative seat of Paro valley and also houses the monastic body.
The cylindrical monument was built circa 1651 by Paro Penlop Tenzin Drugda as a watchtower to protect the Rinpung Dzong from invasions. After the advent of modernization, with an aim to showcase our rich culture and traditions, the unique structure of Ta Dzong also known as Defence Fortress was converted into a museum in 1968. Initially it housed a modest collection of murals, numismatics, philately etc., Bhutan’s National Museum today is a storehouse of our cultural and traditional treasures. The museum not only contains works of arts but also handcrafted objects of daily life, stuffed animals, costumes, armor and the exquisite stamps furnishing an idea of the cultural and ecological richness of Bhutan in a very short time.
Standing on a rocky spur the “fortress of the victorious Drukpas”, the Drukgyel Dzong was built in 1647 by Zhabdrung to commemorate his victory over the Tibetans in 1644. The Bhutanese still vividly recall and celebrate this victory, which was greatly significant in the history of the kingdom. In the fine weather, the towering peak of the sacred Mount Jhomolhari, the abode of the goddess Jhomo appears as a backdrop. Completely destroyed by fire in 1951, the Drukgyel Dzong is today no more than a dramatic silhouette falling into ruins.
An important place of pilgrimage and refuge for more than 1200 years, the Tiger’s Nest temple got its name when Guru Rinpoche rode there on the back of a flying tigress, a manifestation of one of his consorts, from the present day Singye Dzong in the region of Kurtoe, and meditated for three months in the cave behind the present day temple. He then converted the Paro valley into Buddhism. Bhutan’s most recognizable cultural icon, Taktshang temple stands majestically over 900 metres above Paro valley. Sadly, in April 1998, the central temple that dated back to 1692 was destroyed by fire, leaving the kingdom in mourning for its holiest of spiritual places. Today, the magnificent temple is completely rebuilt to its original glory, and remains a must-visit attraction that exudes a sense of deep spirituality. The climb is steep and takes about four hours round trip from the road head at the foot of the mountain.
Revered as one of the most sacred and the oldest temples in the kingdom, the Kyichu Lhakhang was built by the Tibetan Buddhist King Songtsen Gampo in 638 century AD. According to Bhutanese tradition, a giant demoness lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo built 108 temples in the different regions of Tibet and Himalayan regions - the Kyichu Lhakhang was one of them in Bhutan.
In the form of a chorten, the Dungtse Lhakhang was built in 1421 by the famous Tibetan lama, Thangtong Gyelpo, also known by the name of Chagzampa, “the builder of iron bridges”, to subdue a demoness terrorizing the valley. The Dungtse Lhakhang possesses one of the most extraordinary collections of paintings in Bhutan or even in the Himalayan world.