Paro, Bhutan

Paro, on the banks of the Paro Chhu River is home to the Kingdom of Bhutan’s only international airport. Paro has Bhutanese-style shop houses and restaurants, plus a number of religiously significant buildings and examples of traditional Bhutanese architecture. The town grew up around the monastery built in the 10th century, which was later converted into a fortress to protect the region from Tibetan invasions. This monastery was named “Rinpung Dzong,” meaning “heaps of jewels,” although most of its treasures were lost to fire in 1907. The fortress was originally constructed in the 15th century on the orders of Guru Rinpoche and expanded in 1644. Strategically situated in the center of a fertile valley, at an altitude of 8,500 feet (2,591 m), Paro is surveyed by a watchtower, “Ta Dzong.” It was converted into the National Museum of Bhutan in 1967 and is home to historical artifacts, paintings and bronze statues spanning 1500 years.