National Museum of Bhutan
Set in the watchtower of the Paro Rinpung Dzong monastery and fortress, the premises in which the National Museum of Bhutan resides originally served as a defense system to protect the building from attacks from below. The museum acts as a preserver and promoter of Bhutanese culture and exhibits artefacts from around 4000 BC to the modern day, chronicling Bhutan’s journey from the Stone Age to a modern Buddhist kingdom. The six-floor watchtower, which opened to the public in 1968, displays a wealth of artefacts, including thangkas (Buddhist imagery painted on cloth), Bhutanese clothing and jewellery, as well as ritual objects, like thunderbolts and headdresses used in Buddhist ceremonies. The Textile Museum is located on the edge of the quiet Dop Shari Valley and provides views of the surrounding hills and the nearby Ugyen Pelri Palace.
Simply Bhutan Museum
Simply Bhutan is a ‘living museum’ with a difference. A project of the Bhutanese Youth Development Fund, the museum is run entirely by Bhutanese youths and young job seekers, providing them with business management skills. The youngsters involved in Simply Bhutan act out cultural roles within the museum, such as the pazab, a sacred warrior, and atsara, a religious masked clown who appears in the Bhutanese festival Tsechu, and greet visitors at the museum entrance. The young staff also participate in demonstrations of traditional activities like roasting zao, a popular snack in Bhutan, and making suja – a traditional Bhutanese salted butter tea. Visitors to Simply Bhutan can dress up in native Bhutanese costumes as they tour the museum, and can watch traditional games like archery and khuru, a dart-throwing game, in the museum’s courtyard.
Vajrayana Art Gallery
Vajrayana, located in the picturesque town of Paro in western Bhutan, is a seasonal art gallery with exhibitions twice a year, in spring and autumn, held to coincide with Bhutanese religious festivals including the Tsechu festival in October. Vajrayana Art Gallery, which hosted its first exhibition in 1996, displays the paintings of owner and local artist Chhime Dori, who is renowned both in the Bhutan art community and internationally. China's stylised abstract paintings explore Buddhist iconography, in particular, the Vajrayana strand of Buddhism – the gallery’s namesake – which teaches respect for all life forms and the natural world. Much of China's work features religious objects such as the mandala, a spiritual symbol of Buddhism, and prayer flags printed with manis (religious mantras).
National Folk Heritage Museum
Founded in 2001, the National Folk Heritage Museum resides in a three-storey 19th-century house, built using wood and rammed earth in the traditional style of Bhutanese farmhouses. The museum provides visitors with a fascinating peek into the traditional Bhutanese way of life and features a collection of tools and objects from rural households, a traditional hot stone bath, and a watermill built with millstones dating back over 150 years. Particularly engrossing are the demonstrations of historic household activities such as markhu tsene (extracting oil), tham dhunghi (rice pounding), and the process of brewing ara kayne, a Bhutanese alcoholic drink. Visitors can enjoy an open-air buffet at the museum, featuring a variety of local dishes, with advance bookings.