The rays of the dying sun throw the southwestern corner of Paro's Rinpung Dzong into sharp relief, bathing the dzong's stark white walls in golden light. Inside, government offices stand quietly, ready for the next day's business. Beyond the central utse, the monks' quarters echo with the murmur of evening prayer. A traditional cantilever bridge spans the clear, tumbling waters of the Paro Chhu, and far-off bells chime in the breeze.
Built in the seventeenth century, Rinpung Dzong is visible across the Paro Valley, which it successfully defended against a succession of attacks by Tibetan armies. With its thick buttressed walls and fine woodwork, the dzong offers an excellent example of traditional Bhutanese architecture - befitting the seat of legislative and religious authority in one of Bhutan's wealthiest regions. Each spring, the dzong fills to capacity when it hosts Paro Tsechu, one of Bhutan's liveliest festivals.