Bhutan Diaries #7: Climbing Tiger’s Nest

Perched on a cliff, 3000 feet above the Paro Valley is Taktsang Monastery or Tiger’s  Nest.

DSC04210                                       Taktsang Monastery, perched high up on the mountain.

It’s quite remarkable how they’ve built this structure so high up on a cliff, accessible only by foot through mountainous paths. If your reasonably fit, then it’s a 2 or 3 hours climb. The hike to Taksang, was definitely the high point of our trip!

The Taktsang monastery, is considered to be the holiest site in Bhutan and gets a regular stream of visitors, both local and international. It is where Guru Rinpoche also known as Padmasambhava, first came to Bhutan from Tibet some 1,300 years ago on the back of a flying tigress. He meditated for three years in these caves and introduced Buddhism to the Bhutanese. The monastery we see today, has been renovated and rebuilt many times. In 2005 it was reconstructed after a fire devastated the structures in 1998.

This hike is best described in pictures…

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Starting the hike to Taktsang.

Taktsang is usually the last stop on every visitors itinerary. The reason being, it gives you enough time to acclimatize to the altitude, especially if your someone who lives at sea level. Its a steep climb from the Paro valley, but the paths are wide and well maintained. A relaxed pace with plenty of fresh mountain air makes it an enjoyable hike. The hike offers spectacular views and we took plenty of breaks, to catch our breath and to admire the views.

For those who find it difficult to climb, there is the option of doing the first half of the climb on horse back . After an hour of uphill climb we reached the Taktsang Cafe where we stopped for a tea break.

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Near the Taktsang Cafe. The horses don’t go beyond this point.
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Getting closer – Taking in the view over a cup of tea.

Climbing on further, we stopped to admire the views of the monastery, the valley and the fauna and flora of the Himalayas.

After 2 hours of climbing, it seemed like we were nearly there. More so, because we were at the same height as Taktsang and could see the monastery at a distance. But as we got closer we realized it actually was on the adjoining mountain!

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tigers nestTaktsang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest is built on a series of ledges on near vertical rock cliffs at a height of 10,000 feet.

The last leg of this hike involved descending a flight of steps over a bridge across a waterfall, that drops 200 feet into a sacred pool. All along, a number of prayer flags are strung on the hill side.

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The steps on the left take you towards Taksang Monastery

A last flight of steep steps finally takes you to the entrance of the monastery. At the entrance, permits are checked after which all our belongings (including camera’s and phones) are deposited in a locker before we are allowed to enter. The heavy scent of incense welcomes you as you enter the monastery. Inside, there are a number of small temples all inter-connected with steps craved into the rock. Each balcony offers spectacular valley views.DSC04238

 

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Butter lamps at the tea hut.

 

On the way back, we stopped at a small hut overlooking the monastery. Outside were kept flasks of tea, offered to all those coming on this pilgrimage. Sipping our cups of tea, we sat looking at this unique monastery that clings on to a cliff high up in the mountains.

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