Trekking to Taktsang is an experience of a lifetime and all of us in the group vowed to be back again someday. It is believed that this sacred monastery was founded by Guru Rimpoche who flew on the back of a flaming tiger in the 8th century and meditated in a cave for three months at this site. Located at 2,950 metres above sea level, this is the most famous and the only hanging cliff monastery in Bhutan. The hike itself is at once challenging and fulfilling. We walk for almost 4 hours to be confronted by 1000 more steps that would give any sane person a vertigo. But the adrenaline is so much that you cannot help but continue. The monastery stands gleaming in its white exterior with red adornments and a gold cupola roof, looking strikingly spiritual.
Its a one and a half hour drive to the chele la pass from paro town . The drive is really scenic and quite steep compared to other drives in bhutan because u are climbing from 7000 feet to 12500 feet in just 90 minutes. The day we had planned to go to the pass , it was really cloudy with no sunlight whatsoever. Our driver suggested to go the next day as it might rain again and the visibility will be very low so we wont be able to see the valley from the top. Anyway , i stuck to the plan and we were off by 10 . though we did not encounter rain but the sky was overcast all along the way , which by the way gave it a very romantic feeling of travelling in rain drenched mountain forests with wisps of clouds of floating by and tall trees zipping by on either side. finally when we arrived, there was not a soul in sight. May be, most of the tourists had rearranged their schedule. Anyway there was a pathway with abyss on one side and rocky surface on the other. As i walked along the path , i had to be extra careful of the abyss since the visibility was really low. The valley below was not visible at all due to heavy cloud covering and as the clouds floated across me, i felt as if i am am being sprayed with tiny droplets of ice cold water. My hands were trembling due to the cold and every now and then , i had to feel the warmth of my jacket pockets. On top of that, since the pathway was pretty narrow, i was tantalising close to falling in the valley below. Infact, it was one of the best experience of the trip because when u are in such situations all alone, u grow as a person.
The hotel was cheap, decent (ish) and served by a restaurant downstairs. We got a ride to Taktsang the next day. At the base of the hill were the obligatory souvenir stalls selling prayer beads, flags and other knick knacks. Piles of pony dung peppered the rocky ground and the pungent smell of the animals and their faeces hung in the air. A 40-something European gentleman and his wife were selecting rides. We were young and full of vigour; surely we weren’t going to take the ponies to the half-way mark. Five minutes into the walk and I thought, ‘hell, this is easy’. Then came the uphill climb. While it was nippy getting there, I ought to have been smart enough not to wear my sweater. After all, exercise does make you work up a sweat. I bore it out. The path was probably hewn into the rock over the ages. Taktsang or ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Monastery was built in the 1694, but held sacred for centuries earlier. Legend has it that the revered Guru Rinpoche flew to this location on the back of a tigress to meditate sometime in the 8th century. Seated precariously, on the edge of the cliff-face, the monastery with its four main buildings, chortens and caves, was rebuilt after a fire in 1958. Taktsang through the trees We plodded on. Up ahead, the European gentleman was not on his pony anymore, but instead behind it, urging it forward. On and off he would climb onto its back, helped by the guide, but the pony seemed to want the day off. Between the trees on certain turns of the path, glimpses of Taktsang peek at you. It’s a good way to motivate you on, particularly if you start having second thoughts about the walk. Soon, we were at the little restaurant where you can tank up with water and a bite. The next point at which you can get the strange tasting butter tea the Bhutanese love is at a little kiosk run by a toothy, smiling old lady along the steps to Taktsang (It’s free and served out of a mug). The road gets nastier here. I realised how much more fit I needed to be (or turn miraculously into Heidi of the hills) as elderly Germans passed us with their hiking sticks, a senior Japanese lady bent forward to tie her shoelaces and continued on, and Bhutanese pilgrims raced by with barely a heavy breath. We strung up our prayer flags, took a few mandatory pictures and began climbing down the stairs. Already I was dreading the walk back. Stairs have never been my best friend. But the view from Taktsang is worth every uphill climb, every second thought, every penny spent getting to Bhutan. Chilly wind from the valley whips at your face, threatening to tear off your nose. The wood panelled rooms are comparatively warmer, and because you were on too tight a budget to afford a guide, you sidle up to the ones speaking English and catch snippets of their stories. As usual, I got lost, roaming room to room for at least half an hour before I was heated up enough to grunt ‘where the hell were you?’ when I finally found my travel buddy at the ‘Personal Belongings’ desk. We chatted with the sentries, who like most Bhutanese were dressed in traditional ‘gho’s. We trudged back up the stairs, stopping to take pictures by the waterfall as a web of colourful prayer flags fluttered maddeningly in the wind. I couldn’t help but wonder how they tied them across cliff faces like that. The Dzhong we saw the previous day had nothing on Taktsang. Sure it was beautiful in its own right, majestic and royal with its pretty wooden bridge across the pebbled river and gilded tops. Truth be told, visiting Bhutan had always been a wish, but it was Taktsang that actually yanked me there.
Taktsang Palphug Monastery
Taktshang Monastery a.ka. Tiger’s Nest Monastery, is undoubtedly Bhutan’s most famous monastery. Aberrantly hanged on the edge of a 1000m cliff in the Paro Valley, it makes an impressive sight. The temple was built in 1692, around the cave where Guru Rinpoche said to have meditated for three years in the 8th century.
Tiger's Lair Temple
Day 10 After an early breakfast, we drove to the base of the mountain where we began our hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The monastery is the most iconic site in Bhutan, impressively perched near the top of the mountain, the site where Guru Rimpoche arrived atop a flying tigress in 743 C.E. and meditated in a cave for 3 months. Ever since the site has been sacred and the monastery a site all Bhutanese endeavor to visit. We joined many Bhutanese on the trail as they make their pilgrimages to this sacred and lovely site.
Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s oldest and most sacred shrine is situated in the Paro Valley. The temple was built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor Songsten Gampo. It is considered to be one of the 108 temples built by him to subdue a demon that prevented the spread of Buddhism.
Paro International Airport Bhutan
Fun Facts: Paro airport is one of the most difficult landing strips in the world, as it is sandwiched between two Himalayas that are about 18000+ ft. It is reported that only 8 pilots in the world are qualified enough to land a plane at Paro. Do keep a lookout the window for a majestic view of the Mt. Everest from the flight.CurrencyBhutanese currency, Ngultrum is at par with Indian Rupee, so much so that you can even use Indian Rupee instead of Ngultrum, you don't need to exchange! It is suggested that you carry INR in lower denominations.When To Visit?The best time to visit Bhutan is March-July and October-December. In summer months, it is advisable to carry only light woollens as the days are pretty hot. However, be well prepared with warm clothes and trekking gear during the winter as you do not want to waste time being sick in this majestic country.Where To Stay?Remember that once you arrive in Bhutan, you will want to explore its various valleys and towns. To do so, it best to rent an Airbnb property or private room. It will cater to needs of those who want enjoy a property as well as those who simply want a place to bathe and sleep. This way, you'll spend less money on accommodation and can thus, spend more on food and expeditions.
National Museum of Bhutan
Opens from 9am-4:30pm. It is famous for its unusual conch shell shape and its displays of Thangkas that depict Bhutan's seminal saints and teachers. You can also see ancient and modern festival masks to understand the evolution in Bhutanese culture.The Market Place Purchase exclusive Bhutanese handcrafts, jewellery, scarves, and shawls. The main market also has amazing cafes that you can visit. Yegyel Cafe is a great option for you if you fancy Thai Food.
This cozy little cafe in Paro town, is all about yum light food and aromatic beverages. I went there just after tiger nest, so was tired and hungry; and as soon as i entered the cafe, i was welcomed with air filled with amazing coffee aroma and lullabies (the guy on counter was cradling a baby). The food was simple, yum and value for money.I Ordered: Mushroom Cheese Sandwich and Chamomile tea
Paro Rinphung Dzong
The Grand, Rinchen Pung Dzong is one of Bhutan’s most impressive monastery and perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture. The present dzong was built in 1644 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal after he dismantled the then existing Dzong built by Drung Gyal in 15th century, which was known as Hungrel Dzong.
The charmtown Paro lies on the banks of the Paro (or Pa) Chhu, just a short distance northwest of the imposing Paro Dzong. The main street, only built in 1985, is lined with colourfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants, though these appear under threat as the town grows and multistorey concrete buildings continue to propagate. For now Paro remains one of the best Bhutanese towns to explore on foot and is worth an hour or two's stroll at the end of a day of sightseeing. A tourism galore in all sense. National Museum, Philatellic Gallery, Taktsang Monastery, Rimpung Dzong and Thongdroel. Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the kingdom’s oldest and most sacred temples and Dungtse Lhakhang are other tourist attractions in Paro. The National Museum is the main tourist attraction in Paro. This national museum is housed in Ta dzong which is an ancient watchtower. The Philatellic Gallery near the top of the museum is also one of the great tourist interest. This gallery contains a large collection of stamps. The Taktsang Monastery means the Tiger’s Nest. This monastery is the most important religious site for the Bhutanese people, and located at a distance of around 80 km from Paro, precariously perched on the edge of a cliff.