Climax of my Bhutan trip

Bhutan travelogue: Chapter 27 | Read other chapters – See photo gallery

Surrender yourself to the power of the mighty Guru.

↑ The hike to the monastery begins. The board says: “Walk to the Guru’s glory! Take back memories of a kingdom, for here in this kingdom rules an unparalleled benevolent King “

Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal, Red Square and Dome of the Rock. These are the top icons that define Peru, India, Russia and Israel respectively. Taktsang Lhakhang or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery would be such icon of Bhutan. This monastery was among the last places I saw im my trip to Bhutan, and rightly so. By now I had (and you have) seen the Bhutan story build bit by bit and it was about time to climax.

↑ Prayer wheel at the first pit stop. Enlarge the picture to see the temple on the cliff behind.

Perched miraculously on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the base of Paro valley, the only sounds you can hear at the Taktshang Lhakhang are the murmurs of the wind and water and the chanting of mantras. The name ‘Taktshang’ means ‘Tiger’s nest’ and it is believed that Guru Rinpoche, the Guru from India who preached Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan, flew to this site on the back of a tigress to subdue the local demon and meditate in the cave. Takshang Lhakhang is a holy place and Buddhist pilgrims from all over Bhutan visit here.

↑ Prayer wheel viewed from the first pit stop

The only way to reach up to the Tiger’s Nest is to walk, or fly on the back of a magic tiger. I picked the former since I don’t know how to ride a flying tiger and I might have missed taking pictures. Ask any taxi driver in Paro to drop you off at the junction from where the road to Taktsang Lakhang begins (8km, Rs. 15). The actual hike starts about 3 kilometers from the point you were dropped off (elevation: 2,600m).

↑ Admist rows of prayer flags

The hike is 2 hour long and offers spectacular views. In the first part, the trail climbs through blue pines, then switchbacks steeply up the ridge and suddenly the valley opens up. After climbing further for an hour, the small white chhorten with prayer flags comes into view. There is a convenient tea house located near the chorten where we took our first pit stop (elevation: 2940m). The tea house is expensive (its the ‘tourist’ thing): a bottle of water is priced five times here (Rs. 50) so choose between carrying lots of water or spending money here. You can see Takshang Lhakhang right across the cafeteria and we enjoyed the impressive view while having brunch and chatting with other visitors.

Many visitors opt to hike only upto this point and have a darshan of the temple from here. Darshan is a Sanskrit word that cannot be translated, but it means something like ‘sight of the holy or the divine.’

↑ Taktsang Lhakhang.. seen right in front in the middle of the cliff.

Continuing to the next post