Remember the setting for Bruce Wayne’s ninja training in Batman Begins? It’s the Tiger’s Nest or Paro Taktsang, Bhutan’s most famous monastery.
Nestled into a cliff 3,000 feet above the floor of the Paro Valley, and resting at an elevation of over 10,000 feet above sea level, Tiger's Nest is one of over 40 monasteries in the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Accessible only by foot via a steep, winding path, the temple was built in 1692 by Tenzin Rabgye. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche–a celebrity in Bhutan’s quasi-historical, multi-faceted Tibetan Buddhist tradition–flew up to the cliff on the back of a tigress, built the temple on the side of a cliff carved from the tigress’ tooth and meditated for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days, 3 hours, and 3 minutes. He Today visitors no longer have access to flying tigers, but they can rent a horse to take them about two-thirds of the way up.
The hike to Tiger’s Nest–a challenge for some, a pilgrimage for others–is an essential part of any visit to Bhutan. It's often attempted toward the end of a visit, both because it’s a highlight and also to give the body time to adjust to the high altitudes found throughout Bhutan. Beginning from the floor of the Paro Valley (the same valley that’s home to Bhutan’s only international airport), the trail winds its way through a forest of deciduous trees and giant rhododendrons draped with lichens. The packed-dirt path soon evolves into hairpin switchbacks followed by steep climbs, until it levels out at a beautiful teahouse about halfway up. Here the trees open up. As you sip on tea and perhaps snack on ema datshi (a national dish of Bhutan), you get your first glimpse of the monastery, which will no doubt get your heart racing. You continue uphill, you are periodically teased by glimpses of Taktsang growing ever closer and more beautiful. Finally, when you think you’ve reached the top, you’re greeted by the most stunning view yet–a set of stairs heading down to a sacred waterfall, after which they wind up again to the wooden gate of Tiger’s Nest. Long strands of prayer flags are hung across the divide, and as they whip in the Himalayan breeze you sense the timelessness and sanctity of this cliff-side temple. You readjust your backpack and prepare for the last push up to the monastery, where you’ll light a yak butter candle and prepare to climb back down.
Bhutan is the last of the Himalayan Buddhist kingdoms and has previously been known as Lho Mon, Lho Tsendenjong, Lhomen Khazhi and Lho Men Jong. Bhutan is nestled between the Himalayas, India and China and is taking a soft approach to modernisation. Until the 1960s, there was no national currency, no schools, no telephones, no postal service and no hospitals. Visitors have only been allowed to witness its inspirational beauty since 1974. Its capital city, Thimphu, is the world’s only capital without a set of traffic lights. A set was briefly installed, but the people spoke and the lights were promptly removed for being too "impersonal".
The magnificent mountains and quaint valleys of Bhutan are truly magical and a sojourn to this part of the world will leave you spellbound. So are you ready to visit the Tiger's Nest?
Team Veena World