Tiger’s Nest Monastery

The unofficial icon of Bhutan, and probably the most recognised sight, the Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang) Monastery is one of the most sacred sites in the country. It is built over a cave where Guru Rinpoche spent time in the 8th century, when he brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Built in the 17th century on the edge of a 1,200m high cliff, the monastery was mostly destroyed by a devastating fire in 1998, and it took till 2005 to rebuild it.

The monastery is 3,140m above sea level and involves a two hour hike to reach, gaining 900m of altitude, and then an hour back down. The track is mostly clay so can get muddy and slippery in the wet, and there are no steps until the final sections.

It’s an interesting track to walk, with a mani chukor (a water powered prayer wheel) and large stupas near the start, and prayer wheels of various sizes about half way up.

It was a humid and damp walk up with little visibility, but I enjoyed the atmosphere and sight of dew soaked moss dragging from trees, reminding me of New Zealand.

The first sighting of the monastery was against a background of cloud, into which it soon disappeared.

There is a large waterfall close by though I preferred the view looking the other way into the atmospheric mist.

The large numbers of selfie taking Indians was a little distracting. Indians, Bangladeshis and Maldivians are the only one who don’t have to pay USD250 a day to visit Bhutan (though this includes accomodation, transport, food and a guide) so they are easily the largest group of tourists here, and do love striking a pose at seemingly every opportunity.

Like all monasteries in Bhutan no photos are allowed inside the Tiger’s Nest. You have to put everything (bag, camera, phone) into a locker before going in to visit half a dozen small temples. The most sacred has a locked door to the cave where Guru Rinpoche prayed, which is only opened once a year.

By the time we came out the cloud had cleared and sun was shining on the monastery.

It was a pleasingly different experience coming down in sunshine. I’m glad of the morning mist on the way up as it kept the Tiger’s Nest hidden from sight until we were nearly upon it.

Just before reaching the car park I came across this huge black bug, maybe four inches long. They’re popular in Chinese medicine, and people get caught at the airport trying to smuggle them out of Bhutan.

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