Perched on a cliff overlooking Bhutan’s vast Paro valley, Paro Taktsang is one of the most remote Buddhist monasteries in the world. But with its breathtaking views and fascinating history, you might just find it’s worth the trek.
The Legend of Paro Taktsang
Also known as the “Tiger’s Nest” Paro Taktsang is home to one of the thirteen “tiger lair” caves where the famous Guru Padmasambhava was said to have meditated in the 8thCentury. Regarded by many as the “second Buddha”, Guru Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. Legend has it that he flew to Paro Taktsang on the back a tigress from Tibet, where he then meditated in a cave for three years. Once he emerged, it was then that he vowed to spread Buddhism throughout the land.
The monastery was later built in 1692 to commemorate his visit. Today, Paro Taktsang is still a functioning monastery and one of the holiest sites in Bhutan. It has long been a popular pilgrimage destination for Buddhists wishing to come and meditate.
Making the Journey
Paro Taktsang sits about 3,000 feet above the Paro valley floor and 10,000 feet above sea level. Needless to say, the journey up can be a long and arduous one. On average it takes about two hours to reach the temple by foot, though the path is well-maintained and fairly wide. Mid-way, hikers can enjoy a break at the monastery’s cafeteria along with some stunning scenery before reaching the final 700 steps that lead up to the monastery. And for those wary of walking? No worries. You can rent horses for a mere $10 (but that’s only for the first half, you’re on your own for the trip down).
Touring the Tiger’s Nest
Once visitors reach Paro Taktsang they can tour the monastery’s luxurious interior. Along with the site’s four main temples, there are smaller shrines which visitor’s may visit. Some of the more notable sites at the temple include a room carved with over 1,000 Buddha figures as well as a massive statue of Padmasambhava’s tigress. Guests can also catch a glimpse inside the original cave and feel its chilly void. And of course, there’s the view, which overlooks the region’s lush valley. Between the beautiful landscape, the mindful journey, and the final destination, you’re bound to feel moved by this special place no matter your beliefs.