Perched precariously at an elevation of 3120mt on the side of a mountain is the unofficial symbol of Paro, Taktsang Palpung Monastery. Located above the Paro valley, Taktsang Palpung Monastery or famously known as the Tiger’s nest is a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site of Bhutan. Taktsang was established as a sacred place for meditation by Guru Rinpoche who visited the site on his second visit to Bhutan in 747 CE, though the first monastery was not constructed until 1694. The word ‘Taktsang’ is spelled in Tibetan as ‘Stag Tshang’ which means a “tiger’s nest” or a “tiger’s lair”.
Taktsang Palpung Monastery is built around the Taktsang Senga Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambava meditated for three years, three months, three weeks and three days in 18th century. Padmasambava is recognized for introducing Buddhism in Bhutan and known for being the guardian deity of Bhutan. The historical and cultural significance of Taktsang Palpung Monastery has made it major attraction of Paro. Apart from aesthetic appeal to the visitors, the route towards monastery lets the tourist test their limit since it’s a three hours uphill trek. The starting point of the trekking route is located at a distance of 10km from Paro. Taktsang Palpung Monastery can be seen from Paro but it appears as a white speck of dot in the lush emerald green forest and quite impossible to reach. There are three routes which lead towards Taktsang Palpung Monastery. The first route is through the lush alpine forest embedded with the vibrant colorful prayer flags and the other two routes are passing through the plateau called a “hundred thousand fairies”. Along the trekking route there are few points from where tourist can catch an impeccable sight of Paro valley cuddled amidst the foothills of the mountainous valley. There is a quaint hill top café where tourist can rest for a while before continuing their uphill trek. The sight of white washed monastery with golden roof molded in the rocky mountain is enough to make the tourist forget about their difficult yet astounding uphill trek. Taktsang Monastery consists of four main temples and residential shelters ideally designed by adapting to the rock (granite) ledges, the caves and the rocky terrain. Out of the eight caves, four are comparatively easy to access. The cave where Padmasambava first entered, riding the Tiger, is known as ‘Tholu Phuk’ while ‘Pel Phuk’ is the original cave where he resided and did his meditation. The murals in the wall and the musky aroma of incense give a feeling of tranquility while the architectural feat shown whilst building Taktsang ensnares the mind of travelers.
From the legend of flying tigress to walking in the great meditating cave, Taktsang with is uphill trekking route and outwardly Bhutanese structure has become a must visit place of Paro. Trekking through the thick coniferous trees while listening to the distinct alluring sound of waterfall and seeing awe-inspiring panoramic vista of surreal nature in each bend makes the trip of Taktsang a blissful journey for the tourists.
Late spring from March to May when the valley is covered with the vibrant color riot of blooming flower and post monsoon season from October to November when the sky is clean and weather is blissful these are considered as the best time to visit Taktsang Palpung Monastery since the trekking route is dry and approachable and tourist can catch an unhindered view of surrounding hill from monastery. Tourist should keep in mind the timing of the monastery while planning their visit. For March to October monastery stays open for the outsider from 8am to 5pm and for April to September from 8am to 6pm.