Bhutan is an amazing country for many reasons, but I will begin with one of its superlatives, Paro Taktsang Monastery. The Himalayan Buddhist monastery seems to hang on a cliff above Bhutan's beautiful Paro valley at an elevation of 10236 feet above sea level. One of the most sacred sites in Bhutan, either seeing or visiting the monastery is a marvelous and memorable experience.
Seeing would be what my husband and I did, not being up to the arduous ascent; visiting would be what our son did. In the photo above you can see our first glimpse of the monastery, the white rectangle near the top of the mountain.
I was very proud when my son graduated college in May. Following this eventful occasion, the three of us went on an extended holiday and vacation. I must say I also felt very proud when my son hiked the full circuit to Tiger's Nest.
The monastery was built in 1692 at the site of a cave where Padmasambava, a Brahmin royal credited with spreading Tantric Buddhism throughout Bhutan and Tibet, meditated. According to the legend, he arrived in Paro Taktsang on the back of a flying tiger which had been his previous royal consort in Tibet. For this reason, the Monastery is also commonly known as Tiger's Nest.
They do have horses that can take you to the halfway point from which one can get an outstanding view of the monastery. The air is so crisp and clean, and thin. Clearly feeling the decrease in oxygen due to the altitude, the horses sounded like a plan.
My husband and I headed up the path on our horses while our son set off hiking the full circuit with a guide which is required in Bhutan.
There are a number of prayer wheels along the trail but this one was definitely the largest.
I love the prayer flags when visiting the Himalayas and they abound at Tiger's Nest. At the half way point, above, the monastery still looks distant.
My husband and I hiked a little bit further to another vantage point. This was a busy section on the day we visited.
At that point we took photographs, reveled in the moment and said adieu for our bodies were not up to the further ascent. The photos from this point on were taken by either my son or his guide and the photos attest to the challenge of the climb, not a mere stroll in the woods.
Due to the remoteness of the monastery, the surrounding area, and indeed all of Bhutan, nature is at its pristine loveliest. That would be Ethan's guide in the photo who was walking ahead of him.
Although relatively short, 5.2 miles roundtrip, one ascends 1700 feet, almost vertically in places in very lightly oxygenated air. Along with the hike over rough terrain, one transverses almost 800 steps during the hike. Alas, that vertical challenge made me wish I could actually fly in on the back of a tigress.
Getting closer and closer.
Almost there, now one just needs to get over the chasm via stone steps which are carved into the exposed cliff face, 200 steps down one side and 200 steps up the other side. They reportedly sprinted up the steps in order to make it in time,
for a photo opportunity in front of the monastery with the resident monks. And yes, they made it. No photos are allowed inside the monastery so the photographs end here, although I must add, visiting Bhutan scores as one of my all time travel highlights.