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The Tiger’s Nest Temple
Taktsang Lhakhang is Bhutan’s most iconic landmark and religious site. The name Taktsang translates to “The Tiger’s Nest”. This temple is one of the most holy sites in the kingdom and clings impossibly to a sheer cliff face 900 hundred meters above the Paro Valley.
It was first built in 1692 at a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 7th century A.D. Legend states that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in order to subdue evil demons residing within it. The cave has been considered a sacred site ever since and many famous saints have travelled to meditate in it.
Taktsang Lhakhang is located approximately 10 km north of Paro town at an altitude of 3.120 meters. In order to arrive at the temple visitors must trek for around 2-3 hours through beautiful, shady pine forests. No trip to Bhutan would be complete without a visit to this remarkable heritage site.
The monastery is located 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) to the north of Paro and hangs on a precarious cliff at 3,120 metres (10,240 ft), about 900 metres (3,000 ft) above the Paro valley, on the right side of the Paro Chu (‘chu’ Bhutanese means ”river or water”.)The rock slopes are very steep (almost vertical) and the monastery buildings are built into the rock face. Though it looks formidable, the monastery complex has access from several directions, such as the northwest path through the forest, from the south along the path used by devotees, and from the north (access over the rocky plateau, which is called the “Hundred Thousand Fairies” known as Bumda (hBum-brag). A mule track leading to it passes through pine forest that is colorfully festooned with moss and prayer flags. On many days, clouds shroud the monastery and give an eerie feeling of remoteness.
On the approach path to the monastery, there is a Lakhang (village level monastery) and a temple of Urgyan Tsemo (“U-rgyan rTse-mo”) which, like the main monastery, is located on a rocky plateau with a precipitous projection of several hundred feet over the valley. From this location, the monastery’s buildings are on the opposite ravine, which is known by the name “Copper-Colored Mountain Paradise of Padmasambhava”. This is the view point for visitors and there is a cafeteria to provide refreshments.
The trek beyond this point is very scenic with the sound of the water fall breaking the silence. Along the trek route blue pine trees, prayer flags and kiosks selling paraphernalia for worship (such as prayer wheels, temple bells and skulls) are seen. The route is scattered with number of temples. On this path, a large water fall, which drops by 60 metres (200 ft) into a sacred pool, is forded over by a bridge. The track terminates at the main monastery where colorful paintings are displayed. Guru Rinpoche’s cave where he meditated is also seen. This cave is opened for public viewing only once a year.