We had an earlier than normal start today to get to our first destination. We were to take on the Bhutanese pilgrimage to the country’s most famous landmark, Taktsang or The Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Despite getting there at 08.30 we were not there first by any means. From the car park you are able to see the monastery perching precariously on the edge of the cliff 9oom above you. The only way to get there is to walk or take a horse up to the halfway point but above there and the whole way back down must be done on foot due to safety reasons. We did the whole thing by foot. The hike is steep and dusty (I wouldn’t fancy it after heavy rain) but the terrain does allow you to get into a nice stride pattern. Half way up is a prayer wheel and café. The bit straight after halfway is the steepest part of the route but after that it starts to level out and traverse across the hillside towards Taktsang. As you come around one corner the monastery is right ahead of you at eye level and it is incredible, the only issue at this point is that you have to descend so many steps and then ascend the other side to finally get to the Tiger’s Nest. Our guide had advised us that it would take 3-4 hours to get up although it turned out this was for slower walkers, we managed it in an hour and 45.
No bags or cameras are allowed in the temples so we left them in security and then went in to explore with our guide. There are many different temples on various areas of the cliff face and all of them are exquisitely decorated and each have a slightly varying focus. We took in each one and learnt about the symbolism in them whilst trying desperately to remember and distinguish all the names involved. It is colder up at the monastery so even if hiking in just a t-shirt I would definitely recommend taking an extra layer.
The descent (then ascent up the stairs and then descent again) was much quicker than our way up but was also when I ended up taking most of my photos. We passed so many people still making their way upwards. When we reached the bottom there were now market sellers trying to get us to buy memorabilia, which we did succumb to and buy a fridge magnet.
We grabbed some lunch and then turned into what looked like a souvenir shop (which it was) but which also turned out to have an area for indoor archery to allow tourists to have a go at the national sport. We got dressed up in traditional Bhutanese clothes, borrowed a couple of bows and then tried our hand at the sport. I was rubbish!! Fraser did manage to hit the targets 3 times though and was awarded 3 tabs to his belt to show his success. This was extra to the cost of our tour but was a lot of fun and so worth the expenditure.
When we had finished archery we were taken to the Bhutan National Museum. This turned out to be just 4 rooms of exhibits but showed us some masks worn at the National Celebrations, different sculptures and artwork and an exhibition on the flora and fauna indigenous to Bhutan which was all quite interesting.
Just down the hill from this was Paro Dzong which we did have the time to see today after turning up too late the day before. It is very impressive however after the extreme beauty and wow factor of Punakha Dzong two days before it was a slight anti-climax. That should in no way diminish how lovely it is though.
At 17.00 we had booked massages at our hotel spa, Fraser head and neck and me a back massage, as a nice way to recover from the hike earlier. We didn’t have long to rest though as tonight was our last night in Bhutan which meant we had a meal booked with our guide and driver which is a tradition for tours in the country. At the end of the meal they presented us with a couple of small gifts and we gave them their tips in return before heading to bed as we had an early flight the next morning.
Have you hiked to the Tiger’s Nest or is it something you would like to do? Are you interested in visiting countries main landmarks or do you prefer to stay away from them and keep more off the beaten track?