One of the most popular, iconic pictures of Bhutan is the one of a white monastery nestled in an otherwise vertical mountain face. It looks like snow stuck to a mountain face from afar.
One may not know its name but everyone will certainly recognise its picture, as seen above.
That my friends, is the Taktsang Palphug Monastery or more popular as Tiger’s nest Monastery.
If you would have noticed, all the religious/ spiritual places not only in Bhutan, but also in India, Nepal, Tibet and around are built in far flung, difficult to reach places. The reason behind it is an extensive topic of discussion, revolving around tranquillity and peace away from cities, to electromagnetic fields pertaining to its geographical location and mineral composition.
But for a common tourist to Bhutan, whose highlight of the whole trip must be seeing that monastery in real, would be surprised to know (like I was) that it is not as easy as driving to a view point and clicking pictures and returning back. It’s a test of endurance if you are a regular office slave like most of us, being tied to a chair for good part of the day.
Here is an account of the Tiger’s nest monastery trek.
So, the trek begins with a half to one-hour drive/ ride from Paro, the city nearest to the base of the trek. One has to reach the base and park your vehicles.
Things to remember/ carry:
• Enough water (2 lit per person at least)
• Snacks, chocolates, biscuits.
• It is advisable to buy before your trek begins because the only café which falls on the way is super expensive.
• Wear comfortable durable shoes.
• Walking sticks are a great help. Can be bought at the base.
• Cap/ sun glasses.
Things to look forward to:
• It’s a steep climb in various places. So be prepared to sweat it out. Keeping a steady pace is also important because one needs to get down before sun set.
• You can save on rs. 500 if you don’t wish to enter the monastery and just click pictures from outside, like I did Photography of any sort inside the monastery can get you in trouble.
• You can save some cash by not spending on the café which falls at half distance.
• Ponies are available, but they only reach up to the café. Not beyond it. After that it’s still quite a climb left till the monastery.
• Between the view point and reaching the monastery gates there is still round 300 steps to cover going down and the up like a valley. So be prepared for that.
• None of us experienced any altitude sickness at all.
• Don’t litter on the way, obviously.
• The only toilet on the way is in that café.
We saw a group of senior citizens braving it out. So I am pretty sure most people can do it with average endurance. It’s better to be in shape always, though. Otherwise I don’t think it’s a trek requiring any special training.
Be cautious if you’ve had any cardiac ailment or surgery. Avoid if you have been asked to keep away from strenuous activities by a doctor.
All in all, it’s nothing scary. One can easily spend a day in the mountains hiking steadily and making your Bhutan trip memorable.
Hope you’re a little more relieved/ encouraged.