Look familiar? It should. Paro Taktsang is Bhutan’s most famous monastery, and was the setting for Bruce Wayne’s ninja training in Batman Begins.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but as far as beginnings go, it’s a good place to start.
Commonly known as The Tiger’s Nest, this temple in western Bhutan boasts a pretty colourful history.
Paro Takstang – The Tiger’s Nest
Legend has it that in the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche (also referred to as the second Buddha) flew here from Tibet on the back of a tigress, and built the temple on the side of a cliff carved from the tigress’ tooth.
Perched a dizzying 10,240 feet over the Paro Valley, it became the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan.
In 1998, a fire broke out and destroyed part of the temple. But the Bhutan government wasted no time in rebuilding, and it wasn’t until 2005 that their painstaking work was complete.
The hike is rather difficult, and will take about two hours battling vertical rock slopes and very thin air along the way. You’ll also need to be patient, as overhanging vegetation in the first half of the trek can impede your views.
One signpost to look out for is the small prayer wheel. Here, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the monastery, which will no doubt get your heart racing. The next landmark is a cafeteria, located on a ridge across from the temple. This offers a welcome respite where you can refuel for the next leg of the journey. It’s not uncommon for people to call it quits here, choosing to rest their legs and soak up the views over a steaming cup of coffee instead. And frankly, who could blame them.
But for most people, once they’ve caught a glimpse of that enormous whitewashed temple clinging to the edge of its jagged cliff, it’s impossible not to keep going.
Brace yourself to cross another steep rockface, some narrow stone steps and a waterfall before slapping your eyes on the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan.
Bhutan Bits and Pieces
Bhutan is the last of the Himalayan Buddhist kingdoms, and has previously been known as Lho Mon, Lho Tsendenjong, Lhomen Khazhi and Lho Men Jong (thankfully, the most easily pronounceable one stuck).
Bhutan is nestled between the Himalayas, India and China and is taking a softly-softly approach to modernisation. Until the 1960s, there was no national currency, no schools, no telephones, no postal service and no hospitals. Visitors have only been allowed to witness its inspirational beauty since 1974.
Its capital city, Thimphu, is the world’s only capital without a set of traffic lights. A set was briefly installed, but the people spoke and the lights were promptly removed for being too “impersonal”.
Feature image c/o Michael Foley, Flickr