Cool pictures and information about the amazing Tigers Nest monastery. The literary translation of the Bhutanese word Taktsang; Tak meaning ‘tiger’ and Tshang for ‘nest’, meaning “Tiger’s Nest”. Tigers Nest is travelers must-see and a spiritual place of pilgrimage for Buddhists and the most famous of monasteries in Bhutan. It hangs on a cliff at 3,120 metres (10,200 feet), some 700 meters (2,300 feet) above the bottom of Paro valley. Climbing to the monastery is on foot or mule.
Tiger’s Nest Fire – April 1998
In 1950 a fire destroyed six surrounding temples that were repaired in 1957. In 1999, another fire destroyed the entire monastery except for the statue in the main chalet.
Speculation is that the fire was caused either by lightening or an overturned butter lamp. Old photographs and diaries were used to make the reconstruction as close to the original as possible, though there was little documentation of the wall paintings and other artwork housed inside. The Bhutan government took extensive steps to restore it in its original glory by referring back to ancient pictures and other testimonials. It took years of toil and perseverance until the renovation was completed in 2005.
Pictures of Tigers Nest after restoration…
Tigers Nest Excursions
Today you can visit all the temples of the Taktshang Monastery standing at an altitude of 10,200 feet. However, prior to the ascending the slope on mule-back or foot, as a non-Bhutanese you require a special permit and a guide for the venture. Once you begin the trek, you can experience the close touch of nature in the woodland leading to the ascending slope with interspersing sound of a bell. However, if you are not used to walking for rough stretches on mountainous paths, you will do best to take a horse or a mule.
There are many travel and tour companies providing specialist packages to visit Bhutan area and Tiger’s Nest. Search around online to find what’s available.
Bhutan Tourist Map
Click map to see full size tourist map of Bhutan area
Getting to Bhutan
You can only travel into Bhutan using a recognised Agent; you cannot organise it yourself. The policy of forcing visitors to either fly into or out of Bhutan no longer applies and you can therefore fly or drive in both directions or a mixture of the two. There are now three official road crossings (all on the southern Bhutanese border with India) making access to the more remote eastern side of Bhutan easier. The Bhutanese Government monitors visitors into and out of Bhutan; they do not restrict.
You are strongly recommended to engage with your Agent at an early stage of your trip planning to take advice of dates and the number of nights that you intend to stay in Bhutan. Druk Air for example does not fly into Bhutan on a daily basis from each of the cities that it serves (Bangkok is the exception). You should also be aware that from October 2009, the flight routings will alter slightly. For example, direct flights to Delhi will be available; they currently all route vai Kathmandu.
Druk Air is Bhutan’s National airline and is the only airline that serves Bhutan. In general terms, Druk Air currently only flies two routes; the western route to Delhi via Kathmandu and the southern route to Bangkok via a number of other cities. With the exception of Bangkok, Druk Air does not fly to every city every day and therefore you need to be aware of its schedule to fit in with your plans. It’s schedule can be downloaded from the Druk Air website (www.drukair.com.bt). Druk Air can change their schedule and routings without notice (see Buffer Time).
Visual Flight Rules (VFR).
Paro (PBH) is Bhutan’s only international airport and is located in a fairly mountainous area. This is aptly demonstrated by the sharpness of the numerous banking turns just prior to landing or immediately after take off. The weather in this area is unpredictable and VFR simply means that if the pilot has no clear vision of the local mountain tops, he will not take off or land. Delays are therefore always possible.
You should factor in a buffer time zone of at least one night (two if you have the time) on either end of your time in Bhutan to counter any changes or delays. It is far better to factor in two inexpensive nights in Kathmandu than to risk missing a costly international flight to the UK.
It’s possible to drive into Bhutan from India. The most well established and used crossing is at Puntesholding, 5hrs driving south of the capital Thimphu. The other two crossings are not so well used due to their distance from airports. Puntesholing is approx 4hrs from the Indian airport of Bagdogra (or Bhadrapur in Nepal (they are just across the border from each other)), from which you can fly to Kolkata or Kathmandu. You can also drive up through West Bengal to Darjeeling and or Sikkim thereby making what can be a good circuit.