About Taktshang Monastery
Taktsang Palphug Monastery more famous as Paro Taktsang is a Buddhist temple complex which clings to a cliff, 3120 meters above the sea level on the side of the upper Paro valley, Bhutan. Mountainous Paro valley is the heart of Bhutan; here the only international airport of the country is located. The Taktsang Palphug Monastery is one of the most famous touristic destinations of the country and the cultural icon of Bhutan.
Visiting the Paro Taktsang Monastery is an unforgettable experience thanks to its unique location and the views of surrounding majestic mountains and emerald green valleys.The main peculiarity of the monastery is its isolated location. It is only accessible by mountainous paths.The remote location of the monastery makes it amazingly beautiful and unique, but also creates technical difficulties.When on April 19, 1998 a fire started in the Monastery it was burned down completely: the temple was hard to access and the emergency assistance was impossible.
No wonder, that when you are looking at the Taktsang Palphug monastery from Paro valley or from the bottom of the cliff, it seems almost impossible to reach the Monastery.In fact, there are three paths leading to the holy place.The first path is a trail passing through the pine forest and decorated with bright, prayer bannerettes symbolizing protection from evil forces, positive energy, vitality and good luck.The other two paths are passing through the plateau, called “a hundred thousand fairies’ plateau.”
The refined architectural appearance of the Monastery is shaped in the best traditions of Buddhist. The complex has white buildings with golden roofs. Paro Taktsang Monastery consists of the 4 main temples and several dwellings.
All buildings are interconnected by staircases with steps carved into the rock. Almost every single buildings of the monastery complex have a balcony with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. The main shrine of the monastery -the prayer wheel is located in the courtyard of the temple. Every morning at 4 a.m. it is being rotated by monks to mark the beginning of a new day.
The interior design of the temple impresses with its luxurious beauty: gold-plated dome and flickering lights that are illuminating golden idols. In the hall of Thousand Buddhas, which is carved into the rock, a large statue of a tiger is located. The tiger is respected as the symbol of Paro Taktsang because of the legend, according to which the location of the Monastery was chosen by a tigress. The tigress brought here on her back the founder of Bhutan’s Buddhism guru Padmasmabhava.
There are eight caves in the monastery; four of them are comparatively easy to access. The cave where Padmasmabhava is believed to have entered first, on the back of the tiger, is known as “Tholu Phuk” cave and the one where he meditates is known as the “Pel Phuk”. Monks of the monastery are supposed to live and meditate in these caves for 3 years. They rarely visit the adjacent Paro valley.
Paro Taktshang History
Paro Taktsang was built around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave, where according to the legend the Indian Guru Padmasambahva, who is believed to introduce Buddhism to Bhutan, meditated in the 8th century.
According to the legend he was transferred to the cave on the back of a tigress. This is why the monastery got its popular name – the Taktsang, which literally means Tiger’s Nest.
Here Guru Padmasambahva, according to the legend, meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours.
Later the caves became a holy shrine. Numerous famous Buddhist monks have visited these caves from the 8th century onward.
The idea of building a monastery near the famous holy caves belonged to the unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state – Ngawang Namgyal, who lived in the first half of the 17th century.
However, his desire was fulfilled only at the end of the 17th century. Paro Taktsang Monastery was built around the holy caves in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye – Bhutan’s leader of the time. He founded the monastery by putting its first stone during a visit to the holy caves in 1692.
In 1998, the Paro Taktsang was almost completely burned down – and was restored to its original form by 2005.
In order to visit the cave monastery Paro Taktsang, one must get a visa unless the person is from India, Bangladesh or Maldives. See the travel requirements for visiting Bhutan.
Getting There & Useful Information
Once you get your visa, you will most likely enter Bhutan through the Paro International Airport.
From the airport, you are very close to the city of Paro that lies only 10 kilometers away from the monastery.
A taxi from Paro to the parking lot and beginning of the path to Paro Taktsang and back will cost you around $10.
The remaining way to the top of the cliff you have to go either on horseback or on foot.
There is a cafeteria in the middle of the way, where visitors can take a break. It is also an excellent place for taking photographs of the Taktsang. It takes around 2-3 hours to get to the monastery by foot.
If you decide to get a horse, it will cost you about $10 and you will be up at the monastery in an hour and a half, but the journey might be more pleasant.
It is not recommended to rent a horse on rainy days because of the sloppiness of the road. Be advised that the horse will only take you uphill, and you will have to get back down on foot.