Advantages It's a beautiful iconic image of Bhutan
Disadvantages It's a long hard walk to get there
To go to Bhutan and not see the Tiger's Nest would be like going to Agra and not bothering with the Taj Mahal or missing the Eiffel Tower on your first visit to Paris. If one image symbolises the exotic, mysterious and timeless nature of Bhutan, it's surely the Tiger's Nest or, to give it its more formal name, the Thaktshang Monastery. Clinging precariously to the side of an almost sheer rock face more than 900 meters above the valley floor, this is the must-see attraction of all must-see attractions. However, there's one big difference between the Tiger's Nest and most iconic attractions: it's a really tough one to reach.
Just to make it more tricky, the monastery is generally visited near the beginning of a visit to Bhutan due to its proximity to the country's only airport, so many visitors will still be acclimatising to the altitude and the reduced oxygen levels. Consequently the Tiger's Nest is more of a challenge than you might be led to believe when a nice tour company sells you a trip from a website decorated with images of this monastery. Even for the young and relatively frisky this is not what you could call an easy ascent and our guide told us that the climb is very similar in places to the rigours of the Jumolhari base camp trek. I'm unsure if that's true or if he was just being kind.My knees sometimes seem to be about 30 years older than the rest of my body and I've had a lot of injuries due to playing ice-hockey in my youth. I sacrificed the ligaments of my right knee to my sport and the cartilage of the left has taken a battering from having to over-compensate from my right knee on too many hiking holidays. With such a knee history, I did start the walk with some trepidation and took my walking poles with me on my holiday just for dealing with this one attraction.
Before I moan about the agonies of the ascent, you might be wondering what the Tiger's Nest actually is so I'd better not assume you already know. Taktshang is the most famous of Bhutan's many monasteries - and I'm not exaggerating when I say 'many'. Bhutan does monasteries like the UK does Starbucks coffee shops; there's one on every corner. The monastery got its nickname ' The Tiger's Nest' from the belief that the Guru Padmasambhava (the man who brought Buddhism to Bhutan) visited the site of the temple on the back of a flying tigress in the 8th century.
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