TIGER’S NEST AKA PARO TAKTSANG IN BHUTAN- QUICK TREKKING GUIDE AND TIPS!

The below article is in a chronological order, based upon my personal experience. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below and I will answer them.

img_2176
Creative shot of Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang.

TIGER’S NEST OR THE PARO TAKTSANG IS THE FACE OF BHUTAN. Most have nurtured a dream to climb up the monastery, which from a distance looks like it will fall anytime from the high mountains. I have been to Bhutan 2 times (Such is the pull of the country!) I could not visit the Tiger’s nest the first time in 2014 because I was traveling with parents for whom it was not possible to trek. The option of taking a mule up to the Tiger’s Nest was there but they were not too keen. I looked at it longingly from a distance and promised myself to return to Bhutan one day for realizing my dream of trekking up to Tiger’s Nest if nothing else.

img_2254
Paro Taktasang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery peeping from the prayer flags

15th August, 2016: Perhaps I was destined to trek to Tiger’s Nest on the auspicious occasion of Indian Independence Day. As our van stopped at the base of the Tiger’s Nest, a touristy market welcomed us. Some of us bought a Rs.50 walking stick. We were 5 bloggers and 2 representatives from Bhutan Bookings.

img_1868
Beginning of Tiger’s Nest Monastery Trek- Of Pines and mules

7:35 a.m. Scores of pine cones lay scattered on the ground as we started the trek to Tiger’s Nest. Mules, waiting to be hired, rested nonchalantly. Tiger’s Nest looks like a tiny speck from here. A row of prayer wheels housed in small rooms built in traditional Bhutanese architecture was the first man made structure we passed. Powered by flowing water, it added to the tranquil atmosphere.

img_1900
Prayer wheel powered by water is housed in this room. En Route Tiger’s Nest Monastery trek

8:00 a.m. Clusters of tiny mushrooms cushioned the sides of pathways.  The view of Tiger’s nest was our constant companion. Half an hour later, we were rewarded with sweeping views of the valley below and misty mountains on the other side.

Pictures above (L to R) Way to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Shadow of the quirky prayer wheels, Tiny mushrooms (Please click to enlarge)

8:41 a.m. There are benches built for those who want to rest. I preferred sitting on the stones during the breaks. Nearby is a large compartmentalized tank where the horses stopped for their water breaks.

img_2022
Me blowing the quirky prayer wheels fashioned out of bottles. En Route Tiger’s Nest Monastery Trek (Pic: Parnashree Devi)

8:57 a.m. We arrived at a giant prayer wheel surrounded by large boulders and prayer flags of all colors. I loved the quirky prayer wheel somebody fashioned out of bottle waters. It had ‘wings’ and was dependent on fast winds or a little blow by humans. Few minutes later, we entered a modern gate. 20 minutes later the muddy path had become rocky in patches.

Pics above (L to R) : Our guide Sonam resting on a bench en route Tiger’s Nest Monastery; Rocky patches

10:00 a.m. We arrived at a mysterious building. It was built around a cave. It’s door was locked but there was a wooden ladder which opened in the window. I climbed the ladder to see a dark room housing idols and prayer paraphernalia. Incense smell seduced my olfactory system as I pushed my nose against the metal net. Just when I thought there were no human inside, a monk looked at me from inside. A board told me that His Holiness JE Khenpo Geshey Guenden Rinchen was born here in a cave in 1926 (Fire Tiger year). People nick named him Dragphugpa (Cave man). He was a Buddhist scholar and for 10 years he served as the abbot of Tango Monastery in Thimphu. Just 3 minutes ahead is a view point where trekkers can safely take pictures of the Tiger’s Nest.

img_2102
The cave Temple just before the view point en route Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

10:22 a.m. After a stop of few minutes we resumed trekking, this time on proper steps with metal railings. Few years ago this was a rough trail. The construction helped people navigate the tricky part of the trek. This stretch has the most ups and downs and perhaps due to this reason the steps were built. “It was pretty rough when I visited it solo many years ago! It’s quite easy now!” An American told me, who was trekking this time with his grown up son. 20 minutes later, I passed a cemented seating area. Skipping the rest, I moved on, impatient to reach the Tiger’s Nest. A Japanese pointed out to me a large formation on the rock below the Tiger’s Nest. It looked like a human form. He told me it is said to be a mythological figure.

img_2302
The waterfall. Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang is just an hour away!

 

11:00 a.m. We arrived at the most exciting part of the trek. A large waterfall cascaded from the high mountains. A bridge helped pilgrims cross the gushing stream powered by the waterfall. Prayer flags of all colors were tied in haphazard fashion everywhere as if celebrating something. Perhaps celebrating our arrival at the Tiger’s nest which was just an hour away! 10 minutes away was a cave where Khado Yeshi Tsogyal practiced Vajrakilaya. A powerful tradition which is practiced to removes obstacles; overpower evil forces and leads to compassion and spiritual cleaning.

Pics above (L to R): Can you identify the human image; the second cave temple just before Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

12:20 a.m. We arrived at the steps leading to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Cameras, Mobile phones, weapons, liquors, tobacco, drugs explosives and any inflammable object are not allowed beyond this point. We submitted our cameras, mobile phones, sticks, extra clothes and day packs in the locker and proceeded ahead after a security check. It is also not allowed to wear sleeveless outfits, shawls or Bermudas and half pants beyond this point.

img_2063
Paro Taktsang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery

As I climbed the steep steps to the Tiger’s Nest monastery, I arrived at a dark room. The perfume of incense and juniper wafted in the air, lending it a mystical aura. I visited all the temples in the monastery, silenced and awed by its aura. The breathtaking views of the valley made it all the more soothing.

img_2151
Me unable to hide my happiness on coming so close to Paro Taktsang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery. One more dream come true! (Pic: Parnashree Devi)

1:24 p.m. We arrive for lunch at Taktsang Cafeteria. A Bhutan Tourism outlet, it is a relaxing place to have lunch post the trek. It has both indoor and al fresco dining option. I suggest you sit at the outdoor benches for a view of misty Tiger’s Monastery. Lunch is buffet style. There are clean loos too.

Lunch Nu 390; Tea/Coffee with biscuits – Nu 100

img_2352
The cafeteria. We ate here while returning from Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Soul Window Tips:

  1. Eat a heavy breakfast. You will be burning a lot of calories.
  2. Wear loose cottons and comfortable shoes. Trekking shoes preferred though it is an easy (for me) trek.
  3. Carry light woolens. I did carry but I did not need it. (I trekked on 15th August)
  4. Don’t wear sleeveless shirts/tops and half pants. You will not be allowed inside the monastery.
  5. Carry water bottles (at least 2 liters per person)
  6. Carry Small snacks like dry fruits, cookies, health bars.
  7. Carry a light day pack to hold all the things.
  8. Walking stick helps, though it is not much required. In case you buy it from the shops at the base, it would be great if you could return it to them for free. This is what we did.
  9. Always give priority to the horses and let them pass the path before you do.
  10. Carry plastic to protect your electronic in case it rains.

MY MORAL POLICING ON RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING:

  1. If you are fit, there is no reason to hire a mule. It’s unpleasant for you as well as the mule. Trekking on foot also helps you observe a lot.
  2. Don’t litter. It is a sensitive zone. Though there are huge bins installed every few steps, I suggest you collect all the garbage in your bag and take them down yourself. If all the individuals take initiatives at their end, it makes a big difference at the end.
  3. Don’t talk loudly or scream. Let’s maintain the sanctity of the place.
img_2197
Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE THESE BLOGS ON BHUTAN:

WHY THEY PAINT PENIS DESIGNS ON THE WALLS OF BHUTAN

DRAYANGS: THE DANCE BARS OF BHUTAN

THE HAA VALLEY: BEST KEPT SECRET OF BHUTAN

ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PARO

MUST DO THINGS IN THIMPHU: 30 EXCLUSIVE PICTURES

WHITE WATER RAFTING IN PUNAKHA: WHEN I JUMPED IN THE RIVER

Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored and all the logistics were taken care of by Bhutan Bookings. Click here to plan your vacation in Bhutan with them.

img_3269
Me en route Paro Taktsang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery. (Pic by: Dipanshu Goyal)

Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration : abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

img_1942
Dipanshu gaining height. This was shot half an hour after the trek to Tiger’s Nest Monastery began.

I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

6 Exciting Monsoon Treks in Sahyadris, Maharashtra!

Off late, the discerning traveler has started to get out of his/her comfort zone and choose offbeat destinations. What’s more? Travelers these days even choosing not so popular weather conditions over high season. However, more and more people are taking up trekking in monsoon, especially in the geographically blessed Sahyadris in Maharashtra. Not many brave to trek during monsoon, fearing rains will spoil their plans. However, I feel it doesn’t rain all day in most of the places and one can still travel in monsoon. In fact, the fun of traveling in monsoon is double. Not only is the weather therapeutic but the monsoon foods, bonfires, the water sports etc make it all the more fun. Such excursions are best enjoyed with close friends and family.

IMG_9862
The Village Scene while returning after Bimashankar Trek! (Taken from a moving bus.)

It is one thing to trek in the majestic Sahyadris in the dry season but it’s a different ballgame altogether to indulge in a monsoon trek through the verdant and misty hills of Maharashtra. Of course, it’s a ‘limited period offer’. Come July, August and September and the hills of Maharashtra display their split personality unabashedly.

IMG_1487
Naneghat Trek

The dry brown shrubs give way to greenery all around. The hot clear skies turn cool, breezy and mist laden, the nondescript dry streams metamorphosize into monstrous waterfalls and the clouds are your constant companion. There is joie de vivre in the air and you should definitely be a part of it! In my seven years in Maharashtra, I have been to some of the most scenic treks. Here is the list of hand picked trails (suitable for monsoon) for you based upon my personal experience.

IMG_7190
We had a swim in this lake near Harihar Fort Trek

 

Disclaimer: I have personally attempted monsoon treks only in Naneghat (July) and Bhimashankar (August). Rest of the below mentioned treks I have done in dry season. However, I have verified with experts and they have confirmed that below treks are monsoon friendly.

1) LOHAGARH TREK
Level: Very Easy
Duration: 1 day
IMG_0184
Locals we met during Lohagarh Trek!

It is one of the easiest treks I have attempted ever. Barring a few patches when you have to climb the steep stairs, it’s mostly a cakewalk. The panoramic view from the fort on the top is breathtaking. The highlight of the trek is Vinchu-Kata (scorpion’s sting). It looks like a scorpion’s sting and hence the name. The trek passes through charming little villages. Wave to the villagers en route, or better still break a bread with them. Check out the ancient but well preserved Bhaje caves nearby.

2. NANEGHAT TREK:
Level: Easy
Duration: 1 day
IMG_1438
We crossed these streams during Naneghat Trek in monsoon.

The route was once an ancient trade route which was in extensive use to transport goods arriving at the Junnar which was then a flourishing marketplace. The locals are still found using this pass to reach Konkan. Not only is it easy to reach but is a relatively easy trek, making it ideal for beginners. The final 20 minutes of the trek was something the memories of which we will cherish forever. It’s a simple uphill route on neatly man made rock cut stairs. What makes it out of the ordinary is that during monsoon one gets to traverse it with a gushing waterfall engulfing the legs as one climbs up. The highlight of this trek was the ancient cave, said to be commissioned by a woman ruler Naganika, probably to serve as a resting place for the traders who used this route. Naganika was the wife of Satakarni (180-170 BCE), the third ruler from the Satavahana era. The inscriptions mostly talk about the achievements of the dynasty and thus are a vital source of information for historians.

3. HARIHAR FORT TREK
Level: Easy
Duration: 1 day, 2 day if camping
IMG_7981
Look Closely. We climbed those stairs in night.

Though not very tiring, this trek can be tricky in monsoon. The steps can be slippery. What makes it exciting as well as risky is the last stretch of vertical steps which are almost at a 90 degree angle. But the views on top are rewarding. The trekkers can cook their own food and stay in an abandoned cave overnight like I did. We trekked in night under full moon and it was magical. However, during monsoon, a day trek is advised. You will not forget in a lifetime the intensity with which the wind slaps your face as you reach the top. Spend at least 2 days here. While returning, have  a swim in a lake nearby.

 

4. RAJMACHI TREK
Level: Medium
Duration: 2 days
r
Picture this in monsoon. Same thing, just more green. During Rajmachi Trek.

This strenuous trek takes at least two days to complete. We started from Lonavala and ended the trek at Karjat. Expect to see different species of birds, mammals and reptiles en route. We were lucky to see a series of shooting stars during our night trek. The view from the fort is breathtaking. We cooked instant noodles in the open and sourced the water from a cave nearby. Our sleep, the next day, was broken by the sound of many bike enthusiasts revving up their mean machines. This place is popular with bikers for off roading. We ended the trek with a sumptuous lunch at the house of one of the locals.

5. BHIMASHANKAR TREK
Level: Medium
Duration: 2 days
IMG_9588
The many waterfalls we saw in Bhimashankar Trek.

 

The difficulty level of this trek is medium. However, it requires you to be in fit shape as the trek is strenuous in patches. I like this trek for the many opportunities of delicious local food one gets to eat while the trek is still on. Look out for makeshift huts selling poha , Jhunka-Bhakhari and fresh lime water. Once the trek is over, binge on the mouth watering pedas fresh from the shops lining the temple. The trek is also memorable for a series of waterfalls one gets to see en route. Keep your eyes open for little surprises en route. Beware of the slippery patches in monsoon.

6. DHAK BAHIIRI CAVES TREK
Level: Very difficult and risky
Duration: 1 day, 2 days if camping
IMG_6324
Defying Gravity and risking my all at Dhak Bahiri Trek

It is the most dangerous trek I have attempted in Sahyadris and survived to tell the tale. After an easy trek of 2 hours, I reached the point from where there is a steep descent to approach the Dhak Bahiri caves. The task was to reach the cave by crossing the rocks and climbing up. There was an iron rod holding on to which I had to walk on the narrow space below my feet to cross the 1st level on the vertical hill.

There was a clean fall and the inclination was around 70 – 80 degrees throughout. So a slip here and there while negotiating the rock patch and I am no more. After the horizontal trek, next up was a vertical climb and then a rope climb to top it all. The next 2 levels were more risky. No wonder, many people gave up after 1st level. Here I had to go vertical and reach the cave holding on to just a rope and resting our leg on not very trust able and hostile rocks. The climb was getting riskier. However, once I reached the top, the feeling was indescribable.

Caution: Don’t attempt this trek if you are not confident! I would suggest attempt this at the end of monsoon season, when it doesn’t rain much, the rocks are not slippery but the weather is still pleasant.

IMG_9549
That’s how you rest in Sahyadris in monsoon. During Bhimashankar Trek

Things to carry in a monsoon trek in Sahyadris :
– A windcheater/raincoat/Poncho and umbrella to brave the rains.

– Mosquito repellents like odomos to fight the mosquito, esp. in monsoons.

– Lots of snacks and lime water to keep energy levels up.

– Camera and plastic covers to protect camera and other electronics from rain

– Walking stick, not much required though.

– Basic first aid kit. Personal medicines, if one is on any medication.

– Sunscreen, caps, goggles if it’s a sunny day.

– Water (around 2 ltrs per person as it is a 3-4 hour trek one side, esp in dry season)

– Spare dry clothes and lots of small and big polythene bags to compartmentalize wet clothes and most importantly to protect your electronics, esp. camera and cellphones.

– Do wear trekking shoes (No chappals or sandals)

– Please avoid wearing gold and other ornaments.

Enjoy the nature’s bounty this monsoon in hills of Maharashtra. Be respectful to the nature and locals when you are at it. If you have any queries, ask me in the comments below.

Note: An abridged version of this article was published in the website Mobo.

IMG_9495
Me during Bhimashankar trek. Yes that’s my camera bag and umbrella!

Spread the love, share this blog

Be a part of my journey on social media. The content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.