Clinging to a black rock face, 800 meters above the valley floor, nestles Taktsang Lhakhang, one of the holiest sites of Himalayan Buddhism. Such is the sense of peace and serenity as the quiet approach path winds through lush meadow, oak and rhododendron forest, past quaint hamlets, fluttering prayer flags and rotating prayer wheels, and along the precipitous cliff, it is difficult to believe that Bhutan’s only airport is barely kilometers away. Taktsang, the tiger’s lair, acquires its name from the legend of its foundation, when in the 8th Century Guru Rinpoche, widely revered as the second Buddha, arrived from Tibet flying across the mountains on the back of a tigress. He meditated at the site for three months, from where he used the religious cycle of the Kagye to subjugate the Eight Categories of Evil Spirits, and thus converted the region to Buddhism. Over the centuries many luminaries came to meditate at this intensely spiritual place, enriching the legacy of its founding master and strengthening belief in the Buddhist faith.
Through its setting and history, Taktsang stands as a evocative metaphor for Bhutan itself, alluding to some of the defining elements of the diminutive Himalayan kingdom: a spiritual sanctuary, enriched by the thoughts and actions of its ancestors and an enduring intensity of faith; an ecological enclave, where geographical circumstance and human humility have united to preserve an abundant, multi-layered, undistracted environment; a secluded land, occupying a precarious niche in a fast encroaching modern world. Drukyul, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is particularly distinctive in that it has preserved its overall identity to remain a traditional microcosm somewhat removed from wider global realities. The nation has thus far been blessed with the ability to reproduce itself through ever changing circumstances. In 1998 the Taktsang complex was heavily damaged by fire. The following year popular excitement greeted the discovery of a young boy as the reincarnation of Tenzing Rabgye, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan, responsible for originally building the destroyed buildings in 1692. The successful reconstruction is now nearing completion.
Activities in Bhutan
This moderate trekking starts from Gangtey at Phobjikha, a wide green lush valley which is also a winter residence of rare and endangered black necked cranes that migrate from Tibet to Bhutan in late autumn. The trail passes through mixed forest of juniper, magnolia, and rhododendron to the remote hamlets and farmland of Gogona and Khotokha.
Bhutan is perhaps the most mysterious and diverse of all the Himalayan kingdoms, where for centuries a traditional Buddhist culture has thrived in isolation from the rest of the world. It is a land of contrast – lush forested valleys, fortified monasteries, sacred mountains, and art and architecture unique to the region. Our journey begins in Paro before we head out into the countryside to…