The trail to Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery gets a new makeover

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The Taktsang monastery was built around the holy caves in Paro by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. He founded the monastery by putting it's first stone during his visit to the holy caves in 1692.

Paro Taktsang Monastery, popularly known as Tiger's Nest monastery is an iconic and sacred site in Bhutan. It is a must-visit destination for tourists who step foot into the Kingdom. Locals will perform pilgrimage to pay homage to Guru Padmasambhava aka Guru Rinpoche at the monastery perched on the cliff.
 
However, in 1998, the Paro Taktsang was almost completely burned down. Its original form was restored in 2005. Although the monastery was burnt down by the fire, the iconic temple still resembled the same as the old structure.

The one thing that to continues to evolve to this day is the trail to the monastery.

The Old Taktsang Trail

If we were to ask our forefathers and grandparents how the trail towards Paro Taktsang looked like in the olden days, they will most likely say it was dreadful. Since the monastery is perched on the cliff, the trail leading towards the monastery was narrow and rocky, not to mention, dangerous. “Some pilgrims who feared height would never make it to the Taksang ‘Nyego’ – the door of the pilgrimage site”, said the elderly. And in superstitious beliefs, people who fear to complete the pilgrimage are considered sinful.

There is also the dark history of cases where horses and people fell off the narrow trails while hiking to the monastery in the past.

But gone are the days where parents feared or hesitated to carry their child on their back to the monastery. Since 2010, there has been a rise in the number of pilgrims of all ages hiking to Taktsang Monastery. You can find hikers from as young as 2 years old to above 80 years old.

From the entrance of the sacred site, hundreds of steps were built with concrete and pole fences for the convenience of pilgrims and tourists.

Tourism in Bhutan

The borders of Bhutan has remained closed since the first imported Covid-19 positive case was detected in March. The tourism industry is one of the biggest sources of income for this tiny Himalayan Kingdom. It is no surprise that the country was hard-hit during the global pandemic situation. And people involved in the tourism industry bear the most brunt of it.

However, during this lull period, there have also been cases where tourist guides have embarked on new journeys to spend their time meaningfully. Some have traded their guide uniforms to become farmers, some volunteered as a Guardian of Peace as a frontline to safeguard the country and some took the time to revive and develop existing prominent landmarks such as the Taktsang's trail.


New trail leading to the Tiger's Nest Monastery 

The group of guides spent weeks reconstructing the new trail. With the improvement of the trail, hiking time has now shortened compared to the previous trail. There are shorter pathways for one to reach the monastery quicker. And there are now two separate pathways for the ponies and humans. Previously, hikers share the same pathway as the ponies and often had to make way for each other.

The steps have also been developed using wooden logs to prevent hikers from slipping. Aside from that, benches, resting places, and canopies have been built along the trail.


New Gazebo at Taktsang Trail  


The Taktsang Cafeteria is also currently under full renovation

Despite numerous stray dogs, empty handicraft stalls at the base of Ramthangka base camp, and happy carefree horses and ponies, the locals are hoping that tourism reopens soon to restart the economy. With the improved infrastructure, we look forward to welcoming tourists back to the Kingdom!

In the future, if a tourist ever revisits Taktsang Monastery, one will definitely feel the difference. But then again, no hike to Taktsang Monastery ever feels the same. Whether it is your first visit or the tenth visit, each experience is a unique personal spiritual endeavour.



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