Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan
Tiger’s Nest, located in Paro Valley, Bhutan, “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” a country wedged in between its two giant neighbors, India and China, is secluded by the mountain ranges that surround it. There is little wonder why this fascinating kingdom remains so unknown to the outside world, welcoming only limited numbers of visitors each year to enjoy its unique culture and the splendor of its environs. The countryside is laced with the beauty of tree-lined mountains and fast flowing rivers, treasured by its residents who are environmentally conscious of preserving the magnificence of nature’s gift.
Thimphu, its capital city is the site of the ancient Simtokha Dzong. This 17th century-old fortress monastery once stood as Bhutan’s center of higher social and religious teaching. The Tashichhodzong contains over one hundred rooms, and houses all government offices, including the throne room of the king and is the nation’s largest monastery. Local guides describe the many changes to the country this past decade as the ever increasing number of tourists coming to visit has resulted in some quite unexpected changes to what was one of the world’s most cloistered nations.
A 45-minute drive across mountainous roadways that offer magnificent views of this environmentally treasured land brings a willing traveler to Punakha, formerly the capital of Bhutan and its seat of government until 1953, when the capital was moved to Thimphu. Situated at just under 4,000 above sea level, its two main rivers produce the waters to help make it a rich rice growing valley, known for the excellence of its red and white rice crops. Punakha is also known for the Punakha Dzong (Palace of Great Happiness), which is a 17 century fortress at the juncture of the Pho and Mo Chhu Rivers, and houses relics that are treasured throughout the country. It is one of the most beautiful areas in all of Bhutan.
Paro Valley, another of the venues to be explored is known for its lush vegetation, and site of the Sang-tog Peri Monastery, a 300-year old retreat perched on the highest peak and known as the “Temple of Heaven.” It is focal point for the clamor of the many horns and drums that sound to welcome the springtime festival. The highlight of a visit to Paro is the trek by foot or horseback to the Taksang Palphug Monastery, known locally as Paro Taktsand or “Tiger’s Nest.” It is a Buddhist temple complex that clings to the mountainous cliff, some 6,500 feet above the valley floor.
Access to Bhutan can easily be arranged on Druk Airways, the nation’s airline, with flights scheduled out of Kathmandu, Nepal, Bangkok, Thailand, Singapore or New Delhi, India. A nation of many riches, most would consider it to be the true Shangri-La.
Pre-monsoon occasional showers begin in May, with June through September being the months bringing the heaviest of rainfall. An ideal time to visit is mid-September through mid-November. The Bhutanese are a most welcoming people and live by a saying often heard among the populous that when you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.
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