One of the holiest places in Bhutan and even whole Himalaya is Paro Taktsang ("Tiger’s lair of Paro"). This amazing monastery is entwined with legends… or may be these miracles happened in reality?

Coming of Second Buddha

History of Bhutan changed in the 8th century when the legendary Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) arrived here from Tibet. This holy man arrived with style – he escaped from Tibet on the back of a tigress and stayed in a remote cave high in the cliffs of Paro valley. Padmasambhava meditated in this cave for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours. He introduced Buddhism in Bhutan (and also in Tibet).

Padmasambhava meditated in thirteen such tiger’s caves (taktsang) of Bhutan but Paro Taktsang is the best known.

The life of this legendary man was full of adventures and extraordinary feats. He died in Nepal – but his body miraculously returned to Paro Taktsang and, reportedly, is sealed in a room at the top of the entrance stairway. His followers believe that Padmasambhava is still alive and active – but in another form, as Rainbow Body. Padmasambhava is seen as Second Buddha and a guardian spirit of Bhutan.

Paro Taktsang and Himalayas
Paro Taktsang and Himalayas / Simon Monk, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Since the death of Padmasambhava (or… is he dead?) local people and guests often saw religious symbols and figures of animals in the sky above the monastery. Once a shower of flowers happened – flowers appeared in the air from the rainbow, as if borne by the wind and disappeared in the air again.


More and more monks looked for the enlightenment in this holy place. The first sanctuary was built here in the 14th century – remnants of the paintings from this era still can be seen on the rock above the main building of monastery.

Paro Taktsang, Bhutan
Paro Taktsang / Soham Banerjee, / CC BY 2.0

Nevertheless only in 1692 there was laid fundament of the first large temple in front of one of the holy caves. Soon after was built a temple – a beautiful structure in seemingly impossible location.

Monastery was built by another legendary personality – Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, seen by many as reincarnation of Padmasambhava. Since then this amazing structure has become a cultural icon of Bhutan.

In 1998 happened a tragedy: fire in the main building of monastery killed a monk and destroyed most buildings with unique cultural values – paintings, sculptures and other. Monastery was meticulously renovated in 2005.

Paro Taktsang from the distance, Bhutan
Paro Taktsang from the distance / rajkumar1220, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Paro Taktsang consists of four main temples and a group of residential shelters. All buildings are harmoniously adapted to the cliff surface, each has a balcony with fine views over the deep valley.

Monks who arrive here, stay in monastery at least for three years, seldom leaving it.

Head Lama of monastery resides in the holiest of the caves – Phaphug Lakhang, the main shrine of Taktsang. In total here are eight holy caves, some are adorned with images of Bodhisattvas.

One of the main artefacts in monastery is a painting of the "Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise of Padmasambahva" – an artwork rich with symbolism and allegories.

Waterfall near Paro Taktsang and guardhouse, Bhutan
Waterfall near Paro Taktsang and guardhouse / Stefan Krasowski, / CC BY 2.0


Paro Taktsang can be accessed from several directions. Temple itself is beautiful – but the access routes are not less amazing, leading through magnificent pine forest and breathtaking mountain scenery. One path near the monastery leads over a 60 m tall waterfall.

Monastery itself is located in a dramatic setting, perched on a high cliff some 900 m above Paro valley, 3,120 m above the sea level.

Although this is most desired tourist destination in Bhutan, Paro Taktsang is truly holy place, rich with history and traditions and surrounded by unspoilt nature.

Paro Taktsang Monastery on the map
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Location, GPS coordinates: 27.4930 N 89.3642 E
Categories: Buddhist shrines
Values: Architecture, Art, History
Rating: 4.5 out of 10 stars
Where is located? Asia, Bhutan, Paro district, some 10 km north-west from Paro
Alternate names: Paro Taktshang, Taktsang Palphug Monastery, The Tiger’s Nest
Founded: the 8th century?, 1692
Religion: Buddhism

Landmarks of Bhutan

On Dochula Pass, Bhutan
On Dochula Pass / Göran Höglund, / CC BY 2.0

Bhutan is exotic country in Himalaya, with extremely well preserved natural heritage and rich, well maintained local culture.

Nearly every place in Bhutan is beautiful. Here are found countless tall waterfalls, unique ecosystems and species – most of these are little known. Exciting discoveries are waiting us! The same can be said about the prehistory – here are located thousands of megaliths and nearly all of them are not visited by scientists.

Today the best known landmarks in Bhutan are dzongs – unique buildings which serve as fortresses, Buddhist monasteries and keepers of local culture and traditions. Most dzongs are well maintained and active up to this day.

Buddhist shrines

Stupas of Borobudur, Java
Stupas of Borobudur / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Buddhism is one of the world religions and at the same time is a spiritual philosophy with diverse traditions, beliefs and practices. There exists rich tradition of architecture expressed in Buddhist temples and monasteries.

Recommended books

Bhutan: The Land of Serenity

Tucked away between China and India in the heart of the Himalayas, Bhutan remains a uniquely distinct country. Few photographers have been granted permission to reside in this long-inaccessible kingdom, now a democracy, where life quietly unfolds to the rhythm of traditions amid the magnificent, unspoiled landscape.

The History of Bhutan

In 2008, Bhutan emerged as the world s youngest democracy and crowned the world s youngest monarch. Today, it continues to enchant the rest of the world with its policy of Gross National Happiness and has become a popular travel destination. But despite its growing popularity and the rising scholarly interest in the country, Bhutan remains one of the most poorly studied places on earth.

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