Joan Larsen Presents Wayne Ranney: Kingdom of Bhutan – Hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Posted on October 12, 2016


map-bhutanParadise.  Eden.  In all of south-east Asia, Bhutan remains the secret sanctuary of sanity and peace.  I have been reluctant to share my secret as, frankly, I have wanted it for myself – and managed to keep it that way for some years.  The beautiful quotation from the master, P.G. Wodehouse, is one I find the most perfect when we talk about this almost untouched place:

A trip to the kingdom is a little like going to heaven

without all the bother and expense of dying.

Bhutan is the only country in south Asia without a population problem.  And yet, the pleasures of Bhutanese hospitality and comfort are there for you.  You will have no complaints.  A beautifully guided journey where wandering is glorious, cheery folks are waving, and – in every season – the scenery is bursting with life.  Yes, “jaw-dropping” is my own word for the Bhutan experience.  I have been touched in ways I never have been – – ever before.

Our guest writer, Wayne Ranney, has only recently come back… ready to write a book. But instead, we find him writing of a single day’s hike – upward to the Tiger’s Nest monastery. Wayne calls it “one of the most exquisite sites in our world — on a day never to be forgotten”

 – Joan Larsen


The Kingdom of Bhutan: Hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery

By Wayne Ranney

Wandering in Bhutan leaves all visitors with a sense of wonder and awe.  But perhaps, it is the hike up to one of Bhutan’s most revered Buddhist pilgrimage sites, Tiger’s Nest Monastery (aka Taktshang Lhakhang) that forever remains one of the greatest memories of this breath-taking country.  Originally built in the 8th century, the present monastery was constructed in the 17th century but rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1998. This is the place where Guru Rimpoche, the 2nd Buddha, is said to have landed while riding a flying tiger in the 8th century. The monastery sits almost 2,000 feet above the valley floor and the hike up is by a steep trail about 2.5 miles long. The setting is spectacular and the day we had was unbelievably clear and bright!

Look at the day we woke up to in Paro! Not a cloud in the sky. At over 7,000 feet Paro has cold mornings and warm afternoons this time of year.

The peaks north of town look very interesting

Our hike begins about 9:30 AM

The monastery was visible from down below. Of the 47 people on our trip, 37 attempted the climb up and just about everyone made it to the monastery with a few feeling satisfied to stop at a famous vista halfway up.

The trail was definitely steep, rutted and well-used. People still come here for pilgrimages.

But around every turn there were amazing views of the Paro Valley…

… or the monastery as we got closer

It is a fabulous structure but it is the location perhaps that makes it so interesting

You can see the monastery from this halfway point (upper left corner), where a small cafeteria has been built. Notice the rock face that the monastery is built into!

Monks dressed in red can be seen out on one of the balconies at Tiger’s Nest monastery

After the trail achieves the elevation of the monastery, it drops down 200 feet into a cliff-lined ravine. There you have to cross a small bridge and climb back up to the monastery.

The setting is spectacular, the day was fantastic and just our luck – March 8 is the full moon so there were special chants being made inside

Some of the last stairs to climb

On the way down I was enthralled with the lichens and other epiphytes that were growing on the oak trees in the forest

Tiger’s Nest through the oak trees

A well-kept row of stupas . . . the place of meditation in the city of Paro.
This is why we seek out new places . . .
we want to remember a somewhere that
gave us the space to expand ourselves,
to become a little more of who we truly are.
– J.E. Leigh

Ranney Blogger PortraitWAYNE RANNEY:  Explorations, Words, and Landscapes

With a lifelong interest in the natural world, I became interested in travel and earth history while working as a backcountry ranger at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. After receiving Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Northern Arizona University, I began working as a geologic lecturer on shipboard expeditions around the world to places like Antarctica, Africa, the Amazon, Greenland, Siberia, and the North and South Poles are just some of the great places I have been fortunate to visit.  

I am now retired from the high seas but continue to work as a river and trail guide in the Grand Canyon, an award-winning author of  nine books and articles on my blog, Earthly-Musings, and I serve as a lecturer for Smithsonian Journeys around the world. Geology has been very good to me and Flagstaff is situated near many of our planet’s most stunning landscapes, making it a perfect home for my unusual career of sharing earth history with people of many different backgrounds.