Located high in the Himalayas, the Buddhist monarchy of Bhutan is known for its monasteries, dramatic landscapes, and mountainous terrain. Visitors to this elevated nation struggle to catch their breath due to its high altitude and breathtaking vistas. So travel with us as we explore one of Bhutan’s most visited destinations: Lion Cave and Tiger’s Nest (GC3Z126).
To audiences around the world, the landlocked nation of Bhutan reads as though plucked from a storybook. Mountains make up more than 98% of the country’s land, which provides dramatic landscapes as far as the light carries. The site of our Geocache of the Week, Paro Taktsang (སྤ་རོ་སྟག་ཚང་།) is certainly no exception in this mountainous nation. Once a meditation cave discovered in the 9th century, the site now hosts a Buddhist monastery built in 1692 to welcome seekers in pursuit of enlightenment.
Today, the monastery is a cultural icon of Bhutan, known globally for its stark setting among the nearly vertical rocks. However, for geocachers, the monastery is also special as it’s the site of the most Favorited geocache in the entire nation. For any geocacher who visits this mountainous jewel of the Himalayas, this is an unmissable destination to experience first-hand.
To begin your journey to this elevated treasure, travel 30 minutes by car from Paro, a historic valley settlement, to the Taktsang Trailhead. Breathe in, ground yourself, and look skyward. Although you’re already at 8,000 ft (2,400 m) above sea level, the trip to the monastery tests your lung capacity with an additional climb to 10,200 feet (3,120 m) over approximately 2 miles (3.2 km). If you’re unable to make the trek on foot, a trip on horseback is available for an additional fee.
If you elect to hike, take a moment to feel the earth beneath your feet with each step. With each passing moment, it’s a challenge not to respect the magnificence of the mountain. Thankfully, the climb has moments to rest, reflect, and admire the picturesque surroundings. A third of the way to the monastery is a plateau with numerous ornate prayer wheels and a small cafe that offers a nice break.
The steep terrain undoubtedly claws at your stamina. Thankfully, colorful Tibetan prayer flags guide the path toward the monastery and the cache. Hung in high places, the flags carry prayers and mantras, which many believe are blown by the wind into the space around. Regardless of your spiritual background, the flags remind you of the many travelers who have walked this path before.
Finally, you spot a structure in the distance…it’s the monastery! It’s time to brush off your geocaching skills, as you can find the cache before you enter the sacred gates. However, the cache owner, nannibella, warns cachers that “the GPS signal is very inaccurate between this steep rock,” so it may be necessary to rely primarily on your geo-senses as you approach the posted coordinates.
Feel your hand around each nook and cranny; a small container hides among the near-vertical rocks of the mountain. Suddenly, you spot a deep crevice which appears to hide the geocache of lore. Success! Etched into the log are the names of geocachers who made the daunting climb just like you. As you sign your name, the rest of your group beckons for you to make your way to the monastery.
As you enter the monastery, recall the importance of this place to Tibetan Buddhism. Photography is not permitted within the gates; instead, use your mind’s eye to observe this location’s delicate beauty and simplicity. Approach the edge to spy the rugged mountain path you used to enter this breathtaking venue. Just think, you accomplished this feat!
Before you know it, your time on the mountain has come to an end. As you turn to depart this serene setting, take a final moment to breathe and admire the majesty of your surroundings. You leave on the same path on which you entered; after you take a few paces, turn back once more to spy the monastery, now enveloped by fog. Although this magical excursion has finished too soon, the memory of this place, and the geocache which brought you here, may never depart from your mind.
Continue to explore some of the most amazing geocaches around the world. Check out all of the Geocaches of the Week on the Geocaching blog. If you would like to nominate a Geocache of the Week, fill out this form.