South Asia Wonders

Tiger’s Nest Monastery

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, also known as Paro Takstang,  is a sacred Buddhist site located near Paro, Bhutan. It was constructed in 1692, around the cave where Guru Rinpoche first meditated, the event that introduced Buddhism into Bhutan. There is a legend that Guru Rinpoche was carried from Tibet to this location on the back of a tigress, thus giving it the name “Tiger’s Nest.”

Now, this monastery consists of four temples with residential accommodations for the monks. Despite the daily visits by tourists, Paro Takstang still functions as a monastery today.

Tiger’s Nest Monastery perched on the side of a mountain ledge

We visited Tiger’s Nest (Taktshang) Monastery in 2011 as part of our 3-week Tibet, Bhutan and Chengdu trip.

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal was built as a mausoleum by Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. Her death left the emperor completely heartbroken.  The construction of the Taj began in 1632. Th main building was completed in eight years, but the whole complex was not completed until 1653. Soon after the construction was completed, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his son Aurangzeb and imprisoned in the Agra Fort. For the rest of his life, he could only gaze at his wondrous creation through a window. Shah Jahan died in 1666, after which his mortal remains were buried here alongside Mumtaz.

Taj Mahal

We visited Taj Mahal as part of our 2009 3-week G Adventures Delhi to Kathmandu overland trip.

Hindu fervour at the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi

The spiritual capital of India, Varanasi rests on the most sacred stretch of the Ganges.  Devout Hindus religiously take a purifying dip with their morning prayers before beginning their day’s work. The scene often inspires a sense of spirituality in even the most jaded. It’s a timeless setting, a living fresco. At the end of life, many travel to Varanasi to spend their last days, a tradition marking transition into another stage of being. Many believe that ending life in Varanasi offers moksha, liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Varanasi, the beating heart of the Hindu universe, is said to radiate endless energy with the belief that a single dip in the River Ganges will wash away a lifetime of sins.

Sunset along the Ganges

We visited Varanasi in 2009.

Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park is the first national park in Nepal. It was established in 1973 and granted the status of a World Heritage Site in 1984. It covers an area of square 952 square kilometers of forest, marshland and grassland containing sizable animal populations, making it one of the best national parks for viewing wildlife in Asia.  You’ll have an excellent chance of spotting one-horned rhinos, deer, monkeys and some of the more than 500 species of birds.

One-horned rhino

We visited Chitwan National Park in 2009.

Kathmandu Valley

The Kathmandu Valley is a region of 600 square kilometers in the the Bagmati zone in central Nepal, and is home to three of the largest cities in Nepal, including Kathmandu itself, as well as hundreds of smaller towns and villages.  The  Kathmandu Valley lies at the crossroads of ancient civilizations of the Indian subcontinent and the broader Asian continent, and has at least 130 important monuments, including several pilgrimage sites for Hindus and Buddhists. There are seven World Heritage Sites within the valley.

This Patan square ranks as one of the finest urban streetscapes in the world

We visited Kathmandu Valley in 2009.

Sigiriya

Sigiriya (Lion Rock) is an ancient rock fortress near the town of Dambulla, in central Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres high.  According to the ancient Sri Lankan history, this site was selected by King Kasyapa for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king’s death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

The entrance to a flight of steeps to the top of the Rock

We visited Sigiriya Rock in 2016 as part of our 4-week Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka and Maldives trip.

Yala National Park

Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants and aquatic birds. The western part of Yala is named as the area with the highest leopard concentration in the world. However, there are only 35 leopards in the entire park, so the chances of actually seeing a single leopard are still relatively slim.

Our prized photo of the day. It is normally very difficult to spot a leopard in the wild, but we saw two! The leopard is one of the “Big Fives” to see in a safari.

See next: Southeast Asia Wonders

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