Tiger Nest Monastery, also known as Paro Taktsang and Taktsang Palphug Monastery, is a very prominent and important Buddhist sacred site in Bhutan. This monastery marks the beginning or the birth place of Bhutanese Buddhism.
The sacred site consists of 9 temples out of which 1 temple is closed and is opened only once a year. The temple complex is located on the cliff side of the upper Paro valley. The temple is devoted to Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche).
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The temple complex is said to have been built in the year 1692. The complex is around the cave where Guru Rinpoche first meditated for more than three years, and this is the event that introduced Buddhism into Bhutan.
There are two legends associated with Tiger Nest Monastery and also the reason why it is known as Tiger nest.
Legend 1 – It is believed that Guru Rinpoche flew to this location on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong and this place was made to tame the tigress daemon.
Legend 2 – A disciple ‘Yeshe Tsogyal’ of Guru Rinpoche in Tibet transformed into a tigress and carried the Guru from Tibet to Tiger Nest. In one of the caves, the Guru meditated and emerged in eight incarnations (manifestations) and the place turned sacred.
How to get to Tiger Nest?
The base of the Tiger Nest Monastery is about 10 kilometres and 20 minutes drive from Paro city. The best way to get there is by car. As most tourists (foreign nationals not including Indians) pay USD 250 per day as part of the tourism fee, the transportation to the base of the mountain is taken care of.
Logistics of Tiger Nest hike
- Distance: 10 kilometres return
- Time taken: 5 hours
- Grade: Moderate to Hard
- Paro elevation: 8525 feet
- Tiger Nest elevation: 10000 feet
Details of the hike
- The base of the hike is at the car park.
- The locals sell and rent hiking poles at the entrance and price for hiring is INR 50 and price for buying is INR 150.
- The best time to hike the Tiger Nest Monastery is between October and December. The monsoons are the worst time to hike as the path becomes very difficult to hike in the rain.
- It is better to start early so the hike can be finished around lunch time.
- Cafeteria serves lunch buffet and some refreshments.
- Ensure to carry chocolates and sufficient water.
- Permits have to be shown at the entrance of the monastery. Since this is part of the USD 250 that is paid per day, the entrance fee is included.
- The bags, cameras and the phones have to be left behind at the entrance of the monastery. There are lockers available for free to keep the belongings.
- Remove shoes before entering any temple or Stupa.
- Dress appropriately and sunglasses can only be worn or kept in the pockets.
- There is a holy water behind the Stupa in one of the temples, ensure to take an empty bottle so the bottle can be refilled with holy water.
The hiking trail consists of path between the forest, barren mountain and the stairs. I have classified the trail based on the stops that you can find after starting from the car park.
Stop 1 – The climb initially starts between the Oak trees. The first stop are the huts.
Stop 2 – The hike then becomes steep on to a barren mountain. The path is muddy and hence advised that the best time to hike this mountain is during Autumn or early Winter. The second stop is almost the mid way at the Cafeteria.
Stop 3 – The hike is still uphill after the canteen. The third stop is a red big flag. This marks the end of the uphill muddy path. It is after this stop, that one can get amazing and spectacular views of the monastery.
Stop 4 – After the red big flag, there are stairs to go down. These stairs are steep and they are quite a few sets. The fourth stop is at a waterfall, which marks the end of stairs going down.
Stop 5 – The waterfall forms a bridge between the two mountains and after crossing the bridge, there are set of stairs to go up. The last stop is the Tiger Nest Monastery.
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