One of my most favourite things that I did while traveling in Bhutan was to hike to the Tiger Nest Monastery. It is one of the iconic treks in the World and has always been a part of my bucket list. I had always seen the spectacular views of the monastery on the internet prior to visiting the place.
About Tiger Nest Monastery..
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 of the birthplace 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).
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 to 6 hours
- Grade: Moderate to Hard
- Starting and finishing point – Paro elevation: 8525 feet
- Highest point – Tiger Nest elevation: 10000 feet
Details of the hike
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- Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes.
- Carry an extra pair of socks.
- 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.
- The base of the hike is at the car park.
- 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 locals sell and rent hiking poles at the entrance and price for hiring is INR 50 and price for buying is INR 150. It is advisable to hire the hiking poles as the path is quite muddy and slippery.
- Ensure to carry chocolates, light snacks and sufficient water.
- The cafeteria serves lunch buffet and some refreshments.
- 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 cannot be worn and have to be kept in the pockets or lockers.
- 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 to the monastery.
Stop 1 – The climb initially starts between the Oak trees. The trees are tall and provide a great shade during the hike. It is refreshing to hike between this forest. The first stop are the huts.
Stop 2 – The hike then becomes steep on to a barren mountain. The path is muddy and slippery. Hence, it is advised that the best time to hike this mountain is during Autumn or early Winter. The rains can create slush and the path can get very risky. The second stop is almost the mid way at the Cafeteria.
While going to the monastery, do not stop at the cafeteria. You can do that while coming back as you will reach the cafeteria at lunch time.
Stop 3 – The hike is still uphill after the cafeteria/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 Tiger Nest monastery.
Stop 4 – After the red big flag, there are stairs to go down. These stairs are very steep and they are quite a few sets of stairs. 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. And these stairs are quite steep as well. The last stop is the Tiger Nest Monastery.
Even though considered as one of the challenging hikes in the World, this hike to the Tiger Nest Monastery is surely worth it. I absolutely loved the terrain and the views of the mountain. This is a must do while in Bhutan and I would not recommend anyone missing this adventurous hike. This hike was surely the highlight of my entire Bhutan travel. I am glad to have done this hike as part of my travel.