Perched precariously on a cliff at an elevation of 10,240 feet above the sea level is the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Also known as the Paro Taktsang, the Tiger’s Nest is one of the most recognized spots in Bhutan. This makes it one of the must visit spots in your Bhutan travel itinerary.
What is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery?
The Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan is a group of small temples built in 1692 around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava flew to the cave on a flying tigress, who was his wife, ultimately giving the place its name (‘Takt’ meaning tiger, and ‘sang’ meaning nest – Tiger’s Nest).
How to reach here?
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is located 11.7 km from the Paro city. Visitors from India and Bangladesh can reach Paro by road, whereas visitors from any other foreign country will require to fly to Paro. Since the tourism policy of Bhutan requires foreign tourists to have a per-arranged tour, your transportation will be arranged for you.
Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Entry tickets to the temple should be purchased at the ticket stall at the base camp. Each ticket costs Nu.500 without which you cannot enter the temple. This is applicable only for visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives. For other Nationals, it is included in the daily fee. The trek starts right from the parking lot. You can rent hiking poles at Nu.50 from the base. Small souvenir shops line the way as you walk in through the gates.
It is best to start the trek as early as possible, so that you can get back by the time the crowd doubles. The Tiger’s Nest timings 8 am to 5 pm. Mornings can be quite chilly at Paro, so do carry light jackets (since after a bit of climbing it may start to feel too hot!). Wear good quality shoes and breathable socks to have a comfortable hike without ending up with sore feet.
Carry plenty of water and snacks like chocolates and energy bars. The hike can get tiring at some point of time, so a snack in between can boost your energy! Take regular short breaks and give yourself time to reach the top. For most beginners it takes around 3-4 hours to reach the temple, and another 2-3 hours to get down.
Doing the entire hike on your own is a great achievement, but those who feel they cannot can also take mules. A mule will take you only till the cafeteria and you will have to continue the remaining trek on your own. Many people choose to stop here and make the descent.
The elevated muddy trail is quite walkable, but it is much safer with a hiking pole. It will do your knees a great deal of help! The trail is surrounded with tall pine trees on both sides, and you get a beautiful foggy view of the Paro valley every now and then. At one point, the trail split into two – a longer less steep one, and a short steep one. The longer trail gives a more beautiful view, so that’s the one we chose.
Half way point
The half way point has several prayer wheels and the land is not elevated. You can rest here, or at the Cafeteria just nearby. Most of the snacks and beverages are quite pricey here, but the cafeteria has well maintained restrooms.
In another 10 minutes, you will reach a red arrow with ‘Taktsang’ written on it pointing towards the direction. A short walk will lead to the spot where most of those iconic photos of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery are taken.
The final trek
From this point, it is a walk down a stone stairway. You can get some really good pictures of the Taktsang on the way down. The stairs end at a small bridge. This is one of the most amazing points in the entire trek. The bridge has a beautiful waterfall on side and a view of the Paro valley on the other. From here, a few steps to climb, and you’re finally there!
All belongings like bags, mobile phones and cameras should be places in a locker. The number of lockers are very less compared to crowd of tourists, so you will have to wait till a locker is empty before placing your things in. Some lockers are found outside the locker room as well, but we are not entirely sure how safe they are. Photography is strictly prohibited within the Temple.
Once our things are safety locked in, our tickets were collected by a guide. Previously, Indian tourists did not need a guide to visit the Takstsang, but rules have also changed along the years, so now everyone must be accompanied by a guide to enter the temple. You get free tea and snacks at the entrance to the temple, so we waited for a group, sipping on some tea. Once we had a group, the guide took us inside.
Inside the Tiger’s Nest
After removing our shoes, our guide lead us to a room and had us all sitting down. She explained that the Taktsang is a collection of four temples and the course of the tour. The temple is well maintained and is fully functional. We were taken to each of the four temples, and the guide explained the story behind each of them. Everyone visiting are advised to wear modest clothes, covering the shoulders and legs (both men and women).
It took us about 1 hour in the Taktsang before we began our climb down. It takes relatively lesser time, and its not as difficult as the climb up.
Best time to visit Tiger’s nest Bhutan
The best time for Tiger’s Nest hike is during the spring season (March to May) & during Autumn (October). Tiger’s Nest winter is quite harsh with regular snowing. The winter season starts from December to February. The trails tend to be muddy and slippery making it dangerous if not careful. The Tiger’s Nest will remain hidden in fog during the winter making it hard to get any good photos.
Where to stay?
You can book various hotels and resorts near the Tiger’s Nest online and through AirBnB. The Tiger’s Nest Resort in Paro is 3.9 km from the Monastery, and is a good option for a luxurious stay. We stayed at the Deki’s Taktsang Bungalow which is only around 1 km from the base camp.
Tiger’s Nest Hike Facts
- Tiger’s nest trek distance – 12 km
- Elevation – Around 2000 feet
- Time needed – 5-7 hours
- Level of difficulty – Moderate
- Fitness – Anyone with basic level of fitness can do this.
Being Bhutan’s most popular landmark, The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is a must visit spot for anyone visiting Bhutan! The temple was full of people, but it was so calm and peaceful at the same time. The remote location of Taktsang makes it all the more interesting.
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