The Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan is an adventurer’s paradise with stunning views and a rich cultural experience.
With this guide, I’ll help you plan your trip from the airport up to the monastery.
What Is the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan?
Tiger’s Nest, also known as Paro Taktsang, is a sacred Buddhist site in the Paro Valley of Bhutan. Taktsang means tiger’s lair.
Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, flew on the back of a tiger to this spot in the 8th century to tame one of the 13 tiger demons.
He meditated in one of the caves for three months! (Some source says he meditated for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, and 3 hours!)
The monastery was built around the cave and became a symbol of Bhutanese culture and heritage, attracting visitors from all over the world.
Geographic Info of Tiger’s Nest
- Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km) round trip
- Total ascent: 1,700 feet (520 meters)
- Highest elevation: 10,232 feet (3,119 meters)
- Time: Allow 5 to 7 hours for the entire visit
How to Get to Tiger’s Nest?
Getting to the Tiger’s Nest is an adventure in itself! The journey begins by flying into Bhutan’s only international airport in Paro, which offers breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountain range.
Because of the precarious mountain range, you should know that only eight pilots are qualified to fly through and land in Bhutan successfully.
From there, a scenic drive through the Paro Valley will take you to the base of the mountain where the hike to the Tiger’s Nest begins.
Where to Begin the Hike to Tiger’s Nest?
The adventure begins at the car park at the foot of the mountain, where you’ll find friendly locals selling souvenirs and hiking poles to help you along your journey.
The trailhead, located 8,530 feet above sea level, is a wide and well-marked path, making it easy to navigate your way up.
Those unable to climb can rent a horse to ride up to the midway point where a cafeteria awaits, providing an opportunity to rest and refuel.
Since the COVID pandemic and borders were closed, the Tiger’s Nest trail has undergone improvements. The newly reconstructed trail includes separate pathways for humans and ponies, so hikers won’t have to make way for each other anymore.
The guides spent weeks fixing up the trail, reducing hike time and making the monastery easier to reach.
What to See Along the Way to Tiger’s Nest?
At the beginning of the trail, you will see a water-powered prayer wheel which is said to bless and carry purifying power into all life forms in the water.
Halfway through the hike, you will reach Lakhang, a village-level monastery and a temple of Urgyen Tsemo. Cafeterias are also available at this location.
What’s amazing is that beyond the ravine known as the Copper-colored Mountain Paradise of Padmasambhava, you will see the majestic monastery perched on the cliffside.
From the village, it’s a 45-minute to 1-hour walk to reach the monastery. You will cross a bridge over a sacred pool created by a large waterfall that drops 197 feet.
Along the way, take in the beautiful sights of colorful prayer flags and stunning natural landscapes. With new benches, canopies, and resting areas, you can take breaks whenever needed and enjoy the hike at your own pace.
Once you reach the Tiger’s Nest, you will see colorful paintings and murals displayed on the walls inside the monastery. You will also find some sacred meditation caves open to the public.
How Much Are the Entrance Fees?
As of July 2022, visitors have to pay an entrance fee of 2,000 Nu or 25 USD.
Children below 18 years are charged half the fee, and children below five years enter for free.
Is the Tiger’s Nest Always Open?
Tiger’s Nest is open to visitors every day, except for some special dates.
Only Bhutanese are allowed to visit Paro Taktsang during these six auspicious dates according to the Bhutanese lunar calendar:
- Chotrul Duchen, 5th of the 1st month
- Zhabdrung Kuchoe, 10th day of the 3rd month
- Lord Buddha Parinirvana or Vesak, 15th day of the 4th month
- Lord Buddha’s First Sermon, 4th day of the 6th month
- Lord Buddha’s Descent, 22nd day of the 9th month
- Guru Rinpoche Birthday, 10th day of the 5th month
What to Bring on the Hike to Tiger’s Nest?
If you’re an experienced hiker, you only need your essentials to make it through, but for beginners, here’s what you need:
- A sturdy pair of hiking boots
- Breathable and comfortable clothing
- A hat for protection and sunscreen
- Refillable water bottle for hydration and snacks for energy
- A camera
- And of course, your love for the great outdoors!
Tiger’s Nest Hiking Tips
Here are some tips to remember when you hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery:
- To avoid crowds and heat, start your journey early and enjoy a peaceful trek.
- Ensure that you have comfortable walking shoes to protect your feet and ankles before you start your hike.
- Walking sticks are available to rent at the base of the monastery.
- Stay hydrated, regulate your breathing, and take your time ascending the 2,297-foot elevation.
- The temperature will drop as you ascend, so it’s better to bring a jacket with you.
Although you’ll really want to, you won’t be able to take pictures inside the monastery as it’s forbidden. You will have to deposit all your electronic and photography devices with the sentry before entering the monastery.
However, you can still take photos outside the monastery to capture the memories of your spiritual journey in Bhutan.
As a sign of respect, upon entering the Tiger’s Nest, you have to remove your shoes and headgear. In this manner, you will be fully immersed in the temple’s atmosphere.
What to Expect Inside the Monastery?
The monastery consists of temples and residential quarters interconnected by narrow corridors.
This monastery features traditional Bhutanese architecture with intricate carvings and colorful paintings. There’s a gold-plated roof on the main temple and statues of Buddhist deities and other religious symbols.
The Peaceful Meditation Caves of Tiger’s Nest
There are meditation caves at the monastery where monks still meditate today. But, there are caves you can visit and those you can’t.
More interestingly, there is this one cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated, which is only open for public viewing once a year on his birthday.
Visiting the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan is an awe-inspiring experience that requires physical fitness and mental readiness.
The trail may be challenging, but the magnificent views of the Himalayan mountains make it all worthwhile. Standing at the center of the monastery and just breathing in the serenity and the spiritual atmosphere gives you an uplifting experience!