Hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery
2 Feb 2024 Umesh Paneru
Bhutan’s Tiger’s Nest Monastery needs no introduction as it is one of the most coveted destinations in Bhutan. It is listed in every Bhutan itinerary and several tourists of different age groups across the globe travel annually. Hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan infuses spiritual blessings and calmness to the visitors. The hike is demanding but witnessing visitors of different age groups from 10 to 70 years of age inspires as well as impresses everyone.
The monastery is renowned as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery but is also known as ‘Paro Taktsang’ and ‘Taktsang Palphug Monastery’. Tiger’s Nest Monastery is nestled in the Cliffside of the Upper Paro Valley which is a holy Vajrayana Himalayan Buddhist site. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava practiced meditation in the cave and also tamed the Tiger demon. Hence, this monastery got its name as Tiger’s Nest according to this folklore incident. Bhutanese has great regard for Guru Padmasambhava as he introduced Buddhism in Bhutan.
Tiger’s Nest Features
|Distance and Location
|10 km North of Paro Valley
|4.82 km or 3 miles (from the starting point to the Monastery)
|3,120 m (Tiger’s Nest Monastery)
|Buildings with balconies and residential shelters
|Ways to get there
|Follow via North, South, or Northwest Trail
|3-4 hours to ascend and 2 hours to descend
|1000 Nu (Bhutanese currency)
|Hiking on feet or Pony/Mule Ride Available
|October to December (good weather with the best views)
|Lakhang Temple, Urgyan Tsemo Temple, Halfway Viewpoint, Mediation Cave, Picturesque Sceneries best for Photography, Waterfalls, Bodhisattvas images, Booths selling worshipping goods, Prayers Flags, Pine forested trails
|October to March: 8 am to 1 pm, and 2 to 5 pm
April to September: 8 am to 1 pm, and 2 to 6 pm
|Tips for Hiking
|1)Maintain the pace (2)Start early (3)Pony/Mule Ride (4)Wisely follow the shortcut trails (5)Reserve a day only for Tiger’s Nest Hike (6)Short Break at Halfway Point (7)Respect local customs and rules (8)Be Careful on steep Stairs (9)Better to hike at the end of the Bhutan tour
Tiger’s Nest Monastery Location
Tiger’s Nest Monastery lies on a Cliffside at an elevation of 3,120 m about 900 m above the beautiful Paro Valley. From Paro Valley, it lies 10 km north of Paro. The monastery that is built into the rock face has almost vertical rock slopes. Visitors should maintain their speed and enjoy the surroundings, during their hike.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery Structure
Tiger’s Nest Monastery building is comprised of four main temples and residential shelters. It is designed by adjusting to the rock shelves, caves, and rocky terrain. All the stairways are made of rocks and all the buildings are interconnected through steps. There are few wooden bridges to crossover along the paths and stairways. The beauty of these buildings are attached balcony that provides scenic Paro Valley vistas.
How to Get to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Tiger’s Nest Monastery complex has numerous access from several directions. Visitors can get there through the northwest path following the forested trail. Visitors can also follow the south path followed by most devotees. The north trail gives access over the plateau popularly known as ‘Hundred Thousand Fairies’ where visitors can see a mule track leading to the trail passes. Take the best among them adoring the wonderful sceneries. Visitors can also choose for a mule/pony ride if they have difficulties in hiking.
There is a water-powered prayer wheel that is set in motion by a flowing stream at the beginning of the trail. The Lakhang temple and the main temple of Urgyan Tsemo are nestled on a rocky plateau. On the opposite gorge from here are the monastery’s buildings that are popular by the name ‘Copper-Colored Mountain Paradise of Padmasambhava’. It is the halfway viewpoint with a cafeteria for visitors. Take a short break and relish the stunning views of Paro Valley and its surroundings.
Pass through the route admiring blue pine trees, prayer flags, and booths selling worshipping goods. Relish a large waterfall view and numerous temples in the vicinity before reaching the main monastery. At the end of the track, get a sight of colorful paintings displayed near the main monastery. Get a glimpse of Guru Rinpoche’s Pel Phug Cave where he meditated which is open for public viewing only once a year.
Through a narrow passage entered the main cave which holds a dozen Bodhisattvas images. There is also a sacred image of Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara). The dark cave is shined with sparkling butter lamps in front of these idols. The Holy Scripture scripted with gold dust and the crushed bone powder of a divine Lama is safely placed in an adjoining cell.
Tips for Tiger’s Nest Monastery Hike
Maintain the pace
The hiking distance from the starting point to the monastery is 4.82 km (3 miles) and the overall round trip is 6.4 km (4 miles). Tiger’s Nest is at an elevation of 3,120 m and the trails are very steep. The oxygen level is also up to 70% at the monastery. Visitors might find it difficult to hike on such trails at such elevation. Also, this monastery has huge spiritual and religious significance. Thus, several age group visitors between 10-70 years of age also visit this monastery.
Visitors with good physical fitness can smoothly accomplish the hike. But, visitors with senior age and some health issues (knee, joint, back pain) might find it tough to hike. So, we recommend all visitors of all age groups to maintain the pace. A slow but steady approach is fruitful during this hike and allows them to complete the hike as well as admire the richness of the monastery.
Visitors are not allowed to enter the monastery after 6 pm (Apr-Sep) and 5 pm (Oct-Mar) months. Tiger’s Nest monastery is closed between 1 to 2 pm. Thus, we recommend visitors start early as it allows them plentiful time to hike and explore the monastery. The trail is also not crowded if visitors start early as it is one of the most visited landmarks in Bhutan. Make sure to plan hiking time wisely to reach on time and explore before 1 pm or after 2 pm.
Pony or Mule ride is the best option for visitors who are willing to explore the monastery but have difficulties due to senior age, and physical restrictions. Pony/Mule rides are easily available from the beginning of the trail.
Wisely follow the shortcut trails
There are several routes to Tiger’s Nest Monastery and most visitors follow the north, south, and northwest trails. The trail is very steep and has several shortcuts for visitors to avoid crowded and pony-riding trails. The shortcut trails are moderate to hard and some are even worth trying. Thus, we recommend wisely following the shortcut trails.
Reserve a day only for Tiger’s Nest Hike
The monastery hike is very tiring and takes 5-6 hours to complete the hike. Thus, we recommend reserving a day for Tiger’s Nest Hike so that visitors can hike at their own pace without any hassle. If they have ample time for hiking, they can complete the hike taking their own time which also allows them to admire the Tiger’s Nest beauty and spiritual serenity.
Short Break at Halfway Point
It takes 3-4 hours to get to the top of the Tiger’s Monastery. There is a popular spot called the halfway point with cafeterias for refreshments. This place is also best to adore the surrounding scenic views. We recommend taking a short break to acclimatize and adjust to the surroundings. Also, the body needs rest which visitors can fulfil with a short break at Halfway Point.
Respect local customs and rules
The sacred site Tiger’s Nest has some rules for the visitors which is mandatory to follow. It is always best to respect the local customs of the places where you are visiting as it allows you to adjust to that place quickly. As visitors reach the entrance of the monastery, enter a small courtyard to safely keep your belongings (backpack, phone, and camera) in the security room. Visitors must wear full clothes (arms and legs covering) and remove shoes while visiting the temples.
Be Careful on steep Stairs
Tiger’s Nest Monastery Hike trail is very steep, almost vertical. Visitors should be very careful while ascending and descending the steep stairs. We recommend using hiking poles and to keep the pace slow during the hike. If visitors are hiking during monsoon, be extra cautious as the stairs are muddy and slippery.
Better to hike at the end of the Bhutan tour
It is better to hike the Tiger’s Monastery at the end of the Bhutan tour because of its high elevation. Also, the visitor needs time to adapt to the environment and surroundings. Tiger’s Nest Monastery Hike is very demanding and tiring. Hence, we recommend visitors to hike at the end after completing the tour around other iconic destinations which allows visitors to adjust to the surroundings.