The monastery at 900m above the ground on a cliff. This unique building site is a fascinating and surreal experience, not to mention the beauty of the location itself.
If you’re traveling in or near Bhutan, then hiking up to the Tiger’s Nest is an absolute must and here’s everything you need to know about the trail.
In this article you will learn (and see):
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, also known as Paro Taktshang, is a sacred Buddhist temple and monastery that was built on a cliff-side in the Paro Valley. The site sits at a remarkable height of 900 meters ( 2995 feet) above sea level and is still a functioning monastery.
The temple was built around the cave in which Guru Padmasambhava, the “second Buddha”, meditated and first introduced Buddhism to Bhutan.
Folklore tells a tale of the Guru having flown from Tibet to the cave on the cliff on the back of a flying tigress so that he could meditate.
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is a mystical site with a fascinating and mysterious history. This makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Bhutan.
The hike to Tiger’s Nest is a moderate to difficult one but you’ll be able to do it if you have at least an average level of fitness.
The hike takes between 3 to 5 hours depending on your pace. Some parts are quite steep so go slow and be sure of your footing – especially when you make the return trip downhill which can be quite slippery. The hike is about 6 km (4 miles) in length round trip.
Make sure not to rush or push yourself too hard as the quick elevation to 900 meters can put a bit of strain on your body as it needs more time to adjust.
The hike up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery begins on a dirt trail, at the base of the mountain, with some rock, sand and gravel patches along the way.
For people who cannot make the climb, there are horses available for hire at the starting point. While the trail is not steep, it is uphill the whole way.
There is a cafeteria at the halfway mark, where you can take a break to catch your breath and eat something to keep your energy levels up.
From this point, you can see a clear view of the monastery and take some beautiful photos of it. Some people choose to make this their finishing point and return back down after seeing the view.
Photo by Victoria
The trail levels out for a while after the halfway point, making the second half of the hike a bit easier and less strenuous than the first.
There is an excellent photo point along the second half of the hike where you can see a closer view of the entire monastery as it perches on the steep cliff.
The last section of the trail includes a series of about 700 stone steps that you will need to journey along.
You’ll walk down the stairs at first, then across a bridge, and finally, you’ll start climbing the stairs up to the monastery. This is the real challenging part of the hike so be sure to take your time, it’s not a race to the top.
You can then enter the temple, after taking off your sunglasses and shoes.
Your backpacks, cameras, and cell phones will also need to be left in a locker at the entrance. Your guide can then give you a tour of the temples, where you will learn about its history and all the fascinating legends associated with the monastery.
Photo by Wesley & Brandon Rosenblum
While it can get pretty cold in the winter time, you’ll start to feel hot as you hike, so layers of light clothing your best option.
You’ll need light layers that you can remove and carry with ease because you don’t want to be carrying around a heavy winter jacket and not end up needing it.
Even if you go in the warmer months, you’ll need to wear respectable clothing as it’s a sacred site with monks present. So no shorts or revealing tops. The temple itself can be quite cool so you should take a jacket or long-sleeved layer with you as well.
Wear thick, dark colored socks as you’ll be walking around the monastery in them. The floor will be quite cool so thicker socks will be more comfortable.
You should also try to take a scarf with you to cover your nose and mouth as a filter for the dust kicked into the air by people or horses on the path in front of you.
Photo by Stephen Whieldon
The best time to do the Tiger’s Nest hike is from October to December, as the weather is beautifully clear and cool as winter approaches.
Springtime is from March to May and is also a lovely time to visit with moderate temperatures.
One of the most important tips you should follow if you want to do the Tiger’s Nest Hike is not to hike it on your first day in Bhutan.
This is because the area’s altitude is quite high so you’ll want to give your body a day or two to relax and adjust to the higher elevation.
The hike is a pretty steep incline, which will take you a further 900 meters in quite a short time so attempting it too quickly could make you feel a bit sick.
You should also make sure you take plenty of water with you and drink it regularly to stay hydrated. Take some snacks with you or stop at the cafeteria to eat something so that you can keep your energy levels up.
The stalls at the starting point of the hike sell walking sticks which can be very helpful along the hike. They are especially useful on the descent as they can help you keep your balance and prevent you from slipping.
Mila has been to 5 continents, visited over 40 countries and hiked across some of the most famous mountain ranges including the Andes and the Atlas Mountains. As an AMS sufferer she learned a few techniques to reduce the symptoms and the effects on her hiking adventures.