If you have ever searched Bhutan on Google, Tigers Nest is one of those first images that crop up. Why ? Because this is an iconic destination in Bhutan and is an exemplary example of the Buddhist religious places of interest. Even those tourists making the quickest tour through Bhutan will not be able to take this off the itinerary because the hike up to Tiger’s Nest is well worth the effort.
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What is the Tigers Nest Monastery
Also known as the Paro Takstang, Tiger’s Nest is a Buddhist monastery perched precariously on a hill 900 meters off the ground. Constructed in 1962 around the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated, the monastery has had modifications across the centuries to be what it is today. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche was carried on the back of a tigress from Tibet to this cliff side giving the place its name – The Tiger’s Nest.
How to Plan Your Visit To The Tigers Nest
Paro is the closest town if you intend to visit this monastery. The hike typically takes an entire day and hence it would be advisable to reach Paro at least the night before and set your camp for a good night’s rest before taking on the trail leading up to the monastery.
The drive from Paro to the base where you begin your hike takes roughly about 20 minutes. It is best to start your hike early to avoid the crowds and to cover most parts of the hike without the sun scorching your back.
Preparing For The Hike To Tigers Nest
- The complete hike takes anything between 4-6 hours and the time spent touring the monastery. The distance is about 2 miles each way.
- Ensure to have a good breakfast before starting the hike.
- Doing slight stretches on the previous day might help to relax the muscles before the climb.
- Carry sufficient amount of water. Bottles can be refilled only at the top near the monastery. Any water pipe seen on the way is not fit for drinking.
- Carry light snacks, trail mix or energy bars in small backpacks. Try not to load your backpack with stuff because climbing can become tedious for every unnecessary thing that is added to the baggage.
- If you are carrying heavy duty cameras, it is wise to only carry the necessary equipment and offload anything that you may not need – carry only the camera and the required lens
- Hiking sticks can be borrowed at the entrance where the hike begins for Nu.50/- per stick. These need to be returned on your way back.
- Ensure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and comfortable active wear for the hike. It is mandatory to wear full sleeves and cover up to the knees while visiting the monastery.
- Splash on a lot of sunscreen and carry it with you on the hike if you have a tendency to sweat more because sunburn is real at higher altitudes.
- The entry fee to the monastery and the hike is Nu.500/- per person. This is paid at the ticket counters next to the car park area where the hike begins.
Everything You Need To Know About The Hike To Tigers Nest
The trail leading up to the monastery is a wide dirt trail. The hike is possible on any day with clear weather when the trail is dry. On a wet day, the trails may be harder to climb due to it becoming slippery.
There are mules available for hire for those who may not want to walk up the complete distance. However, the mules go only till half way and beyond that the only means of reaching the monastery is by walk.
The trails are relatively easily and doable for most people. Always remember – this is not a race. If you maintain your pace and climb taking short breaks, the hike can be completed with little or no difficulty. The views are spectacular throughout and there are multiple points to rest. The most popular resting point would be the cafeteria that is mid-way. People take a break here for a quick coffee, snacks or rest room before proceeding to the second half of the climb.
The second half of the hike is relatively easier with trails that are not as steep. From this point on, there are multiple viewpoints that offer clear and closer views of the monastery. At a certain view point, you are in level with the monastery and this is where most people snap that iconic photograph with the monastery behind them.
Beyond this point comes a flight of stairs that lead up to the monastery. Avoid taking photographs on these stairs because they are steep and there would be people moving both ways – not to mention the numerous dogs that you will find all over the place. The first half of these stairs go down all the way near a waterfall and then you take the stairs that climb up to the monastery. The stairs are well made with safety railings for support.
Once you reach the monastery, rest and relax before proceeding for the tour of the place. Your guide will help you offload all your things at the safety deposit box because you cannot carry any personal belongings inside the monastery – that includes your camera and mobile phones. The tour of the monastery can take anything from 45 minutes to an hour depending on how fast you might want to cover the shrines within.
After this, begins the return journey. Refill your water bottles at the spring near the monastery before your descend. The second flight of stairs leading up can be quite tiring and hence save your energy for this climb. This is the only part of the return journey where you will have a steep ascend. Once you complete these stairs, you will be descending the same mud trails all the way back to the car park. Remember to use the hiking poles for support and take care to not slip on the gravel or mud during the way back.
Things To Remember
- We visited in August and were lucky to not have had rains the night before we did the hike. The best time to visit Bhutan would be between September – November when the weather is clear with blue skies. Rains can make the trails to Tiger’s Nest unwelcoming and most rains happen towards evening or late in the night.
- Try to start the hike around 8 AM in the morning. This would mean that you would complete the hike by roughly 3 PM.
- Carry enough food for the trail. There is the cafeteria half way where one can have lunch if they choose to. We however decided to go back to Hotel Tenzling where we were staying to have the lunch. The cafeteria food is average and highly priced.
- Your guide would accompany you on the hike. It is advisable to have a guide with you because they can explain about the history and various shrines within the Tiger’s Nest.
If you have enjoyed reading about the hike to Tiger’s Nest and is excited to make a journey to Bhutan, do read our guide to planning your trip to Bhutan from our blog pages – this would give you a complete idea about the ways to reach, procuring your permits and passes and everything else to know while visiting the Last Shangri-La.
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