Hiking to the Tiger’s Nest | Taktsang Monastery – Paro
Tiger’s Nest or Paro Taktsang Monastery certainly tops every list of “must-visit places in Bhutan,” and rightly so. The picturesque Monastery complex along with its temples and residential area for monks is fashioned around the caves on a cliff, at about 900 meters above the Paro Valley. It is the birthplace of Bhutanese Buddhism. By hiking to the Tiger’s Nest, you will find yourself in a very peaceful place, away from your regular hubbub of a life.
- Best Time to Visit: September to Mid December, March to May)
- Difficulty Level: Moderate.
- Trail distance: 8 Kms back and forth (Approximately)
- Distance of Tiger’s Nest’s Base from Paro: 10 Kms (Hardly takes 25 minutes in a cab)
- Total duration: 5 to 6 hours on an average, including refreshments and the time spent in the monastery.
- Path: Includes dirt trails and around 750 stairs.
- Trekking Equipment: No special trekking equipment needed. A stick can be bought from the base for 50 bucks.
- Guide: Trekking guide is not needed.
- Can the hike be done solo? Yes, easily.
Historical Relevance: Along with its inexplicable beauty, Tiger’s Nest has certain legends weaved around it, which contribute to its relevance even more. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava flew here on the back of a tigress in the 8th century, and hence the name Taktsang, which loosely translates to Tiger’s Lair. He meditated in one of the caves for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours, and emerged in eight incarnated forms. There is another story of Tenzin Rabgye, who people believed to be a reincarnation of Guru Padmasambhava, and who built the temple here in 1692.
The monastery complex consists of four main temples and eight caves, out of which four are easily accessible. There are three paths leading to monastery, first through a pine forest decorated with prayer flags and the other two through a plateau, called “a hundred thousand fairies plateau.”
My own experience of the hike: Although one-way ponies were available until the cafeteria (until about half way), I chose to walk. Having hiked a few times, I thought it would not be that difficult. It was not, but after a while, I started feeling the burn. The path was steep and uneven at times, but all the beauty en route kept me going. I decided to visit the cafeteria first to rest for a bit and enjoy the amazing view. Many people hike only until the cafeteria, and some until the viewpoint. When I reached the viewpoint, I was so moved by the view, that for a moment I forgot all my exertion. I could think only one thing: It is totally worth the hike!
Just after the viewpoint, there are about 750 stairs until the monastery where at first you have to descend, cross the bridge, and then climb the stairs again to the monastery. The sound of waterfall and water flowing across the bridge is pure bliss. When I reached the complex, I had to deposit all my belongings in the lockers provided. Just after entering the temple, all my tiredness flew away by the chanting and fragrance of the incense sticks. The cold floor soothed my feet and I was just in awe of the whole architecture of the monastery. All I could think was how this monastery was built, and then rebuilt after the fire in 1998 at such a steep location. The guide explained everything very nicely. On my way back, I came down fast.
Here is a video of me hiking to the Tiger’s Nest –
Some tips and recommendations for hiking to the Tiger’s Nest:
- Start as early as you can to save yourself from the scorching heat of the sun. In addition, if you start very early, you can go a little slower and enjoy walking around in such a beautiful place. (Minus the horseshit of course!).
- Buy walking sticks at the Tiger’s Nest Base. Even if at the start of your hike you feel like you will not need them, trust me you would.
- Carry a lot of water and snacks with you in a small daypack to ensure hydration.
- If you are an asthma patient, please carry your inhaler, or simply avoid the hike.
- I recommend hiking to the Tiger’s Nest at the end of your Bhutan trip, when you are acclimatized to the elevation level. This would also save you from being all tired during the trip.
My experience at the monastery was breathtaking, both poetically and literally: poetically for the monastery, and literally, for the path taking me to it.
The hike is a moderate level hike and you can carry it out easily, at a slow or a fast pace, varying from person to person. Pictures and write-ups cannot ever do justice to its magnificence. I urge you people to experience it for yourself.