Tiger’s Nest Must-See. I was a guest of Raven Tours and Treks. All opinions are expressed are my own, and I would recommend you traveling with Raven Tours and Treks.
Paris has the Eifel Tower and NYC has the Statue of Liberty. Well, Bhutan has Paro Taktsang better known as Tiger’s Nest. Bhutan’s best known landmark is a Buddhist monastery carved onto the side of a mountain. This 17th century temple is located where a monk, Guru Rinpoche, mediated in the 8th century. Legend has it Guru Rinpoche arrived at this spot by fling on the back of a tigress, hence the name.
Tiger’s Nest is definitively a must-see global landmark. It is an awe-inspiring sight. And it is a bit of a hike to get there as well. Tiger’s Nest is perched at a height of 3,120 meters (10,240 feet). And your hike begins at approximately 2,200 meters (7,217 feet). In other words, a vertical asset of 900 meters (2,952 feet). Looking at my pedometer that day, I took 17,491 steps equating to 6 miles.
So give or take you should expect a three hour hike up and a two hour hike down. There is an option of renting a mule to bring you up half way (at a cost of approximately $10) as well. I would say the hike requires medium fitness. I passed and was passed by a number of elderly people so this trek is doable for most everyone if your pace yourself. Half-way on your hike is a cafeteria which overlooks Tiger’s Nest. This is a great place to take a rest, sip a tea, or grab lunch. Of course, you will be taking many photos as you trek up the hill from my vantage points.
Tiger’s Nest is the only place (besides a popular festival) in Bhutan where you will be bumping up against other tourists. There was a steady stream of tourists and locals making their way up to the monastery. The monastery itself was nearly overflowing with people the day I went to visit. This detracted a bit from my visit.
If fact, this was my second time visiting Tiger’s Nest. The first time was 12 years prior. And there was a tremendous difference in the experience. If memory serves me correct, I do not recall any other tourists during my first visit. My first visit was a very solitary experiences and I explored Tiger’s Nest in a leisurely fashion.
So, I advise you to start your hike early or later (but remember the monastery shuts down at 4:30pm) in the day to avoid some of the crowds you might encounter. If your schedule permits wait to do the trek at the end of your trip so that our body will be better acclimatized for the higher altitudes. Remember to bring a water for your hike and you will be able to get more during your half way break at the café. You will want to wear boots/sneakers which have a grip and dress in layers. And you can buy a homemade walking stick for less than a dollar which I would recommend.
As you near Tiger’s Nest, the trail will end, and you will encounter a series of stairs. You will descend 600 steps or so, cross a bridge, and then climb up the final 200 stairs to the monastery’s entrance. Remember when you depart, you will be doing the reverse walk.
When you arrive at Tiger’s Nest you are not allowed to enter the monastery with your camera. You must leave all equipment and bags in the locker area. This was a bit frustrating for me since they did not provide security or locks in the storage area and I was carrying a lot of electronic gear. Also, when entering the individual temples within the monastery you will have to remove your shoes.
Visiting Bhutan without hiking to Tiger’s Nest would be like visiting Peru without seeing Machu Picchu or traveling to New York City without seeing the Statue of Liberty. Make sure you plan on seeing the magnificent and must-see Tiger’s Nest during your visit to Bhutan. Tiger’s Nest Must-See.
And also check out my Ultimate Guide to Bhutan.