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The Ultimate Travel Guide to Hiking to the Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest Monastery), Bhutan

paro-taktsang

Paro Taktsang or better known as Tiger’s Nest monastery is one of the most visited sites of Bhutan. You can wonder how popular this place is because when you search for Bhutan on Google, you’re likely to find the first image of Tiger’s Nest. It is a temple complex hanging on one side of a cliff which has elevation 2,950 m above the sea level. One of the most prominent Buddhist sacred sites in Bhutan, it is located 900 m above the Paro Valley. It was first built in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. This monastery is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche who is believed to introduce Buddhism in Bhutan.

Facts
Elevation: 1,700 ft
Trek distance: 4.5 km (one way)
Difficulty level: Moderate
Entry fee: Nu 500 (included in your minimum daily package)
Location: 900 m above the Paro Valley (10 miles north to Paro)
Opening hours: 8 am to 4 pm
Hike duration: 4 – 5 hours

Highlights
• Hike to the most iconic monastery in Bhutan
• Amazing view of Paro Valley
• Doable hiking for everyone
• Walkthrough forests of rhododendron and blue pine trees

Legend of Tiger’s Nest
“According to local tales, Guru Rinpoche flew to this location from Tibet on back of a tigress who is believed to be a former wife of an emperor known as Yeshe Tsogyal. Guru Padmasambhava (Rinpoche) meditated in a cave for three years, three months, three days and three hours to tame a demon. Thus, it gave this monastery the name ‘Tiger’s Nest’. Ever since Guru Padmasambhava meditated here in the 8th century, many others came to meditate at this holy place.”
Unfortunately, a fire broke out in the main building on 19th April 1998 caused by electrical short circuiting. However, it has been fully restored and it is most beautiful than ever (completed in 2005).

Getting to Tiger’s Nest
Paro town to the base of Paro Taktsang (30 minutes)
A short drive of 30 minutes from the main town of Paro will take you to Tiger’s nest, one of the major tourist attractions in Bhutan. At the starting point of your Tiger’s Nest hike, you can rent a horse and/or hiking poles. There are restrooms as well as souvenir shops put by the locals. They usually wrap up at 5 to 6 pm. The horses are able to hike up to half way up only. Thus, you’ll have to walk anyways.

Base to Paro Taktsang Cafeteria (45 minutes)
After a short time, you’ll get the first glimpse of the Taktsang while the other time it will play hide and seek among the tall trees.
The Tiger’s Nest trail is wide, dirt trail which is entirely uphill but not overstep. In short, it is doable for beginners with adequate rest time-to-time. Remember slow and steady wins the race! A large water fall which drops by 60 m into a sacred pool is forded over by a bridge. When reached at the famous and only Paro Taktsang Cafeteria, you’ve reached half way up. You walk under tons of prayer flags. The higher you walk the better scenes you get to see of the beautiful Paro valley.

Paro Taktsang Cafeteria to the View Point (25 minutes)
There’s a point where many people decide to take an iconic picture of Tiger’s Nest that is situated at another hill which will be reached after walking for about 25 minutes. Covering the distance of nearly 1.2 km, you’ll walk through the greenest part of the trail. Along the trek route, blue pine trees accompany you restoring your energy with fresh air and lovely scenes. Prayer flags seem to be motivating you to reach the monastery by fluttering. This route is scattered with a number of temples.

The View Point to Paro Taktsang (20 minutes)
From the view point, the way to Paro Taktsang climb faces down a stone stair and then crosses a bridge draped in colorful prayer flags. Finally, slightly strenuous climb up will take you to the monastery. The hike terminates at the main monastery where colorful paintings are displayed.

What to see in Paro Taktsang?
The monastery consists of 4 temples having residential accommodation for monks. In spite of daily visit by tourists, Paro Taktsang still functions as a monastery. The magnificent prayer hall inside the monastery shelters gigantic statue of Guru Padmasambhava. The main shrine of the monastery- the prayer wheel is located in the courtyard of the temple. Every morning at 4 am, it is rotated by monks to mark the beginning of a new day. The interior design of the temple impresses with its luxurious beauty; gold plated dome and flickering lights that illuminating golden idols. In the Hall of Thousand Buddhas, which is carved into the rock, a large statue of tiger is kept. The tiger is worshipped as the symbol of Paro Taksang because of the legend it holds.

There are 8 caves around the Paro Taktsang. There is a small cell where sacred scripture is placed which has been scripted with gold dust and the crushed bone powder of a divine Lama. The monks who practice Vajrayana Buddhism at the cave monastery live here for 3 years and seldom go down to Paro Valley. All the buildings are interconnected through steps and stairways made in rocks. Each building has a balcony providing lovely views of scenic Paro Valley down below.

Getting back to the base
Along descending, you can stop by the Tiger’s Nest Cafeteria. This is the only rest point with delicious Bhutanese food and breathtaking views. The way now becomes a little steep and you need to be careful so that you don’t slip. The monastery remains open from 8 am to 4 pm. The entry fee is Nu 500 per person (which is already included in your minimum daily package).

Finally,
Paro Taktsang or better known as Tiger’s nest has religious importance and a lot of natural beauty. Although Paro Taktsang has a mythological history, Bhutanese people hold on it and pass the same beliefs to their next generation. People visiting Bhutan either for 3, 4 days or a month don’t forget this monastery to be included in their itinerary. It is because it is near to Paro, home to the only international airport of Bhutan.

Things to remember:
• Wear layers of clothes. A light jacket as it is windier at the top.
• Walk slowly with adequate rest.
• Take a liter of water and some chocolates.
• Don’t try to run.
• Listen to your guides.
• Remove your shoes and hats before entering the monastery.
• Get yourself a pair of good hiking boots.

Tips for Tiger’s Nest hike
Best time to visit Tiger’s Nest
Autumn season (October – December) is the best time to visit Tiger’s Nest when the weather is clear and cool. Spring (March-May) is also a good time with flowers blooming scenery. During the winter, heavy snow can block your way while monsoon during late summer can make the trails slippery. However, besides some heavily snowing or raining days, Paro Taktsang hike can be done all year around.

Photography in Tiger’s Nest
Cameras and mobile phones are strictly prohibited inside the monastery. But still, you can click the photos of the Taktsang or the lovely views on your way. Best lighting for capturing the majestic Tiger’s Nest is midday. Getting early helps to avoid the crowd but you still need to wait till midday for an amazing photograph.

What to pack for Tiger’s Nest hike
Bring your best hiking shoes, bottled water, few snacks and of course your camera. You can get lunch at the cafeteria. You might as well bring a hiking pole or rent one at the base for supporting your knees while descending. You’ll also require a light jacket as it is windier in the monastery but you might want to tuck it in your bag or tie it around your waist along your climb because you’re going to sweat a lot while climbing.

FAQs
What is the trek distance of Tiger’s Nest monastery?
Ans: The trek distance to Tiger’s Nest monastery is 4.5 km one way and 9 km total.

What is the entry fee for Tiger’s Nest monastery?
Ans: The entry fee for Tiger’s Nest monastery is Nu 500 which is already included in your minimum daily package.

How far is Tiger’s Nest monastery from Paro?
Ans: Tiger’s Nest monastery is 12 km North from Paro and takes 30 minutes drive.

How difficult is the Tiger’s Nest monastery trek?
Ans: The Tiger’s Nest monastery is moderate graded trek. It also depends on your physical fitness.

How do you get to Paro Taktsang?
Ans: You can reach the base by 30 minutes of a taxi ride from Paro and reach the monastery by hiking for about 5 – 7 hours.

When does the Tiger’s Nest monastery close?
Ans: The Tiger’s Nest monastery closes at 4 pm.

When does the Paro Taktsang open?
Ans: Paro Taktsang opens at 8 am.

Is photography allowed inside the monastery?
Ans: Like other monasteries in Bhutan, photography is not allowed inside Tiger’s Nest because you need to keep your belongings along with phone and camera inside a locker. However, sceneries and landscapes can be captured from outside of the monastery.

Why is it called Tiger’s Nest?
Ans: According to the legend, Guru Padmasambhava flew to this location on the back of a tigress and meditated in order to subdue a demon. That is why; it is called Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest.

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