Paro Taktsang: A Detailed Photo Guide for Hiking the Tiger’s Nest in Paro, Bhutan

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Picturesquely perched on a cliffside, the Tiger Nest Monastery or as is locally known, the Paro Taktsang Lhakhang (Monastery) is not only one of the most venerated places of pilgrimage but also the most Instagrammable places in Paro, Bhutan.

What makes the hike to Tigers Nest so great? Is the hike worth it?

The Tigers Nest trek can get exhausting but it is definitely worth the effort. If dramatic landscape with a seemingly precariously perched monastery on a cliffside excites you, I would highly recommend the hike to the magnificent Paro Taktsang.

Standing at the foot of the mountains on which the monastery seemed precariously perched, the peaks looked all too indomitable 

If dramatic landscape with a seemingly precariously perched monastery on a cliffside excites you, I would highly recommend the hike to the magnificent Paro Taktsang.

The Tiger’s Nest is at 800 meters (over 2,600 feet) above the valley and is located 2,950 meters (9,678 feet) above the sea level.

You will need a degree of fitness to do the Tigers Nest Trek, but having said, let me assure you, I saw people of all ages and sizes make it to the end.

Quick Facts About the Hike

Distance: 8 kilometers round trip
Elevation Gain: 700 meter  
Highest Elevation: 2,950 meters (9,678 feet)
Time: Allow 5 to 7 hours for the entire visit 

Questions you should be asking before heading to the Bhutan tiger nest trek

Trekking with Children? Wondering if you are fit enough for the Tiger’s Nest Trek? I had similar ‘Parental & Fitness concerns’ before heading for this trek. So now, I’ve put together this post to help you have a better idea of what it takes to do the Paro Taktsang Lhakhang trek (Tigers Nest Trek).

How do I get to Tiger nest from Paro?

Unless you are an Indian, Bangladeshi or a Maldivian national your licensed Bhutanese tour guide will accompany you to the Tiger’s Nest.

Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian nationals who are visiting without a tour guide need to reach Ramthangkha which is 12 kilometers from Paro. It is approximately 2 -3 km uphill trek from here.

The standard rate for a Taxi from the upper part of Paro is 800 INR (for one side of the journey). Don’t forget to bargain if you are traveling during the offseason.

How long is the hike to Tiger’s Nest?

An entire circuit of Tiger’s nest will take around 5 to 6 hours. The climb to the monastery takes about 3 hours on a comfortable pace. A Gym enthusiast or a medium-paced runner can complete it in about 2 hours. The Tiger Nest Trek distance (total distance walked) is about 4 km one way with 700m in elevation gained.

We did this trek with our 11 and 13-year-old children and they were faster than us.

  • We took a little less than 2 and a half hours to reach the Monastery.
  • We spent around 1 hour at the monastery.
  • It took us one and half hours to reach down

Plan on leaving Paro around 8 am and arriving back at your hotel around 3 pm.

How fit do you need to be to do this hike?

You will need a degree of fitness to do the Tigers Nest Trek, but having said, let me assure you, I saw people of all ages and sizes make it to the end.

The Mantra for climbing the Tigers Nest is to take small steps and walk at a relaxed pace with plenty of rest.

Entry Ticket for Tiger’s Nest Monastery

You can climb up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery for free but Indian, Bangladeshi and  Maldivian nationals need to buy an entry ticket to the Monastery which costs around Rs.500. For all other nationals, it is included in the Visa fees (More on it in the last paragraph of this post).

This ticket is available only at the entrance and so don’t forget to buy it before you start the trek.

Before you start Rent a bamboo walking stick

This is the starting point of the Tiger’s Nest Trek. You can see in the image below locals standing with Bundles of bamboo sticks. These can be taken on hire for Rs.50 (NU 50/-). You need to return it once you are back.

As soon as you reach the parking, the locals will flock you urging you to rent bamboo sticks from them.

I would highly recommend hiring the sticks just before you start the trek. The walking sticks will

  • help you balance on the dirt track which tends to get slippery,
  • help in getting a good walking rhythm when synchronized with your arms,
  • help reduce the strain on your knees when walking downhill

You can hire Horse/Ponies to reach mid-way till the Cafeteria

Beyond the parking is a small market selling souvenirs. As you cross it you will be greeted by ponies and pony owners. If you wish to ride a pony it is here that you need to hire.

Ponies/mules take visitors halfway – just till the cafeteria. The trail followed by tourists is the same as done by the ponies.

The Bhutanese believe that if you go up to Taktsang Monastery on a horse or a pony, you share the merits you gained with the horse. Food for thought 😉

Hiking to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery

The hike to tigers nest can be roughly divided into three parts.

First Part: Walk/Go on Pony till the cafeteria which is mid-way. Many tourists return from this point. This is approximately 2 km from the parking.
Second Part: Second part of the walk is from the cafeteria to the point from where the stairs start. This will be another 2 km hike. This is the point where most of the visitors take the famous Instagrammable Photo.
Third Part: The third and the last part is ascending and descending of around 850 steps.  

As you walk past the ponies this open patch with the first view of the Tiger’s nest greets you.

Standing at the foot of the mountains, the monastery looked indomitable.

The Tiger’s nest trail is a dirt path. At the very start, of the trek, you will notice the Water driven Prayer wheel. This type of prayer wheel is simply a prayer wheel that is turned by flowing water.

The water that is touched by the wheel is said to become blessed and carries its purifying power into all life forms in the oceans and lakes that it feeds into (Source).

Tall pine and cypress trees draped in tender green moss on either side of the trail make a good canopy of shade.

We visited the Tiger’s Nest in June and the weather was rather warm. The trail is rocky and dusty, and even slippery at times.

Cafeteria

There is a cafe with toilets at the mid-way point. Here, you can take a break at the Takstang Cafeteria. 

At the halfway point, the trail levels out for a little bit.

The path also got narrower and steeper. It was also festooned with an abundance of colourful Buddhist prayer flags which caught the wind and fluttered wildly, creating a strange music in an otherwise still and tranquil atmosphere. 

The winding path suddenly turned a corner and opened up stunning, panoramic views of the verdant valley in front and hills in the distance. 

Locker Facility at Tiger’s Nest, Paro

Do You Need A Guide to visit the Paro Paro Taktsang?

If you are not an Indian, Bangladeshi or Maldivian National then you will be accompanied by your local tour company as this is a prerequisite for all visitors to Bhutan (For more see the last paragraph of this post).

Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian nationals visiting without a guide:

Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian nationals visiting without a guide: Once you reach the Monastery you will need to get your ticket registered.

On reaching the Tiger’s Nest Indian tourists can be seen registering their tickets.

You can not visit the temples unless accompanied by a guide.

If you don’t have a guide with you, you need to wait for more tourists to join.

Once there are enough tourists, a Government-authorized guide will take you up a flight of stairs and brief you about the historic and religious importance of the Monastery. This service is free of charge.

Flight of stairs to the temples in Tiger’s Nest

Why is it called Tiger’s Nest?

The legend of Taktshang (Tiger’s lair) is believed to be dated 747 AD when Guru Padmasmbhava chose a cave on a sheer rock face to meditate. He took the wrathful form, Guru Dorji Drolo and rode a tigress to subdue the evil spirits in the locality.

Taktshang thus became one of the most important Buddhist monuments in the Himalayan Buddhist world. (Source)

Tigers Nest Temples

Like many prominent buildings in Bhutan, the Tigers Nest is constructed of stone and rammed mud and features stark white exterior walls with red shingled as well as golden roofs.

The current structure was constructed in the early 2000s after a fire broke out in 1998.

The temple complex at Paro Taktsang is made up of four temple buildings and a series of eight caves. The buildings are connected by a network of narrow stone walkways and a few rickety bridges, with the caves accessible behind the temple buildings.

Boldly colored paintings on the Thangkas (Buddhist tapestries of a deity or Mandal) are a prominent feature of the interior of Paro Taktsang. There is a Hall with Thousand Golden Statues of Buddhas. In this hall, the statue of a large tiger can also be seen (For More Click Here).

What to Wear for Tiger’s Nest Hike?

Clothes

  • Wear comfortable dry-fit clothes for the hike.
  • To enter the monastery your clothes should cover your hands and legs.
  • If you are traveling in a season when it is too hot and humid to wear such clothes you can carry change of clotes in a small backpack.
  • Locker facilities are available once you reach the Tiger’s Nest.

Shoes

The Tiger’s Nest trail is a dirt trail and tends to get slippery at places. So good grip shoes are highly recommended. Any running shoe will also do.

During rains the path can get very slushy with mud so dress accordingly or better avoid going during this period.

Things to Keep in mind before the Tiger’s Nest Hike

  1. Ensure that you carry enough water and some snacks as there’s only one cafeteria. The cafeteria closes around five pm.
  2. Cameras and cellphones are not allowed inside the monastery.
  3. They provide lockers to keep your belongings safe.
  4. Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays is recommended.
  5. The monastery is closed between 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and photography isn’t permitted inside.
  6. Begin your return journey from the Tigers Nest latest by 3.00 p.m. as the sun sets around 5.30 p.m. which will make your descend difficult and dangerous when it is dark.

PLANNING TO TRAVEL TO BHUTAN?

Wondering which places to visit to make the most of your money spent?

On popular dates of travel such as during Fall, Spring & festival time, flight tickets & Good Hotels tend to get fully reserved 3-4 months prior.

To avoid settling for something less than what you pay for, I recommend you plan your itinerary well in advance.

You can reserve your ticket and plan your trip to Bhutan with me and relax knowing that my trusted team will take good care of a fellow wanderlust traveler.

Travel Requirement for visiting Bhutan

All tourists (excluding Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders) who wish to travel to Bhutan require a visa and must book their holiday through a Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners.

The tour operator will take care of Visa arrangements for visitors.

In keeping with the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s policy of “High Value. Low Impact” tourism a Minimum Daily Package is required for tourists (excluding Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders) (Source).

  • High Season Tariff For (March, April, May, September, October, and November) US$ 250 per person per night
  • Low Season Tariff For (June, July, August, December, January, and February) US$ 200 per person per night

Price Includes:

  • A minimum of 3-star accommodation, (4 & 5 stars may require an additional premium).
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch, and Dinner)
  • A licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay
  • All internal transport (excluding internal flights)
  • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  • All internal taxes and charges
  • A sustainable tourism Royalty of $65, This Royalty goes towards free education, free healthcare, poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure.
  • Sightseeing as per itinerary

Not Included:

  • Airfares and Airport Taxes
  • Visa other than Bhutan before & after
  • Beverages
  • Insurance of any kind
  • Expenses of personal nature
  • Breakfast on the day of arrival (Morning Flight)
  • Any expenses incurred in emergency evacuation due to any reason (Please get insurance coverage for such expenses)

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