It’s perhaps the most iconic image of Bhutan; a cluster of white buildings with red roofs and ornate gold trim, clinging to the side of a cliff thousands of feet above the valley floor. This is Taktsang Monastery, more commonly known as Tiger’s Nest. This Himalayan Buddhist sacred site happens to be the number one tourist attraction in Bhutan and is often described as the highlight of any WanderTour to Bhutan.
The monastery dates back to the late 1600s and legend says that it got its name in the 8th century when Guru Rinpoche arrived at this spot, from Tibet, on the back of a tigress. The buildings were built around a series of caves where he is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours, in the hope of subduing a demon.
Tips for the hike to the monastery
- Wear sturdy shoes as the path can be rough. You may also want to wear socks as you’ll have to remove your shoes to enter the buildings. A rain jacket is also recommended as weather can be unpredictable.
- Hiking poles or a walking stick can be a huge asset and it’s important to walk at a steady pace. Your body may not be used to the altitude and you’re more likely to complete the hike if you walk at a sensible pace.
- We’ll do the hike early in the morning because it’ll be cooler and less crowded than later in the day. We also want to be have time to tour the site before it closes for lunch at 1:00 pm.
- If you don’t feel up to doing the hike you have the option of riding a pony part of the way up and hiking the remaining way.
Along the way you’ll pass prayer flags fluttering in the breeze and water-powered prayer wheels; half-way up the path is a cafeteria/rest stop where we’ll stop for lunch on the way back down the mountain. Stunning views of the Paro Valley below offer a welcome distraction as you hike.
The hike up will take two – two and a half hours and as you near the monastery you’ll descend and ascend hundreds of steps and shaky bridges. Many hikers only make it as far as the cafeteria so don’t feel bad if you don’t make it all the way to the top.
What to expect when you reach the monastery
The monastery consists of four main temples as well as residential shelters. Although there are eight caves, only four of them are easily accessible; Guru Rinpoche’s meditation cave is sealed off and is only opened once a year. You’ll have to check your bags and cameras if you wish to enter the buildings, as photography is strictly forbidden. Inside, you’ll see statues and many beautiful religious paintings.
Many of our tour participants have come away from this day feeling deeply affected by the whole experience. If you’d like to visit this site – often described as magical – we still have space available on our Bhutan Women-Only Culture and Festival Tour this October. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have – contact us here.