Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Bhutan

A first-person experience

By: Tanya Anand

Clinging to a cliff some three kilometres above sea level, Bhutan’s Tiger’s Nest Monastery is a rare combination of trek and pilgrimage.

The original name of the Monastery is Taktshang Goemba. It is here that Buddhism was brought to Bhutan by Guru Rinpoche. Legend has it that he reached this site, on a flying tigress (who was actually his consort). He came to ward off a demon and then stayed in a cave where he meditated for 3 years, 3 months and 3 days.

I travelled to Bhutan, the Country of Happiness and achieved a personal goal by braving the climb. The weather was brilliant and there was no trace of the previous day’s thundershowers. Bright sunshine and a good night’s rest gave a perfect start to the journey ahead. Faith and determination kept me going, and I didn’t feel the exhaustion as much, despite the arduous trek. Spiritually satiated, I thought to share some tips for those who plan to go.

Tiger's Nest Monastery Bhutan Travel
Bright, sunny day in Paro. Image Source: Writer’s own.

Reach the base point early (the monastery shuts at 12 pm for lunch, so it’s best you try and reach either before or after lunchtime). Depending on where you are staying, there are three different routes to here. Your hotel/travel company can arrange for a drop. Once you reach, you have the option of going on ponies/mules till the mid-point. (It costs about $20 ). There are a few shops selling souvenirs, but let that not distract you. On your way out, you can stop to buy jewellery, Tibetan charms, wooden items and prayer wheels.

Tiger's Nest Monastery Bhutan Travel


The walk to the top

I opted to walk the entire distance. A test of physical endurance, it took me three hours to get to the top, and two and a half hours to return to base camp. Depending on your agility and fitness levels, the trek can take you anywhere from two and a half to four hours to reach the top. The descent is always supposed to be easier, but I realised that was not the case. The 800 steps and the steep path make it a bit challenging and you need to watch your step.

Wear comfortable shoes and carry your trekking poles. Keep your rain gear, too. These are a must. If you don’t have them, you can buy wooden ones at the base point. There are plenty of options to choose from. Carry enough water to keep you hydrated. You can stop at mid-point to grab some refreshments at the cafeteria and use the restroom. Tea, coffee, and a buffet lunch are what you’ll be served. Horses are not allowed after this point, so be prepared to endure the journey ahead.

Tiger's Nest Monastery Bhutan Travel
Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Tibetan prayer flags dot the scenery strung on trees and stone structures with prayer wheels inside. As you make your way up, you will come across people from all walks of life. Families, monks, students, couples – everyone is on the same mission.

Things to Remember

Keep an ID proof with you, or remember the name of your guide or tour company; you’ll need it for registration once you reach the monastery. Don’t carry heavy equipment as you are required to leave your bags and cameras at the entrance. Photography is not allowed after this point. Visit the several temples inside the monastery compound. They represent different manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. Yes, there are some more stairs to climb, but it is totally worth the effort.

Stop to admire the view, surrender to the natural beauty, and soak up some sunshine. It’s a walk you are going to remember, for a long time to come.

Tiger’s Nest Monastery: Know Before You Go

  • Legend: According to legend, Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Bhutanese Buddhism, meditated in a cave at this site for three years, three months, and three days.
  • Trek Duration: The trek to the monastery takes approximately 2.5 to 4 hours, depending on fitness levels and agility.
  • Closure Time: The monastery closes for lunch at 12 pm, so it’s best to plan your visit accordingly.
  • Photography: The monastery prohibits visitors from bringing cameras and bags inside, and it enforces restrictions on photography beyond a certain point.
  • Souvenirs: At the base point, there are shops selling jewellery, Tibetan charms, wooden items, and prayer wheels.
  • Prayer Flags: Tibetan prayer flags adorn the path to the monastery, adding to the spiritual atmosphere.
  • Temples: The monastery compound houses several temples representing different manifestations of Guru Rinpoche.
  • Registration: Upon reaching the monastery, visitors must register with ID proof or provide the name of their guide/tour company.

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