Hiking to Tigers Nest Bhutan

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking to the Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan

Julie Bhutan 16 Comments

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, also known as Paro Takstang, is one of Bhutan’s most recognized spots. Even people on the quickest of tours through Bhutan find the time to make it here. Why? Because this place is extraordinary.

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is a small collection of buildings precariously perched on a cliff, 900 meters off of the ground. It is stunning in its beauty and location.

Without a doubt, a first time trip to Bhutan would not be complete without seeing the Tiger’s Nest.

Tigers Nest Bhutan

So, if you are contemplating a trip to Bhutan (do it! It’s one of the most awesome spots in the world), keep reading to learn more about how to hike to the Tiger’s Nest, one of the coolest little spots in Bhutan.

What is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery?

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is a sacred Buddhist site located near Paro, Bhutan. It was constructed in 1692, around the cave where Guru Rinpoche first meditated, the event that introduced Buddhism into Bhutan. There is a legend that Guru Rinpoche was carried from Tibet to this location on the back of a tigress, thus giving it the name “Tiger’s Nest.”

Now, this monastery consists of four temples with residential accommodations for the monks. Despite the daily visits by tourists, Paro Takstang still functions as a monastery today.

Getting Here

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is located 10 miles north of Paro (20 minutes by car), making Paro the perfect home base when making this visit. Since most people can only visit Bhutan on an organized tour, your transportation will be arranged for you.

The visit to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery takes a full day. On average, it takes between four and five hours to do the round trip hike, plus one more hour to tour the monastery. Many people also have lunch in the cafeteria not far from the monastery. Plan on leaving Paro around 8 am and arriving back at your hotel around 3 pm.

Hiking to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Due to its location, the only way to get to the monastery is by hiking. There are no vehicles that make the drive up to the monastery. However, for those who cannot hike the entire way, you can hire a horse to carry you most of the way there.

Facts About the Hike

  • Distance: 4 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
  • Highest Elevation: 10,232 feet
  • Time: Allow 5 to 7 hours for the entire visit

Getting to the Monastery

The hike starts at the bottom of the mountain, right at the car park. There will be people selling souvenirs and hiking poles and this is place to hire a horse if necessary.

Tiger's Nest Sign

Once you clear the trees that surround the parking lot, you get your first glimpse of the Tiger’s Nest. There it is, perched on the cliff, high off the valley floor. In just a matter of hours, you will be up there too.

Tigers Nest on the Cliff

The trail to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery is a wide, dirt trail. It is uphill the entire way but not overly steep. It’s very doable for most people, just be prepared to take your time.

Kara in Bhutan

Tigers Nest Trail

Bhutan Sign

The hike up to the cafeteria, which is at about the halfway point, takes most people between one and two hours.

Along the way, you will pass under tons of prayer flags. Enjoy the views over the valley as you get higher. The scenery just keeps getting better.

Tigers Nest Hiking Trail

At the halfway point, the trail levels out for a little bit. Here, you can spin prayer wheels and take a break at the Takstang Cafeteria. From here, you will have a great view of the monastery. Some people choose to finish the hike here, electing not to make the final climb.

Prayer Wheel Tigers Nest

Colors of Bhutan

First Views of the Tiger’s Nest

The second half of the climb is a little easier. The trail is not as steep and gets less monotonous, especially as you near the monastery.

One of the best views of the hike is at the point where you overlook the monastery. This is where many people snap that iconic photo.

Paro Takstang

From here, it’s a short walk down a stone staircase. You cross a bridge covered in prayer flags, and then make a slightly strenuous climb up to the monastery.

Bridge with Prayer Flags

Tigers Nest Bridge

Once at the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, your guide will take you on a tour of the temples. Backpacks, photography equipment, and shoes are not allowed inside of the monastery. These will need to be left with security staff located just outside of the monastery walls.

After your tour of the Tiger’s Nest, you will hike back the way you came. Make sure you get all the photos you want…this is something you will want to look back on forever.

Earth Trekkers Bhutan

Tigers Nest Hike

 

How to Have the Best Experience

Best time of year to visit the Tiger’s Nest. October to December is the best time to visit Bhutan, when the weather is clear and cool. We were here in mid-October. The weather remains clear through the winter, although it can get quite cold during this time. The spring season can also be a nice time to visit Bhutan. Things begin to really heat up in May, and from June through September the monsoon arrives.

Photographing the Tiger’s Nest. The best lighting for photography is midday. While we were here in October, the monastery was in the shadow of the mountain until 11 am. Getting here early helps to avoid some of the crowds, but you will still need to wait until midday for the best photographs.

How fit do you need to be to do this hike? Anyone of average fitness can complete this hike. Take your time, it is not a race. You may want to bring hiking poles to help out your knees on the descent.

What to Bring. Hiking shoes, lots of water, a few snacks, and your camera. You can buy lunch or tea at the cafeteria.

Tiger’s Nest with Kids. When we did this hike, Tyler was 11 and Kara was 10. This was very easy for them, although we had all just hiked to Everest Base Camp two weeks prior. The trail is a slow, steady climb that most kids seven and older should be able to handle.

Do you want to explore more of Bhutan? Keep reading:

Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon
A Journey through Bhutan in Photos
White Water Rafting in Bhutan
Bhutan Travel Guide
10 Best Day Hikes in the World

 

Tigers Nest Bhutan Hike

Post updated October 2017.

Comments 16

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, we really liked Punakha. The dzong there is amazing. In the same area, Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of the Divine Madman, is quite interesting. Check out this post about everything we did with one week in Bhutan. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes! We used Bridge to Bhutan for our one week in Bhutan. They are excellent. They arranged all of our hotels, meals, and activities. They also helped us plan out our itinerary based on the activities we thought we be the most interesting for our family. I highly recommend them and if we ever return to Bhutan (which hopefully we will someday) we will use them again.

  1. I am 67 years old with heart bypass surgery done few years back. I consider myself generally fit, but I do not have hiking experience nor high altitude acclamatisation.
    I climbed upto Tiger monastery last month. It was very difficult but with adequate rest in between, it is ok. It took me about 3.5 hours to climb one way. It is awsome experience in lifetime and one must not miss the opportunity while visiting this fabulous country.

    1. Post
      Author
  2. Hi.Thank you so much for this. I am travelling to Nepal and then Bhutan in 4 weeks. I am practising altitude walks in Switzerland now and feel reassured that I can do this fairly comfortably now I have read your detailed report even though I am 70 and travelling on my own with a small group.

    1. Post
      Author

      Nepal and Bhutan, what a great trip! It’s a good idea to do a little conditioning before the hike to the Tiger’s Nest. It’s not a long hike but there is some climbing involved. Enjoy, it’s such a wonderful place to visit! Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi your information is very helpful. Going in 2 weeks time and feeling a tad nervous about the climb since I am in my 60’s, not considered athletic or fit but a real shame not to try.
    Read about taking pony ride halfway but also might be dangerous. On your trip, were there many hikers in their senior years ? How were they managing ? Did you see many people taking the pony ride? Thank you in advance.

    1. Post
      Author

      We saw a few people on ponies but most people walk up to Tiger’s Nest, from what I saw. And yes, we saw a number of people 60+ years old. I think if you take your time and plan to make frequent breaks you should be OK. It’s well worth it, and it’s at least worth a try. If you get started and think it is too strenuous, you can always turn around. The climbing starts almost immediately so it won’t take long to know if you can handle it. Cheers, Julie

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      Author
  4. I believe it is actually five miles and my iPhone said the elevation was 11100 feet. Because you start at 7500 feet and have to go down and up again about 500 feet I would estimate the total elevation change as just over 4000 feet. Certainly not 1700!

    1. Post
      Author

      The starting elevation is 8,500 feet. The ending elevation is between 10,100 feet and 10,200 feet, depending on the GPS device used. This gives an overall elevation gain of 1,600 to 1,700 feet.

    1. Post
      Author

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