Hiking to Tigers Nest Bhutan

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

Julie Bhutan 56 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.

More Information for Your Trip to Bhutan

Are you planning a trip to Bhutan? Read all of our articles about Bhutan in our Bhutan Travel Guide.


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Tigers Nest Bhutan Hike

 

Comments 56

  1. Hi!
    Thanks for the detailed information. I am new to hiking. Just will like to know if the hike up is via stairs or dirt trail or a mixture of both pls. Is the descent down very steep or manageable for someone who has not hiked before?
    Thanks much:)

    1. Post
      Author

      It’s a mix of a dirt trail and steps (dirt trail up/down the mountain and stairs to and from the monastery). As long as you are relatively fit you should be fine. It’s not technically difficult, just hilly, so it’s fine for a new hiker. Cheers, Julie

  2. We have a person with mild asthma who wants to trek with us to the monastery. Do you see any risk of breathing difficulty due to the elevation and rough conditions of the tracks . Any ideas to equip the person with extra gear like face masks or oxygen cans etc.

    1. Post
      Author

      From what I know, elevation does not directly make asthma symptoms worse. However, if this person typically experiences wheezing with exertion, then they might have some difficulties on this hike. They will need to bring their inhaler, but if their asthma is mild, I doubt they need to bring oxygen. It’s a good idea for this person to discuss this hike with their medical doctor before going to Bhutan. Cheers, Julie

  3. The horses will take you less than half way. Also, they will not take you back down, so one cannot rely on this mode to take out much of the effort.

    No wheelchairs are available and as it is they are useless on the steps.

    Only the reasonably fit should undertake this trek and relying on once own abilities.

    Of course, doing so is greatly rewarding.

  4. I have MS and wear a leg brace. Once my horse gets me up there, is there a wheelchair or some other conveyance for me? Also, I cannot walk without my shoes and brace….will I still be required to remove them? Is some other form of footwear available for my husband when he removes his shoes? We will be there the second week in March.

    1. Post
      Author

      Once at the “top,” or at least as far as the horses will go, it’s still a long series of steps down and then up to the Monastery. If you didn’t go that far, you would still need to walk uphill a ways to get to a viewpoint. As far as getting accommodation to help you out, like a wheelchair, that would be a better question for your guide/tour company. As far as entering the monastery, we took off our shoes and walked in just wearing our socks. No other footwear is provided. I don’t know if they make exceptions to this rule (another great question for your tour company). Cheers, Julie

  5. We are planning to visit bhutan in may with 5yr kid . We are not so much into habit of trekking and all.
    Do u suggest us to take tiger nest trip or jumolhar peak and hanging bridge ..
    As we have last day and there is a choice between the two
    Plz help.
    Do u think 5yr would be able to walk so much ?
    Regards,
    Esha

    1. Post
      Author

      I don’t know much about Jumolhari peak, but it looks like it is a 7+ day trek that is strenuous (unless your guide is just going to take you hiking to a viewpoint of the mountain). Tiger’s Nest is just a day hike. It is a lot for a five year old, however, there were young kids on top of the mountain (around the age of 5 years) when we did this. I remember talking to their parents. It’s really up to you and what you think your child can handle. The Tiger’s Nest was one of our favorite experiences in Bhutan so I recommend doing it if you think your child can handle it. Cheers, Julie

  6. We are in our mid sixties and are planning our trip for late September. Should the rainy season be over by then? Do you recommend walking sticks? If so, are the ones sold/rented there adequate or is it recommended to bring your own?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Barb. The end of September can be “iffy.” Usually the rainy season is over but some years it can linger around longer. We were in Nepal at the end of September 2014 and the rains stuck around longer than normal, delaying our flight to start the Everest Base Camp trek. By September 24 skies began to clear up. So, keep your fingers crossed and hope for “normal” weather. I don’t know much about the walking sticks that are rented there. If you have your own, bring them, because they can really help you when you walk back down the mountain. If you need a recommendation, I use Black Diamond collapsible, lightweight walking poles that pack easily and don’t weigh very much. Cheers, Julie

  7. This has helped me decide we ‘seniors’ can make it up to Tigers Nest! Thank you!

    I found the elevation in the Andes very trying, but this trip will be after Tibet, so hopefully acclimatised.
    Btw… have you heard of small cans of oxygen? Might look into that!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Savannah. Yes, after Tibet you should be well acclimated. It sounds like you have an amazing trip planned. I have not heard about the small cans of oxygen but it sounds interesting. Cheers, Julie

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