Bhutan | Paro

Hike to Tiger’s Nest

Embrace Bhutan Cultural Tour

Paro | Bhutan

18 Nov 2019 | Mon

Day 12 of 13

  • Hike to Tiger’s Nest
  • Kyichu Lhakhang

– Hike to Tiger’s Nest –

Hike to Tiger’s Nest – enjoy breathtaking hike to visit the famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) – one of the 13 most venerated pilgrimage sites of the Himalayan world. Taktsang marks the spot where the 8th- century Indian mystic, Guru Padmasambhava, arriving on the back of a flying tigress, meditated after bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The sight of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery at an elevation of 10,000 feet and clinging to a cliff some 3,000 feet above the valley below is one of the highlights of your stay in Bhutan. A pilgrimage to Taktsang is the dream of a lifetime for the devout. The hike to the monastery takes about 7 hours for round trip, and is challenging, but unforgettably thrilling and mystical. (Riding ponies provided till the Cafeteria). Vegetarian lunch is served in the little Cafeteria on the way back down.

Embrace Bhutan Travel

At Tiger’s Nest

Paro Taktsang (also known as the Taktsang Palphug Monastery and the Tiger’s Nest), is a sacred Vajrayana Himalayan Buddhist site located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley in Bhutan. It is one of thirteen Tiger’s Nest caves in historical Tibet in which Padmasambhava practiced and taught Vajrayana.

A later monastery complex was built in 1692, around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave, where Guru Padmasambhava meditated and practiced with students including Yeshe Tsogyal before departing the kingdom of Tibet in the early 9th century. Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan, which was then part of Tibet, and is the tutelary deity of the country. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen taktsang or “tiger lair” caves in which he and his students meditated.

The shrine dedicated to Padmasambhava, also known as Gu-ru mTshan-brgyad Lhakhang or “the Shrine of the Guru with Eight Names”, refers to Padmasambhava’s Eight Manifestations and is an elegant structure built around the cave in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. It has become the cultural icon of Bhutan. A popular festival, known as the Tsechu, held in honor of Padmasambhava, is celebrated in the Paro valley sometime during March or April.

Wikipedia Tiger’s Nest

Entrance | First Section – By Horse, Mule, or On Foot

After arriving at the entrance and parking area, our driver dropped us off. We took a short walk to reach the area where the horses and mules were. For the first section of the hike, the group all rode horses or mules. I don’t think it was mandatory to ride the first section by horse or mule but it was something that was included with our tour.

Horses and Mules Staging Area (Tiger’s Nest at Top Center)

Kanchana got a small horse and I got a mule. For the duration of the first section, we had two sets of guides – our guides and the caretakers of the horses and mules. Our guides also provided face masks to help with the dirt/dust kicked up by the horses and mules.

Loaded Up and Ready to Go

After a short time, we reached the location to switch from horses and mules to walking/hiking on foot. Here there was a large display of prayer wheels and flags along with a pedestrian overlook with beautiful views of Tiger’s Nest and the surrounding valley below.

Area Where We Switched From Horses/Mules to On Foot

Second Section – Hike to Tea House

The second section done on foot/hiking would take us to the Tea House. We did not find this particular section overly difficult – the soil walkways were fairly wide and only had a slight incline. As long as one took it slow and steady they should be fine.

Approaching Tea House Area

When we arrived at the Tea House we took a short rest break. Outside of the main tea house and restaurant, there was a series of small shops and restrooms. The views of Tiger’s Nest were breathtaking from this location!

Taking a Break at Tea House While Admiring View of Tiger’s Nest

After a short time, our guides wanted us to quickly get back on the trail to continue our hike to Tiger’s Nest, mentioning that we would eat lunch here on our way back.

Third Section – Hike to Tiger’s Nest

The third and final section of our hike to Tiger’s Nest was the most challenging – steep decline and inclines (with uneven steps and terrain), narrow walkways – full of people going in both directions. The last bit before entering into the temple area was very steep (with many steps). One has to pay attention, watching every step so that they do not accidentally trip or fall.

Walking Through Prayer Flags on Way to Tiger’s Nest

Navigating through this area was very beautiful – so much to see (natural rock terrain, waterfalls flowing from high above, numerous prayer flags spread in unique patterns and formations along with the amazing Tiger’s Nest temples built onto the side of the mountain. Truly breathtaking!

Beautiful Water Fall From High Above

Tour Tiger’s Nest

The monastery buildings consist of four main temples and residential shelters ideally designed by adapting to the rock (granite) ledges, the caves and the rocky terrain. Out of the eight caves, four are comparatively easy to access.

The cave where Padmasmabhava first entered, riding the Tiger, is known as ‘Tholu Phuk’ and the original cave where he resided and did meditation is known as the ‘Pel Phuk’. He directed the spiritually enlightened monks to build the monastery here. The monastery is so precariously perched that it is said: “it clings to the side of the mountain like a gecko”. The main cave is entered through a narrow passage. The dark cave houses a dozen images of Bodhisattvas and butter lamps flicker in front of these idols. An elegant image of Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara) is also deified here. In an adjoining small cell, the sacred scripture is placed; the importance of this scripture is that it has been scripted with gold dust and the crushed bone powder of a divine Lama. It is also said that the monks who practice Vajrayana Buddhism (the formal State Religion of Bhutan) at this cave monastery live here for three years and seldom go down to the Paro valley.

All the buildings are interconnected through steps and stairways made in rocks. There are a few rickety wooden bridges along the paths and stairways also to cross over. The temple at the highest level has a frieze of Buddha. Each building has a balcony, which provides lovely views of the scenic Paro valley down below. The Monasteries have ancient history of occupation by monks, as hermitages.

Wikipedia Tiger’s Nest Exterior

Return to Tea House Cafeteria | Best Views

Breathtaking Views of Tiger’s Nest

Lunch at Tea House

Included with our hike to Tiger’s Nest was a meal from the Tea House. It was a buffet style that had quite a selection of Bhutanese dishes (mostly vegetarian) – all very tasty! What was truly spectacular was the amazing views of Tiger’s Nest while enjoying our lunch!

Our Lunch from Tea House
Tiger’s Nest in Background

Return to Entrance (Bottom of Mountain)

Unforgettable Experience!

For our 13-day tour of Bhutan, Tiger’s Nest was the grand finale! Wow, what an unforgettable experience it was! We were so lucky to have perfect weather to do it.

All of our experiences in Bhutan were truly amazing but leaving Tiger’s Nest at the end was the icing on the cake!

Map – Hike to Tiger’s Nest

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