21 Things To Know BEFORE You Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Paro Taktshang, more commonly called Tiger’s Nest, is the most iconic image of Bhutan. While the monastery is easily the most popular thing to do in Bhutan and on every visitor’s bucket list, it doesn’t enjoy the instant recognition of other famous landmarks like Machu Picchu or the Eiffel Tower. It also isn’t as easily accessible as sites like the Colosseum or the Pyramids, as reaching Tiger’s Nest requires a two-hour hike, but it’s well worth it and completely doable for most.

Our day hiking to Tiger’s Nest was one of our favorites from our ten days in Bhutan. Once in the Monastery, you’ll better understand Tiger’s Nest. But what can you expect from this hike, how hard is it, and does it cost anything to enter? Let’s break it all down!

all about the tiger’s nest

all about tiger's nest

According to legend, Guru Rinpoche, or Guru Padmasambhava, is said to have reached Bhutan from Tibet by riding on the back of a tigress (hence the name Tiger’s Nest). He explored numerous caves and cliffs, meditating to conquer local demons. The majority of his time was dedicated to the mountainside overlooking the Paro Valley, where he blessed the area that eventually evolved into one of Bhutan’s most sacred monasteries—Paro Taktsang, also known as Tiger’s Nest.

Comprising four temples and residential shelters for monks, the monastery features a unique design that gracefully rests on the mountainside. Wooden bridges and stairs intricately carved into the mountain link the structures, each boasting a balcony offering breathtaking views of the Paro Valley below. Positioned 3,000 feet above the valley and 10,000 feet above sea level, a steep hiking path leads you right to Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

How to Get to tiger’s nest?

How to Get to tiger's nest?
Staying at Zhiwa Ling

The trailhead to hike Tiger’s Nest is just outside of Paro, so it’s best to stay in Paro the night before your big trek. Though as most have to travel to Bhutan on an organized tour, this will all be organized in advance for you, and your guide and driver will pick you up the morning of your trek.

From most hotels in Paro to the start of Tiger’s Nest, it will take 15-20 minutes. We stayed at Zhiwa Ling, one of the only Bhutanese-owned 5-star properties, the night before our hike, and we loved that they filled us up with a big breakfast before the hike. We could also see Tiger’s Nest from the hotel!

All About the Tiger’s Nest Hike

Tigers Nest
At the trailhead

Stats on the hike vary depending on which website you look at, but this is exactly what my watch clocked in.

  • Elevation: 667 meter gain
  • Distance: 8.39 km round trip
  • Highest Elevation: 3,120 meters (10,232 feet)

Our guide suggested starting our hike early in the day, but we asked him to push it back until at least 8:30am knowing that Tiger’s Nest wouldn’t be in the sun until around noon. This meant we would start our hike with plenty of other people, something to consider if you opt for a later start too.

At the trailhead, you will find vendors selling hiking poles, souvenirs, and mules in case you need them to get you up (more on that later).

first glimpses of tigers nest

The trail is upward all the way, but it’s a wide and well-defined trail – nearly impossible to get lost and there is nothing dangerous about the trail. There are a few nice stair sections on the trail to make the climb easier as well. There is not much for views until you gain a bit of elevation.

The trail to Tiger's Nest
The trail to Tiger’s Nest
A prayer wheel at Tiger's Nest
A prayer wheel at Tiger’s Nest

Around the 40-minute mark (we are fast hikers), we reached a large prayer wheel, an area with plenty of prayer flags, and a place to drop the mule off if you hired one. There’s also a turn off for Taktshang Cafeteria, an excellent break point in the hike. We grabbed a coffee and tea and sat outside looking out to Tiger’s Nest while we waited for Dago, our guide. Depending on fitness and ability, the cafeteria takes most hikers around 1 to 1.5 hours to reach.

323 Meters of gain gets you to the cafeteria
Trail to Tiger's Nest
Trail to Tiger’s Nest

We sat at the cafeteria for around 40 minutes, soaking in the views and chatting with other travelers before continuing on. After the cafeteria, there’s a wide rocky section, which might be difficult for some travelers, especially if it’s raining, as the rocks would get very slick. The second half of the hike, after the cafeteria, is, in general, less strenuous.

Taktsang Cafeteria
View from Taktsang Cafeteria
The trail after the cafeteria

It took us 30 more minutes of hiking to reach the very popular photo spot overlooking Tiger’s Nest. This is where you’ll find groups of people taking an iconic photo with Tiger’s Nest in the background. At this point, Tiger’s Nest was still not in the sunlight for us, so we decided to keep hiking, knowing we would take all our photos on the way back.

After the photo spot, you actually have to descend quite a few stairs. Watch your footing here so you don’t slip, though the stairs are shaped nicely and have a guardrail to help hikers. Descending these steep stairs marks an easier point in the hike as you are no longer climbing, hopefully catching some relief, but keep in mind you’ll have to hike up these stairs on the way back!

Final Stairs to Tiger’s Nest
Final Stairs to Tiger's Nest
Final Stairs to Tiger’s Nest
waterfall at tiger's nest
A beautiful and refreshing waterfall

Once you reach the bottom of the stairs, you’ll reach a beautiful point and a bridge that crosses near a waterfall, an amazing and cool spot to relax, especially if it’s hot. You are very close to the Monastery by this point. You’ll then climb back up the stairs to reach the Monastery. Once outside the monastery, there is a small bathroom and a storage area to leave your backpacks and electronics, as they are not allowed inside.

Someone will check to ensure you have no phones or cameras on you, and your guide will take you around the monastery, which takes about an hour. When we visited, monks were engaging in prayer, as it was a Bhutanese holiday, which was very interesting to see. You can also make offerings, so bring some cash (Bhutanese Ngultrum, Indian Rupiah, or USD preferred).

*If you are a confident and agile hiker, you can ask your guide to take you to a “hidden spot” where a butter lamp is burning inside a cave. It requires a steep and somewhat sketchy walk to reach, but our guide said he trusted that we could reach it. I don’t have photos as none were allowed, but it was a very interesting and spiritual place to see. It seemed that only the Bhutanese tourists knew about it. Thank you Dago for showing us!

Once you exit the monastery, you’ll have quite a few stairs to climb. At this point in the day, when we reached the photo viewpoint, not only was Tiger’s Nest finally in the sun, but there were hardly any other tourists around. I changed into my Kira and grabbed some photos before returning to the cafeteria for a delicious Bhutanese buffet lunch.

Altitude Sickness in Bhutan

Bhutan is the highest country on earth, with an average of 8,000 feet above sea level. If you think you may be prone to altitude sickness, consult with your doctor before traveling to Bhutan. If you start to feel lightheaded when hiking, slow down and take lots of breaks. Stay hydrated.

We didn’t have problems with altitude sickness while traveling Bhutan, but we were also not in the high Himalayas and already live at 1500 meters.

Do You Have to Hike to See Tiger’s Nest?

Do You Have to Hike to See Tiger's Nest?

While you can see a very, very minuscule version of Tiger’s Nest from a few locations in Paro (with binoculars), you’ll need to hike in order to see this famous site. There are no roads leading to Tiger’s Nest and no helicopter landing pad. You can only reach it by climbing a steep trail, but it’s more than worth it!

How Long Does it Take to Hike Tiger’s Nest?

Stats when we reached the viewpoint. Still had the stairs to descend and ascend

Round trip, it took us just under three hours of actual hiking to hike to Tiger’s Nest and back, but we are very fast hikers. The whole experience, with plenty of photos, lots of time for coffee at the tea house, time at the monastery, and back to the tea house for lunch, was a six-hour experience.

Reaching the tea house took us 40 minutes, but I would plan for at least an hour to go to the tea house and plan for at least two hours to reach the actual monastery. You’ll want an hour or so inside the monastery with your guide.

All in all, Tiger’s Nest is a full-day experience in Bhutan. So we recommend that you spend the morning hiking to Tiger’s Nest, and then after the hike, enjoy walking around Paro, and ask your tour company to arrange a hot stone bath for you in the evening!

Is Tiger’s Nest Hike Hard?

Is Tiger's Nest Hike Hard?

Personally, we did not find the hike to Tiger’s Nest hard, but keep in mind that we live in the Rockies and hike regularly at elevation. That being said, we saw all walks of life on the hike, including many older people. Anyone of reasonable fitness and ability can complete and enjoy this hike.

There are many stairs involved to get to and from the monastery, though, so if you have any knee issues, you may want to hike with hiking poles to take pressure off the knees.

There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the views, and the tea house provides an excellent place for a break!

There are hiking poles at the start if you want

There are hiking poles at the start if you want

If you think you’ll want hiking poles for the trek, many hiking sticks are available for a small cost at the start of the hike.

There are donkeys, but it is best not to use them.

There are donkeys, but it is best not to use them

If you cannot make it to Tiger’s Nest, donkeys are available for rent that will bring you a portion of the way. These donkeys are best reserved for elderly or physically disabled visitors, as it’s a long, steep trek for the donkeys, too. Our guide, Dago, mentioned he doesn’t recommend them because he doesn’t like to see the donkeys suffer.

How Much Does it Cost to Visit Tiger’s Nest?

There is an entry fee for visiting the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, though if you are booked with a tour company, it’s unlikely you’ll have to worry about paying as it’s probably already included in your tour cost, and you must have a tour guide with you to hike to Tiger’s Nest. The cost to hike Tiger’s Nest is 1000 Ngultrum, plus another 1000 Ngultrum to enter the monastery.

Bring cash into the monastery For Offerings

Although your tour operator may cover your entry fee into the temple, you may still want to plan on bringing some extra cash. Once in the Monastery, if you wish, there are plenty of places to make offerings (not mandatory). Offerings can be anything from just 5 Ngultrum to $20+, really anything you want. Unfortunately, we did not bring any cash on this hike, which was a big mistake, so we couldn’t make any offerings.

the tea house has decent toilets and a place to grab coffee with a view

Taktshang Cafeteria

As mentioned, a nice cafeteria/tea house looks out to Tiger’s Nest Temple about 300 meters up and 2km into your hike. Taktshang Cafeteria has nice bathrooms and coffee and tea on offer. There are some great places to sit outside and look up to Tiger’s Nest, where you will soon reach. We recommend taking a bit of time here to enjoy the views and have a coffee before continuing your hike to the monastery.

the tea house has a nice lunch!

This same cafeteria also provides lunch to hikers after they visit Tiger’s Nest. I was pleasantly surprised with their buffet lunch, which served delicious Bhutanese food! Ask your guide if you’ll be eating here after your hike!

When is the best time to hike Tiger’s Nest?

when is the best time to hike Tiger's Nest?

Before we talk about the best time to hike Tiger’s Nest, let’s chat about Bhutan in general. The optimal periods for a visit to Bhutan are typically regarded as either the spring months between March to May or the autumn season spanning September to December. The climate is generally delightful, with dry and mild conditions during these times.

We planned our trip accordingly and arrived in Bhutan on October 15th and hiked to Tiger’s Nest at the end of our trip on October 25th and had the most amazing weather. Comfortable enough for hiking in a tank top, with a sky full of sunshine.

This is high season in Bhutan, and because of this there are plenty of people on the trail. You might think that because of this you’ll want to get an early start on the day and start your hike at sunrise. We thought this too, until we read that…

Tiger’s Nest doesn’t fully come into the sun until around 11-12

Tiger's Nest doesn't fully come into the sun until around 11-12

We found out firsthand that this is true. So if you want to get photos of Tiger’s Nest in the sunshine, you may want to start your hike later in the day. We started our hike around 8:30 am and, with the pace of our hiking, knew we would hit Tiger’s Nest well before it was in the sun, so we ended up staying longer at the cafeteria, having coffee, and took most of our photos after we visited the monastery.

If you are interested in taking photos and can start your hike later in the day, it’s worth it.

Bring water and sunscreen

Bring water and sunscreen

The hike up to Tiger’s Nest is not well-shaded, and you’ll be exposed to the sun while hiking. We recommend sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. These are essentials for the hike.

It’s also recommended to bring plenty of water for your hike. It’s quite steep in sections, and with the altitude and heat you’ll want to stay well hydrated. I typically pack 1.5-2L on most of my hikes because I’m part camel.

You can rent a Kira & Gho

You can rent a Kira & Gho
Dago helping Cam with the Gho

The traditional Bhutanese attire is known as the “kira” for women and the “gho” for men. These garments hold significant cultural and social importance in Bhutan and are worn on formal occasions, during religious ceremonies, and even daily attire. You’ll see the kira and gho everywhere the second you land in Bhutan as the Bhutanese wear their traditional clothes daily, keeping culture alive in an increasingly modern world.

It’s common for foreigners to try the kira and gho and wear them for as long as they want. I asked our guide Dago, if we could bring a kira and gho up to Tiger’s Nest so that Cameron and I could wear them for a few photos, but it’s also possible to rent them at the cafeteria as well!

You’ll Need to cover Up to enter the temple

Like all dzongs and monasteries in Bhutan, it’s important to dress modestly when entering, and this is true for all who enter the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Bring a scarf and something to cover up the shoulders, legs, and chests before entering.

Even on our sunny and hot mid-October day, inside the monastery, it was actually quite chilly, so you’ll want a jacket anyway for this section.

No phones or Cameras Are Allowed in the monastery

There’s no phones or electronics allowed into the monastery, and there is a strict checkpoint that will check and make sure you don’t anything on you. Before entering, there’s a small storage area to store your hiking backpack, phone, and other electronics.

Is it the Original Structure?

Constructed in 1692, Paro Taktshang stands as a revered temple and monastery; however, the initial building was sadly destroyed by fire in 1998, apparently a common occurrence in Bhutanese temples due in part to the frequent use of Butter Lamps.

The present manifestation of the Tiger’s Nest stems from a restoration and reconstruction initiative costing 135 million ngultrums (approximately $2 million US), which concluded in 2004. Despite its construction in the 21st century, the monastery exhibits architectural and design elements reminiscent of 8th-century temples, and was built without modern machinery.

Is it worth visiting Tiger’s Nest?

Is It Worth it to Visit Tiger's Nest?

Yes, absolutely! Tiger’s Nest is a unique place, and in all 100 countries, I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. It’s well worth hiking to, and I would say well worth even traveling to Bhutan for! Although it wasn’t our reason for traveling to Bhutan, the images of Tiger’s Nest definitely stirred our wanderlust and put Bhutan high on our dream travel bucket list.

However remember that Tiger’s Nest is not the only sight to see in Bhutan, and we recommend enjoying at least an 8 day or more tour in the country. We spent ten days traveling around Bhutan with Happiness Kingdom and can’t recommend them enough – ask for Dago as your guide – he is a gem!

We booked our trip to Bhutan with Happiness Kingdom Travels, who have offered World Pursuit readers 5% off their trip to Bhutan. Mention us when inquiring for the discount! Here is the trip we booked, with a few adjustments for our personal preferences (like the Gangtey Valley!)

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About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.