Trek to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan

A gleaming pearl clinging to the mountainside above Bhutan's Paro Valley, Taktsang Monastery is one iconic landmark that will leave you speechless, however many dazzling photos you’ve gazed at. After a trek along steep mountain trails, you’ll finally reach the Tiger’s Nest. Leaving your luggage and technology at the gate, you’ll step inside this sacred space, flickering butter lamps lighting your way, and hear the soft chanting resonate around the stone walls.

What to expect on your trek to the monastery...

According to legend, the founder of Bhutanese Buddhism, Guru Rinpoche, arrived - on the back of a flying tigress, no less - to meditate at this site, over 3 kilometres up the mountainside, for three years, three months, three weeks, and three days. Taktsang monastery, which translates as ‘Tigers Nest’, was built in the 17th century to mark this celebrated event and has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries.

Trekking to the monastery is no mountain climb, but a fairly arduous journey all the same, so enjoy a good breakfast to get you going! When fortified, equip yourself with wooden walking staffs, and set off. Along the route, clearings through the trees offer enticing glimpses of Taktsang - a bright beacon against the gnarled rock, enrobed in wisps of cloud - and over the valley below. Sections of the track are steep, and you may need to take a slower pace to acclimatise to the altitude. However, conveniently placed benches offer rest stops along the way. After an hour, you’ll reach the café, and take in the best views of Taktsang so far over a well deserved cuppa and light bite.

As you continue on, the steep trail narrows and billowing ribbons of prayer flags decorate the path. The last stage combines a steep descent, a small bridge over a sacred pool, and a final climb up a flight of around 400 shallow steps delivering you, finally, to the doorstep of this holy destination. Bags, cameras and phones are securely locked away before you’re allowed to enter the monastery itself.

Once inside, a different level of stillness takes over, and the world is left outside. A labyrinth of small rooms and meditation caves open out from cool stone corridors, and around every corner you’ll find new delights: embellished shrines, vibrant murals and golden Buddhas warmly lit by candles and butter lamps; the heady scent of incense filling the air.

As Taktsang is a working monastery, you’ll often see monks hurrying through the narrow halls, and may be blessed with holy water and invited to roll dice (a form of divination in Bhutan). Find a comfortable corner where you can sit peacefully, listening to the gentle sound of the monks’ chanting, and fully savour the atmosphere of this unique place.

Location: Taktsang Monastery, Paro Valley, Bhutan

Duration: 6 hour round trip

Accommodation: Your choice of accommodation in Paro

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Gemma says...

'I had to pinch myself as I sat cross-legged on the floor in a corner of the holiest site in Bhutan - that feeling will stay with me for life.'

Note

We recommend saving your Taktsang visit until near the end of your Bhutan trip. This will give your body time to acclimatise to the altitude and lower oxygen levels. Average fitness levels are enough to allow you to complete the trek, but please consider any specific physical or health needs which could be relevant when booking. Wear decent walking shoes, drink plenty of water and take it slowly.

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