Taktsang Palphug Monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest), is a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex, located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley, in Bhutan. It was said to have been built in 1692, around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan 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 meditated.
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan is perhaps the most visited site by tourists to this country. It is also a backdrop in pictures you may find about Bhutan. Buddhists from all over the world especially come here to make the pilgrimage.
Getting to Tiger’s Nest requires some preparation.
You can only drive until the car park area, from where you must do a 8-mile trek up to the monastery and back. From the parking lot, you can see the temple perched high up on a cliff. It appears to be very far and your first instinct maybe “How the hell will I get up there?” It is a steep ascend to the mountain top but it’s well worth it!
Spare at least half day for the visit. Start early in the morning, as it gets hot once the midday sun arises. The roundtrip can take 4-6 hours, depending on how fast you walk and how many breaks you take.
There is an option to ride on ponies or mules to the halfway point for a small fee. It seemed to me that this is discouraged unless there are kids or adults with limited mobility. The sanctity of a pilgrimage is diminished if you use another animal to help you through.
Dress in layers. In the morning it will be chilly, so you may need a wind jacket, hat and gloves. But as you get warmed up, only a long sleeve t-shirt would suffice. Also, carry water and snacks, as there are not many places to buy anything. Apply lots of sunscreen as you will be going up to high elevations where sun rays are stronger.
There are two places along the way where you can purchase tea and snacks. One restaurant also offers buffet lunch.
Picture spots are ample as you approach the temple. Be careful of sharp drops along the cliffs as selfie deaths are gaining ground in the tourist world. Also note that cameras are not allowed inside the temple. There are lockers available just before you enter and you also will need to take your shoes off. Carry some change to deposit in the prayer/ donation boxes.
Once inside the temple, you will find peace and tranquility, having stepped into an auspicious place where monks have been meditating for hundreds of years. Take your time and enjoy the fruits of your long journey here.