Tiger’s Nest Bhutan and we got off on the wrong foot – dramatic climate change, improper planning, no rain gear – an epic Bhutan monastery hiking plan gone wrong. Also called as Paro Taktsang, it was actually the reason why Harsh and I had planned our trip to Bhutan. Nonetheless, the 2.5-hour hike deposited us on striking expedition in the gorgeous backdrop of cliffside of Paro Valley which made us befriend Tiger’s Nest Bhutan monastery.
We started early at 8 in the morning only after reconfirming from our driver that it was a fairly pleasant weather for Taktsang monastery hike. We could see globules of clouds from far away but were reassured that it wouldn’t rain, which is why we left our rain gear in our car (still believing that local people would know better about the weather). **Bad Decision**
So Tiger’s Nest Bhutan monastery trek can be easily broken into two parts:
- Choosing the main trail is all about gradual ascents and less strenuous hiking, which we’d suggest you take, and even opted for.
- The side trail cuts down the time relatively but is a lot steeper and better for usual trekkers. It can be really straining for the beginners. Usually, monks are the ones who are more comfortable taking this route as they are adept in it. Don’t blindly follow them as it can leave you gasping for breath later on.
This trek has three prime landmarks – the cafeteria, first viewing point, and ultimately the monastery.
The Cafeteria is the half-way through the trek and one can enjoy a lunch here (it’s quite expensive so bringing along your refreshments would be a nicer idea). For the foreigners with their tour guides, the lunch is covered. So relish appetizing Bhutanese delicacies. Up till this point, horses can be taken.
Then comes the viewing point from where you get the first good view of the monastery. In our case, the monastery got so badly covered in globules of clouds that it was rather disappointing for us to click the pictures. But we were not let down by that, instead, we waited for half an hour for the clouds to move away and we could finally take some pictures. A lot of trekkers actually returned from this point to my utter surprise.
Finally, the monastery which entices all trekkers from a distance and the continuous chanting of mantras keeps the pace going.
Our driver dropped us to the starting point where a small line-up of traders was selling wooden sticks and trinkets. We did not consider taking a horse/pony and instead did the entire trek on foot. The trek takes you through a patch of dense pine forest and ascents that start soon after you’ve hiked 50m. Soon the trail went on to become arduous from steep to a way steady climb up to the monastery.
The first small stop was the ridge which was marked by numerous prayers wheels and flags as well as a chorten. Within 45 minutes, we were past the cafeteria, and we didn’t stop there as we weren’t tired.
“We’re almost there,” other trekkers kept assuring us and themselves! It was really nice to climb to the Paro monastery with so many people, all from different countries and of different religions. We were entertained nonetheless.
We reached the second viewpoint and it began to rain by that time. So, we decided to relax a bit over there and wait for the rain to be gone. Also, there was the most difficult path to tread in front of us – one last brutal flight of stairs which were blanketed in clouds (thought offering an aura of heaven to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery Bhutan). The remaining stretch was wrapped beautifully in prayer flags, which was a site to behold. We sat at the viewpoint and the rain was actually gone. Even the view of the Paro monastery was clear then, which gave us a chance to click ’n’ number of pictures.
The remaining stretch was wrapped beautifully in prayer flags, which was a site to behold. We sat at the viewpoint and the rain was actually gone. Even the view of the Paro monastery was clear then, which gave us a chance to click ’n’ number of pictures.
Within 15 minutes, we were there at the monastery, though our legs felt like jellies by then. Our determination didn’t deter and we finally were upfront with the beauty. And trust me, no matter how many times you might have seen and appreciated the beauty of Tiger’s Nest Bhutan monastery in pictures, but the feeling of being up close and personal with it is so different.
Inside the Monastery
- There are strict conditions for entry inside the pilgrimage site. You cannot take shoes, cellphones, cameras, or any kind of electronic equipment inside. They need to be submitted at the gate. You cannot act smart with the security guards as they make sure you do not smuggle your cameras or cell phones inside.
- Tiger’s Nest Monastery remains closed from 1:00 P.M – 2:00 P.M as lamas have their lunch at that time.
- Inside the monastery, we were greeted with tea and biscuits. On procession to the main temple, there was a small room where the deity is worshipped. There are chambers where Buddhist icons are offered food and money. It felt divine, for sure!
It was extremely difficult for us to go downhill as the entire stretch which was way too steep had become slippery. In fact, I slipped there twice and sat down at one point of time, deciding that I wouldn’t be able to go back ever. 😀 A lot of local people kept telling us horror stories of other trekkers who were slipping as well, which scared me to no ends.
Help came out unexpectedly. A very sweet local Bhutanese friend, Thinley, asked to give his help to me. Harsh was able to trek down easily after that because I was able to move down easily with Thinley’s help. We both couldn’t thank him enough for his gracious attitude. And by the time we got back down, we were totally doused in mud. This experience was something we would never forget! 🙂
When: We suggest that you keep Tiger’s Nest Bhutan monastery trek for the last day as it will drain all your energy, and you will need plenty of bed rest afterward. It won’t be wise wasting the next day in bed rather you can make the most by going on the hike on last day of your trip and take rest in flight. Besides that, you would also get acclimatized with the altitude which is important before going on the trek.
Best months to plan your trekking trip to Bhutan would be March, April, May, June, September, October, November.
What: There are a lot of things you need to keep in mind when getting ready for the trek.
- Good hiking shoes: However good or bad the climate might be, don’t forget to wear good hiking shoes with thick socks. Strictly stay away from sandals, heels or bathroom slippers.
- Clothes: They won’t let you inside the monastery in short pants or capris. You need to be modestly dressed to go inside the pilgrimage site. So, make sure you are covered from tip to toe. Perhaps Harsh made a huge mistake here and ended up sitting outside the monastery even after such hard work. Read about the blunder he made, here.
- Refreshments: There’s just one cafeteria that too after you are halfway up to Taktsang so carry your water and refreshments. Of course, we didn’t carry anything and were left sobbing later on. We would advise you to carry some protein bars and chocolates to keep your energy level in check throughout the Tiger’s Nest Bhutan monastery trek.
- Hiking poles: If you have hiking poles, bring them along. And if you don’t, then you can buy a wooden stick from the parking lot area for 50 NU | 1USD where a lot of vendors stack up these sticks and handmade stuff.
- Rain Gear: If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone. So, there’s no harm in carrying a rain gear. Think how much weight it would add? There wasn’t any stark hint that it could rain but it did! And the worst part was we were coming down. So, be prepared.
Start early, go slow!!
Have you been to Tiger’s Nest monastery? Let us know your travel experience in the comments below!