Nestled peacefully in the dramatic mountains of Bhutan, Taktsang, aka the Tiger’s Nest, is a cliff-dwelling monastery that clings closely to the mountainside at over 10,000 ft (>3000 meters). This mystical and holy place is the next addition to the Explore By Day Bucketlist. This article will give you all the information you need to decide if this makes it to your list!
Why You should visit the Tiger’s Nest:
Dramatic Views of an under-explored country
If you love dramatic mountain views and fresh alpine air, why not head to the world’s most mountainous country? That’s right! With roughly 98.8% of its total country area covered in mountains, Bhutan is the most mountainous country in the world.
For you, this means dramatic Himalayan views all around. A definite plus as you journey to one of the most sacred sites of Butanese Buddhism…
Visit one of the happiest countries in the world
For Bhutanese people, Buddhism is more than a religion. It is engrained in every aspect of their lives, including in their government. Interestingly, Bhutan has taken an alternative path to development as a result of its Buddhist origins. Rather than focusing on expanding Gross Domestic Product, Bhutan focuses on promoting and expanding “Gross National Happiness”.
It’s important to highlight though that buddhists don’t necessarily gauge happiness in the same way that Western societies do. Here is an excerpt and a link to read more if you are curious:
Among the tenets of Buddhism are the ideas that all beings want to be happy, and that, while life is full of suffering, the cessation of suffering through guidance, practice, and attention is possible, leading to the achievementGross National Happiness by Allison,E. (2012) Berkshire Publishing Group.
As a result of the countries’ emphasis on Gross National Happiness, in 2022 Bhutan earned an honorable mention as one of the official happiest countries in the world along with the Scandanavian countries. Though it wasn’t polled officially as part of the survey, Bhutan got a shoutout for inspiring the world to combine health and happiness for how they handled the Covid Pandemic.
The Tiger’s nest is A buddhist treasure
Through learning about the country, it becomes clear how important Buddhism is to the Bhutanese people and their way of life. The Tiger’s nest is one of the most revered Buddhist sites in the country.
Back in the 8th century, it is believed that master Guru Padma Sambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche) introduced buddhism to Bhutan. Legend has it, he arrived to Bhutan via flying tiger and then mediated there for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days, and 3 hours. The cave he supposedly meditated in is where the Tiger’s Nest is now situated.
Before traveling to Bhutan, it is important to know that you NEED a visa to enter. All visas are approved in the capital of Thimphu and in order to get one you must have booked travel with a local licensed tour operator. Visas take at least seven days and you will not be able to buy a plane ticket before clearance. Once the visa is cleared, you will be able to pay ($40) and receive the visa at your port of entry. There may be some exceptions for Indians, Maldives nationals, and Bangladeshis.
Getting to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan can be tricky. Fortunately, it is located close to Bhutan’s only international airport, Paro, in the Paro valley. Unfortunately, it is listed as the scariest airport approach in the world one and to tack on, it is one of the 10 most challenging airports to land at (#3 actually).
If you don’t mind that your pilot won’t see the runway until just 500 feet above it and will be forced to touch down, bank hard left, brake aggressively and then begin to reverse jus to stop on time then flying may be for you!
Though it is undoubtedly scary, the less than 20 pilots qualified to land here are surely experts by all counts.
In order to enter by car, you must enter from India. It is possible to fly into Nepal or India and coordinate transport via car or buss to Phuentsoling. This will be the border crossing.
From Phuentsoling to Paro, it is approximately a 4 hour drive.
So if you don’t mind a long, mountainous drive and you want to avoid the potentially frightening flight, this is likely the better option.
Hiking to the Tiger’s Nest
Once you make it to Paro in the Paro Valley, next comes the journey to get to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Because of what I said above about needing an organized tour to get a visa, many people will have their transportation and a tour of the monastery arranged for them.
The drive from Paro to the start of the hiking trail is about 10 miles and takes ~20 minutes. According to one of my favorite site’s, Alltrails, the full hike is 3.7 miles total out and back. While. 3.7 miles sounds like a walk in the park, there is also ~2,000 feet of elevation gain. Be prepared for a tough and worthwhile 3-4 hour uphill climb. If you don’t think your body can take it, there are horses for rent that you can ride to the top.
The Tiger’s Nest is NOT accessible by vehicle, thus, these are your only two options to get there.
Once you get there, enjoy a tour of the monastery, which is still active today. You’ll need to leave your shoes, camera, and other equipment outside as you explore the sacred Butanese place.
Does The tiger’s nest make your bucketlist
High up and holy, the Tiger’s Nest is a mystical and incredible place that has stood the test of time perched high up in the mountains. Now that you know a little bit more about the Tiger’s Nest…does it make your bucketlist? Let me know what you think!