Hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan – 10 Things To Know
Hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan was definitely the highlight of my 7-day Bhutan trip – and it shouldn’t be missed on anyone’s Bhutan itinerary. However, a lot of people don’t know what they are getting themselves into when signing up for the visit. That’s why I’ve summed up the 10 most important things to know before hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan.
#1: The early bird catches the worm
Hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery is pretty much the main reason most travelers visit Bhutan. Every Bhutan tour pretty much stops at the Tiger Nest at some point. That’s why it’s best to start your hike early to beat the crowds.There are actually no formal opening hours for the hiking trail so you could start as early as you want – but safety first! When I hiked up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, I started the hike at around 7 in the morning and we did not meet many people along the way. Starting early also gives you more time in the afternoon/evening to do some more sightseeing in the surrounding area.
#2: This is not a walk in the park.
I’m not going to lie: hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery has probably been the toughest hike I’ve ever done. I am NOT a hiker, though. The way up to the monastery starts of very steep, then turns rocky and the last stretch has a lot of steps. Most visitors need between 2 and 3 hours to complete the hike up to the monastery (it took me 2.5 hours). Experienced hikers can certainly make it in 1.5 hours and locals rush up there in 45 minutes. It’s pretty insane. Of course, heading down is a lot easier but you should be careful not to slide on the dusty track.
#3: Take your time and go slow.
You have to keep in mind that Paro (the city closest to the monastery) is at 2,200 meters altitude and the Tiger’s Nest monastery is just over 3,000 meters. This means, you climb about 900 vertical meters. Hiking in high altitudes like this is harder than hiking in lower altitudes and actually makes you breathless very fast. Many people make the mistake of starting of their hike at a fast speed and then run out of breath halfway through. If you keep a steady pace, you will be good to go all the way to the top.
Bonus: There’s a restaurant halfway up where you can stop for a tea break and lunch on the way back.
#4: Wear comfortable clothes.
Whatever you do: Don’t wear jeans. The trek is dusty and rocky and you are going to get very dirty along the way. The best choice are light hiking pants. You should also avoid shorts as you need to cover your legs and shoulders to enter the monastery.
#5: Wear layers as it gets hot climbing.
I visited Bhutan in October but it was quite hot. Wear layers so you can adjust to the changing temperatures when you’re sweating during the hike and then enter the cold monastery.
#6: It’s freezing inside the monastery.
As mentioned, the monastery is freezing inside so layers are highly recommended. You also cannot wear shoes inside the monastery so thick socks are an absolute must!
#7: Wear proper hiking shoes if you have them.
Trekking shoes are definitely best when hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. If you don’t have any, you should definitely choose a sports shoe that have a great grip so you don’t slip on the steeper parts of the trail.
#8: No photographs allowed inside the monastery.
As with all of the temples and monasteries in Bhutan, you are not allowed to take any photographs inside. However, the Tiger’s Nest even requires you to lock your gear (backpack, camera and phone) in a room by the entrance to deter rule-breakers from causing problems. There are CCTV cameras in most buildings in Bhutan and Bhutanese tour guides are actually punished when the tourists they are guiding take unauthorized photographs.
#9: Bring some essentials.
Before hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, I highly recommend taking some medication for copying with the high altitude. You can simply go to your local pharmacy or doctor and ask for medication for your Bhutan trip. I read many stories where people were hiking up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (or just traveled in Bhutan in general) and they were overcome with nausea and all the other nasty symptoms high altitude sickness.
The restroom in the monastery isn’t the best and toilet paper is pretty rare up there so be sure to bring your own or avoid it altogether.
#10: Drink plenty of water!
Don’t forget to bring along plenty of water and drink often. I almost gave up hiking to Tiger’s Nest monastery but I’m so glad I didn’t I felt such a great sense of achievement after I conquered the beast.
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