Ever heard of Pato Taktsang, or, as some call it in the west, Tiger’s Nest Monastery, well if not, we can guarantee that you’ve seen a picture of it. It’s one of the most iconic buildings in the entire world. The Monastery hangs perilously close to a cliff edge dangling 10,000 feet above the beautiful Paro Valley below it.
It’s a true once-in-a-lifetime destination! We’re going to let you know what to do there, what you have to see, and how you can make the most of your trip to one of the most amazing and breathtaking spots on earth, as well as a few other local spots that we think you’ll love on your trip through Paro.
Make Sure to Check Out the Drukgyel Dzong Fortress Paro is more than just one majestical monastery, so it would be rude to not swing by and check out the Drukgyel Dzong fortress. It dates back to 1649 and was once essential in defending Bhutan from Tibetan invaders. The fortress is now in ruins but retains a lot of its original structure and a charm that transports you back in time.
Visit the National Museum of Bhutan and Learn the Amazing History of this Holy Spot The Tiger’s Nest monastery is one of the holiest sites in the Buddhist religion and is rich in history and tradition, all of which you’ll learn about at this quirky and cute museum, making it the perfect spot to start your trip.
Take on the Steep Ascent to the Top It’s steep and it’s tiring but when done slowly it can be accomplished without too much trouble. The fact that the path is really well constructed and maintained and the temperatures are typically mountain breeze refreshing means the 1000 step ascent straight up a 10,000-foot mountain is actually a little less painful than it sounds. This is an incredibly important part of the experience and the views you see as you ascend the mountain are truly remarkable.
Become One with Nature and Appreciate the Surrounding Wildlife as You Climb Buddhist principles celebrate the power and value of nature, which is why despite being sandwiched between the two most populous countries on earth they’ve managed to maintain a lush and beautiful natural ecosystem for wildlife to thrive in. Bhutan has a healthy population of tigers, elephants, leopards and so much more, but on your hike, you’ll most likely spot some of the beautiful birds. Make sure to watch out for a black-necked crane; they’re exquisite and unique to the area.
The Tiger’s Nest Viewpoint is THE Selfie Spot It’s one of the most iconic viewpoints on earth and impossible to miss. It’s found at the end of your ascent and from here on out, everything is downhill (walking that is). The view is simply magnificent and if you can pause long enough to stop taking pictures, make sure to try and take it all in.
Appreciate the Art and Explore the Complex of Temples that Make Up Tiger’s Nest Monastery You haven’t come all the way up here just for the view! Paro Taktsang is made up of four beautiful main temples and a monastery. Due to the height and the fact that the monastery is so precariously perched on the cliff’s edge, it’s highly likely you’ll experience feelings of vertigo as you meander through the buildings and spiritual caves over stone paths and old rickety bridges. You’ll find beautiful Buddhist statues throughout, as well as paintings and artifacts. The two most important to linger over are the painting of the “Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise of Padmasambhava” and the temple at the highest level, which has a beautiful frieze of the Buddha.
Be Prepared to be Blessed by a Monk The monks who call Tiger’s Nest home are as fascinating as the structures themselves and will be a big part of your visit to the monastery. When you arrive, expect to be blessed by a monk who will pour saffron-laced water onto your hands; you’ll need to take a sip of this water and splash the rest onto the back of your head as is custom. You’ll also find monks chanting from the holy text and performing their religious duties diligently.
Take Some Time to Meditate You’ve come to one of the holiest spots in the Buddhist religion. As you descend back to earth on your journey down, take a moment and stare over the beautiful surroundings of Paro. Who knows, you may find yourself on the way to enlightenment…
Where to Stay Near Tiger’s Nest
The area surrounding Tiger’s Nest is full of stunning hotels and you’ll find that unless you’re going for the incredibly luxurious option they are very reasonably priced.
For those looking for the exquisite, you can’t go wrong with Gangtey Lodge. It’s a taste of immense luxury, a 5-star hotel surrounded by some of the best views on earth.
Need something more moderately priced? Check out the Yu-gharling Resort, a beautiful spot with amazing facilities that won’t cost you a fortune.
Need a budget option? Let’s face it: getting to Bhutan wouldn’t have been cheap in the first place. The Hotel Samden Norzin is a simple and basic Bhutan hotel but it’s close to all the action and is always clean.
What to Eat and In Around Paro
Bhutanese cuisine, on the whole, is decidedly delicious, so it’s actually hard to go wrong, whether you’re buying from a street vendor or sitting down for a silver service extravaganza. Here’s a little guide on what and where to eat near the Tiger’s Nest.
Make sure you try the Bhutanese national dish Ema Datshi. It’s simple and absolutely delicious, consisting of chili peppers and cheese with a few local spices thrown in. Don’t leave without trying the Jasha Tshoem as well, a sumptuous Bhutanese chicken curry with a beautiful texture and taste.
Locals and tourist alike agree that Sonam Trophel Restaurant is probably the best food around for at least 50 miles. It’s got a unique family feel and it’s so good that they’ll melt in your mouth. For al fresco views and excellent food at bargain prices, the Indian-influenced restaurant Tou Zaiga is a real winner and is perfect for a special treat after the epic climb up to Tiger’s Nest.
Drinks & Nightlife Around Paro
Unsurprisingly, Paro doesn’t have a thrilling nightlife scene and if you want to get a drink you’ll have it with a meal or in a hotel. Think of it like this: you wouldn’t expect to go clubbing in the Vatican. With that being said, just over an hour away you’ll find the lively Thimphu which is full of nightlife and bars. Swing by Club Ace to get the same electronic club vices and vibes you’d find back home but with a distinctly Bhutanese flair. It’s comically positioned below an immigration office, so just in case you fall in love and want to live in Bhutan, it’s a simple trip up the stairs.
If you want something with a few more expats then check out Om Bar, a no-frills, cheap spot that’s great for making friends and grabbing a drink.
What to Drink? Try an Ara
It may look like soup, it may taste a little like soup, but it’s full of alcohol and therefore is essential ‘fun soup’. Ara is a traditional alcoholic beverage consumed in Bhutan and is usually homemade from rice, maize, mallet or wheat and served either neat or with a poached egg and butter. It’s curiously smooth and actually incredibly satisfying after a long day of sightseeing.
Tips & Culture
It’s very important that you understand that the monastery, the town of Paro, and the sacred sites around them are held in the highest reverence in Bhutan. Behave accordingly around them and learn a little about the Bhutanese culture and norms before you go. Here are a few tips to help you on your way:
Pack appropriately and plan for rain.
You can hike up to Tiger’s Nest without a guide but if you’d like to go in you’ll need a cultural guide to accessing the monastery.
Practice climbing before you go. It’s a pretty long hike and it’s straight up, so you’ll need to make sure that you’re up for the challenge before going.
Rent a car, you can use local taxis but you’ll want to visit a lot of sites around Paro and the best way to get around is to have a vehicle of your own.
Visit Padmasambhava Cave, Tholu Phuk The reason that this miraculous and wonderful monastery exists is down to the belief that in the 8th Century the Buddhist saint and the founder of Buddhism in Bhutan, Guru Padmasambhava, flew a tigress in pursuit of a daemon and defeated it at this very spot. Afterwards, he mediated in Tholo Phuk, declaring it a holy spot. This cave is one of the most sacred places in all of Buddhism and you can only visit it once a year during a special religious ceremony.
If Tiger’s Nest Monastery is on your BUCKiTDREAM list, and it really should be, make sure to share your dream destination on the BUCKiTDREAM app as well as images and videos from your adventures on social media. You just might find some great advice from people who have already been, giving you the inspiration to kickstart your journey.