The Paro Taktsang temple complex in Bhutan is perched on a cliff and is one of 13 small monasteries where the Buddhist master, Padmasambhava, meditated in the 8th century. Padmasambhava is regarded as a holy figure in Bhutan and Tibet, where he is credited with spreading Tantric Buddhism in the 700s.
According to legend, Padmasambhava arrived at Paro Taktsang on a flying tiger, which had been his Tibetan concubine. He meditated in a cave on the mountain for four months, after which he subdued local “demons” and began the conversion of the Bhutanese to Buddhism.
Visitors to the Tiger’s Nest face a challenging two-hour climb up a steep, well-maintained trail with numerous switchbacks. The monastery appears to appear and disappear in and out of the trees and mists as one ascends. The entrance to the Tiger’s Nest is a rock outcropping overlooking a vast chasm, with the monastery on the other side. Below the promontory of rock, the cliff drops a couple of thousand feet to the gorge below, where stone steps carved into the exposed cliff face lead to the monastery.
Despite the intimidating steps, it’s common to see Bhutanese locals, including mothers carrying small babies, walking up them with ease. Once visitors climb into the canyon, they encounter a 100-meter high waterfall at the deep end, with the path traversing directly across its base. After crossing the waterfall, the steps climb back up toward the Tiger’s Nest, with over 700 steps in all.
Inside the Paro Taktsang complex are three temples and a spectacular view. The site where Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for over three years is located high and deep inside a cave that emanates a chill breath. The return journey is much faster but equally dramatic.
How long is the hike to Paro Taktsang?
To reach Paro Taktsang, the legendary cliffside complex in Bhutan, visitors must hike a trail spanning 6.4 kilometers that typically takes 3 to 5 hours to complete, with stunning views of the Paro Valley along the way; while the trail is challenging, it is achievable with determination.