Hiking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery + Hot & Spicy Bhutanese Food | Paro, Bhutan

After spending a day exploring the beautiful Haa Valley in Bhutan, I began my eighth and final day in Bhutan with a trip to Tiger’s Nest Monastery! Come along with me as I hike to Tiger’s Nest monastery and enjoy some hot and spicy Bhutanese food in Paro, Bhutan!

Tiger’s Nest is a Buddhist Monastery that clings to the side of a cliff near Paro, Bhutan. Its local name is Paro Taktsang. It’s the number one tourist attraction in the country and is the main thing I wanted to see on my trip. In the eighth century, the second Buddha visited the site of Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and the monastery was then built in the 17th century.

To get there, you have to go on a grueling, 2.5-hour hike. I was so excited I was getting the opportunity! But first, I had to have some breakfast in Haa Valley with my friend and guide Tsheten from MyBhutan!

My traditional breakfast consisted of a large, dense wheat ball, super spicy ezay, and chicken curry with chilies. First, I tried a slice of the wheat ball with the ezay. It was extremely hot! Then, I tried a bit of the wheat ball with the chicken curry, which was like a light gravy with no masala.

It was a very cold day (-5 celsius), so this was a dense and hearty meal perfect for the weather. Overall, it wasn’t my favorite breakfast, but it was decent. I’d had too many chilies on this trip, so I was trying to keep it light!

Check out my VIDEO: Rare Bhutanese Dumplings in Haa Valley + Haa Village Tour | Bhutan

Next, we had a two-hour drive ahead of us in order to get to Paro. We took the same road we came in on because the only other road in and out of Haa was under construction. The road we took winds its way through the mountains and takes you through Chele La Pass, which is the highest mountain pass in Bhutan. It’s almost 4,000 meters above sea level. On the way to Haa Valley, we stopped a few times to take photos, so it took longer. This time, we wouldn’t stop at all.

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The view of the Himalayas was incredible. I could see the second-tallest mountain in Bhutan, Jomolhari. After an hour and 45 minutes, we entered Paro Valley, which is about 15 minutes outside the city center. Then, we’d cross the city and get to the base of the trail to Tiger’s Nest.

The town of Paro is like two towns in one. On one side, you’ll see lots of traditional houses and buildings. On the other side are more modern buildings made of concrete. It’s the second-largest town in Bhutan after Thimphu. It’s also where the airport is. The town is known as the Souvenirs of Bhutan because all the shops on the ground floor of the buildings are handicraft shops.

We stopped at the same shop I stopped at on my first day in Bhutan to buy a mask. I bought a beautiful blue one with skulls around its crown for 8,500 Nu/$112.57 USD. It was so worth the price! Then, we drove 20 minutes to the trail to Tiger’s Nest. There are small collections of houses and buildings along the road, almost like an extension of the town. There was lots of farmland, including rice paddy fields.

Check out my VIDEO: Exotic Bhutanese Street Food + Driving Through the Himalayas to Haa Valley | Bhutan

From the road, I could see Tiger’s Nest monastery high up on the mountain just outside of Paro, Bhutan. It was so high up! Then, we started our hike. You have to hike the path through a forest to get there. Ten minutes in, I was out of breath because we were going uphill over rocks and boulders. I was trying to do it as fast as I could! The sun was scorching on me, but I had a sweater on because it would be colder in the forest and at Tiger’s Nest.

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Forty-two minutes in, I stopped to take a break. It was noon and super hot and I needed to catch my breath. The hike was intense and easily one of the hardest I’ve ever done. Tsheten was impressed with me because I made it to the halfway point in 50 minutes. There’s a beautiful, traditional café called Taktsang Cafeteria there, where you can stop to eat.

I grabbed some red rice, scrambled eggs, chili, potato, radish, and dal. Usually, if you do the hike at 8 a.m., you’d stop at the café on the way down for lunch. But it was already noon, so I needed to eat. The potatoes were good and hot, while the radish was nice and creamy. I added some of the gravy from the radishes to the rice. I decided to leave the chilies alone and give myself a break from the heat. The scrambled eggs were nice and oily.

Check out my VIDEO: Crazy Spicy Bhutanese Food + Buddhist Monastery Hike in Thimphu, Bhutan

Right outside Taktsang Cafeteria is a terrace where you can enjoy some amazing views of Tiger’s Nest. But I continued on. Tsheten said it might take 45 minutes, but I wanted to speed through. It was a lot steeper going forward. I could see Tiger’s Nest and a couple of other monasteries. I was almost at the viewpoint. The slope became more gradual as the trail wound into the forest. There were trees on either side of the trail, providing lots of shade.

I was out of breath again. I got a closer view of three or four of the monasteries I saw earlier. At the viewpoint, I got a gorgeous view of Tiger’s Nest. I was so excited to be there! But I still had a ways to go. I wouldn’t be able to film or take photos inside, but this was the experience of a lifetime.

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I was dead tired but I’d made it this far in just 90 minutes with a stop to eat. Tsheten told me someone had made it all the way in just an hour and 15 minutes! The trail continued as steps along the side of the mountains with handrails. In 1998, the monastery burned down, but before that, there were no steps and no railing leading to it, so it was super risky getting there! It was even scary with the stairs and railing!

Next, we passed a waterfall with a bit of snow on it. We had 287 more steps going up to get to the monastery. We made it to the security check, where I had to pack up all of my stuff and put it in a locker.

Check out the Top 5 Things to Do in Paro, Bhutan

My experience at Tiger’s Nest Monastery was one for the ages, which is saying a lot, as I’d had some amazing experiences in Bhutan! It’s a beautiful, 17th-century monastery and is a must-visit when you come to Bhutan. I suggest starting at 8 in the morning. It’s made up of shrines dedicated to the second Buddha and is incredible. I lit a butter lamp to pray for my friends and family and everyone affected by COVID-19 while I was there.

Then, we had to climb back down to the car. The hike down was more difficult than I anticipated. You have to go super slow because it’s easy to slip. In all, it took me 4 hours to go up, have lunch, see the fortress, and come back down. It was super tough!

From there, we headed to the Rinpung Dzong, which is the fortress of Paro. It was built in 1646. We crossed Dochu River on the way to the fortress. It’s one of the most beautiful fortresses in the country and was built before Tiger’s Nest in the 17th century. Most of the fortresses and monasteries were built in the 17th century around the time that the Unifier united the country.

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The fortress was gorgeous and reminded me of Punakha Dzong Fortress. Tsheten put on a scarf that indicates your rank. Commoners wear white. Inside the fortress was a painting of the wheel of life, which shows the six kingdoms or realms.

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The fortress is smaller than the ones in Punakha and Thimphu, but you can still see paintings of gods on the walls, courtyards, administrative buildings, and the central tower. The central tower usually divides the administrative and monastic bodies. There was a lot of color on the buildings. Each house has the same windows and is painted with the same colors. The dormitories were on the other side of the complex.

About 160 monks live in the fortress. There was a lower level, where there’s a balcony where you can see a palace in the distance that was built in 1900 by the governor of Paro. It’s the best view of the city. You can see the main town, the rice fields, and the river. The monks had made some ritual cakes from wheat and cooked rice.

There were also roosters roaming the fortress because, in the olden days, there were no alarm clocks, so the roosters wake the monks up in the morning! What an amazing day of hiking to Tiger’s Nest monastery in Bhutan and visiting Rinpung Dzong!

I hope you enjoyed coming with me to hike to Tiger’s Nest monastery in Paro, Bhutan! If you did, please give this video a thumbs up and leave a comment below. Also, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and click the notification bell so you don’t miss any of my travel/food adventures around the world!

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