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Finding Happiness: Tiger’s Nest (Bhutan Day 5)

Tigers Nest Bhutan Tips is part of the ANA, Take Me ‘Round the World Trip Report. Catch up on Finding Happiness: Bhutan Day 1 and Bhutan Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.

Day 5 started with me worrying about the weather for the epic trek to the Tiger’s Nest. The rain started early in the morning and didn’t show signs of stopping. I was worried, given the fog in the Dochula pass (see Day 3), that my climb to the Tiger’s Nest would end in disappointment. The downpour reconfirmed my travel rule that venturing out during rainy season is a bad idea (see Would You Travel During the Rainy Season?).


In order to make the trek, I needed sustenance. I ordered a masala omelet that had flavor compared to most hotel/planned meals I ate at hotels this trip.

Tigers Nest Bhutan Tips


The drive from the hotel is twenty minutes. I treated this trek like a 5k race (see Puerto Rico Turkey Run: TPOL Wins, Then Trolls) and had plenty of water along the way.


Upon arriving, there was one last opportunity to use the toilet. There’s a charge for it like there was when I went to the Salt Flats in Bolivia (see Salt Flats, Bolivia: The Definitive Guide to Going). This time I paid.

a man sitting on a chair outside a restroom

First Half

We began the trek around 7:30AM. At that time, it was very foggy and wet. At that point, I wasn’t fixated on the weather.

a group of colorful flags on a rope in the woods

a stream running through a forest

Like the Alaska Marathon, I was very excited and started running up the path. My energy was well and my breathing, in spite of a starting altitude of 10,000 feet, was excellent. A few minutes into the trek, I began to feel the after-effects of the chili from the night before (see Day 4) and the masala omelet from the morning. Instantly, I regretted my food choices and began to helplessly and hopelessly dream up solutions. To paraphrase Costanza, I wonder how I could “extricate myself from the proceedings and relieve this unstoppable force.”

TPOL’S Tigers Nest Bhutan TIPS: Pay for the bathroom and use it to its fullest extent before trekking.

Like the Athens Marathon, I tried to stay mentally strong despite my dire situation. The discomfort would pass and I would resume running. Going faster cut down the time to the halfway point but that proved counterproductive. Much like trying to drive fast when you’re almost out of gas, no joke intended, this strategy only made matters worse.

Having left my guide behind, I didn’t know the best route to take or if I was going the right way.

TPOL’s TIP: Follow the dogs, they know the way.

At one point, I was confused. I found myself going up a steep hill on all fours. That probably wasn’t correct but I managed to crawl back to the path.

Halfway Point

After a half-hour, I reached the midpoint.

a screenshot of a phone

a screenshot of a phone

a screenshot of a running app

Trainspotting flashed through my head as I gingerly went to use the facilities. There was no charge but I would’ve paid the toll nonetheless.


a toilet and sink outside of a cabin

I found happiness. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Second half

From the cafeteria, trekkers are supposed to be able to see the Tiger’s Nest. With the impenetrable fog, I couldn’t see anything. Light on my feet, I was more focused on the climb than if the sky would clear. Suddenly, the sun came out, and between the trees I was able to catch a glimpse of Tiger’s Nest. Energized, I began to sprint to the temple.

a group of trees with moss from them

I stopped my Garmin tracker when the trail ended and the stairs began.

a screenshot of a phone

a screenshot of a phone

a screenshot of a running app

By that time, the fog was thicker than ever and my joy turned into despair as I couldn’t see anything. My guide sensed my anxiety and promised me that the sky would clear.

trees in the fog

a building on a cliff

TPOL’s TIP: The trek to Tiger’s Nest is not difficult. It took less than 1 hour to reach it (minus emergency).

The Tiger’s Nest Story

Don’t rely on me for the full story of the Tiger’s Nest, but from what I learned Padmasambhava, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew to this perch on the back of a tiger. There’s also a cave that is only open one month a year. Only the distinguished monks can enter.

As we were completing our tour of the temples, as promised, the fog began to clear. Giddy, I asked my guide what the structure was even higher than the Tiger’s Nest. He made the mistake of asking if I wanted to climb up there. I said absolutely and he looked as distraught as I did when I thought the fog would ruin my adventure. Trying to discourage me or perhaps trying to save me from disappointment, he said it would be too foggy to see anything from that high. I insisted that we go. Heading there, I stopped at lookout points and took fantastic photos of the Tiger’s Nest.

a waterfall in a rocky area

a building on a cliff

a man standing on a ledge with a building on the side of it

a building on a cliff

a building on a cliff

a man standing on a ledge with a building in the background

a building in the forest

a man standing on a railing with a building in the background

Paro Taktsang on a cliff


At the top, it was very foggy. Nonetheless, I was proud of the effort it took to reach this point. It was a much harder and much steeper ascent.

a trail with a metal railing on a rocky hillside

a screenshot of a device

a screenshot of a social media account

a screenshot of a running app

After catching my breath, we went to the ledge (see Beware of Selfie Death!) to see if we could see Tiger’s Nest. Here’s what I found:

a building on a cliff

a man standing on a cliff with a house on top of it

Pushing myself and pushing my guide to go beyond what most people do was well worth it.

TPOL’s TIP: Demand to go here!


On the way to the halfway point, I couldn’t help but sprint. It was runner’s high meet adventurer’s high. Earlier, I had accepted my fate that seeing Tiger’s Nest was not to be. I tried to rationalize that the view through the trees was sufficient because it made the place look mythical. Now, I had seen it all.

a building on a hill

a view of a valley and mountains from a hill

a small building on a hill with trees
The second summit on the left, the Tiger’s Nest lower on the right.


For lunch, I had chili cheese, the food of choice in Bhutan, just not before a steep trek. I also took more photos of Tiger’s Nest, which came into clear view by the end of my meal.

a mountain with flowers and clouds

a plate of food on a table with a mountain in the background

a mountain with buildings on it

Descent to the Bottom

I didn’t run to the bottom. I took my time to relish in what I had just done. It was a victory lap.

One Last Photo

With the skies fully clear, I took a photo to capture how far we had climbed. None of this was remotely visible when we first set out.

a rocky mountain with trees and a cloudy sky
On the left was the higher peak, on the right is the Tiger’s Nest.

Last Last Photo

Driving away from Tiger’s Nest, I took my final photo. It is mind-boggling that humans built these temples here.

a group of houses on a hill with trees and mountains in the background
Look up, way up.


Traveling during rainy season is not recommended. It drastically increases the chances that mother nature will not cooperate. Having said that, the fog around the Tiger’s Nest made it look more magical than when it was completely clear. I am lucky that it worked out and I’m eternally happier for going all the way up.

Tigers Nest Bhutan Tips is part of the ANA, Take Me ‘Round the World Trip Report. Catch up on Finding Happiness: Bhutan Day 1 and Bhutan Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.



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