I was keen to do this trek, after having seen such super beautiful pictures of this monastery. I always wondered about the commitment levels of people who carried stones up there to build a praying place and wanted to experience that route.
I am told its 3310 meters above sea level, though am not sure how steep is the vertical lift from the foothills. The terrain is quite easy to walk upon, smooth and nothing difficult. It is probably the altitude that makes you stop and catch your breath every now and then. After a long walk, when you first get a good glimpse of Taktsang and see people and ponies around and start feeling good, you would be told that this is only 50% of the one way journey. This is done to boost your mental strength and also replenish on water if you have already exhausted it by now. The marathon stairs which now await you on the next 50% will tell you why even downhill return journey will be as arduous – the stairs first take you down (roughly 600 stairs I think) and then take you up (maybe 400) to the Monastery. And when they were making those stairs, they didn’t think about average tourist’s misery, so the steps are quite steep…
You will get some fantastic picture points en-route and though cameras are forbidden inside the monastery, believe me you wouldn’t miss much inside. The monastery is average and simple and compares with any other in Bhutan from inside (and what else can you do if you only get 70 sq. ft. of space on a mountain cliff, you can’t construct the Potala there). Once in, do go till the very top (again some more steep stairs) and do peep into the original Tiger’s Nest cave (there is a board to guide)…you would be amazed by the feeling of what originally was, and what stands now.
Don’t rush downhill fast (you can get cramp’ed), maintain a steady clip. My sense is most ‘average’ tourists will be able to do the whole circuit in 4 hours (I did 3:45).
Must do! It helps you believe in your abilities and provides the wonders that a beautiful natural climb provides. Keep one bottle of water, no extra clothes, and comfortable shoes. Avoid ponies, you will keep dreading the whole distance and they anyways don’t go till the stairs which you have to do on your own legs. All the best!