Thailand

Thailand’s Tiger Cave Temple: Difficult But Worth It!

If You're Tired of the Beaches and Booze The Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi is Just The Fix

Story Highlights

  • Climbing The Tiger Cave Temple
  • Breathtaking Views (Literally)
  • A Vacation Workout Worth Doing

Best known for it’s stunning beaches, clear waters & inviting tropical islands southern Thailand has much more in store for the intrepid explorer. If you’re the kind of traveler who seeks stunning landscapes and epic adventures combined with a little culture but dont mind putting in a little work along the way Krabi’s Tiger Cave Temple (known as Wat Tham Suea in Thailand) is just such an attraction.

As part of my explorations of Thailand I spent some time around Krabi & Ao Nang before hopping off to the Thai Islands of Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui and Koh Tao. One of the top things to do in Krabi—aside from visiting Railay Beach or Island Hopping—is visiting the Tiger Cave Temple, and with views like this it’s no wonder why!

The Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi, Thailand as seen from a drone
The Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi, Thailand As Seen From My Drone

If you’re done over-indulging in the delicious Thai food and cheap Chang beers or you’ve simply been missing your daily workouts then the 1237 1260 stairs to the peak above the Tiger Cave Temple might be just the cure! This sky-high masterpiece really is a testament to human perseverance.

While the tiger cave temple proper and much of the rest of the temple complex sits at ground level the main draw in my mind is the mountaintop pagoda and sitting Buddha perched atop a 1200′ tall limestone spire and the epic 360° views it affords over Krabi Town, Ao Nang and the Andaman Sea!

Climbing Tiger Cave Temple

Ascending Tiger Cave Temple is no small feat. 1237 1260 steps… Let that sink in for a minute… That’s over 90 flights of stairs to reach the top of the Tiger Cave Temple! Some flights of the stairs have steps over a foot tall and feel much more like climbing a ladder than ascending a staircase.

It’s not a stair climb for the faint of heart! Saying that, we saw both young kids and elderly folk tackling it successfully. As fit as you think you are, this hill will challenge you! Most climbers will take just over an hour to reach the top of the Tiger Cave Temple, but the fastest known assent of the stairs is ~9 minutes, beat that!

If the 1200+ stairs wasn’t a challenge enough, Thailand’s oppressive heat & humidity add a few more layers of difficulty to climbing the Tiger Cave Temple. Being a bit naive and having left planning to the last minute I didn’t start my climb until nearly twelve noon by which point it was already 34°C and nearly 100% humidity. It wasn’t long before I was on the struggle bus to tired town… I was ready to pass out more than once as I climbed the stairs seemingly to meet my maker. A smarter, more prepared traveler would start climbing in the morning or late afternoon!

Climbing the stairs you’ll want to take any opportunity to not only rest and catch your breath, but to look around and enjoy the views! The stairs are numbered every so often on the climb up which can be a real motivator or simply a cruel reminder of just how far you’ve still got to go to reach the top!

By the time I reached the upper pagoda of the Tiger Cave Temple there wasn’t a square inch of dry clothing on my body. I collapsed on a bench in the shade, refilled my water and caught my breath as my senses came back to me and the realization of where I was kicked in.

All around me the ground dropped away. The panoramic views from the top of the Tiger Cave Temple are—quite literally—breathtaking.

Read Also: 11 Awesome Things To Do On Koh Samui

Tips for Visiting Tiger Cave Temple

To make your trip to the Tiger Cave Temple easier—but lets not lie to ourselves, its anything but easy—follow these few tips:

  • Dress Appropriately: You’re visiting a temple, an important site to the local Buddhists. If you didn’t know already, that means you need to cover yourself. This is the rule is the one most ignored by tourists who prefer to dress for the heat throughout Southeast Asia. Shoulders should be covered and long pants should be worn rather than shorts. Although some temples in touristy places may be lenient, your modesty will be appreciated by locals. If you dont come prepared you’ll be able to rent sarong’s to cover yourself at the entrance to the Tiger Cave Temple complex.
  • Visit Early: Plan to visit the Tiger Cave Temple early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the arid heat of mid-day in Thailand. The climb to the uppermost reaches of the tiger cave temple can be a real challenge even in the cool, the heat and humidity of mid day turn it into a real struggle!
  • Take Water: 1237 1260 steps to the top, thats over 90 flights of stairs in your standard apartment building! Climbing up all those stairs is seriously grueling, regardless of your fitness level you wont want to be without water! Take a liter or so with you on the climb, by 600 steps in you’ll be happy you did! By 1000 steps you’ll be one of the few with any left. While you can fill up again at the top there is no water available on the way up, bring what you’ll need!
  • Slow & Steady: Like the proverb of the tortoise and the hare teaches us, slow and steady wins the race. And while racing to the top of Thailand’s Tiger Cave Temple sounds a bit masochistic to me there’s still truth to this wisdom. The stairs of the Tiger Cave Temple are uneven at best and require a degree of concentration! One foot in front of the other with frequent breaks will get you to the top in no time!
  • Avoid the Damn Monkeys: Sure, they’re cute and all but the monkeys at the Tiger Cave Temple are mischievous A.F. These seasoned professional pickpockets will go after anything left hanging off the outside of your bag or take snacks right out of your hand. It’s not uncommon for the ‘tree rats’ to snatch cameras and cell phones from unsuspecting tourists only to toss them down the mountain when they realize it’s not food! I even saw one money steal a fresh juice straight out someone’s hands before sucking it back and tossing the half full cup on an unfortunate tourist a few flights below.
Tiger Cave Temple Upper Pagoda by Drone
Tiger Cave Temple Upper Pagoda By Drone

Getting to the Tiger Cave Temple

Getting to Krabi from Bangkok is done best by jumping on one of Thailand’s regional airlines like Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways or Thai Lion Air. But if you’ve got time to kill and want to save a few dollars there’s also an overnight bus or train (14hr) connections to Krabi from Bangkok. For the small difference in cost I’d opt for the 1.5 hour flight each and every time!

Getting to the Tiger Cave Temple is simple once you find yourself in Krabi. Located atop the limestone spires north of Krabi it’s only a 10-12 minute drive from town center. From Ao Nang Beach—Where I’d based myself—it was a scenic 30 minute scooter ride through lush jungle and towering limestone mountains. You have two main ways to get to the tiger cave temple if you’re not taking a tour—and I’d recommend you save your money and go on your own— either by local tuk-tuk or by renting a scooter.

DO: Rent a Scooter

Renting a scooter to visit the Tiger Cave Temple is my first choice. They’re fun to ride, relatively cheap to rent and fuel ( I spent 300 Thai baht or about $10 for the day between rental and fuel), super convenient and not nearly as scary to ride in Thailand as you’ve no doubt been told! That said, take your time to find the best price on rentals—dont forget to barter—and before signing any paperwork, do a thorough walk-around documenting damage (cell phone video is great for this) to ensure you dont get scammed when returning the bike.

Do: Hire a Tuk-Tuk

Private Hire Tuk-Tuks are easy to find, in fact you cant cross the road in Krabi-Town or Ao Nang without being hassled by one to take a ride.  The other great option is the shared Tuk-Tuks (you might know them as colectivo’s, jeepny’s etc depending on your travel history). Just wait at a major intersection, listen for their honks and flag them down. If in doubt ask at the local 7-11 how to catch one.

Dont: Take a Taxi

Taxi’s are the best way to get taken advantage of anywhere in Thailand. Underhanded taxi operators will quote you twice (or more) the price of a metered ride to your destination.  In the case of going to the Tiger Cave Temple they may try to add in an “entrance fee” (The temple is free) too. If you want/need a car use UBER or Lyft and pay only what the app says!

The Lotus Pose Buddha at the Top of Tiger Cave Temple
The Lotus Pose Buddha at the Top of Tiger Cave Temple

Tiger Cave Temple Video:

It really isn’t easy to put the experience of seeing and climbing the Tiger Cave Temple into perspective with words and photo’s alone. Luckily for you, I had more than just my camera and pencil with me while I explored Krabi, Thailand.  I’m still learning the video production end of things, I’m putting together a few clips I shot with my DJI Mavic Drone while on location but for now check this out:

The Take Away:

So what makes the Tiger Cave Temple so special? The Breathtaking views afforded by climbing to the tippy-top of are well worth the struggle. The sense of accomplishment you feel as you trek back down the stairs—jelly legs and all—make you appreciate the journey just as much as the destination! But no doubt, after climbing the tiger cave temple you’ll want to find the best beach in Krabi and chill for the rest of the day!

Have you been to the Tiger Cave Temple? What did you think?! Was the Climb as bad as you’d expected? Were the views worth it in the end? Drop a comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Patrick Horsfield

I’m Patrick, traveller, explorer, writer and photographer in chief here at Adventographer. Growing up with a healthy appetite for adventure on the west coast of Canada helped me shake the mindset that I needed material things and encouraged me to make travel a priority in my life. I write from a wealth of travel experiences both good and bad and endeavor to create & share amazing, inspiring content from around the world as a catalyst for change. Come along with me as I Explore/Create/Educate!

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