Caves offer an amazing sense of adventure for those brave enough to explore them. Caves have served countless purposes throughout their development in history and around the world. Thailand is a country that has an abundance of caves. The great thing about Thailand is that many of these caves are located within national parks and are open for exploration. Thailand caves are no different for the variety of purposes that they’ve held. Many of the caves that you find in Thailand have held religious significance, used for shelter, or homes for animals.
Thailand is a great destination for visiting caves because of the flexibility the country offers around them. Thailand caves are natural structures that allow visitors to visit freely. These visits can either be done on your own or with tour guides. Most major caves in Thailand have tour guide services that can provide more context while exploring them.
Caves can be found all around Thailand and have different methods for exploring the best parts of them. Some caves, such as those used for religious purposes, are easily accessible by developed paths leading into the caves. You may also come across sea caves, which are caves that are only accessible by boats.
Wat Tham Sua, or Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi
One region of Thailand that you can find many caves is in Krabi. Krabi is a great place to visit if you want to see the range of caves such as those dedicated to religious purposes or sea caves. One of the most popular caves in Krabi is the Tiger Cave Temple or Wat Tham Sua.
The Tiger Cave Temple is located in a region called Kiriwong Valley. This valley is essentially covered in rainforest and contains many other caves in the region. The Tiger Cave Temple is the main tourist attraction as it is one of the only caves here that is open to the public.
Tiger Cave Temple History
Buddhism is the major religion in Thailand, and many caves were established for religious practices. There are many myths and legends surrounding the origin of the Tiger Cave Temple, but it was primarily a Buddhist meditation centre, as it remains today.
Caves were popular for Buddhist practices such as meditation because of their isolation from the outside world. Caves provided a quiet environment for meditation. Temples evolved from strictly meditation use because the caves were perfect for housing and protecting statues and other religious artefacts. Sometimes caves such as these became the residence for one of more monks.
This is how the Tiger Cave Temple was established. It was discovered by a monk and used for meditation and holding various Buddha statues. During his time in the cave, tigers were discovered inside and roamed freely throughout it. Evidence of this can be seen in the cave today. There are several tiger paw marks on the cave walls and viewing of the cave on the outside, it resembles a tiger’s paw. The name has stuck with the cave ever since. It is now recognised for both its religious significance and former tiger habitat.
Visiting the Tiger Cave Temple
Today, the Tiger Cave Temple is a very popular tourist destination in Krabi. The cave temple is surrounded by jungle which makes it an enjoyable journey to even reach the temple grounds. Many places around Krabi provide tours to this area and allow for time to explore everything that the Tiger Cave Temple has to offer.
The first part of the Tiger Cave Temple is located on the ground level. The temple is situated within a plaza that has several other temples. One notable characteristic of this plaza is the number of wild monkeys. There are many wild monkeys roaming free, and there are several food stalls providing food for either yourself or to feed the monkeys.
The outside of the cave is decorated with large tiger statues, and the temple is designed in traditional Thai architecture. The interior of the cave is also open for sightseeing. The cave is named after the tiger that this cave originally belonged to. You will still be able to see tiger paw prints on both the walls and cave ground.
The actual Tiger Cave Temple is still home to monks who utilise it even today as a meditation centre. The cave is filled with many Buddha statues, artwork, and other symbolic objects to the Buddhist faith.
Tiger Cave Temple Stairs
The view at the top of the Tiger Cave Temple is a must see on your visit here but reaching to the top is actually part of the reason why it’s so enjoyable. There are a couple stairway options that lead to the Tiger Cave Temple but both have similar characteristics. The stairs are very steep and wind around with every flight since you are essentially climbing up a mountain. Most people do however make it up the stairs but for the average tourist, this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour. Make sure you plan your time accordingly and take into account the resting platforms along the way.
If you’re daring enough, there is actually a world record competition for climbing to the top of the temple in the fastest time.
Tiger Cave Temple Peak
The second portion of the Tiger Cave Temple is its view point. This is one of the biggest attractions for tourists because of the breath-taking view. To reach this summit, you will first have to climb up over 1,200 stairs that will lead you to the top. There are two sets of staircases that both take you to the same point but both are as steep as the other. Luckily, there are many resting platforms along the way and stair markers to keep your place. You will also get amazing views from the resting platforms. Wild monkeys can be found the entire trip going up to the top.
Reaching the peak is an accomplishment in itself but that is only half of the enjoyment of the summit. At the top this mountain you will find a large, iconic Buddha statue. There are also several smaller statues and prayer points along the platform. One of the best parts about reaching the peak is the view that you will see. You will be able to see a panoramic view of Krabi and the surrounding landscapes. This view reveals everything from the rainforest that hosts this temple all the way to the sea.
Tiger Cave Temple Significance
The Tiger Cave Temple has been an important symbol of Buddhism in the Krabi province for Thailand. The temple was established on the basis of Buddhist practices such as meditation and maintenance of the temple grounds. You have the opportunity to experience a bit of the culture when you visit the Tiger Cave Temple.
The Tiger Cave Temple is an active temple for monks so you may witness some of the activities that occur within the temple. Meditation is a very prominent activity, and many monks meditate here throughout the day. The monks of the Tiger Cave Temple also teach lessons amongst each other.
The temple grounds are very sacred for religious reasons, and certain rules must be obeyed to get the full experience of the Tiger Cave Temple. One of the biggest rules is the dress code. It’s important to make a note of proper attire to enter the ground level cave temple or even to climb the stairs to the peak. The main thing to avoid is clothing that’s too revealing for both men and women. There are a few stands located nearby that let you rent various clothing and wraps in case you come unprepared.
Many tourists like to take part in some of the Buddhist rituals with the monks. They are very welcoming and pray for tourists who want their blessing. Donations are typically given in these situations.
The Tiger Cave Temple is filled with a variety of Buddha statues. The statues vary in materials, ranging from stone to jade to gold. These statues have been brought into the temple over the years to help create an ideal place of peace and worship for the monks who reside here.
The largest Buddha statue is the one found at the top of the peak, overlooking Krabi.
Kuan Yin Statue
The Buddha statues inside the Tiger Cave Temple and atop the peak are not the only notable statues seen here. There are many other buildings located at this plaza as well as other temples in the surrounding area. Each has their own independent significance to Thai culture.
Nearby the actual tiger temple is a large pagoda-style building which holds a very famous statue called Kuan Yin Statue. This statue is of a popular deity in Southeast Asia recognised as the Goddess of Compassion. This is one of the tallest standing Kuan Yin statues in all of Thailand. It is also one of the most decorated statues that you will find of the Goddess. She is a golden sculpture situated on top of a dragon and accompanied by two smaller children statues. Each piece of this display has religious purposes and attracts both followers and tourists to view it.
Tiger Cave Temple Plaza
The Tiger Cave Temple is a great representation of Buddhist influence on Thai architecture. All of the surrounding buildings follow a similar format and use just as other Buddhist temples in Thailand. The entire plaza is seen as a “campus” for the monks who live and worship at the Tiger Cave Temple.
You can see all notable features of a large temple while at Tiger Cave Temple. These buildings include the main temples, pagodas, chedis, etc. Each holds their own individual purposes. This area is continuously being developed, and one of the newest additions is the Chedi building.
A Chedi is a bell-shaped building often seen surrounding temples. This Chedi was recently completed and now available for visitors to explore. The Chedi has various statues outside as well as holding many Buddhist relics inside.
Tiger Cave Temple Tourism
The Tiger Cave Temple is a major meditation centre for monks in Krabi, but tourists are always welcome to explore the grounds at any time. The Tiger Cave Temple is always open and free to enter. The high peak overlooking the Krabi landscape makes it an amazing place to witness a sunrise or a sunset.
Photography and videography are welcome around the Tiger Cave Temple including inside the actual temples. This is typically rare for very religious sites so you should take advantage while here.
You will also find a couple of food vendors around the temple, mainly selling fruits and other stands that sell bananas to give to the wild monkeys.
Another shop can also be found within the main Tiger Cave Temple that’s catered to visitors. Inside you will find a small souvenir shop with various bracelets, amulets, and other Buddhist paraphernalia to remind you of your visit.
Tiger Cave Temple Tours
The Tiger Cave Temple’s location makes it perfect for discovering amazing tours to see it. The temple is located within a jungle so the trip to the temple could be just as exciting as the actual temple. There are several tour service providers around the Krabi province that will make the entire trip worthwhile. Many hotels around Krabi will provide shuttle services directly to the Tiger Cave Temple. Other providers make it a bit more interesting. You can even find ATV tours that allow you to ride through the jungle on an ATV with a guide en route to the temple.
Either way, you choose to explore the Tiger Cave Temple, it’s definitely a must-see destination in Krabi. It has a lot to offer when it comes to seeing a very popular Thailand cave that serves as a prominent Buddhist temple even today. The cave itself will reveal a lot of history in its walls and the Tiger legend behind it. The viewpoint from the mountain is also what brings a continuous flow of tourism to the temple. The Tiger Cave Temple will give you an overall experience like none other.