Tiger Cave Temple Krabi in Thai is pronounced Wat Tum Sua (also called, “Wat Tham Suea or Wat Tum Sua” at Google sometimes) is one of the most fun things to do in Krabi on your vacation. Its real meaning is – Tiger Cave Temple, but few tourists remember the “cave” part!
We climbed the Tiger Cave Temple steps over 1,400 times as we have lived in Krabi for 16 years. You can trust our write up on this incredible Krabi attraction.
[Last Updated: 25 September 2023]
TIGER TEMPLE KRABI ESSENTIALS
You can make this a 4-6 hour trip – a half-day or full-day. Make sure you eat a couple of hours before and have a lot of energy because you will need it to climb the mountain, and then later climb another 90 steps to get into the foothills area (see 2nd video, coming soon).
Watch the video to see the climb up the hill. Don’t let the idea of 1,256 steps scare you into not attempting it. We’ve seen 80+-year-old people at the top, and a five-year-old that made the climb.
Our seven-year-old daughter made it in 40 minutes. It’s difficult, but if you rest every fifty steps or so – you’ll be fine. There is almost always cool water at the top for you. Bring a clean cup or a water bottle to refill so you don’t need to use the dirty cups at the top. The water is filtered.
Tiger Cave Temple Krabi History
Theravada Buddhist monk, Ajahn Jumnien Seelasettho, is the founding abbot of this amazing temple located at the beginning of the Khao Phanom mountain chain just outside of Krabi Town in the south-central area of Krabi province.
Wat Tham seua (Tum Sua) Khao Kaeo Vipassana Center, Krabi, Thailand is an ecclesiastical residence for meditation founded by the Venerable Chamnian Silsetso (Ajahn Jumnien), a well-known monk for Vipassana practice from 1975 (B.E. 2518). Its name, “Tum Sua” means “Cave Temple” and comes from the fact that once there was a large leopard living in one of the caves in Khao Kaeo. Within that cave is found a natural rock formation in the shape of a tiger’s palm.
The general environment of Tum Sua is rainforest with many large trees living for hundreds of years old growing in the Kiriwong Valley. There are many caves to explore such as Tum Khon Than, Tum Lod, Tum Chang Kaeo, and Tum Luk Thanu. Prehistoric and historic artifacts have been found here on the temple grounds.
Ajahn Jumnien is a world-renowned meditation teacher and he travels to many continents to help others learn Buddhist meditation. Ajahn Jumnien is also well-versed in the mystical aspects of Buddhism and he creates many important amulets at his temple.
The temple started as a small place for monks to learn about Buddhism and now has grown to be a massive temple and one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand’s South. There is a large Chedi being built – 99 meters high – of concrete. There is a very high set of steps to climb – 1,256 steps climbing 280 meters up a limestone hill – offering an absolutely stunning view at the top.
Tiger Temple Foothills Area
There is also a foothills area down to the left of the large Kwan Yin statue. You climb 90+ steps up, and another ~90 down and you are in a primary rainforest with gigantic palms and prehistoric-looking plants.
There are a group of monks who live here and meditate in the various caves located here. You can tour one of the shallow caves too – turn on the lights first, or bring a flashlight (torch).
Tiger Temple Buddhist Amulets for Sale
There are a few counters where you can buy authentic Thai amulets, blessed Theravada Buddhist bracelets, necklaces, and more. They have an extensive collection of amulets they create there at the temple for visitors to share across the globe. Spend a few minutes browsing around and see if you can’t find something as a gift for Buddhists or someone else special in your life.
What To Do at Tiger Temple?
Wat Thamsua has a couple of things to see and do. Outlined below:
1. Tiger Cave is in the tan/yellow colored building at the base of the hill close to where you will park. To the right of the building is a ramp and stairs leading up to the second floor. Once inside (remove your shoes) you can shop for Buddhist amulets at the counter, get a bracelet put on you by one of the women in white (nuns) and look at the 120+ Buddha statues.
If you look to the front among the Buddha statues you’ll see a stairway that leads up to a special room where a Buddha footprint is as well as the most sacred place for the whole Wat Tum Sua temple. It’s small and crowded sometimes.
2. Outside the Tiger cave temple come back down to the ground level and walk left there are some buildings to see, but the next main attraction is the stairs leading up to the top of a small mountain (280 meters above sea level).
There are 1,256 steps leading to the top that are challenging in the morning heat – best to go about 4 pm if you want the coolest part of the day and to catch the sunset, which is at times, amazing.
There is cold water at the top of the climb (free) and places to sit or even lay down. I’ve seen all kinds of people make it to the top. A five-year-old boy, an 85-year-old woman, and a 300 lb (130 kg?) guy.
If you want to make it you CAN – just go slow. It’s not a race. Sunset is awesome here at Tiger Temple Krabi when it’s not rainy season. The rainy season is April or May through November.
3. After you go up the steps, or in lieu of it (spelling of lieu?) go further back into the grounds and see the Kwan Yin Statue – a female goddess statue. Chinese people love this goddess. She is the Goddess of Compassion.
To the left are more steps that lead to the foothills area of Wat Tham Seua. It’s about 88 steps up and 100 down into the foothills. There are 8 monks that live here and there’s a nature walk of maybe 400 meters around the perimeter of the foothills.
Great for pics. Don’t miss the 1000-year-old tree and the 2 caves. One cave you can walk back in and see a couple of rooms. Don’t stay long – in one cave it’s tough to breathe. Not sure why that is.
4. There is a new building, a 99-meter-high Chedi with 8 levels that might be done sometime in 2008. Looks cool from the outside. You can walk up now and see it – but not much to see just yet. Should be quite nice by the time it’s finished.
5. Buy Amulets on-site at the temple.
Interesting Tiger Temple Facts
Who Built Tiger Cave Temple and When?
Over 40 years ago. It’s incredible how they hauled that much concrete up the hill to the top to build the stairs, platform, and Chedis. They used a thick cable pulley system with a very strong engine to pull the concrete bags up the hill. There are 3 sections of cable to reach the top which is about 280 meters (919 feet) high.
Founder? Ajarn Jumnien Seelasettho
This well-known monk is from Surat Thani province north of Krabi. He lived in a small village, Ban Na San for a long time and had “Jack Kornfield, author, and meditator, stay with him for a few years there.” Jack Kornfield invites Aj. Jumnearn back to California yearly to teach a meditation course with Jack.
How many Monks are Resident at Wat Tham Seua?
Usually, around 15-20 monks live at the temple, but during the rains retreats time dozens of monks make the trek to Wat Tham Seua to spend the time in meditation study. This temple is known to Thai Buddhist monks as a special meditation center. There are no facilities or staff to handle foreign meditators though.
How Many Monks Live in the Foothills Area?
Usually, around eight (8) monks live in and around and under the caves in the foothills section.
How Long Does it Take to Climb the Steps at Tiger Cave?
Most people climb the steps in about 45 minutes to an hour. It is quite difficult because the steps are very large at some points and the heat and humidity always increase the challenge. At the top, most people spend about an hour seeing the statues and views from all angles.
Coming down, it can take 30-60 minutes because your thighs are weak from the ascent!
What Is the Dress Code for the Tiger Cave?
Shorts are OK. Tank tops on women are not OK. Dresses are fine. Tank tops shouldn’t be worn, you should at least have t-shirt-length sleeves. Nothing see-through is allowed.
How Much Time Do You Need at Tiger Cave Temple?
Most people not in exceptional shape will need 4-5 hours just to see most of the temple grounds. Don’t miss the foothills area (another 100 steps up and 100 down). Lots of trails and caves on that side.
Is Tiger Cave Worth Visiting?
Most people enjoy a visit to Tiger Cave Temple regardless of their religious beliefs. The climbs to amazing views of the surroundings are fantastic and worth it!
How Many Steps Are There in Tiger Cave Krabi?
1,256 steps now. They have blocked off one section of the steps and built another section that is less steep. This added steps to the climb. It used to be 1,237, years ago.
Who Climbed the Temple Steps the Most Number of Times?
Pra Pornpitak, a monk of 53-years-old has been up about 2,000 times over the past 20 years and adding more to the count each week. At 1,000 the monks and magee had a special party for him at the top (I missed it due to traveling.)
How High is the Tiger Cave Temple Shrine at the Top of the Mountain in Krabi?
It is 280 meters elevation high. The climb is slightly less than that because you’re starting around 10-20m of elevation above sea level.
What is the Fastest Time to Climb to the Top of the Stairs?
There was a guy from Germany, a track runner, who climbed in 9 minutes and 20 seconds.
Most # of Times to the Top of the Stairs in 1 Day?
Vern Lovic held the title briefly at 3. Then, a 71-year-old man, Alfred Meston from the UK did it 4 times. Then another young monk staying at the temple (Phra Gope) did it 5 times.
Final? Update: My friend Joe and I climbed it 6 times one after another for a vertical mile of climbing! The grueling effort took us about 4 hours.
Other Interesting Things at Wat Tham Seua
We found a meter-long thin snake on the second level. I found a walking stick and a giant beetle. At step 357 there was a 4-meter-long King Cobra we had to move off the steps (Interested in snakes? ThailandSnakes.com.)
At about step 800, there are sometimes a different group of monkeys (gibbons) that are very pretty to look at. They’re shy and don’t come close but if you can get a photo – they are very nice. I haven’t been able to get a photo yet.
Sometimes monocled cobras, cave racer snakes, and tree snakes are seen on the temple grounds. One girl stepped on a pile of leaves in the parking lot and was bitten by a Malayan pit viper. Do be careful where you’re walking!
Occasionally there are a group of red monkeys – with bad tempers that come across the trees and visit the top of the Buddhist shrine and terrorize people. I’ve seen them just 3 times in 3 years.
Tips for Visiting Tiger Temple in Krabi
About Monkeys (Macaques) at Tiger Temple
1. Park in Front. Do not park anywhere except at the beginning of the parking lot where other motorbikes and cars, buses, and tuk-tuks are. The monkeys sometimes chew your motorbike seat and handlebar grips. Don’t leave food on your motorbike or under the seat – dogs, and monkeys will find it.
2. Keep Food in your Backpack. Do not take anything to eat with you that is outside your backpack since the monkeys may forcibly take it from you when they’re ravenous. Especially early mornings they are a bit nuts. Don’t leave your shoes, umbrellas or bags of anything laying around where the monkeys are – they’ll take them and play with them high in the trees.
3. Don’t Stare in the Eyes of the Monkeys, or smile and show your teeth – these behaviors are a direct threat to them. The big ones will show you their impressive array of teeth. The small ones will run from you, cowering.
4. Don’t feed the monkeys. Don’t get close to the monkeys. I have seen some horrible bites to visitors when the monkeys get angry. The monkeys have fangs and when they bite, it is a really bad bite. I’ve helped to carry a number of people down the stairs after bad monkey bites.
5. Don’t get between the adult monkeys and the babies. This can be the cause of a monkey bite – or a full-blown attack by multiple monkeys.
6. Stay Calm. If a monkey jumps on you don’t flip out – just give it what it wants and he’ll get off. Seriously.
The Heat, Heatstroke
1,256 steps are tough to do in the heat – usually around 31°C (89°F). Take lots of water before, during, and after the climb. Once a girl from Malaysia almost died of heat exhaustion there. Recently I saw another Thai girl passed out and friends trying to revive her. It is a strenuous climb – bring a hat too!
Regarding Respect at Tiger Temple
1. Keep Shirts On. Don’t remove your shirts anywhere on the temple grounds. This isn’t the beach. It’s a Buddhist temple. You wouldn’t take your shirt off at a church in your country. Actually, you should never remove your shirt unless you’re on the sand at the beach.
You should not ride your motorbike around Krabi town or walk the streets shirtless. That’s why Thais call you “key nok” – bird shite. Do as the Thais do, don’t bring your country’s traditions here!
Don’t wear anything you wouldn’t wear to the Vatican in Rome. Do NOT wear a bikini. Do wear bras. This is a Buddhist temple, and though you’ll be sweating outside and it’s hot, swimwear is NOT acceptable.
You can wear sandals, shorts, t-shirts, hats, glasses, etc. Don’t forget to bring your camera.
2. Don’t Play Music. Don’t play music at the temple on your cell phone like some of the rude Thai kids you might see.
3. Don’t Kiss. Don’t kiss your honey at the top of the mountain. It’s a sacred place. Thais don’t show affection in public. NEVER at a temple.
4. Remove Shoes. You must remove your shoes at the top of the mountain before you get on the ceramic tiled part. The sign looks like it means only women’s heels -but it means ALL SHOES.
After Dark at this Buddhist Temple
1. No Lights on Stairs. There are only a couple of lights (or, as now, none) on the entire stairs. After you watch the sunset (between 6:15 and 6:45) you should start down the stairs as you don’t want to get caught in the dark.
2. Bring a Flashlight. 7-11 sells small yellow flashlights powered by 2 AA batteries for just 50 baht that work well! Good for exploring caves too.
3. The Dogs at the Bottom. If you come down the steps at night there are very few people around, and the dogs may bark and follow you around. There have been dog bites occasionally, so keep this in mind if you’re planning on coming down late.
I always pick up some rocks off the hill before I come down, and if the dogs are crazy, I start throwing big rocks at them. That chills them out. It doesn’t endear you to the monks, but then, at least you’re not bitten. There is a SERIOUS dog problem at the temple – like most temples. The dogs are not controllable.
Do bring some water. There is water at the top, but you will need some before you get there. You will also need your plastic bottle to drink from as you refill it at the top. There are cups there, they are dirty. The water is clean, it is filtered. Bring water for the trip up and maybe down too. Coming down is also strenuous for some people, take some breaks.
Bottom Line – Is Tiger Temple Worth the Trip?
A visit to this popular temple is an awesome experience and one you shouldn’t miss. Besides Railay Beach and Phi Phi islands, and Emerald Pool (Sra Morakot) this should be your next choice for something to do while you stay in Krabi, Thailand on your vacation.
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Maps of Tiger Cave Temple
Tiger Temple Location – Directions
Ride your car, or motorbike, or take a taxi or tour to Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tum Sua / Wat Tham Seua). This is a large Theravada Buddhist temple located just outside Krabi town in Krabi Noi area (little Krabi). On Highway 4 from town, traveling towards Koh Lanta and Trang you’d make a left at the stoplight at the first sign of a large hill. This is the Khao Phanom Bencha mountain chain. You go about 2km and you’ll see the temple on your left side. The road is marked with a sign for the temple.
Don’t miss Tiger Temple Krabi – even if you don’t plan on climbing the big mountain, you can climb up into the foothills area and see where the monks live in the caves. There are turtles and 1,000-year-old trees back in this area. There are some small caves to explore (look for the light switch).
All Krabi Temples >
All Krabi Attactions and Things To Do >
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For Tours Info around Krabi Town and Beaches – Click HERE.