Epic Bhutan by Bike
This route heads into Central Bhutan, taking in some dramatic high passes, wooded forest switchbacks and long sweeping plateaus. It's not for the faint hearted and demands a serious degree of cycling fitness. We traverse the East-West road that leads to Bumthang, then express back to Paro by plane with one more challenge at the finish, a hike to Tigers Nest.
There are some ride days in this itinerary which go beyond 80kms and feature a little altitude. It's an exhilarating combination of wilderness and culture, and absorbing the beauty of the Himalayas from the peaceful solitude of the bicycle. Where possible we divert to trails and minor roads. Naturally we have full support along the way and flexibility to retune the schedule when conditions demand it.
Our mountain bikes are the highest quality, suited to the demanding conditions of Bhutan and proven to cope with all the bumps and bounces. We know some groups prefer to bring their specialist bikes, and we can help arrange gear to be shipped through the national airline, Druk Air.
As always, the sample itinerary below can be customised to your specific need. Please scroll to the bottom of the page for the price guide and list of inclusions.
Day 1 / Arrival in Paro
The flight to Bhutan offers scenic views of some of the highest peaks in the world.
Paro sits at an altitude of 2280m above sea level and this valley serves as a fertile area for a variety of agricultural produce including the famous bhutanese red rice. Our tour guide will meet you upon your arrival in Paro and transfer to your hotel for a moment of relaxation to recover from the flight. In the afternoon we take in some sights in the valley to get a sense of the place.
Day 2 / Paro / 36km
We begin the day with a practice ride to the northern frontier of the Paro valley. This will also be an opportune moment to test the bike and your equipment for the adventure ahead. We will also be making a stop at a village home to understand more about the local way of life and the Bhutanese culture.
Day 3 / Paro to Thimphu / 55km
We leave Paro on our ride to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The 55km distance traverses through rice fields, pine forests and wayside mountain villages. We will be making stops at regular intervals for rest, replenishments or simply to enjoy the pristine mountain scenery. After a brief rest at your hotel in Thimphu we will have time to explore some of Thimphu's museums, monasteries,the market place and the dzong.
Day 4 / Thimphu – Punakha / 63km
We begin on our first conquest of the bhutanese mountain pass on the route with a scenic 22 km ascent to the Dochula pass (3050m). This pass offers a panoramic view of the eastern Himalayan ranges on the clear days.
From the pass we enjoy a 41 Km long spiralling descent into the Punakha valley which is located at an elevation of 1350m. We will also take stops along the way to enjoy the scenery, refreshments and also to sample locally grown organic fruits. Just before we arrive in Punakha there will also be options to enjoy a short walk or a cycle through a village to the Chimmi Lhakang, a temple dedicated to the divine madam who is revered as the saint of fertility.
Day 5 / Punakha / 20km
We spend the day exploring the Punakha countryside and also the magnificent “ astle of happiness” which is touted to be one of the most beautiful traditional structures in Bhutan. In the afternoon, we will also be riding across the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. The 200m long ride is one of the many highlights on this trip. After a picnic lunch spread by the tranquil riverside there will also be options to enjoy a short hike to some of the local temples or villages in the vicinity of our hotel.
Day 6 / Punakha to Gangtey / 70km
The 70 km ride today is quite challenging owing to the ascent to the black mountains however our back up van will be trailing behind to render support and encouragement along the way. We should be able to arrive at the enchanting valley of Sha Phobjikha in the early afternoon.
Day 7 / Gangtey / 10km
Today we offer a mix of walking and cycling around Phobjikha Valley. In the morning visit the Gangtey Monastery a 16th century monastery which exemplifies the traditional architecture. We also visit the Crane Information Centre in Phobjikha valley to learn more about the highly endangered Black-necked Cranes.
We then walk the beautiful nature trail which runs across the roosting area of the highly endangered black-necked crane that flock here each November until April.
We will take advantage of todays rest day with a picnic lunch in the picturesque meadows of the Phobjikha valley.
Day 8 / Gangtey to Trongsa / 80km
The 80km ride to Trongsa begins with a climb to the Pele-la pass (3300m) in the Black Mountain ranges.This pass is the traditional boundary between the east and west Bhutan. There is an abrupt change in vegetation at this point, with mountain forest replaced by high altitude dwarf bamboo. The journey passes through farm houses and road side villages. This area is also a favoured habitat of the yaks, the Himalayan version of the camel. From the pass we enjoy an exciting descent into Chendebji in time for lunch. Most scenes of the only and first movie entirely shot in Bhutan for western audiences “Travelers and Magicians” was filmed on location here for its tranquil scenery.
There will be plenty of stops along the way to enjoy the scenic mountain landscapes, wayside villages and trading posts. We should be able to arrive at Trongsa in the afternoon.
Trongsa (2300m) literally meaning new town forms the central hub of the nation and historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. The first and the second king had ruled the country from Trongsa. The crown prince of Bhutan holds the position of the Trongsa penlop (governor) prior to ascending the throne
We will be visiting the Trongsa Dzong was built in 1648. It is the biggest of all the fortresses/castles in the Kingdom.It was the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan. This Dzong is the ancestral home of Bhutan`s royal family. Both the first and second Kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All five Kings were also empowered as Trongsa Penlop prior to ascending the throne.
Day 9 / Trongsa to Bumthang / 68km
After the tour of Trongsa, we ride to Bumthang which is located at a distance of 68km away. We cycle over the Yutong la pass (3400m) and descend through the coniferous forest into the wide and open Chumey valley, the ancestral village of Her Majesty the Queen.
The road then snakes down the valley and climbs through blue pine forests to the Kiki La pass (2860m). From here it is a short 5km descent down to Bumthang, the cultural heartland of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
The beautiful Bumthang Valley is comprised of the combination of four valleys; Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura with altitude varying from 2600m to 4000m. It is home to many of prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries and it is also the traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher, Pemalingpa to whose descendants the present dynasty traces its origin.
Day 10 / Bumthang / 25km
Visit the Swiss Farm. The farm produces both cottage and a variety of swiss cheese, pure honey and a large variety of fruit juice and spirits. The Brewery that manufactures the famed & indigenous Red Panda Beer (weiss/wheat beer) is also located here.
Jakar Dzong (The castle of white bird) built in 1667 and is the seat of district administration and regional monastic body of Bumthang.
Jambay Temple, founded in 7th century by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo and it is one of the oldest monasteries in the country.
Kurje Temple, where the patron saint of Buddhism in Bhutan subdued a local demon and left his body imprint.
Tamshing monastery founded in 1501 by Terton (Treasure Revealer) Pema Lingpa, the incarnation of Guru Rinpoche. The monastery has some of the oldest wall murals in the country.
In the late afternoon leisurely explore the Chamkhar market / bazaar ,the main trading post of Bumthang and also visit a local farm house for dinner.
Day 11 / Bumthang /42km
Today concludes our cycling adventure in Bhutan and what better way than a cycle ride to to the hidden valley of Tang. We will be stopping briefly at the Membar Tso (the burning lake) where the saint Pemalingpa retrieved sacred treasures from its murky depths.
We will also be visiting the ancient Tak Rimochen temple (Tiger stripe temple) located below a cliff bearing the distinctive tiger stripes.
Later in the afternoon we embark on a short hike to the Ugyencholling manor museum which offer’s fascinating insights on the traditional aristocratic families of medieval Bhutan. This museum has one of the finest displays of articles, textiles and items of daily use.
Day 12 / Bumthang to Paro by air
Today we board the domestic flight from Bumthang to Paro which is a beautiful journey of 30 minutes offering spectacular views of the Bhutan Himalayas.
In the afternoon we explore the National Museum which was a watch tower during the former time. It houses some of the finest specimens of art including masterpieces of bronze and paintings. The museum with its extensive collections interprets history and culture of Bhutan through its exhibits.
We then explore the Paro Rimpung Dzong(fortress/castle )built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong houses the monastic body and district administration. We then take the traditional route across the 16th century cantilever bridge to get across to where your vehicle will await.
Day 13 / Paro
We drive 20 minutes north to enjoy a wonderful day hike to Tigers Nest. This spiritual landmark is an awe inspiring testament to the living spiritual legacy of Bhutan. The hike takes about three to four hours on ascent and about an hour on descent.
The Tigers Nest Monastery (2900m) is among one of the most popular spiritual heritage sites and a cultural landmark in the Kingdom of Bhutan. One of the most venerated places precariously perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. The patron saint of Bhutan had arrived a tthis spot on a back of tigress and meditated here in a cave and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’.
This site has been recognised as the most spiritual of sites in Bhutan and many eminent saints have meditated in this area. Now it is visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their life time.
We will have lunch and refreshments at the cafeteria, which offers an imposing view of the cultural landmark.
In the evening you can either choose to spend a quiet time reflecting on the journey or else we can enjoy some time in town.
Day 14 / Paro to onward destination
We check in two hours prior to flight departure to ensure the best seats on board which are best suited to take in the panoramic view of the Himalayas.
We bid you goodbye and happy travel
PRICING GUIDE AND INCLUSIONS
High season touring for 14 days will typically cost USD$3800pp for a group of two or more people. The following are included in that price guide:
Luggage transfers between hotels
Flight back to Paro from Bumthang
Visa for entry into Bhutan
What's not included:
International flights into and out of Paro
Drinks and Alcohol
Tipping for your guides