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Check out snow-capped mountains, push yourself to pedal up incredible passes, admire swooping valleys, absorb the mesmerising Buddhist culture, meet hospitable locals and marvel at their traditional clothes. If all of that doesn’t whet your appetite for a cycling adventure in the kingdom of Bhutan, then nothing will. This is a journey like no other, taken across challenging but oh so rewarding landscapes that will remain forever etched in your memory.
- TypeFully Guided
- Duration15 days
- Culture LevelAdventurous
- Skill Level4 - Advanced
- Activity Level3 - Active
- Elevation4 - Challenging
- Distance492.7 miles
- Avg. Daily Distance37.9 miles
- Day 1Entering the gateway to the last Himalayan kingdom
It’s official. You have landed in the magical and mystical kingdom of Bhutan, one of the final frontiers for travellers. This is a unique country to visit and you are unlikely to come across any other traveller who has reached this gem. The tour is one-of-a-kind and by adding cycling to the experience it’s guaranteed to be even more special. The valley town of Paro is home to the country’s only international airport and this is where you will touchdown on your flight from Bangkok. You will be met by the tour organisers who have also arranged transfers to the hotel.
Be mesmerised by the sweeping mountain landscape, making you more excited to clamber on the bikes to take on this incredible land on two wheels. However, this afternoon you will get acquainted with the country first and check out the Paro Museum, which displays a variety of local artifacts, art, textiles and sculptures. There will be a visit also to one of the major Dzongs – a fortified building that acts as the hub for the local community. The first day will be completed in this brave new land with a welcome dinner where you can become familiar with the group and sample some traditional Bhutanese fare.
- Day 2Thimphu’s transfixing take on old and new
After a great first night, wolf down some breakfast and then take a vehicle to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. The place makes for a fascinating place to wander and you’ll spend the morning checking out Thimphu’s range of excellent museums.
Finally, the time for cycling is upon you as you venture deeper into Bhutan. You’ll begin with a gentle ride to Dodina, which skirts past traditional villages, farmlands and forests. As you approach Dodina, your eyes will be diverted by the sight of two monasteries that are set high up into the mountain backdrop. Revel in this gorgeous sight before heading downhill towards Thimphu. After recuperating at the hotel, the evening can be spent exploring this unusual town and enjoying a fine dinner together.
- 21.1 miles
- -3.3 ft
- Day 3Heading up, up and away to look out over Bhutan
After yesterday’s gentle cycling start in Bhutan, today gears are cranked up to start challenging your leg muscles with your first hill climbs. And in a country like Bhutan that's situated in the the Himalayas, would you expect anything less?
Begin with a short warm up ride before the looming climb appears and from there it’s a solid 18km (11mi) push uphill to the next pass at Dochula. At the top of the pass you can sense the spirituality of Dochula, particularly as it hosts 108 Chortens (Buddhist shrines). You’ll break for lunch here and continue marvelling at the views over the deep valleys and the eastern Himalayas. It’s pretty easy to get lost in vistas like this but you must continue on with the ride.
What goes up must come down and the afternoon riding is a little easier as you descend down the pass. Rush past forests full of oak, maple and blue pine and then morphing into rhododendron, hemlock and fir vegetation. The environment here is incredible and it’s worth remembering that Bhutan is fiercely dedicated to protecting its environment with laws stating that 60% of the land must remain forested for future generations. Currently, that level stands at over 70% and it’s easy to understand why hikers, cyclists and bird enthusiasts rave about Bhutan. After marvelling at the forests and fauna on your way down, you’ll wind up in the pretty town of Punakha where you will spend the night.
- 46.6 miles
- -4,222.4 ft
- Day 4Taking it easy as you soak up Punakha’s plentiful valley
Yesterday was tough, however, today things are broken up with a gentle pedal around the luscious valley that surrounds Punakha. There will be frequent stop offs at the likes of Punakha Dzong, which was constructed in 1638 without any drawings and without a single nail being used. Bhutan’s religious monuments all provide a unique fascination in their own ways, but the next one we visit is interesting. Chhimi Lhakhang was built in 1499 and the temple is known for its blessing of women who desire to bear children. Surrounded by prayer wheels and slate carvings the temple is beautiful to wander around in. The day will be finished off with a gentle ride to the historical province of Wangdue where you will stay for the night.
- 12.4 miles
- -393.7 ft
- Day 5Tronga’s towering dzong with views to die for await you
The day is begun with a steady and easy climb on the bikes to the town before Bhutan's biggest dzong looms into view. And boy what a sight it is! Trongsa’s dzong is highly regarded in Bhutan and it’s easy to see given its spectacular location. Towering over the Mangde Chu River, it has on one side a sheer drop to the south that often vanishes from sight in the surrounding mist. With an array of courtyards, alleyways and buildings along the ridge it stands on, the dzong is ripe for exploring. The Trongsa dzong also possesses the power to split the country in two with the only road connecting east and west Bhutan running directly through the courtyard. In theory the country could be split if the dzong’s massive doors were shut.
- 52.2 miles
- -2,319.6 ft
- Day 6Stunning mountain passes that demand to be conquered by pedaling
Given the nature of the terrain, cycling over mountain passes is a common theme of this adventure. Each one provides a unique a view and today as you pedal across Yontong La, you can follow the old trade route in Bhutan that runs parallel to the pass. Eventually, you’ll head downhill speeding through forests with fir, pine and bamboo trees shooting up before coming to the picturesque village of Zungney.
The final stage of today’s riding will take you on a gradual climb before flying through the gears and cruising down a descent into the town of Jakar. Have a well-deserved break for your weary legs before enjoying a well-earned rest.
- 42.3 miles
- 1,647 ft
- Day 7Relaxing in the valley known as ‘Little Switzerland’
Today the morning is your own to take a much needed rest and explore Jakar. This splendid trading hub town is situated perfectly in the valley and it boasts a multitude of monasteries and sacred sites. It’s the perfect place for a good wander around and to interact with the friendly locals. You will take a light ride in the afternoon but only to embrace the glorious countryside that is on your doorstep. It is little wonder the valley here is often referred to as ‘Little Switzerland’ because of the verdant nature on display. Your leisurely cycling will take you further out into this valley to visit more of the stunning dzongs and Goembas that are scattered around here.
- 18.6 miles
- -3.3 ft
- Day 8Pushing our tires deeper into the remote land of Tang valley
After riding along the main road, the incline begins but the endless views are rewarding. The first break point will be at the burning lake where you’ll learn about the legend surrounding this mystical place. Continuing on with the pedaling, there will be a stop at a nunnery to learn more about the people of Bhutan. The journey continues upwards, but it’s all worth it, as you tackle a combination of paved and dirt roads to reach the former palace of Ogyen Choling. This 16th century complex houses a museum where you can learn more about feudal Bhutan. But wait, it gets better, the palace also has a guesthouse and that ladies and gentlemen is where you will stay for the night. Now, how many people can say they have stayed in a former palace!
- 19.9 miles
- 1,082.7 ft
- Day 9Waking up like a king but bowing to the majesty of Gangkhar Puensum
Waking up feeling like royalty when you’re sleeping in a former palace is understandable, but you'll have to snap out of it and prepare to continue the adventure. You’ll leave behind the palace and head for the main road to tackle the first climb that leads you to the Shirtung La pass. Once you reach the top, you’ll hopefully get an unhindered view of the gargantuan Gangkhar Puensum. Standing at 7,570 meters (24,835 ft) the mountain is thought to be the world’s highest unclimbed peak. It is also destined to remain that way as Bhutan has outlawed mountaineering since 2003, while climbing peaks over 6,000 meters (19,685 ft) has similarly been banned since 1994 out of respect for local spiritual beliefs. After marvelling at the mountain’s majesty you can take the option of riding some tricky but enjoyable single track paths to the village of Ura or continue on the easier paved road.
- 34.2 miles
- 928.5 ft
- Day 10Awaking in unusual Ura before tackling Bhutan’s largest pass
The town of Ura is a pretty spot that is almost medieval in its nature with a close knit community of 40 houses situated on cobblestone streets. It is a sight to see as you ride out in the morning with a new goal in mind – the highest pass in Bhutan. This pass is the Thurmshing La, which at 3,798 meters (12,460 ft) is a beast to pedal up. As is customary now, the summit presents epic views with snowy peaks standing proud in the distance. The reward for this ride up is 20km (12 mi) of a beautiful downhill rush before landing at the campsite in Sengor.
- 34.2 miles
- -876 ft
- Day 11Drifting down the mountains towards Mongar
This morning, begin with a long and winding descent to the Kuru Chu River. That rush as you go downhill is incredible, but when surrounded by the kaleidoscopic nature found only in Bhutan, it’s truly on another level. Take your time with this descent given that you’ll drop more than 2000 meters (6561 ft), before beginning to climb again. Take a series of switchbacks before landing at one of the oldest education hubs of the country, Mongar. Situated on a hilltop, the road leading you there passes sheer cliffs and never-ending forest. The town itself is central for trade and travel, but with pretty streets and a lovely clock tower it’s a wonderful place to stay for the night.
- 52.8 miles
- -4,471.8 ft
- Day 12Pushing the bikes and yourself to Bhutan’s most eastern point
The target today is the town of Trashigang, otherwise known as ‘The Jewel of the East’. This beautiful district is the largest in Bhutan and is the country’s most eastern point with parts of its border skirting close to India’s state of Arunachal Pradesh. But before reaching this place, there is some up and down cycling to do. Every climb brings with it beautiful sights and is followed by a well-earned cruise downhill to Drangme Chu River. It’s a real pleasure to enjoy this brief period of flatland riding before crossing a bridge over the river and then taking on one last climb to reach the hotel situated just outside the snug town centre of Trashigang.
- 57.2 miles
- -1,916 ft
- Day 13Morning riding up tricky switchbacks to discover even more stunning views
With the unforgiving terrain in Bhutan, this ride was never going to be easy and there would be days which tested the limits. This morning is one of those times as you begin with a tricky 25km (16 mi) of switchbacks to reach Yongphu La. As you ride, you’ll head past Bhutan’s first accredited college, Sherubtse College which was founded by Jesuits in 1966. Enjoying some seemingly never-ending panoramic views, you’ll leave behind the pass and head out across undulating terrain towards the town of Wamrong. Along the way, you’ll pass scattered houses and sprawling fields before stopping to camp for the evening.
- 52.8 miles
- 3,559.7 ft
- Day 14Sheer elation on your final day of descent towards the Assam Plains
This is it! You may not quite believe it but this is your final day of riding after two weeks of insane views, tricky mountain passes, and hospitable Bhutanese people But there is still one last pass to tackle, no surprises there! Push on up to 2,388 meters (7834 ft) to catch sight of the glorious Assam plains. Prepare for your final descent as you ride a full 3,080 meters (10,104 ft) downhill and cruise into the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar.You'll notice the distinct change in temperature as you follow rivers and descend almost back to sea level.
After getting in some recovery time, the group will meet up again for dinner. It's time to celebrate this incredible feat of crossing Bhutan from west to east on two wheels.
- 58.4 miles
- -6,335.3 ft
- Day 15Goodbye to Bhutan as you cross into India
This mystical cycle tour through Bhutan has reached its conclusion as you put away the bikes and prepare to cross the border into India. There will be one last breakfast together in the morning before taking a four hour drive across the border to Guwahati airport.