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This 12 day cycle tour gives you a chance to really experience Bhutan as you travel through this amazing country under your own steam, visiting villages, museums, monasteries and temples along the way!

Departure: Paro
Duration: 12 days
Best Season: March - May, Sept - Nov
Grade: Demanding


From the views of the flight into Paro you can appreciate the breathtaking terrain that you will be experiencing over the next 12 days in this magical kingdom, something that most people will never experience in their lives.

This customised cycling journey has been designed to show you the essential Bhutan – from the best vantage point… on two wheels, under your own steam. Bhutan has an amazing east-west road through the ‘middle hills’ and valleys, which not only offers amazing cycling, but also takes you into the heart of Bhutan. Along the way we make sure to stop and visit the villages, museums, monasteries, temples and of course to take in the incredible views to showcase the truly unique place that Bhutan is.

BRIEF ITINERARY

Day 1: Welcome to Paro (2280m), Drive to Thimphu (2320m) and explore
Day 2: Ride Thimphu – Punakha (1310m) (77 km; approx 6 hrs)
Day 3: Ride Punakha – Gangtey (3120m) (86km; approx 7 hrs)
Day 4: Ride Gangtey – Trongsa (2180m) (61km; approx 6 hrs)
Day 5: Ride Trongsa – Bumthang (2800m) (68km; approx 5 hrs)
Day 6: Bumthang Sightseeing and Ride
Day 7: Ride Bumthang – Ura (3100m) (61km; approx 4 hrs)
Day 8: Ride Ura – Limithang (650m) (81km; approx 7 hrs)
Day 9: Ride Limithang – Mongar (1600m) - Yadi (1480m) 68km; approx 5 hrs)
Day 10: Ride Yadi – Trashigang (1070m) (52km: approx 5 hrs)
Day 11: Fly to Paro, sightseeing
Day 12: Farewell for now...
 

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 1 - Welcome to Paro (2280m), drive to Thimphu (2320m) and explore
Your spectacular flight into Paro is a great introduction to beautiful Bhutan – you may have breathtaking views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and many more Himalayan peaks including the sacred Jhomolhari and Mt Jichu Drake in Bhutan. Your guide, who will be with you for the entire ride across Bhutan, will meet you on arrival at Paro. We visit Paro on our way back through after our ride but for now we drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.

We have some time in the afternoon to look around Thimphu and the options include sightseeing around the town to learn about the fascinating design, architecture and history of Bhutanese towns, as well conservation work going on in Bhutan. Or you can take a cycle up the valley to Takin Sanctuary to see the Takin (national animal) and to the viewpoint of Thimphu to enjoy the view of Thimphu city. There’s also the Zilukha Nunnery, Folk Heritage Museum and Textile museum.

Overnight: Hotel in Thimphu
Meals: Lunch, dinner


Day 2 - Ride Thimphu – Punakha (1310m)  (77 km; approx 6 hrs)
After breakfast, we hit the road for real, commencing our journey into the east of this fascinating country. Our first pass is the Dochu La (la means pass) at approx. 3050m altitude. We will stop for a welcome cup of tea at the pass amid swarms of beautiful prayer flags fluttering in the winds, sending out prayers for the wellbeing of all sentient beings. While we enjoy our tea we can take in the stunning vista of the Himalayan Range (weather permitting), which has unfolded before us as we slowly cycled up to the pass.

We then descend to Mitsena where we turn off the main road, now heading north and down into the sub-tropical Punakha Valley. Arriving in Punakha (approx 1310m), the ancient capital of Bhutan, we will check in to our hotel and if time and energy levels permit, we can visit the Punakha Dzong (fort) built in 17th Century.

The Dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and is situated at the holy confluence of the Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). It has been destroyed by four fires, an earthquake in 1897 and has frequently been devastated by flood water coming from the great northern glaciers! However, the Dzong has now been fully restored to its original splendour. It has been an important site with the first temples built here in 1328. The mummified body of the Shabdrung is preserved here and Bhutan’s first king was crowned here. For many years it served as the seat of the Government and, even after moving to Thimphu, the government used it as their winter seat, due to the warmer climate. It is still the winter residence of Je-Khenpo (the spiritual leader of Bhutan).

Overnight: Hotel in Punakha
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 3 - Ride Punakha – Gangtey (3120m)  (86km; approx 7 hrs)

After a hearty breakfast we set out for Gangtey via Wangduephrodang, with the option of a few side trips on the way. Our first is a short hike to the Chimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to the famous 'Divine Madman' and also known as 'the Temple of Fertility'.  This temple was built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (also known as the Divine Madman for his odd ways) in the 15th century who subdued a demoness with a magical thunderbolt and made her the protective deity of the temple.

Heading into Wangduephrodang, the last town before entering central Bhutan and which played a vital role in unifying the districts of Bhutan, we will see the stunning Wangduephodrang Dzong. Continuing on from “Wangdi” we cross a mountain pass and ride into Gangtey, having gained about 1800m. In the afternoon we can have an excursion to the Phobjikha Valley, famous for sheltering the rare Black Necked Cranes. The cranes, usually in a flock of up to 200 birds, migrate from northern Tibet to winter here. As we have been cycling through beautiful rhododendron forest on most of our travels, the contrast of descending into the unique open marshlands of the valley is striking.

Overnight: Hotel in Gangtey
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 4 - Gangtey – Trongsa (2180m) (61km; approx 6 hrs)

After a hearty breakfast we proceed to the Central Bhutanese town of Trongsa crossing the Pele La at approximately 3420 m. We then descend on this spectacular road to Chendebji at approximately 2400m, a great downhill!

After a rest at Chendebji we continue on into Trongsa (approx 2180m) and visit the Trongsa Dzong, built in 1644, is the ancestral home of the present Royal Family. Built on a mountain spur high above the gorges of the Mangde Chhu (river), the dzong controlled east-west trade for centuries.

Not to be missed is the Tower of Trongsa, a modern art gallery and museum, housing the royal art collection and many other artefacts. The Tower is well worth a look, with an impressive collection of statues, manuscripts, royal belongings and some antiquities including medals, swords and textiles. The Tower itself was renovated and opened in its current state in 2008, thanks to funding from Austria.

Overnight: Hotel in Trongsa
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 5 - Trongsa – Bumthang (2800m)  (68km; approx 5 hrs)

Today we have a great ride, firstly on a dramatic road through forest and over a great mountain pass before the scenery changes to the gentle spruce and fir covered slopes of the Bumthang region.  But first, after breakfast, we have the option to visit the Ta Dzong before we leave town. The Ta Dzong, like the one we saw in Paro, is an ancient watch tower, built high up the mountainside to protect the dzong from enemies. It has unusual architecture, with two aisles protruding from the main building, something not found elsewhere.

After this bit of exploring we ride to Bumthang which is 68 km and a big pass away. The road ascends all the way up to the Yutong La (3400m) where we will stop for a good look around from our hard earned vantage point! We then descend to the Chume Valley at an approximate altitude of 2600m.

In Chume, we get a chance to rest our legs before hitting the road again we ascend to Kiki La at approximately 2,740m before we roll down on into old “Jakar” town as Bumthang is also known.

Overnight: Hotel in Bumthang
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 6 - Bumthang Sightseeing and Ride

Bumthang is as a truly amazing ancient place and today we will take some time to explore the old town and the beautiful valley on our bikes. We will have the back up van with us, but, as one function of today is as a rest day, those who prefer can rest in the hotel and explore the town on foot.

Options for today include visiting the Jakar Dzong, which literally means "The Fort of the White Bird"; Lamey Goemba, a beautiful royal mansion and monastery built in 19th century; and not to be missed is the Jambay Lhakhang, revered as one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. It is one of the 108 temples said to have been miraculously built in one night by the Tibetan king Srongsen Gampo to pin down a demoness. This temple was built to hold down her knee, while the Kichu Lakhang, which we will see in Paro, holds down her left foot. The central figure in the sanctuary is the statue of Jampa (or Maitreya), the Buddha of the future, after whom the temple is named. There are also three stone steps inside believed to represent past, present and future, which are slowly sinking into the ground. It is said that when all the steps disappear the future Buddha will arrive and we will all gather in Bumthang Valley to receive his teachings.

We can also visit the Mebar tsho (literally means "Burning Lake"), a short distance up the road leading to the Tang Valley. According to the legend, Pema Lingpa is believed to have retrieved several of Guru Rinpoche’s hidden treasures (Terma) from the lake. Mebar Tsho derives its name from the fact that Pema Lingpa submerged himself into the lake holding a butter lamp and on emerging from the lake, the lamp was said to be still burning.

Overnight: Hotel in Bumthang
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 7 - Bumthang – Ura (3100m) (61km; approx 4 hrs)

After breakfast we have a great ride up to the beautiful valley of Ura, the last and also the highest valley in Central Bhutan. The road climbs through amazingly open countryside, occasionally running through forests. Large sheep pastures line the road and the route crosses 3,600 m high Ura La before descending into Ura by a long loop across fields and pastures. The rest of the day is for exploring fascinating Ura valley and village.

Perched at an altitude of 3100m, Ura village has uniquely close-clustered houses which are quite unusual in Bhutan. The valley is characterised by wide open spaces and it is stunningly located in the shadow of the Thrumshing La (3800m) which separates east from west in the Kingdom of Bhutan. Ura village and its new monastery are a charming stop with cobbled streets and a medieval feel. The old women of Ura will steal your hearts; they still wear their sheepskin shawls on their backs which double as a blanket and cushion.

Overnight: Camp in Ura
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 8 - Ura – Limithang (650 m) (81km; approx 7hrs)

Leaving behind the relatively dry Ura valley as we take on Eastern Bhutan, the route ascends through forests of gigantic firs and rhododendrons. The road for a few kilometres is precipitous in the extreme, with steep drops that reveal a landscape defying description, until the massive pass at Thrumshing La (3800m) is finally reached.

From this, the highest pass in the country, our road descends to the village of Sengor, a tiny settlement of shingle roofs and lush fields. From here we continue on downhill, with an epic 3150 metres of total decent from the pass to our campsite at Limithang.

After yet another stunning day of biking we will crash into our tents as though they are five star hotels!

Overnight: camp in Limithang
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 9 - Limithang – Mongar (1600m) – Yadi (1480m)  (68km; approx 5 hrs)
From Limithang, we have ‘a bit of downhill’ to where we reach our lowest point of 650m at the bridge over Kuru Chhu (river). The Chorten at this point was built in 1800 to hold the precious religious objects of Shongar Dzong when the Dzong was abandoned in favour of Mongar which we will pass through.

Here we'll visit, Mongar Dzong built at the beginning of 19th century. However, the present structure dates from 1953, when it was formed on command of Bhutan’s Third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Besides being the administrative centre of the region, it also houses the monastic community. We continue on our journey we cross the Kori La pass at 2400 m, marked by prayer flags waving in the wind and a chorten, before descending for some time through both forest and fields, reaching our destination of Yadi.

Overnight: camp in Yadi
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 10 - Ride Yadi – Trashigang (1070m)  (52km: approx 5 hrs)

This morning we have the pleasure of riding down through the Yadi Loops, a series of figure 8 switchbacks taking us right down to the bottom of the Sherichhu valley.

Our final destination for today and our entire ride is Trashigang, the largest district in Bhutan and also a substantial town, a central marketplace providing supplies to the remote outlying areas. Worth a visit is the Trashigang Dzong, originally constructed in 1659, overlooking the Gamri River a sharp 400m below. The Dzong plays an important role in the local culture, hosting festivals, rituals and showcasing handicrafts and art. After damage and deterioration to the Dzong, renovation works were undertaken to restore it to its former glory.

In the evening we will celebrate reaching the ‘end of the road’, having crossed into Eastern Bhutan travelling over 550 kms by cycle, with quite a few tales to tell.

Overnight: Hotel in Trashigang
Meals: Breakfast, lunch dinner


Day 11 - Fly to Paro, explore
This morning after breakfast we board our flight, Paro bound. We briefly glimpsed this enchanting town when first arriving in Bhutan and we now get the chance to get out and explore!

We visit Paro Taktsang (also known as the Tiger’s Nest) which is possibly the most famous image the world has of Bhutan. The hillside monastery and temple is literally perched in the side of a cliff and is considered one of the holiest places in Bhutan.

It’s a very steep climb up the hill but definitely worth the effort for a magical experience. A picture really is worth a thousand words in the case of the Tiger’s Nest.

Tonight is our last dinner in Bhutan, and we savour the incredible flavours of chilli and cheese that Bhutan is so famous for.

Overnight: Hotel in Paro
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Day 12 - Farewell for now...

This morning after breakfast, you are free until it is time to transfer to the airport for your homeward flight. We will take you to airport where we bid each other farewell after a great experience in Bhutan!

Meals: Breakfast
 

 

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