- Breakfast is included throughout the trip plus 11 lunches and 11 dinners whilst in Bhutan. The meals in Bhutan are usually buffet style and include Bhutanese and Western food. The food in Bhutan can sometimes be a bit bland. Please allow approximately £20-25 ($30-40) per day for other main meals in Kathmandu.
- Accom: hotel/lodge
- Festival departures
- New trip
- Guided Group
Start in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel. The evening is free to relax.
Fly to Paro; easy cycle to National Museum (depending on flight times).
Today we fly to Paro. The flight is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world and takes us over the eastern Himalayas. If the weather is clear, we should get a fantastic view of much of th eastern half of the Himalaya, including Everest, Kanchenjunga and Chomolhari (Jhomolhari). Depending on the flight schedule in the afternoon there should be time for a short and easy cycle ride up to the National Museum before returning to Paro Town. If there is time we can bike further north to the ruins of Drukyel Dzong (14km one way). Distance approx. 40km, duration 5 hours. Ascent: 365m, descent: 365m. 100% paved
Paro to Haa Valley via the Chilila Pass (3700m).
Today is the first full day’s ride. It is quite tough start but will get our legs going. We head west on paved road and start with a gentle climb up to Bondey Farm. The next 20km zig zags uphill to Aney Dratang and the Chele La ( 3700m ). We will stop at the top to enjoy the wonderful views of the Himalaya and on a clear day we can see Chomolhari and Jichudrake, the two most famous mountains in Bhutan. The day ends with a well-earned and exhilarating descent of 27kms down to Haa. The Haa Valley is one of the most picturesque in Bhutan. Only open to foreigners in 2002 it is still rarely visited. The name means ‘Hidden Rice Valley’ and in the pre Buddhist era it was well known for its animist traditions. The valley has its own guardian called Ap Chendu, who is still worshipped. It is culturally rich with temples and a dzong (a dzong is a cross between a monastery and fortress and today they are used for secular and religious activities. Almost every town has a dzong perched in a spectacular location and the one in Haa was built in 1915. Distance approx. 70km, duration 5/6 hours. Ascent 1450m, descent 1010m. 100% paved.
A rolling day of cycling from Haa to Thimphu.
A long day today of approximately 112 kms, which will take us 7/8 hours. The road is paved and starts with an undulating section to Janakha, passing villages and fields of rice and potatoes and chillies. At Chuzom sa we are at the point where the roads join between Paro, Haa, Thimpu and south to Phuntsoling. Three beautiful stupas in Nepalese, Tibetan and Bhutanese style lie just above the Pachu. The last 30km is a nice gradual uphill to along the Thimphu River to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Distance approx. 112km, duration 6/8 hours. Ascent 450m, descent 800m. 100% paved.
Circular ride from Thimphu to the Cheri Monastery (2600m).
We spend the day exploring Thimpu by bike. We first head into town and the Memorial Chorten, before pedalling out of town uphill to Cheri gompa (round trip is 36 km). The road is 100 % paved but we should expect some traffic as well. The ride takes us past the Queen Mother’s Palace and several small villages. We continue through pine forest along the Wangchu River. Cheri Monastery stands at 2600m and was built in 1620 by the founder of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The return ride is an easy downhill. The energetic can add on a ride up to Buddha Point, a 51m high Buddha statue with great views overlooking the whole of the Thimpu Valley (10km round trip). Distance approx. 40km, duration 5 hours. Ascent 260m, descent 230m. 100% paved.
Thimphu to Punakha via the Dochu La (3015m) passing 108 stupas with their prayer flags fluttering in the wind.
A challenging 16.5km climb today to the Dochu La (La = pass) at 3015m. We leave Thimphu and start with a 5km ‘Bhutanese flat’ as a warm up, passing Semtokha dzong. We then enter the forest and the climb starts in earnest. Climbing in Bhutan is all about getting into a slow rhythmic pace with time to enjoy the views and stopping for plenty of rests. The climb averages 4.8% gradient so not too steep. Finally we emerge at the 108 stupas adorning the pass. Thousands of prayer flags flutter in the wind and if we are really lucky we may get a glimpse of Gankar Punsum (at 7497m) the highest peak in Bhutan. The pass is at the 21.4km mark and the rest of the day is mainly downhill. We cycle down through forested hillsides, passing Lobesa. Eventually we come to Punakha with its picturesque dzong. Punakha’s small size defies its importance and long history. For over 300 years until 1951 the dzong in Punakha was used as the government’s winter base due to it’s lower altitude and warmr weather. The dzong sits at the confluence of the Pho and Mo Rivers and is an imposing building dating from the 15th century. Distance approx. 70km, duration 5/6 hours. Ascent 765m, descent 1900m. 60% paved, 40% unpaved.
Punakha to the Phobjikha Valley across the Lawala Pass (3030m), visiting the Gangtey Monatery enroute.
Today is probably the toughest cycling day – a 55km ascent of 2000m up into the Black Mountains. We leave Punakha and cycle past Wangdue Dzong and continue for about 14 km to Chuzomsa, which is a gentle climb with a few undulations. After that the climbing gets harder as we pass through wonderful farming areas with terraced fields above and below us. We then enter thick forested areas with huge oak and rhododendron trees. The last 1.4km is a bit of a sting in the tail as it is the steepest bit of the climb but we eventually reach the top of the Lawala Pass (3030m). The road deteriorates on the descent and the last 11km are unsealed road. Gangtay, where we stay is one area of the Phobjika Valley, a beautiful glacial valley where the rare Black-necked Cranes from Tibet spend the winter. Distance approx. 66km, duration 6/7 hours. Ascent 1680m, descent 200m. 100% dirt road.
Phobjikha to Pele La (3392m), then a beautiful and long downhill to Trongsa.
Today we start by climbing 11km back up to the Lawala Pass, then we descend a little and climb up further to the high point of the day, the Pele La (3390m). This is traditionally the border between Western Bhutan, which we have been cycling through the last few days, and Central Bhutan, which we now enter. The vegetation changes: first deciduous forest, then Himalayan pine, finally only shrubs. The next 18km is a great winding downhill. We continue on down to Chendebji, where there is a large chorten. We are now in warmer regions, with lush vegetation and waterfalls by the road. At the 66km mark we enter the Mangde Valley where Trongsa sits at the far end. The next 9km is steeper downhill. All along this section the town can be seen in the distance but it seems unreachable! The valley is very narrow with the road cut into steep sided walls with the river far below. It certainly is a dramatic ride. After a stop at a viewpoint where the town and dzong can be seen across the valley we know it is only 10km more to our hotel (the sting in the tail today is that the last 5km are uphill! Distance approx. 80km, duration 6/7 hours. Ascent 550m, descent 1190m. 100% paved.
Trongsa to Bumthang, over the Yotong La (3425m), with a spectacular view today!
Another day another pass. Today we have our highest pass of the trip and a great sense of satisfaction as we ride into Bumthang and the end of our journey having ridden halfway across the country. Setting out of Trongsa the climbing starts immediately as the road zig zag up into the mountains. It is 30km to the top of the Yotong La at 3425m, the highpoint literally of our trip, from where we have great views of the mountains surrounding us. As Bumthang lies at 2600m it is a great descent from the pass. The first 11km are a fast descent into the Chumay Valley from where the descent eases off and there are even some uphill sections. The final pass of the trip, the Keke La (2700m) is a short 4km climb and from the top it’s all the way down to our hotel in the beautiful Bumthang Valley. For all departures we will endeavour to make a stop enroute at a local festival (either Domkhar, Jakar or Prakhar, subject to road/weather/group conditions). Distance approx. 65km 6/7hours. Ascent 1219m, descent 800m. 100% paved road.
Day in Bumthang. Optional festival visit and/or cycle ride depending on the trip departure date.
Today we have a whole day to explore the Bumthang valley; either by bike or bus - there are various options.
Flight to Paro.
Today we will take an early 25 minute flight to Paro (if possible there will be a visit to the Thangbi festival for that particular departure and the flight will be in the afternoon). There are spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain ranges during the flight (weather dependent). Once we land there will be time to stroll around and have some time to enjoy Paro Town.
Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery.
On our final full day in Bhutan we will enjoy a hike to one of the most iconic of the countries buildings; the Taktsang (or 'Tiger's Nest') Monastery. This spectacular place is perched on the ledge of a cliff high above the Paro Valley and is still today an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Partly destroyed by a fire in 1998, it has now been completely restored to its former magnificence. We drive a short distance from the hotel and then hike to the monastery; enjoying the fantastic views as we ascend. After lunch at the café we return to the hotel in Paro.
Fly to Kathmandu.
We transfer to the airport to check in for our flight back to Kathmandu. The rest of the day is free for individual sightseeing or shopping. You may want to visit the famous Durbar Square in the heart of the old city. Here is the old royal palace, with its intricate woodcarving and four fine towers. Or you may wish to visit the monkey temple at Swayambhunath or take an optional trip to Bhaktapur, the mediaeval city a few miles east of the capital. Bhaktapur has its own Durbar Square with many temples and statues and a maze of narrow streets, which are generally quieter than the capital. Please be aware that due to the recent earthquake some of these places may be closed; your guide will be able to give you more information on what there is to see.
End Kathmandu after breakfast. For those on group flights, these depart in the morning and will arrive in the UK the same day.