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Bhutan

Bike & Hike the Dragon Kingdom

Discover the Land of the Thunder Dragon 11D/10N

Dates

22 Oct - 01 Nov 2023

23 Oct - 02 Nov 2024

From

USD 5,950

Ride Rating

Moderate

Group Size

8 - 16

Trip Description

  • Starting in Bangkok (BKK) with a flight into the Himalayan Kingdom and continuing for 11 days/ 10 nights. Our fully supported and guided adventure takes us on a journey through the culture, religion and nature of Bhutan, by bike and on foot. Ending with a Trek to the iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery.
     

  • Crossing 4 high passes ( including the country's highest motorable road, now made accessible following a 3 year total renovation of the road system), traversing glacial rivers, passing through bucolic villages and exploring traditional mountain fortresses frozen in time. 
     

  • The tiny mountain kingdom is often described as the Switzerland of Asia, it's rugged and often breathtaking natural beauty, rivaled only by it’s deep spirituality. 
     

  • For the well traveled, seasoned cycle tourer, The tiny (pop. 700,000) Kingdom of Bhutan, nestled between two giants — China to the North and India to the South — remains the ultimate prize.

Ride Overview

Average Daily Distance: 30 mil/ 48 km​

Average Daily Climb: 2728 ft / 832 m​

  • Due to the short distances, and vehicle support, this ride is rated ‘Moderate’. In total, we cover approximately 180miles, and climb +16,500ft, over 6 riding days and several easy to moderate hikes. 

  • Bike rental is included in the cost, saving additional logistics and distances are achievable for an experienced cyclist with a moderate level of fitness.
     

  • Bhutan is a Himalayan Kingdom, so we will cover some iconic climbs, but throughout the ride we will have vehicle support and riding guides on hand, in case riders want to take a rest or enjoy the view from the van. 
     

  • If you want to cruise and take photos, a rear support van/ sweep will always be behind the last rider. Riding guides and support vehicles will mark turns, usually in person or with chalk road markers.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Bangkok, City of Angels

Check in today at the Novotel Suvarnabhumi, take a dip in the pool, or ride on the world class cycling track just minutes from your door. Bike rentals are available at the free track facility with a passport or ID card.  In the evening we will meet for a Welcome happy hour before heading out to Bangkok on the Skytrain to experience some gourmet east side eateries around trendy Thong Lor.

Ride: 23km/lap

Meals: -, Happy Hour

Accomodation: Novotel Suvarnabhumi

Day 2: Flight to Paro, Dzong Tour & Bike fitting

Our adventure starts right away, as after breakfast we meet with bags in the lobby at 1100hrs,
then transfer a short distance to the terminal to Check in for Druk Air flight KB151 departing at
1340hrs to fly into the Himalayas and the mountain kingdom of Bhutan. The flight to Paro alone
offers views of the world's highest peaks. The airport sits at an altitude of 2280m/7,500ft ASL
nestled in a fertile farming valley. After landing at around 1600hrs, and taking a look at the newly
renovated airport which now houses incredible works of Bhutanese art including a luggage
conveyor modelled around the country's most famous Dzong, our team will meet us on arrival

and transfer us to our hotel.

 

Olathang Hotel is a unique site set over 20 acres with cottage style
rooms and an authentic Bhutanese feel, the birdsong in the area is quite wonderful, and we may
see deer roaming among the cottages. After check-in, we will meet in the lobby area for a bike
fitting. Pedals, saddles, mounts etc can all be accommodated at this time.
After our bike fitting we will have a chance to freshen up before meeting for a Happy Hour and
briefing, get to know our team, ask any questions, and hear about the adventure awaiting us
before a hearty welcome meal of Bhutanese cuisine.

Ride: -

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Happy Hour

Accommodation: Olathang Hotel

Sleeping Altitude: 2200m / 7200ft

Day 3: Ride to Thimpu 

After breakfast, we will start early today with an 8am rollout. As we are still acclimating, we will
take the lower road, riding on mostly flatter roads until the Chinzum Checkpoint, at the confluence
of two rivers. Thimphu is a fascinating combination of traditional and contemporary life, and we
will see the area at its most green, with rice crops still in the fields.

With a population of only 100,000, the town is made up of just three streets of shops. It is the only capital in the world without traffic lights, and at 2300m, it is also one of the highest capital cities on the planet. Our support team of riding guides, mechanics and support drivers will offer assistance,
refreshments and encouragement throughout the trip. We will make regular stops along the way
to enjoy the scenery of rice fields, apple orchards and wayside markets framed by snowy peaks
in the distance, arriving in Thimphu just in time for a traditional lunch.


The afternoon is spent off the bikes, on a cultural sightseeing excursion of the capital sights,
including the largest seated statue of the buddha in the world, the walled fortress of Thimphu and
the national memorial stupa. Later in the evening there will be time to take a stroll in the town
and experience the pleasant calm of Bhutanese life. Our hotel is right in the Clocktower Square,
at the very heart of the city.

Ride: 35 miles +1,911 ft cycle / 1 hrs walk

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, -

Accommodation: Thimphu Towers

Sleeping Altitude: 2,300m / 7,500ft

Day 4: Thimpu to Punaka over the Dochula Pass

Our first Himalayan challenge today will ease us into the mountains as we embark on a scenic ride to Punakha over the Dochula pass (3050m/10,000ft). Weather permitting, this pass offers panoramic views of the eastern Himalayan ranges. At the pinnacle, we visit a site of 108 stupas built to honor His Majesty the King, world peace and for the benefit of all living beings.

Following the conquest of Dochula we are rewarded with an exciting 40km downhill through a nature reserve all the way to the alluvial Punakha Valley. Stopping by wayside farmers' markets to sample fresh organic produce and take lunch at a café popular for its locally sourced vegetables. After lunch we take a short walk to Chime Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to the divine madman. Drukpa Kinley is the saint of fertility, and inherited the divine madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism of the time and for the unusual teaching methods he practiced. The saint is highly revered across the country as a symbol of fertility and even to this day most childless couples visit this temple to seek blessings. On our return we explore the surrounding villages to experience slow life in a farming village. 

 

Our hotel for the next 2 nights offers us 360 degree views of the town.

Ride: 41 miles +3,461 ft cycle / 1 hrs walk

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Happy Hour

Accommodation: Four Boutique Hotel

Sleeping Altitude: 1200m / 3,900ft

Day 5: Multisport exploration of Punakha

Prepare for a multisport day today. We begin with a short ride on an unsealed dirt road. This stretch offers spectacular views of the river valley below, where life along the riverside and the imposing castle of happiness are unchanged. To visit the castle, we experience an exhilarating crossing over the longest and highest suspension footbridge in the country, 200m across the Pho River. 

Leaving our bikes behind, we explore the architectural grandeur of the Punakha Dzong, known as the “castle of great happiness”. The fortress comprises a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers, Phochu (male river) and Mochu (female river). Punakha served as capital of Bhutan until 1955 and is the winter residence of the central monk body. Bhutan`s first king was crowned in this Dzong in 1907 and it continues to be the venue of choice for all historic national events, such as coronations and royal weddings. 

After a picnic lunch by the tranquil Punakha riverside, we will bike around 45 minutes to the Khamsum Yuley namgay chorten. A temple located in the idyllic countryside north of Punakha. At the entrance to the grounds, we will leave the bikes and walk around 30 minutes up and 20 minutes down. The temple sits majestically on a ridge and offers stunning views of the valleys to the south and the northern frontiers. It was built by the Queen mother as a dedication for world peace and to benefit all living beings, and is one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture and iconography. The return walk traces along the riverside, following an ancient trail through farmlands and the countryside homes of Sonagasa village. 

For thrill seekers, there is an alternative option to the afternoon hike, spending the afternoon rafting on the Punakha river. The Pho Chu, with its approx 16 km course has about 15 rapids of class 2-4 is the most popular for rafting in Bhutan.

Ride: 11 miles +560 ft cycle / 1 hrs walk + optional rafting

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Happy Hour

AccommodationFour Boutique Hotel

Sleeping Altitude: 2200m / 7200ft

Day 6: Gangtey - Valley of the Cranes

Today we take a short drive part way up the ascent, before climbing on our bikes to Lawala Pass at 3,300m/10,800ft. Our support vans and guides will be on hand for assistance and encouragement along the way. We stop briefly at the pass for refreshments before an exhilarating descent into the enchanting glacial geography of Gangtey Valley.

 

We begin our tour of Gangtey with the exquisite Gangtey monastery, a 16th century structure exemplifying traditional craftsmanship and architecture at its best. In the afternoon we will have a light lunch in Gantey, before visiting the crane observation center to learn about these majestic creatures and their association with local folklore. There will be time this afternoon to enjoy a walk around the enchanting valley and immerse in tranquility. 

Ride: 15 miles +1,640 ft cycle / 1/2 hrs walk

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, -

Accommodation: Phobjikha Resort

Sleeping Altitude: 3000m / 9,800ft

Day 7: Crane Trek, Bhutanese life and living & Traditional Spa

Gangtey is famed for its pristine environment, quaint traditional villages and scenic walking trails. Today we follow the nature trail out of the hotel, then peel off to complete the more challenging valley loop. Traversing the ecologically diverse roosting area of highly endangered black necked cranes. The cranes flock to this valley during the winter months and stay until April before returning to the Tibetan plateau. For lunch, we will enjoy a picnic prepared with fresh ingredients from nearby farms. 

Afterwards, we will explore the farms towards the southern end of the valley before returning to the hotel to prepare for a special evening. As the sun sets, we will experience soaking in a traditional herbal hot stone bath to soothe and relax the tired muscles from the hiking. (If there are limited baths available, we plan to split the group times over two nights.) 

Ride: 6.2 miles +680 ft 4 hrs walk

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, -

AccommodationPhobjikha Resort

Sleeping Altitude: 3000m / 9,800ft

Day 8: Ride to Wangdiphodrang & descent to Paro

Today we ride to Wangdiphodrang, on a route known as the Dragons neck. Then retrace our steps by vehicle to the Dochula pass, where we will disembark and enjoy a downhill ride all the way to Paro. We cover around 43 miles in total, and as always will make plenty of stops for rest and refreshments before arriving in Paro in the early afternoon. 

The unique architecture of Bhutan is personified in the form of Dzongs ( colossal structures used as a fortress or monastery) and the seat of the ruler in former times. Despite, or perhaps due to the simple construction methods, these gigantic citadels still continue to function as both the centre of religion and government to this day. In the afternoon, after freshening up, we take a tour of the city's famous Dzongs, including Taa Dzong (where the national museum showcases its finest specimens). As a former watchtower, the building offers panoramic views across the valley. Later we visit the Rinpung Dzong, the fortress/monastery of Paro, known as the fortress of the jewel heap, where we will get our first glimpse into the temples and the spirituality that is so prevalent in Bhutan. 

 

Later on, we will be heading to one of the only craft breweries in the country. We'll learn about the art of Bhutanese beer making over dinner, followed by a sampling of the craft beverages on offer, such as the red rice beer, IPA, pilsner and cider. 

Ride:  43 miles +1580 ft cycle / 1/2 hrs walk

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Happy Hour

AccommodationOlathang Hotel

Sleeping Altitude: 2200m / 7200ft

Day 9: Chelela Pass Hike & Downhill from Highest Motorable Road

Today we take an hour-long nature drive to the Chelela pass, located at an elevation of 3900m, the highest motorable road in Bhutan. The Chelai la region is a pristine area known for its luxuriant forests, mountain views, birds and wildlife. After exploring the alpine environment of the pass, we take a short hike to a nunnery in the vicinity. From Chelai la we start our ride on a 32 km downhill road, descending over 2000m, this section is often quoted as one of the best 1 day rides in the world, and showcases the variation in climate and environment afforded by such a mountainous region. 

This evening, we can take a stroll at leisure. Explore the town or enjoy some quiet reflection ahead of the spiritual adventure coming tomorrow. 

Ride: 24 miles +2,200 ft cycle / 1/2 hrs walk

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, -

AccommodationOlathang Hotel

Sleeping Altitude: 2200m / 7200ft

Day 10: The Tiger's Nest

After breakfast today we will enjoy one of the absolute highlights of our adventure, and of Bhutan. After a short drive north, we set off on a hike to Taktsang Monastery (The Tiger's Nest), Bhutan's most recognizable cultural icon, perched 800m (2640ft) up a seemingly sheer cliff. According to legend, in the 8th Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Bhutan arrived at the spot on the back of a tigress and meditated there in a cave. The site is recognized as the most spiritual among all the sites in Bhutan and many eminent saints have meditated in this power-spot. It is visited by most Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime and is a popular pilgrimage site of the himalayas. 

 

Before heading back to the valley, we will take lunch at a scenic viewpoint, offering a view out across the clouds or the valleys below. 

 

Tonight, we will share a celebratory farewell dinner and reminisce deeply on our adventures and experiences. 

Ride: 57 km or 34 mi, +525 m / -555 m or +1720 ft / -1820 ft

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Happy Hour

Accommodation: Olathang Hotel

Sleeping Altitude: 2200m / 7200ft

Day 11: Departure

After breakfast we will transfer to the airport. It is recommended to check in at least two hours prior to flight departure, to ensure the best seats on board to take in the panoramic views of the Himalayas. 

Ride: -

Meals: Breakfast, -

Accommodation: -

Bikes

Bring Your Own

Due to the logistics of this ride and flight, our trip cost includes rental of a Cannondale CX3 hybrid bike, with Shimano gears, disc brakes and a touring front shock. Following the recently completed renovation of the country's entire road network, the hybrid bike is the ideal machine to balance climbing gears and safe descending capabilities on the quiet mountain roads. 

If you insist upon bringing your own bike, this should be requested in advance. In which case, a lightweight Touring or Hybrid bike, or Gravel bike would be suitable. If bringing your own bike, please make sure that you bring sufficient parts to maintain the bike in good order throughout the ride.

N.B. WeAdventure requests that all riders bring their own helmets for hygiene reasons.

Bike Rental

Limited eBike rentals are available on special request, at an cost of 650USD for the whole trip.

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Inclusions

What's Included
  • Bhutan Tourist Visa 

  • Bhutan sustainable development contribution ($1800 per person) 

  • Arrival and departure drop off (on arrival and departure days only) 

  • Accommodation as listed 

  • Flight ticket from Bangkok to Paro (flight ticket is one way) 

  • 10 nights accommodation with 10 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 9 dinners 

  • 7 Happy Hours 

  • Guiding and support services, transfers as listed 

  • Bike rental of Cannondale CX3 or similar for entire trip 

  • Entry fees when mentioned 

  • Snacks & drinks whilst riding

What's Not Included
  • National and international airfares

  • Single room supplement *

  • Guide team gratuities

  • Travel insurance

* Single rooms are available on request at a surcharge of 950USD per room.

See our FAQ for more information about our cancellation policy and answers to common questions.

Essential Info

Visa and Entry Conditions

At the time of writing, Thailand and Bhutan have reinstated pre-covid arrival regulations, visa on arrival is issued in Thailand for most nationalities including US and UK and most EU countries.   As usual we recommend that you have the following as a minimum.

  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months from date of  entry)

  • Visa if required 

  • Flight itinerary

  • Hotel booking confirmation

  • Vaccination record 

  • COVID-19 test result (if unvaccinated)

Consult the Thai Embassy website for the latest entry requirements.

Health and Vaccines

Prior to the covid19 outbreak, immunization advice for Bhutan was relatively standard. Hep A & B, Tetanus, and Typhoid, as well as seasonal Flu Jabs are recommended. For at risk parties, Cholera and Japanese encephalitis jabs should be considered. Due to stray dog populations, rabies shots are worth considering. Post covid, it is recommended to carry a vaccination certificate. 

Weather

October is one of the best months to visit Bhutan, with temperatures in Paro and Thimpu between 70 and 55°F. At higher altitudes the temperatures are expectedly cooler, ranging from 65 to 50°F.

 

For riding, layers to start rides in the morning, and peel off in the warmth of the day is the best strategy. Windproof jackets are essential for downhill rides. Carry a light windproof or showerproof jacket at all times. Sturdy shoes for hiking are also recommended Support vehicles are always on hand to carry day bags which can be accessed easily. 

Money and Expenses

The local currency in Bhutan is the Ngultrum. It's a good idea to have some cash on you for incidentals, either in USD or better yet some local currency (BTN). ATMs, are not common in Bhutan, and hotel money changers rates can fluctuate especially in remote areas. Most ATMs will accept foreign cards. Having some US dollars in cash will enable you to change some money if needed.