Across Bhutan biking, 14 days

Tour highlights

  • 570 km in most rugged terrain in earth
  • Beautiful and pristine landscape
  • Demanding ascents, long descents
  • Limited road traffic
  • Crossing Bhutan from West to the East
  • Finish in Guwahati in India
# Itinerary Program
1 Arrival to Paro Arrival and accommodation in hotel. Visit bike renting shop and select fitting bicycle in case you did not bring your own. Keep in mind that selection of bikes available in Paro is limited so in case you are not happy with it, you can use it for next day only and then try wider selection of bikes which available in Thimphu on the third day.
2 Paro (cycling, hiking), drive to Thimphu Ride 25 km, ➚ 500 m, ➘ 500 m + 4-5 hours hike. Today we will hike to Tiger’s Nest monastery, one of the tour highlights. We will start ride from Paro to the north and on the way, we will visit ancient Kyichu lhakhang temple, which dates back to 7th century. Then we will leave bikes on the parking and start hike. Monastery overlooks the valley from the high cliff. Hike takes from 4 to 5 hours and it’s as much demanding as rewarding.  After hiking, we will visit to Paro dzong, the castle in which Bernard Bertolucci's Little Buddha film was shot. Evening trasnfer to Thimphu and rest.
3 Thimphu (cycling & sightseeing) Ride 25 km, ➚ 650 m, ➘ 650 m. Start the program with ride through the town and further up the hill to Kuensel Phodrang, place with 54 meters high statue of Buddha. Enjoy wonderful glimpses of the Thimphu valley. Then ride back to the town and pay a visit to Memorial Chorten, always busy with devotees. Place was built to remember third king of Bhutan. Continue riding through the town, crossing the famous main traffic junction directed by the policeman with dance-like moves. Thimphu is famously only capital in the world without any traffic lights. Reach to Changlimithang stadium. If you are lucky, national game of archery will be just going on! Get lunch and continue sightseeing on the bicycle. We will ride to the Changankha lhakhang and will visit this temple which is popular among parents to get blessing for their children. Continue riding to Motithang preserve where national animal of Bhutan, the takin, might be seen. Then we will be riding scenic road with the views of town and also of Tashichho dzong, the seat of the king and the government. On the way, you can stop to visit Zilukha nunnery, one of the few monastic establishments for females. Conclude your ride at Dechenphodrang temple with beautiful view all around. Ride back to hotel and get rest. If you are in party mood, you can visit The Mojo Park rock club or other venue to mingle with young Bhutanese.
4 Thimphu – Wangdue / Punakha (cycling) Ride 50-70 km, ➚ 0-700 m, ➘ 1800 m. Right in the morning, we will start riding to Dochu-la pass (3015 m). This will be a long, more than 20 km, ascent. From the pass, the great views of Himlayas in clear weather might be sen. You can also visit interesting temple Dochu lhakhang dedicated to the fourth king of Bhutan. If you like to make this day easy, you might also travel in vehicle up to the pass and ride from here only. The rest of the ride is very long descent to tropical Wangdue and Punakha valleys through mixed quickly changing forest. Sceneries to be seen from the road are superb. Reach to hotel and take rest after demanding ride. In case you arrive early, you might like to extend ride to the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery which has beautiful views of the valley.
5 Wangdue / Punakha (cycling sightseeing), drive to Phobjikha Loop ride 40 km, ➚ 450 m, ➘ 450 m. In the morning we will start riding to Chimi lhakhang, temple famously dedicated to the Buddhist saint who professed religion through drinking, singing and rampant sexual behavior. Visit temple and get blessed by the wooden phallus, allegedly carved by saint himself. Then continue riding along the Punatsang chhu river north, crossing Khuruthang town and finally reaching the confluence of Mo chhu and Po chhu rivers between which lies magnificent Punakha dzong, the castle which used to be the winter capital of the country. Visit the beautiful castle and it’s temples. Enjoy picnic style lunch. Then again ride, this time to the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, stretching 160 meters over Mo Chhu river. Cross the bridge and follow road on other side back to confluence. Continue on the other side of the river until you reach Bajo town. See mighty Wangdue Phodrang dzong, the castle built on the strategic hill overlooking the river. As of now, it is undergoing reconstruction after disastrous fire in 2012. Here, we will load our bikes to the vehicle and the rest of the way, we will drive high to the mountains, up to glacial Phobjikha valley crossing the 3350 meters high Lawa-la pass. Road is scenic but going by bike would be too demanding since ascent is more than 2000 meters. Reach to hotel in the late afternoon or evening.
6 Phobjikha (farmroad cycling) Loop ride 35 km, ➚ 500 m, ➘ 500 m. Today we will make entertaining ride around the Phobjikha valley. First we will ride till the Black Neck Crane center, where we will see interesting short documentary about these elusive birds which comes for winter roosting to the valley. Also see exhibition about them and Karma, the injured bird which lives at the center’s compound. Then we will continue ride by the road, ascending to the hill and finally reaching Gangtey village and monastery on the top. Village is very beautiful and monastery historically important. After visiting temples, take a ride down to other side of the hill. Briefly we will follow popular walking Gagntey Nature Trail, but at the beginning of the forest, we will start ascending up to Hel village. Reaching there, we will descend to Kewa Lhakhang, another temple along with small monastery. Now it will be a time to detour to local farmhouse to enjoy the traditional Bhutanese food as eaten in the villages. Also try local spirit called “ara” and salty tea referred as “suja”. After lunch, we will take gentle mostly straight ride to the Ngelung Drechagling Lhakhang nunnery, very scenic place and one of the few places in Bhutan to see Buddhist nuns. Continue ride alongside the river after finally reaching bridge to cross on the other side. Now continue biking back until you reach Black Neck Crane center and finally get back to hotel and rest after rewarding loop biking.
7 Phobjikha – Trongsa (cycling) Ride 65-80 km, ➚ 425-1050 m, ➘ 1700-1800 m. Today, you can decide if you make it hard way, going whole distance on bike or if you use car for the first 15 km which will save you most of the day's ascending. Whatever you decide, start from hotel in the morning, going back to Lawa la pass and main highway. From there you will ascend to Pele la pass (3400 m). Usually some local herders sell various local produce, mostly wooden and woolen things, jewelry and some medicinal herbs too. This is a place to start riding if you decided to make it easier. From pass, you will be mostly going down with a lot of scenic views of pastures and villages. Make a short stop to see large Chendebji stupa beside the road. Be careful from here onward since you are entering area where infamous demoness Nyala Duem lives and occasionally attempts to steal life of wanderers, usually presenting herself as woman in need of help. Bike gently on the flat or fairly ascending road until you reach monumental Trongsa castle viewpoint. Although it is just 1 km as the crow flies by road, you will still need to ride extra 12 km before you reach your destination. After reaching Trongsa, take a deserved rest.
8 Trongsa – Jakar (drive, cycling) Ride 40 km, ➚ 220 m, ➘ 1100 m. At the morning we will visit monumental Trongsa dzong (castle) and optionally also interesting museum in watchtower hosting the exposition on the Bhutanese monarchy. Then we will drive from Trongsa upward to the Yotong-la pass, unless you really want to negotiate more than a thousand meters ascent on bike. From the top, you will descend to historically important Bumthang district. The road will be going up and down along the schools and through the villages. You might like to make a stop at Chummey to see well supplied shop with local woolen products and other curios. Then start ascending through pine forest to minor Kiki-la pass (2850 m) and finally descend to Jakar town, your destination for the day. Take a rest or visit town to see sleepy but interesting local life.
9 Jakar (cycling & sightseeing) Loop ride 40 km, ➚ 800 m, ➘ 800 m. In the morning, we will make adventurous loop ride going through the multifunction path called "Bushman Trail" developed by young locals. Trail connects Jakar with Tang valley. Trail starts beside Karchung Gompa, big monastery just above the town on opposite side of the Chamkar Chu river. The trail ascends through the pine forest up to 3100 meters with number of viewpoints. Then it descends gently to Bepzur village near the Pemacholing nunnery, which you can also briefly visit. From here, get back to Jakar by road with stop at Membartsho, the "Burning lake" where saint Pema Lingpa discovered treasure of Buddhist scriptures in 15th century. In the afternoon, we will make another loop with cultural program, riding first to Jampay Lhakhang, 7th century temple pinning down the ankle of giant demoness. From here we will continue to Kurjey Gompa complex, the 3 temples which were built on place where magician-saint Guru Rimpoche subdued local demon. Cross the bridge and visit newly renovated Kenchosum Lhakhang, with exquisite paintings. Conclude ride at Red Panda brewery (if open for visitors) and see the production process of their German style weissbier. Then taste it as well and cheer over nicely concluded day's ride! Local gouda cheese sold in nearby shop is also worth of trying. Finally, take rest or visit town on your own.
10 Jakar – Ura (cycling) Ride 50 km, ➚ 1050 m, ➘ 550 m. Today, we will have to climb long way to the Shertung-la pass (3.590 m). Ascend is not too steep and very scenic with great views of Black mountains and back to the Jakar valley. In good weather you have a chance to see the highest mountain of Bhutan, Gangkhar Puensum (7,570 m) from the cruve marked by prayer flags, just before the summit. After reaching the pass, you can enjoy descend to Ura village. This is unusual settlement with houses clustered close to each other, perhaps to protect area from the wind. Visit richly decorated Ura lhakhang temple. If you are lucky, you can taste rare matstutake mushroom, the local delicacy for dinner. Accommodation is simple though satisfactory in Ura.
11 Ura – Yongkola (cycling) Ride 50 km, ➚ 300 m, ➘ 2500 m. It quite far ride to Yongkola, so better we will use vehicle for the first, mostly ascending, part of the trip, until we reach Thrumshing-la (3750 m), the second highest motorable pass in Bhutan. Watch for red pandas on the way, since they are known to stay in surrounding forests. Make a stop at rhododendron garden to see the stunning variety of different types of this tree existing in Bhutan. From the pass, the long and scenic descent with the views and waterfalls starts. It is probably the most scenic road of the trip. Enjoy the serenity of the hotel and get rest before next day's stretch.
12 Yongkola – Mongar (cycling) Ride 50 km, ➚ 1050 m, ➘ 950 m. Today we will continue riding downwards to the bottom of Kuri chu valley. You will see the ruins of Zhongar Dzong, formerly one of the largest castles in Bhutan built in 17th century. Make a brief stop to explore the ruins. From here, the long ascent with numerous curves to Mongar town starts. Get accommodated to hotel and if you feel for some further sightseeing you can walk around town to see a Mongar dzong, the center of local administration or ride/hike to Kadam gompa, nice temple on scenic viewpoint some 2 km up from the town.
Mongar – Tashigang (cycling)
Ride 60-65 km, ➚ 400-900 m, ➘ 2100 m. To save most arduous ascending of the day we will start by driving to Kori-la pass (2.400 m). Surrounding forest is home to numerous species of hornbills so watch carefully. From pass, you will be riding gently descending road with scenic views until you reach Drangme chu valley (600 m). Here you can decide to change to car, if you want to avoid final climb to  Trashigang. If you arrive early, you can visit town and see the nicely situated castle. Enojy he last evening in Bhutan!
14 Tashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar, onward to Guwahati (drive) Today we will give goodbye to biking and will drive all way down from the Himalayas southwards to Indian border. You will start early in the morning, going around Yongphula airport and  Sherubtse university. Don't forget to stop for blessing at Damthang before reaching Smadrup Jongkhar. After immigration formalities, you will part with your Bhutanese guide and driver and Indian counterpart will drive you to Guwahati. This is the tour end.
Tour variants, extensions and combinations: 
  • Side trip tu Lhuentse (+1 day): While staying in Mongar, it makes good idea to make round trip to beautiful mountain valley of Lhuentse (one way 50 km, ➚ 1200, ➘ 700 m). Back from Lhuentse to Mongar, you can take a car or other way around.
  • Side trip to Trashi Yangtse (+1 day): Trashi Yangtse district is famous for it's scenic castle and large Nepali styled stupa. It's just very nearby to border of Tibet. One way trip from Trashingang is 50 km, ➚1300, ➘ 400 m. You can also take a car to there, and go back to Trashigang mostly downward.
  • Join days 11 and 12 into one (-1 day): If you are strong biker or you simply want to save some time, you might avoid overnight in Yong Khola and continue till Mongar on eleventh day of the trip. You will probably have to use a vehicle for part of the way, since it will be too long otherwise, but you will save one day on the program length.
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