Bicycling in Bhutan
10 Day Inn Tour
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t know that Bhutan is a nation smaller in size than West Virginia, nestled in the Himalayan Mountains between China and India. Its rural population, forested river valleys, and fascinating Buddhist culture make it an extraordinary place to visit. The monarchy only recently established a democratic government and opened the country’s borders to tourism. Join us on this unique bike adventure to experience this exotic land as only we know how.
The tour is filled, but call us. We may be able to squeeze you in.
Rolling terrain with some longer climbs. Moderate cycling level.
9 nights lodging, 9 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 9 dinners, rental mountain bike, entrance fee to sites, rafting trip, van support, Bhutan airport shuttle, and trained bilingual guides.
Fly to and from the Bangkok airport (BKK) in Thailand. Air fare from Bangkok to the Paro airport in Bhutan is approx. $900 additional.
"The tour was excellent and the delivery more than I expected. The support was beyond my expectations. All the accommodations were excellent - we are talking “Bhutan” so one has to have an open mind - they were all warm and one accommodation in particular was excellent - it was nice to have a large and warm area where we could meet and talk etc. A great and memorable time."
DAY 1: We’ll meet at the Bangkok airport and all fly together to Paro, Bhutan. There is one daily flight from Bangkok and it leaves in the morning. You may need to arrive a day early to meet this flight, but there is an excellent hotel at the Bangkok airport. You could also choose to extend your trip by visiting Thailand prior to our tour.
Upon our arrival in Bhutan, we’ll be met by our bilingual guides and spend the day visiting the capital city of Thimphu. We’ll visit the Arts and Crafts School and the National Textile Museum and learn about the country’s movement to preserve its traditions and expand its tourism efforts. We’ll explore the Heritage Museum and learn how the Bhutanese lived in past centuries and how much hasn’t changed.
We’ll spend our first night on a hill overlooking the beautiful Wang Chhu river and the lights of Thimphu. Our cozy, family-owned resort is surrounded by pine forest and has its own Buddhist temple. 0 miles.
DAY 2: After breakfast and our bike fitting, we’ll start out cycling down the hill and away from town along the Wang Chhu river. While most of the tour’s roads are paved, they can be rough in sections, so we’re on mountain bikes equipped with wide knobby tires.
We’ll bike until the road ends at Jigme Dorji National Park. We’ll see very few cars, but we’ll pass a waterfall and a huge gold painted rock wall of Chenrisig – the Buddha of Compassion. We’ll picnic alongside the river before returning on our bikes. In the afternoon, we’ll go into town to visit the outdoor Weekend Market, full of local seasonal produce, such as asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, and hot chilies. We’ll also see rice in a myriad of colors and tea leaves by the burlap-full.
We’ll join the family that owns our resort for dinner. We’ll learn about their lives split between their many businesses and government jobs, and enjoy a short folklore show. 22 miles - 5 hours biking.
DAY 3: Today we’ll learn how Bhutan is made up of a host of river valleys each separated by a set of mountains. We’ll shuttle up to Dochu La pass and visit the small park at the top with its collection of 108 chortens or stupas. The small structures contain Buddhist relics and were built to atone for the loss of life during an uprising in southern Bhutan.
On the way down the pass, we’ll watch as the vegetation changes from blue pine forests to blossoming rhododendrons to cactus and bamboo. We’ll have lunch served buffet or family-style, so we’ll surely find something we like. Then we’ll take a short hike across the fields to visit the Chimi Lhakhang temple, built in 1499 for the Divine Madman. The graphic phalluses painted on farmhouses are in this saint’s honor. Once at our inn for the next two nights, we can enjoy a well-earned cup of tea in the gazebo overlooking the hillside covered with narrow terraced fields. 31 miles - 4 hours biking.
DAY 4: After breakfast, we’ll bike a beautiful quiet road to the put-in on the Pho Chhu river for our rafting trip. Or you can choose to skip the river trip and continue biking to the stunning Punakha Dzong where we’ll all meet up for lunch. Once the seat of government for the valley, the dzong is one of the most beautiful buildings in the country. It sits at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers. With any luck, the jacaranda trees at the entrance will be in full purple bloom. 10 – 17 miles – 3 hours biking.
DAY 5: We head to our third valley today, passing by the town of Wangdue Phodrang. Perched on the edge of a cliff, it is slated to move down the river, as soon as the government finishes construction of its new location. It’s an odd concept and we’ll pass both the old and new towns as we bike along the Dang Chhu river.
The bowl-shaped Phobjikha Valley will eventually open before us. It is the winter home of the rare and endangered Black-Necked Crane. To preserve the flock, no electric wires can be hung. You’ll see small solar panels on the roofs of all the farmhouses. 16-35 miles – 2-4 hours biking.
DAY 6: We take a morning off our bikes to walk across the valley, skirting the forest and passing potato fields, to visit the Gangtey Goemba monastery. It’s perched on a hill with a beautiful view of the wide valley.
After lunch, we’ll shuttle and bike back over the pass to our hotel on the banks of the rushing Dang Chhu river. The son of the hotel’s owners is a Rinpoche (revered monk,) so the restaurant serves only vegetarian food. 28 miles – 3 hours.
DAY 7: We ride back toward Paro today. Watch for wild monkeys on the side of the road. Later we’ll pass an archery range. There’s almost always a match going on, as it’s Bhutan’s national sport. We’ll pass small roadside vegetable stands too. We’ll probably see women carrying freshly picked asparagus in the crook of their arms like bouquets of flowers. 30 miles – 4 hours.
DAY 8: We’ll start the day by cycling the quiet dirt road alongside the Dopshary River. We’ll meander through quiet farmland, past grazing oxen and roaming chickens. Children will giggle and try to keep up by running beside us. They’ll practice their English learned in school by yelling, “Hello-how-are-you-I-am-fine-thank-you.”
After taking a break for lunch, you’ll have a few choices. You can spend time in town shopping, or you can choose to visit the National Museum, which is actually a dzong’s former watchtower, in the shape of a conch shell. As at all holy sites in Bhutan, we’ll walk clockwise around the building.
Or you can bike to the end of the road heading west for one final ride. It’s as far west as anyone can go on pavement in Bhutan and it marks the trailhead to many treks to the high Himalayan peaks miles away. You can visit the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong there. It’s fascinating to see what 350 years have done to the old dzong, especially compared to the beautifully restored structures we visited earlier in the week. 10 – 25 miles – 4 hours.
DAY 9: After a hearty breakfast, we’ll hike to Taktsang, perhaps better known as “Tiger’s Nest,” and undoubtedly the most famous monastery in Bhutan. Perched high on a cliff 3000’ above the valley, you'll understand why it’s been recognized as a holy place for centuries.
After our descent and lunch, we’ll have time for any last minute souvenir shopping in town before enjoying our last dinner together. 0 miles.
DAY 10: We’ll head to the airport after breakfast today, saying good-bye to Bhutan. From Paro, we’ll fly to Bangkok where we’ll officially say our good-byes to one another and each catch our flights home.