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Bhutan freedom adventure

Cycling Tour

11 nights / 12 days

Level of Difficulty: 4 out of 5

Embarking on a cycling expedition across Bhutan is an adventure of a lifetime. Prepare yourself for an unforgettable journey as you pedal through the far west to the central regions of this magnificent kingdom. Along the way, be prepared to conquer challenging uphill climbs that can reach elevations of up to 4000 metres. However, your efforts will be handsomely rewarded with exhilarating descents through some of the world’s most breathtaking and pristine landscapes.


Leading the way will be your expert guide, one of the few certified cycling guides recognised by the Department of Tourism. 

DAY 1: Paro (2250m)

Arrival & Welcome  (Acclimatisation day)

Flying into Bhutan’s international airport situated in the picturesque Paro valley (2300m) is an experience like no other. The clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries, and the welcoming Bhutanese people in their colourful national dress will certainly make a lasting impression. As you step out from the exit doors at Paro International Airport, a representative of Touch Bhutan Travel will be eagerly awaiting your arrival with your surname written on a plaque. You will be whisked away to your accommodation to rest and acclimatise and offered a hearty Bhutanese lunch before building your bike in preparation for the first day of cycling. You can explore the streets of Paro town, located just a short two kilometres from the hotel or opt to relax ahead of the strenuous days ahead. Dinner will be served at a traditional farmhouse nearby one of the oldest temples in Paro known as Kyichu Lhakhang. Here you will be exposed to the Bhutanese culture and learn about the important role that the Buddhism plays in the lives of the local people. Overnight: Khangkhu resort (L, D)

DAY 2: Paro (Taktsang hike – 5-hour round trip)

Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest)

Taktsang monastery, which is also known as Tigers Nest monastery, is one of Bhutan’s most iconic landmarks. Perched on a cliff face 800 metres above the valley floor, it is said that Guru Rinpoche came to Taktsang on the back of a tigress, and while meditating in a cave converted the whole of the Paro valley to Buddhism. Over the years a number of temples have been built on the cliff face which share the precarious position with the main monastery. The trek to Taktsang involves a 2-hour climb on a fairly steep path which winds its way through sweet smelling pine forests clad with spanish moss and fluttering prayer flags. We will spend some time exploring the various temples within the monastery before making our way down. Halfway down the mountain we will stop for lunch at the Taktsang cafeteria which commands spectacular views of Taktsang. Overnight: Khangkhu resort (B, L, D)

DAY 3: Paro to Shana (74km - 900m elevation gain)

Ancient Dzong & village loop

After breakfast we will begin our ride to Drukgyel Dzong, which is an easy 15km ride on a bitumen road. This dzong (the name literally translates to ‘the fortress of the victorious Drukpas’) was built after the victory over the Tibetan – Mongols in 1649. After passing Drukgyel Dzong the road turns to gravel which gradually climbs for another 20 kms till Shana village. The ride to Shana follows the Paro River and will pass through cultivated rice paddy fields and picturesque traditional villages. Shana village is the starting point of the world’s toughest trek (the Snowman trek) which usually takes 30 days to complete. We will enjoy a picnic lunch in the village and after lunch we will ride back along the same route to our hotel. Overnight: Khangkhu resort (B, L, D)

DAY 4 Paro to Haa over the Chele La (pass) (75km - 1823m elevation gain)

Haa valley

As we depart Paro town we will pass through lush farmland and scattered hamlets to reach the start of our climb to Chele La (Bhutan’s highest motorable pass at 4000m). This will be the first big climb of the trip. We will gradually gain altitude and during some of the switchbacks have glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan mountain range to the north. After riding for 36 kilometers, we will reach the prayer-flagged summit of the pass at a lofty altitude of 3988 meters. At the pass, we will enjoy snacks and refreshments before tackling the 20 km descent to the floor of the Haa valley. We’ll have lunch in one of the local restaurants before taking a casual ride through the villages before cycling to our accommodation. If you have any energy to spare before dinner, you can stroll through the countryside in and around the hotel. Overnight: Rigsum Resort (B, L, D)

DAY 5: Haa to Thimphu (115km - 1157m elevation gain)

Towards Thimphu

Today we will be cycling to the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu, which is located 115 kilometers from Haa. For the first 65kms we will follow the Haa chu (river) gently downhill where there will be opportunities to spot wild monkeys and local yaks. The scenery as you traverse your way slowly downhill through the small villages is spectacular. Haa was only opened for international tourism in 2009 so it’s quite common for the locals to hoot their cars and wave in excitement as you ride by. Lunch will be served in a secret picnic spot at the 95km mark. The final 35km will be along roads high above the banks of Wang Chu (river) which meander through a mixture of rice fields and coniferous forests. As the city of Thimphu begins to emerge in the distance, we will see the impressive statue of the Four Friends, a famous Bhutanese parable after we have gone through the welcome gate. Thimphu has a population of approximately 140,000 and is the largest city in the kingdom. It is where the King resides and is also the summer residence of the central monastic body. There is lots to do in Thimphu from observing a local archery game, watching the local people in the town square going about their day-to-day business wearing the traditional dress in their typically, unhurried Bhutanese manner, to grabbing a coffee in one of the many cafes dotted around the town. Your guide will be on hand to answer any of your queries. Our hotel is located in the heart of the city and here, you can enjoy a well-earned beer at the bar at the end of the day. Overnight: The Willows hotel (B, L, D)

DAY 6: Thimphu to Punakha (70km - 900m elevation gain)

Onwards to Punakha over the mountain pass

Our stay in Thimphu is only brief. After breakfast we will set off to the peak of Dochu La (pass) at an altitude of 3050m. After a gentle 5km ride to warm the legs, the 22km (700m elevation gain) climb to Dochula begins. The hillsides on either side of the road are covered in temperate forests with an abundance of plant and wildlife. The lower slopes are home to orange trees, banana plantations and bamboo groves. Several species of deer and monkeys may be sighted along the way so keep your eyes peeled. En-route we will also pass Semtokha dzong built by the founding father of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, in 1629. The support car will be waiting with snacks and refreshments at Dochu La. The pass is marked by 108 stunning stupas which were commissioned by the Queen mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, as a memorial to those who lost their lives during a conflict in late 2002 when Bhutan evicted Indian rebels camped in the jungle on the Bhutanese – Indian border. On a clear day we will be able to witness a breathtaking view of the eastern Himalayas. The downhill leg from Dochu La into the Punakha valley will leave cyclists speechless as we enjoy a 1600m descent through lush forests and jungle spread over a distance of 50kms. Punakha is Bhutan’s ancient capital city, with Punakha dzong being the winter residence of the central monastic body, which comprises over 1000 monks. Following lunch, we will explore the interior of this magnificent dzong which was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. We will also walk along Bhutan's longest suspension bridge. Our accommodation for the night is perched high on the side of a mountain overlooking the paddy fields and river where we will be treated to unrivalled views and served dinner fit for a king. Overnight: River Valley Resort (B, L, D)

DAY 7: Punakha to Phobjikha (70km - 1800m elevation gain)

Beautiful Phobjikha valley

We will leave our hotel and cycle down to the river and valley floor, one of the lowest points of the trip at 1300m above sea level. Crossing the bridge, we will have a short climb to the township of Wangdue Phodrang and then a relatively gradual climb for 20kms. Here, we will enjoy a morning coffee and then begin the tough climb over Black Mountain. The central road across Black Mountain was completed only 35 years ago and brought about great changes to the people of central Bhutan. We will be gaining almost 1200 meters in elevation and the climb will feel exceptionally long. After arriving in the small settlement of Norbuding, we will rest to enjoy lunch. After lunch we'll take a 45 minute drive to Lawa Pass (3300m), from where we'll ride the distance to Phobjikha Valley. This valley, which is considered to be the most beautiful in Bhutan, is a wide glacial valley and is the winter home for the endangered, black-necked crane that flock to this region from Tibet in late October. Our hotel which is in the centre of the valley. Overnight: Yuloki Resort (B, L, D)

DAY 8: Rest day at Phobjikha 


Today will be a rest day where you can explore the picturesque valley at your leisure and during the autumn and winter months spot the black-necked crane. Take a relaxed ride around or do the 15km, mainly gravel loop around the valley. In the afternoon we’ll go on a 1.5 hour hike on the Gantey Nature Trail and stop off at the Crane Information Centre to learn about these majestic birds that are considered a blessing by the locals and a sign of a good harvest. Overnight: Yuloki Resort (B, L, D)

DAY 9: Phobjikha to Trongsa (77km - 600m elevation gain)


We will begin with a 13km ride to the pass known as Pele La at an altitude of 3360m and along the way there is a high chance that we will come across the endangered grey langur, a native primate of Bhutan. From the pass, the forest thins out and cyclists will see yaks grazing by the side of the road. This pass is traditionally known as the boundary between Western and Eastern Bhutan and the landscape is quite different to western Bhutan. Another exhilarating 1550m and 60km descent follows We will stop for lunch beside a magnificent waterfall. We will then proceed to our hotel and there will be free time to explore the quaint town of Trongsa. Overnight: Yangkhil Resort (B, L, D)

DAY 10: Trongsa to Bumthang (75km - 1700m elevation gain)


After breakfast we’ll hit the road which climbs rapidly through a series of hairpin bends out of Trongsa town where we will enjoy great views back to Trongsa dzong and out across the valley below. After passing through cultivated fields, we will re-enter the forest. 30kms from Trongsa we will descend to a low point of 2650m at a small village known as Chumey (the birthplace of Bhutan’s current Queen). You will notice that the scenery begins to change as we enter the wide open Bumthang valley. After a short and very picturesque climb to the pass known as Kiki La, we will begin the descent to Bumthang and our accommodation for the night. Bumthang is often referred to as Bhutan’s Switzerland due to its similarities in flora, fauna, agriculture, and architecture. Our accommodation is run and owned by a Swiss expat who now calls Bhutan home and is famous for introducing European farming techniques to the Bhutanese people. Overnight: Swiss Guest House (B, L, D)

DAY 11: Bumthang to Paro (10-hour drive)

Homeward bound

Following breakfast, we will start our long drive back to Paro. Along the way we will engage in some sightseeing. Our first stop will be Ta dzong in Trongsa, which was originally built as a watch tower but is now a heritage museum, then have lunch in a small village called Chazam. On reaching Punakha we will visit Chimi Lhakhang, a quaint monastery built by Ngawang Choegyel (Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s grandfather) in honour of Lama Drukpa Kuenley (also known as the divine madman due to his enlightened though unusual behaviours). It’s an easy 20 minute picturesque stroll through a traditional village and across rice paddy fields. From here we will continue our journey towards Paro. Overnight: Khangkhu resort (B, L, D)

DAY 12: Paro (Departure)

Till next time

Free time to relax this morning before we leave for the airport and onward flights. Following 11 incredible days around one of the most picturesque places on earth, you will be dropped off at the airport in time to catch your onward flight. In Bhutan we never say goodbye as we always believe we will have the good fortune of meeting again. So, from the team at Touch Bhutan Travel, we sincerely hope you enjoyed travelling with us. Take care until next time. (B)

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