Cycle the Land of Happiness
19-30 Oct 2020
5-16 Apr 2021
E-bike (extra cost)
Bhutan is something of an enigma in the modern world. It purposely protects its culture and heritage and remains a remote and little visited corner of the globe. Many people believe it is hard to visit but in truth all that is needed is that you join an organised tour. And do we have the tour for you!
Locked away in the Himalayas means that there is little flat land in Bhutan so you need to expect a lot of climbing and descending. While the climbs can be long the gradients are not steep so it’s all about getting in a comfortable gear and winding your way uphill enjoying the magnificent views that appear around every bend. With ebikes now available in Bhutan it is now much more accessible for those who struggle a bit up long climbs. So there’s no excuses, join us for a truly memorable trip.
Combining cycling with some claasic walks you will delve into the heart of Bhutan and experience the history, culture and beautiful landscape up close.
This will be a fully guided experience with local cycling guides accompanying the group along with a support bus and truck. You will be able to hope on and off the bus as you like through the day or stay on your bike and ride. Our guides are not only excellent cyclists but will also provide all the history and stories of Bhutan that you care to hear.
The group will be escorted by Jason Williams from Pedal Pedal.
There are few roads in Bhutan so navigation is very easy. We will be following the only sealed east-west road in the country. Traffic is light and as we travel east the number of vehicles declines ever further. The road for the most part is a single lane road where the word ‘sealed’ doesn’t always apply as there are many sections of broken road. The mountain bikes provided will easily deal with the terrain we encounter.
There are a couple of long ascents (and descents!) but the gradients are not steep and we take our time to slowly make our way to the passes. Anyone that needs a lift at any stage is welcome to hop in the support bus.
Paro, where we start the tour, sits at an elevation of 2200m so it is important we take our time to get used the altitude. During the trip we will ride to a maximum elevation of 3420m which is enough to affect your ability on the bike but we don’t consider altitude an issue on this tour as we always descend to sleep below 3000m.
Should the group size be 5-10 people the tour will operate without Jason joining the group.
PRICING & PAYMENT
US$4350 per person, twin share
Oct 2020 trip - book by 31 Jan 2020 and receive $400 off the price.
Apr 2021 trip - book by 31 Aug 2020 and receive $400 off the price.
An AU$500 deposit is required to confirm places on the trip. The deposit is non-refundable but we will refund (less banking fees) providing we can find a replacement person to fill your place on the tour should the tour be fully booked. Final payment will be due 60 days before the start of the tour. We will calculate the AUD price based on the exchange rate at the time of final payment.
All bookings and payments are processed through our main business entity, The Great Trails Company.
Day 1: Arrival Paro
Day 2: Cycle Paro Day Ride (35km)
Day 3: Cycle Paro to Thimphu (55km)
Day 4: Cycle Thimphu to Punakha (65km)
Day 5: Cycle Punakha Day Ride (15km)
Day 6: Transfer to Gangtey, Afternoon Ride/Walk (up to 30km)
Day 7: Cycle Gangtey to Trongsa (80km)
Day 8: Cycle Trongsa to Bumthang (67km)
Day 9: Explore Bumthang
Day 10: Drive Bumthang to Wangduephodrang
Day 11: Drive to Paro, Trek to Tigers Nest Monastery
Day 12: end
See below for detailed itinerary. Itinerary is subject to change.
Day 1 - Arrive In Paro
A dramatic flight will bring you to the town of Paro where we will be picked up by our local team and transferred to our hotel. Flights generally arrive in the morning so there will be time to visit Paro Museum and gain an introduction in the culture, history and religion of Bhutan.
Day 2 - Paro Day Ride (35km)
To get accustomed to the altitude (2200m at Paro), bikes and conditions we will take a ride up the Paro Valley to the end of the sealed road. Here we explore Drukgyel Dzong which now lies in ruins. A dzong is a combined temple, administrative office and fortress. They are located all over Bhutan and are imposingly large for a country with no large modern buildings. We will visit a number of dzong throughout the trip. On the return ride we will make a stop at a local farmer’s house to see what is inside a typical Bhutanese house.
Day 3 - Cycle Paro to Thimphu (55km)
Time to begin the journey east. This ride is the easiest point-to-point ride of the trip with a nice distance, the best road in Bhutan, and no major climbs. Thimphu is Bhutan’s capital city and the busiest part of the country. There is time in the afternoon to visit the markets, the huge Buddha image overlooking town and city dzong.
Day 4 - Cycle Thimphu to Punakha (65km)
The day starts with a short warmup then the first real climb of the trip which is 18km long and takes us out of the Thimphu Valley at 2100m, up, up , up to Dochula Pass at 3050m. On a clear day the views from the top are expansive and includes distant snow capped peaks. The prayer flags on the pass along with 108 chortens (or stupa, a Buddhist monument) mark this important point in the country. From the top it’s hard to believe that ahead of you is a 40km descent winding down past villages and monasteries all the way to Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of the Divine Madman. The temple is from Tantric Buddhism and very different from what you might expect of a Buddhist temple. From here it is a short ride along the valley to Punakha which sits at 1350m and has a very different climate to the rest of Bhutan.
Day 5 - Punakha Day Ride (15km)
A leisurely day allows us to explore the beautiful area of Punakha. While the ride is short there’s plenty to see. We take a back road upstream along the Pho River then cross the river via the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. This a pedestrian bridge that spans 200m across the river which makes for an exciting little ride (and great photos!). Nearby is Punakha Dzong, built in 1638 it is one of the oldest and most important in the country. Sitting at the confluence of the Pho and Mo River (Father and Mother Rivers) the dzong is picture postcard beautiful. We will visit the dzong before returning to our hotel where you have a free afternoon to relax or explore further.
Day 6 - Transfer to Gangtey, afternoon WALK or ride
The road from Punakha to Gangtey involves a 52km climb so we will load up the truck and bus on this day for the morning drive up and over Lawala Pass (3300m) to Gangtey. Gangtey is also known as the Phobjikha Valley, famous as the the winter home to a group of globally endangered black necked cranes that arrive every year from the Tibetan Plateau. In the afternoon you can take a guided walk (2 hours) or ride through the valley (20km), visit the Crane Observation Centre, or simply enjoy the views from our cozy lodge, one of our favourite places to stay anywhere in the world!
Day 7 - Cycle Gangtey to Trongsa (80km)
In the morning cycle over Pele La Pass (3390m) in the Black Mountains, considered the traditional boundary between east and west. The Pass is marked by a large monument and many prayer flags. There is an abrupt change in vegetation at this point, with mountain forest replaced by high altitude dwarf bamboo. The 27km downhill from here winds through pristine pine forests, wayside villages and markets. You then have a gentle climb up to Trongsa (2300m), home of Bhutan's largest dzong.
Day 8 - Cycle Trongsa to Bumthang (67km)
The final day of riding brings more climbing, the highest pass of the tour and a great sense of satisfaction as you ride into Bumthang having ridden halfway across the country over some serious terrain. There are two passes to get over today, Yutong La (3425m) and Kiki La (2860m) so it will be an up and down ride taking you through pine forests, wide open farming valleys, down to the Bumthang Valley. The valley is actually a combination of four valleys with altitudes from 2600m to 4000m and home to many prominent Buddhist temples and monasteries.
Day 9 - Explore the Bumthang Valley
To explore the sites of the valley we will take an easy walk to explore Bhutan's oldest temple, the local farmland and the family temple of a local friend. For those with the energy we will also hold our own Bhutanese dart competition where you can try your hand at hitting a tiny target from 30m. Hitting the target is worth it for the song and dance that your local team mates perform in your honour!
Day 10 - Drive to Wangduephodrang
Bhutan basically consists of one main east-west road so today we start the journey back to the west. You will be retracing the roads you had previously cycled but this time in the support vehicle. To break up the journey we will make a stop in Trongsa to visit the impressive museum.
Day 11 - Drive to Paro, Trek to the Tigers Nest Monastery
Departing early we drive back to Paro via Dochula Pass in time to take on the trek up to one of Bhutan's most venerated places, the Tigers Nest Monastery, which is precariously perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro Valley floor. This site has been recognised as one of the most spiritual sites in Bhutan and many eminent saints have meditated in this area. In the evening we celebrate the end of our amazing journey through Bhutan.
Day 12 - End of Tour
The tour ends with your transfer to the Paro Airport in time for your departing flight.
INCLUSIONS & EXTRAS
The accommodation used on this trip are of a 3 star standard. Expect comfy local hotels with heater, private bathrooms, and free wifi.
The tour accommodation is based on twin sharing. If you are a single traveller you will be matched with another person of your gender to share a twin room. If you would like a single room throughout the trip there will be a single supplement of US$430.
All meals are included throughout the trip.
The bikes included in tour price are high quality Merida 27 speed hardtail mountain bikes with touring tyres and disc brakes.
Feel free to bring your own pedals, saddle, and water bottle. You must bring your own helmet.
Ebikes will be available at a surcharge price of US$500. Ebikes must be reserved well in advance of the tour so please do let us know when you book if you would like to use one. The ebikes are high quality Centurion or Trinx e-mountain bikes that are well suited to the terrain and conditions of Bhutan.
This tour is full guided with cycling guides, support bus and truck. You will be well looked after!
Arrangements for your Bhutan visa are included in the cost of the tour. All we will require is a colour copy of the details page of your passport and we’ll do the rest.
Bhutan imposes the highest tourist in the world - US$65 per night per person. This cost is fully included in the price of the tour so there is nothing extra to pay on top of the tour cost. When you consider that Bhutan is one of the poorer countries in the world, your tourist tax contributes in a real way to programs like the free healthcare and education systems. It also means that the country is free of crowds of tourists like many parts of the world. And with the tour including pretty much everything the only time you’ll be dipping into your pocket is for drinks and a little bit of shopping.
You must have travel insurance as part of the conditions of travel. Your insurance must cover emergency medical and evacuation.
Ebikes are available at a surcharge price of US$500.
Voluntary Single Supplement US$430.
You will need to bring your own helmet as they are not supplied locally.
Getting to Bhutan
There are limited flights into Bhutan. The following cities have flights into Paro where our tour starts:
India: Bagdogra, Delhi, Gaya, Kolkata
If you can get yourself to one of the above cities our local partners in Bhutan are able to quote and book your flights. Please contact us to let us know your plans.
Extra Days in Bhutan
If you wish to arrive into Bhutan early or stay longer the tourism rules of Bhutan mean that you can’t simply book a night of accommodation and look after yourself. Any extra time outside of the Pedal Pedal tour must be arranged through a travel agent and will incur the standard Bhutan per day costs of a minimum of US$225 per night (there is a surcharge for less than 3 people) plus booking fee. This cost will include all meals, transport, accommodation, guiding and any standard sightseeing that you might like to do. If you are interested in extra days in Bhutan please get in touch and we can help with arrangements.
FLIGHTS, STOPOVERS, EXCURSIONS
Our agent partners at Nexus Travel in Monbulk are on hand to help with other flight bookings, insurance, extra hotel nights, stopovers and anything else that you might need aside from the Bhutan tour. If you would like any help or advice give Lucy a call on (03) 9756 7566. Lucy works Mon-Thu 9am-4pm.