Day 1 Arrive in Paro
After being picked up at the airport, we check into the hotel. In the afternoon, we visit Paro Museum, which features local art, textiles, artifacts, and sculptures. We’ll also visit one of the major Dzongs located in Paro. In the evening, we’ll have a welcome dinner prepared in traditional Bhutanese style.
Day 2 Tiger’s Nest Monastery Hike
We’ll have a hearty breakfast to prepare ourselves for a trip highlight and Bhutan must-do: a hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. After a short transfer to Takstang, we’ll begin our climb of roughly 900 m in 4 kilometers. The rewards will be worth it, as we bask in the view and enjoy an unprecedented look at one of the most secluded sites in Tibetan Buddhism. Then it’s back to Thimphu to satiate the appetite we’ve been working up, followed by some more sightseeing at some museums and institutes showcasing Bhutan’s fascinating local arts and traditions. In the late afternoon, we’ll fit our bikes and enjoy a short and scenic off-road ride to get the legs working, and get used to the altitude! We’ll ride back to the hotel to enjoy dinner and rest up for the upcoming challenging day of cycling!
Day 3 Thimphu – Punakha
Today will be the first major hill challenge. We have a 5-km warm up before we start climbing for the next 18 km to the pass at Dochula, which is known for its spiritual energy and 108 Chortens that are atop the pass. Lunch at Dochula Café is the perfect place to take in the expansive views of the deep valleys and eastern Himalayas. After lunch, as we descend down the pass, we move from oak, maple, and blue pine forests into rhododendron, hemlock, and fir vegetation and along with many monasteries that come into view to make this a downhill ride to remember.
Day 4 Punakha – Wangdue
The ride today is more leisurely as we take time to explore the beautiful and lush valley that surrounds Punakha. We will visit Punakha Dzong, one of the most impressive Dzongs in Bhutan, which was built in 1638 and is all the more remarkable as it was constructed without the use of drawings or a single nail! The other major visit today will be to Chhimi Lhakhang. Built in 1499, it is also known as the temple of the “Devine Madman” (Lama Drukpa Kinley) and of the disciple of one of the five great tertons (treasure discoverer), Pema Lingpa. This temple is also noted for its blessing of women who wish to bear children. In the afternoon, we ride the short way to Wangdue.
Day 5 Wangdue – Trongsa
We start with a transfer to avoid a 52-km climb. Starting at the summit of Pelela pass at 3,420 m, we will ride 68 km to Trongsa, home to Bhutan’s largest dzong, built in 1644, which is situated high above the Mangde Chu with one side of sheer drops. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan passed through the courtyard of the dzong, and the massive doors could be shut, dividing the country in two. We’ll visit the dzong in the late afternoon.
Day 6 Trongsa – Jakar
It is an interesting ride today, because, as we head over one pass, Yontong La (28 km), you can still see the old trade route that runs parallel with the pass before heading downhill for 24 km through fir, then pine and bamboo forests before reaching Zungney. For the final leg of the ride, we have a gradual climb to Kiki La before descending down to Jakar, also known as Bumthang.
Day 7 Jakar Loop
The morning is free to sleep in or have a wander around the small town that is the Bumthang Valley’s trading hub. In the afternoon, we have a leisurely ride and a chance to visit some of the many dzongs and Goembas that are scattered around the valley.
Day 8 Jakar – Tang Valley
We cycle on the main road for 12 km before heading off to ride up the remote Tang valley. Our first break will be at the burning lake where we learn its legend before riding on to a nunnery where we stop for a visit. We continue on up on a mixture of paved and dirt roads to a former palace that is now a museum and guesthouse. We overnight in Ugyen Cholling and visit the private museum to learn about feudal Bhutan.
Day 9 Tang Valley – Shirtung La – Ura
Heading back to the main road, our first climb of the day takes us to Shirtung La, and, at the top of the pass, we’ll hopefully have a clear view of Gangkhar Puensum, which, at 7,570 m, is the world’s highest unclimbed peak. Since 1994, climbing mountains in Bhutan higher than 6,000 m was prohibited out of respect for local spiritual beliefs, and, since 2003, mountaineering has been forbidden completely. We have the option to ride down on single track trails to Ura village, or we can continue on the paved road.
Day 10 Ura – Thrumshing La – Sengor Campsite
From Ura, we make our way over the highest pass in Bhutan at 3,798 m, the Thurmshing La. We reach the summit of the pass after riding 22 km and are then rewarded with a glorious 20 km downhill to our campsite at Sengor.
Day 11 Sengor – Mongar
Our downhill continues with a 60 km descent to the Kuru Chu River. We start at 3051 m, descend all the way to 579 m, before climbing back up to 1590 m. We slowly make our way up a series of switchbacks to the remote village of Mongar, one of the country’s oldest educational hubs.
Day 12 Mongar – Kori La – Trashigang
It is a day of ups and downs as we have a 20 km climb up to the Kori La at 2,390 m. Again, we are rewarded for our efforts as we have a 42 km descent down to the Drangme Chu River. A relatively flat, for Bhutan anyway, cycle along the river takes us to the bridge that crosses the Drangme, and then it’s one final uphill climb to our hotel on the outskirts of Trashigang, the easternmost point of our trip across Bhutan.
Day 13 Trashigang – Yongphu La – Wamrong Campsite
A tough start to our day with 25 km on switchbacks up to the Yongphu La at 2,544 m. On the way, we pass the town of Kanglung, home to Sherubtse College, the first accredited college in Bhutan, founded in 1966 by Jesuits. We have our final sweeping panoramic views before we continue on undulating terrain above scattered houses and fields to our campsite outside the town of Wamrong.
Day 14 Wamrong – Samdrup Jongkhar
We ride to our final pass at 2,388 m and catch our first glimpse of the Assam plain. We next experience another amazing descent of 3080 m, all the way down to the border town of Samdrup Jongkhar. We’ll follow many rivers and feel the change in temperature as we descend almost back to sea level, ending our ride at an elevation of 130 m! In the evening, we’ll celebrate our accomplishment of crossing Bhutan from west to east!
Day 15 Drive to Guwahati Airport
Time to pack the bikes away as we cross the border to India. We drive approximately 4 hours, depending on the border control to Guwahati airport and fly onward.