DAY 1 - PARO ARRIVAL - 2200 metres.
We arrive at Bhutan’s premier airport, in the beautiful Paro valley in the far east of the country. Here the clear mountain air, forested ridges, imposing monasteries, and welcoming Bhutanese people in their striking national dress will provide a breath-taking first impression.
Arriving at our hotel we can take a short rest before our first Bhutanese lunch. This afternoon we can assemble our bikes in preparation for the adventure ahead. Once our machines are prepared we are free to explore the streets of Paro, located 2km from our accommodation, or perhaps rest our legs before setting off the following morning.
Dinner will be served at a traditional farmhouse just meters from the oldest temple in Paro. Here, guests will enjoy their first real taste of Bhutanese culture and learn about the strong role that the Buddhist religion plays in the local people's lives
Elevation Gain: 0M
DAY 2 - PARO to HAA (Over Chelela Pass)
This morning we pass through farmland and scattered hamlets en-route to the start of the long climb to Bhutan’s highest motor-able pass - the 4000 metre Chele La. The climb is gradual and offers glimpses to the north of the snow-capped peaks of Bhutan’s Himalaya. Some 36 kilometres later, we reach the prayer flagged pass where we can enjoy snacks and refreshments before the 20-kilometre descent towards Haa. During this exhilarating descent, we will lunch overlooking the township of Haa and the army camp below.
The climbing is not yet over though, after enjoying a little of the local architecture and history there is a final 14-kilometre climb on gradual, undulating roads to our accommodation for the night in a beautiful rural location.
Elevation Gain: 1825M
DAY 3 - HAA to THIMPH
Today we ride 125kms to the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu. The first half of the ride follows the Haachu river gently downhill, passing wild monkeys and mountainside yak, as we descend through the small villages where locals will greet us with cheer.
At ninety-five kilometres a picnic lunch will be served in a secluded location, before the final stretch of the day takes us past rice fields and forest, above the Wang River.
With a population of 150,000, including Bhutan's King, Thimphu has a special charm. This evening we can watch the local people in the town square wearing their traditional dress and going about their business in a typically, unhurried Bhutanese manner. Our hotel is located in the heart of the city where we can enjoy a well-earned beer.
Elevation Gain: 1160M
DAY 4 - THIMPHU to PUNAKHA
After a short but memorable stay in Thimphu, we set off to cross the 3000-metre Dochu La. After a gentle 5Ks to warm the legs, the gentle 22km climb to Dochu La begins in earnest as we climb through woodland, abundant with flora and fauna. The lower slopes are lush with fruit - orange trees and banana, as well as bamboo. We are likely to spot several species of deer and monkeys who make their home in the forest, whilst dodging a variety of wild animals who relax casually on the quiet road. At the top of the pass - marked by 108 stunning Buddhist stupas, our crew will great us with snacks as we enjoy the magnificent views of the Eastern Himalaya. The downhill from Dochu La into the Punakha valley is without a doubt one of the most stunning rides in the world. During the fifty kilometre descent, we will loose seventeen hundred vertical metres as we sweep through the lush majestic jungle to lunch, and a magnificent Dzong dating back to 1637. Continuing towards the ancient capital of Punakha we cross Bhutan's longest suspension bridge, which leads us to Hotel Lobesa. Perched high in the mountains with unrivalled views of rice fields and temples, the hotel will treat us tonight to a dinner fit for kings.
Elevation Gain: 1550M
DAY 5 – PUNAKHA to PHOBJIKHA
The central road across the Black Mountain was completed 35 years ago, and its completion brought about great changes to the people of central Bhutan.
We will leave our hotel and cycle down to the river and the valley floor, one of the lowest points of the trip at 600m above sea level. Crossing the bridge, riders will have a short climb to the village of Wangdue before a relatively flat 20kms. We then begin the deceptively long climb over the Black Mountain, during which we gain nigh on 1200 metres. Upon reaching the small settlement in Norbuding we have time for lunch, after which we have another 800 vertical metres of climbing before reaching the glacial Phobjikha valley, consider by many to be the most beautiful valley in Bhutan.
We end the day with a flat, out and back ride exploring the valley before settling into our mid-valley hotel.
Elevation Gain: 2100M
DAY 6 – PHOBJIKHA to TRONGSA
Leaving the hotel we have around 13kms to reach the peak of Pele La Pass at 3360m, followed by a 60-kilometre descent during which we lose 1500 metres. Here the scene changes as the down-hill leads us past herds of grazing yak and possibly rare langur monkeys. Following lunch at a magnificent stupa, we join one of Bhutan's challenging gravel roads for the first time and round off the day with an eight-kilometre climb to our comfy accommodation for the night.
Elevation Gain: 500M
Some gravel road.
DAY 7 - TRONGSA to BUMTHANG
The road out of Trongsa climbs rapidly through a series of hairpins, with splendid views back to the Dzong and out across the valley below. After passing through cultivated fields, we re-enter the forest on gravel roads before descending to a low point of 2650m and the wide-open Bumthang valley. There follows a short and beautiful climb to Kiki La, before a fantastic descent to Bumthang - known as 'Bhutan's Switzerland' due to the similarities in flora, fauna, agriculture and architecture - and our accommodation for the night.
Our accommodation is run and owned by a Swiss expat who now calls Bhutan home and is famous throughout Bhutan for introducing European farming methodologies to Bhutanese culture.
Elevation Gain: 1500M
Some gravel road
DAY 8 - TANG VALLEY RETURN
The Tang is one of four valleys in the Bumthang district and offers incredible views and riding terrain. Our route takes us along small, quiet mountain roads that gradually climb towards the Tang Valley along a road of winding switchbacks through thick forest. As we ride we will pass nomad collecting wild strawberries, and shepherds guiding herds of cattle along the road.
Arriving at the Ugyencholing Manor, we will enjoy a fantastic home-cooked lunch, and stunning views across the valley floor beneath us. Once sated we can spend some time roaming the private museum at the manor and learn all about the life of a 16th-century Bhutanese noble family.
The ride back from the Tang Valley will be our last of the trip. As we descend back into Bumthang, there will be the option to explore the village, or return to the accommodation for drinks, and to pack our bags and bikes for our departure the following day.
Elevation Gain: 1800M
DAY 9 - BUMTHANG to PARO
After breakfast, we have a 30 mins flight back to Paro. For those keen to sightsee we have a guided tour this afternoon which includes Paro Dzong Monastery and the National Museum.
DAY 10 – PARO (TIGER NEST) 5 hours hike.
Visit Bhutan’s most iconic temple, The Tiger’s Nest. Perched high on a cliff face at 3,000m
2-hour climb on a steep footpath through beautiful Pine forest, clad with Spanish moss and fluttering prayer flags. At the 'Nest' itself, we will spend some time exploring the monastery before descending back to the base below. Halfway down the climb, we will stop for lunch at the oldest cafe in Bhutan, with spectacular views of the Monastery above.
We round off a fine day with our final meal together back at our hotel
Elevation Gain: 0M
DAY 11 - DEPARTURE
Transfer to Paro International airport for home
Elevation Gain: 0M
TOUR ELEVATION PROFILE
© Painted Roads 2019. All rights reserved.