LabRat Run '21 - Bhutan
The Bhutan Rats
For 2021, by invitation only.
LabRat Runs have quickly become a PaintedRoads tradition. A group of easygoing and adventurous regulars, The LabRats annually sate their appetite for adventure by joining the inaugural running of a PaintedRoads adventure tour. for 2020 we head for the Himalayas, and the little-visited Buddhist Shangri-La, Bhutan.
Bhutan is a special and unique Himalayan Kingdom where success is measured in Gross National Happiness, not Gross National Product. In order to keep tourism at a controlled level, a minimum fee per day is levied on all tourists. Not only does this famously make Bhutan one of the most costly nations in the region to visit, but it is also, quite genuinely, probably the happiest, most peaceful, and safest.
PaintedRoads cycling adventure through Bhutan offers a very special view of an already exclusive country. As we cycle through the Himalayas, enjoying some of Asia's most spectacular views and exhilarating cycling terrain we pass beautiful monasteries, wonderful wildlife - hunting is illegal, and meet fascinating people.
Bhutan really is the ride of a lifetime.
At a Glance
Total Days: 11
Cycling Days: 7
Daily Average: 97km
Max. Alt.: 4000m
2021: 24 Oct - 03 Nov: $3600.00
By Invitation Only
The 2021 LabRat Run will take a group of PaintedRoads regulars to the exclusive Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.
Cycling across Bhutan is one of the most exciting adventures one can experience on a bike.
Travelling from the far west to the central region of the Bhutanese Kingdom will reward riders with challenging climbs of up to 4,000m in elevation, and allow them to experience mind-blowing descents that last for hours through some of the most beautiful and unspoiled landscapes on earth.
Our guide is one of the worlds only certified cycling guides to be recognised by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
This is a challenging tour with several days in excess of 100 kilometres and daily climbing between 1100 and 2100 metres. climbs can be up to 35 kilometres in durations, with descents to match. The highest point of the tour is 4000 metres so altitude can be a factor, although we do not stay long at this altitude and we do not sleep this high.
Overall this is a challenging tour for experienced cyclists.
We will be staying in comfortable 3-star hotels
You will be met at Paro International Airport (Code PBH) on arrival and escorted to our joining hotel where you will be greeted by your tour leader.
Included in this tour
All accommodation, internal flight, Western tour leader, local guide, support vehicle, all meals, snacks and water whilst cycling.
Not Included: International flights, bicycle (rental bicycle available), alcohol, food and drink away from the group activities.
At PaintedRoads, we hold firmly to the opinion that using your own bike, the bike on which you feel at home and comfortable is the finest way to enjoy a cycling adventure.
Most kinds of bicycle, except light-weight racing bikes, are suitable for this ride: touring bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, gravel, or cyclocross bikes are all fine. The roads on this tour are predominantly sealed, but there are a couple of days with gravel sections. Tyres from 35mm in width upwards will be fine. There are plenty of long climbs reaching up to 4000 metres in altitude, so please be sure that your bicycle has sensible gearing - this is not the Tour de France, this is an adventure. If in doubt please ask for advice.
Our back-up vehicle carries tools, but for those competent with repairs bringing your own pump, puncture kit, and multi-tool is recommended as it would speed up repairs and minor adjustments. If bringing your own bike please bring along a couple of spare inner tubes, puncture repair kit, spare brake pads, and a few spare spokes that fit your wheels (please note that different wheels have different size spokes). If in doubt please ask at your local bike shop.
A means of carrying water, your camera, sunblock etc is also useful – either an on-bike bag, handlebar or saddlebag for example or a lightweight day-pack.
•Recommendation: Although our hire bikes come equipped with a saddle if you have a saddle you use and are happy with it is strongly recommended that you use it on tour. If you use SPD type shoes please bring your own matching pedals. We are happy to fit these for you. You may also like to bring bar ends if you use them at home.
Suitable Bicycle: MTB, Touring Bike, Cyclocross/Gravel Bike.
ESSENTIAL! Please be sure that your bicycle is in perfect condition before you leave home. Again, if in doubt please consult your local bike shop.
If you do wish to hire a bicycle we can arrange for the hire of good quality cycles from our in-country agent.
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
Markers below are clickable as are the markers on the map itself.
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£ Pound Sterling Payment Option
Our prices are all in US dollars but we can offer you the option of paying in GBP (£) based on the exchange rate at the time of booking. You can choose on the booking form, adjusted prices will be shown there.
2021: 24 Oct - 03 Nov
Trek Marlin 7 - US$300
The prices quoted above are for a twin room share basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another lone traveler of the same gender to share with. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the single supplement rate shown is per person.