Duration: 14 days and 13 nights
Nature of tour: Cycling and cultural sightseeing
Places covered: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Trongsa, Bumthang, Mongar, Trashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar
Difficulty grading: Challenging
Exit: Samdrup Jongkhar
Representative from See Bhutan Travels will welcome you at Paro international airport. Get transferred to your hotel and enjoy your lunch.
After lunch we will be riding around Paro town and if time permits, we will pay visits to following places:
Paro Ta Dzong (national museum): Located on a spur above Rinpung Dzong, five and a half kilometers’ drive from Tshongdu town, the dzong was built in the mid-17th century as a watchtower overlooking Rinpung Dzong by Lanyongpa Tenzin Drukdra and Chogyal Migyur Tenpa. The circular dzong houses the National Museum of Bhutan
Paro Rinpung Dzong: Located on the bank of Pachu River, Paro Dzong, formally known as Rinchen Pung Dzong (shortened to Rinpung Dzong), was built in 1644 under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is one of the most beautiful and historically important dzongs in the country. Today, it houses both district administration and monastic body.
Overnight: At hotel in Paro.
In the morning ride till Taktsang base from where the 6 hour round trip hiking to Taktsang monastery begins.
Horse riding facilities are available till Taktsang viewpoint while hiking up.
Taktsang Monastery: The monastery is located 900 m above Paro valley on the face of a rocky cliff. Taktshang is perhaps the most famous monastery in the country. The monastery was named Taktshang after Guru Rinpoche flew there from Kurtoe Singay Dzong (Eastern Bhutan) riding on a tigress to subdue a demon. Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the secular head of the country (1680-1694) has begun the construction of the monastery at this site in 1692 and completed in the year 1694. The monastery houses many temples that contain sacred statues of eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Tshepame Yabyum and Bone relic of Pelgi Singay.
Towards evening, after reaching back from Taktsang monastery, we will visit to Drugyal Dzong
Drugyal Dzong: Located in Phongdey village in Paro, the Dzong was built as one of the principal Dra Dzong (defence dzongs). While some attribute the building of the Dzong to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1649 to commemorate a victory over Tibetan invasion, some attribute it to the second Druk Desi Tenzin Drukdra. But as its name suggests (Druk – Drukpa; gyal – victory), the Dzong was built to celebrate the victory over Tibetans. The Dzong was used as the summer residence of Rinpung Rabdey until 1951 when it was completely burnt down. The Dzong is currently being rebuilt to its former glory to celebrate the birth of crown prince Jigme Namgyel.
Overnight: At hotel in Paro
After breakfast our journey will continue towards Thimphu (capital), located 65 km east of Paro. After arriving at Thimphu we will visit to following sites (in tour vehicle):
Memorial Chorten: Located in the heart of Thimphu city, it was built in 1974 by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Phuntsho Choden in memory of her son, Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The three-storey choeten houses several relics such as Phurba Lhatshog, Kagay, Khrowo Nampur Gyalwa, Guru Tshengye, and Khenlop Chesum. The choeten is today the spiritual nerve centre of the city.
Buddha Statue: Located at Kuenselphodrang, facing Thimphu valley down bellow is the worlds’ largest and tallest Buddha statue standing at the height of 169 feet (52m). The statue houses one hundred thousand of smaller Buddha statues, the exact replica of the outer Buddha statue. From here one can have a 360 degree view of Thimphu valley.
Textile museum: Located near National library at Chubachu, it was established in the year 2001. The museum contains Bhutanese textiles, arts, crafts and more importantly the royal collections which includes first version of the Raven crown worn by first and second King of Bhutan, dresses and accessories worn by royal family and the bedding of his holiness Zhabdrung Jigme Dorji.
Overnight: At hotel in Thimphu
Punakha is located 77 km east of Thimphu. Ride to Punakha from Thimphu includes uphill riding till Dochula pass (23 km) and from there; it is a downhill riding till you reach near the bank of Punatshang Chhu River.
En-route to Punakha we will pay visit to Khemae Lhakhang, the monastery dedicated to Tibetan saint Drukpa Kuenley.
Khemae Lhakhang: Located on a hillock in Lobesa (Punakha), the temple was built in 1499 by Lam Ngawang Chogyal, the cousin of Lam Drukpa Kunley, on the spot where the latter subdued a demon who was running away in the form of a dog. Lam Drukpa Kunley buried the demon and said there was no dog now (khe – dog; mae – no). Hence, the temple came to be known as the “temple of no dog”. Today however it is pronounced as Chimi Lhakhang. The temple contains the bow and arrows of Lam Drukpa Kunley and a phallus to bless the visitor.
After reaching Punakha we will pay visit to Punakha Dzong.
Punakha Dzong: The dzong is situated on a stretch of a land where two rivers – Phochu and Mochu – meet. The dzong was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the year in 1937 and named it Pungthang Dewa Chenpai Phodrang, the palace of great bliss. Later it became the final retreat palace for him. The first monarch, King Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned there and it served as the capital of the country until 1955. Today it serves as the winter residence of the Central Monastic Body. The sacred relic Rangjung Kharsapani is also kept in the Machen Temple inside the dzong.
Overnight: At hotel in Punakha
In the morning we will hike to Khamsum Yelley Namgyal Chorten (stupa).
Khamsum Yelley Namgyal Choeten: Located in Kabesa Gewog, about 7 km drive from Punakha town; the Choeten was built with the sponsorship of her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck between 1992 and 1999 under the guidance of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Lam Sonam Zangpo. The three-storey choeten contains the images of Dorji Phurba on the ground floor, Khrowo Khamsum Namgyal on the first floor, and Khrowo Nampur Gyalwa on the second floor.
On hiking back from the stupa, your raft will be ready waiting for you. There are two rivers where you can enjoy rafting at Punakha, Pho Chhu River and Mo chhu River. Rafting distances are around 12 km on both the rivers and it takes approximately 2 hours on both the rivers. Depending on your choice we can raft on either or both of the rivers.
Towards evening enjoy riding around Punakha valley.
Overnight: At hotel in Punakha
After early breakfast, we will start our journey towards Gangtey valley. Riding towards Gangtey from Punakha will be demanding since it involves uphill riding but for those who cannot ride all the way can always use the service of tour vehicle.
At an altitude of 3000 m above sea level, under Wangduephodrang district of western Bhutan, Gangtey valley is one amongst the most beautiful glacial valley in Bhutan. It is located 200 km east of Paro International Airport.
During the winter months (November – February), this valley receives its unique visitors, the globally threatened Black Necked Crane(Grus Nigricollis) which migrates from neighboring Tibetan plateaus and Northern India.
If time permits, we will pay visit to nearby local villages and mingle with local farmers.
Overnight: At hotel in Gangtey
Today we will dedicate our day for exploring around Gangtey valley. We will go for short hike around the valley, mingle with local farmers and know about their daily lives. Towards afternoon, pay visit to Gangtey Goemba (monastery), the seat of Gangtey truelku, to whom the linage of Bhutan’s ruling monarch, the Wangchuck dynasty is linked.
Overnight: At hotel in Gangtey.
Today is a long day ride to Trongsa from Gangtey valley. Our journey begins by riding uphill towards Pelela Pass (3430 m). This pass has served as traditional demarcation between eastern and western Bhutan.
The road then descends down gradually towards Chendebji valley, remains constant for a while and finally ascends towards Trongsa.
After long and tiring day we will stop over at Trongsa for the night.
Day 7 starts with an uphill riding from Trongsa towards Yotongla (3430 m). It is a grueling 29 km uphill riding before it descends down towards Nangar. From Nangar it is again an uphill riding till Kiki la (2870 m). From here the road then finally descends down towards Bumthang Chamkhar town (2610 m).
Check into your hotel and call it a day.
Bumthang, known as cultural heartland of Bhutan has been blessed by visits of many Buddhist saints from neighboring states of Tibet, India and Nepal. Bumthang have scores of sacred places and monasteries which are linked to Buddhist culture and traditions of Bhutan.
Following are few sites and monasteries that we are going to visit today:
Kurje Lhakhang: Located in Kurje in the Chokhor valley, around 15 minutes’ drive from Chamkhar town (Bumthang), the site of the three temples has a body impression of Guru Rinpoche left behind after he meditated there and subdued evil spirits the chief of which was Shelging Karpo. Kurje means body impression. Guru Rinpoche visit Bumthang in 746 AD at the invitation of the local king, Chakhar Gyalpo. The oldest temple was built in 1652 by Chogyal Migyur Tenpa, the first Choetse Chila. The second temple was built in 1900 by the first King Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck on the spot where Guru left his body imprint, and the third temple was built in the 1990s under the commanded of Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck. The first, second, and the third temple contain respectively the three Buddha (the past, present and future), a 12-metre tall statue of Guru Rinpoche, and Khenlop Chosum (Guru Rinpoche, King Thrisong Duetsen, and Pandit Santarakshita).
Jakar Dzong: Located on a ridge above Chamkhar valley, Jakar Dzong, formally called Jakar Yugyal Dzong, was founded by Lam Ngagi Wangchuk (Buddhist priest) in 1549. Lam Ngagi Wangchuk was believed to have seen a white bird land at the spot where he built a small temple and started a monastic body. Later, when Desi Chogyal Migyur Tenpa (secular head of Bhutan, 1667-1680) expanded the temple into a Dzong in 1646, it came to be known as Jakar (Bya dkar) Dzong (White Bird Dzong). The Dzong houses many temples and it is today the seat of district administration and monastic body.
Jampay Lhakhang: Located in Chokhor Gewog in Bumthang, 10 minutes’ drive from Chamkhar town; Jampay Lhakhang is believed to be one of the two temples (the other is Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro) built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century AD in Bhutan among 108 temples that he built in one day to subdue a demoness that lay supine across the Himalayas. It’s believed to have been built on the left knee of the demoness. Besides the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa (Maitreya) from which the temple derives its name, the temple contains more than 100 statues of the gods of Kalachakra built by the first King of Bhutan in 1887.
Tamzhing Lhakhang: Located in Tamzhing, some 20 minutes’ drive from Chamkhar town, it was built in 1505 by Terton Pema Lingpa; the temple served as his main seat. The relics contained in the statues in the temple are treasures discovered by the terton (treasure discoverer) himself. The two-storey temple houses the images of Peling Tsokhor Sum (three principal deities of Peling tradition), the three Buddhas (Duesum Sangay), Guru Tshengyed (eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), and a life-size statue of Terton Pema Lingpa. Among many relics crafted by the founder himself are the hat of Guru Statue and metal chain armour.
Overnight: At hotel in Bumthang
Mongar is located 198 km east of Bumthang. Due to long distance, it will not be possible to complete the entire journey by cycling unless you are an experienced rider. For those who cannot complete the entire journey by cycle can use the service of tour vehicle.
We start our journey by ascending slowly, crossing Ura village. From Ura it is a difficult uphill riding till Thrimshingla pass located 3800 m above sea level. The road then descends down via beautiful Sengor village to Lingmithang of as low as 650 m above sea level and then finally ascends towards Mongar (1600m).
Overnight: At hotel in Mongar
After breakfast, start your journey eastward towards Trashigang. In the morning stroll around Mongar town and start cycling uphill towards Korila pass (2400 m). From here it is fairly an easy downhill ride till Sheri Chhu (River) Bridge. We will follow Drangme Chhu River bank and ascend slowly upward till we reach Trashigang town.
Overnight: At hotel in Trashigang
It is another long day ride. Samdrupjongkhar is a border town located 180 km south of Trashigang. We begin our journey riding uphill towards Yonphula pass, crossing Sherubtse College, the oldest in Bhutan. This college was founded in the year 1966 by a group of Jesuits under the leadership of father William Mackey. The road from Yonphula then descends gradually until we reach Samdrupjongkhar.
Your cycling journey comes to an end today.
Overnight: At hotel in Samdrupjongkhar.
After breakfast, your guide and driver will drop you off at Bus stand located next to Bhutan gate (within India). Buses from here depart to Guwahati, the nearest international airport. Guwahati is located 100 km south of Samdrupjongkhar.
One way to explore Bhutan is by riding a bicycle. Nestled at the foothills of Himalaya, Bhutan is amongst the most culturally and geographically diverse country in the world. Scenically breathtaking, with age-old culture and traditions preserved through generations, perfect way of discovering Bhutan is from the saddle of a bicycle. Be it beginners or professionals, riders of all level can enjoy cycling in Bhutan.
All the required accessories such as helmets and extra tubes are included in tour packages but it is advisable that you bring your own helmet, saddle and toe clips of your size.
A pickup truck or back up vehicle (for larger groups) and tour vehicle will be following you for your entire tour. For those who do not wish to ride for longer distance, uphill roads or those who cannot keep pace with their fellow riders can use the service of tour vehicle, while their bikes are carried by back up vehicles.
For longer duration tours, a guide and a separate mechanic will be following you for the entire tour and for shorter duration tours, guide with a mechanical knowledge will follow you. Extra charges will be levied for hiring bicycle, if you want your guide to ride alongside with you. Otherwise your guide will be travelling in the tour vehicle.
Except summer season (June, July and August) during which Bhutan receives heavy rainfall, rest of the year is suitable for cycling in Bhutan.
With cooler temperature and less rain; October, November, December, March and April are the best month to visit Bhutan for on-road bicycling tour.
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