15D 14N Mountain Biking Adventure

  • Mountain Biking Adventure

    Mountain Biking Adventure
    Mountain Biking Adventure

Bhutan Tour Itinerary

Jump on your bike and prepare for an unforgettable mountain bike journey along one of the world’s greatest trails, the Trans Bhutan Trail. Visit some of Bhutan’s most important spiritual and historical landmarks on the way and immerse yourself in Bhutan’s unique traditional culture in the communities which flank the trail. Take in Bhutan’s unique capital, Thimphu, the charming town of Punakha, and the royal cities of Trongsa and Bumthang, before rounding off with a hike up to the incredible Tiger’s Nest Monastery.


Day 1

Day 1: Paro – Thimphu

Elevation      Weather in Paro

On arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be transferred by private vehicle to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital city. With elevations ranging between 2,248 metres (7,375 feet) and 2,648 metres (8,688 feet) above sea level, Thimphu is the fifth highest capital city in the world by altitude; and it is also the only capital city in the world without any traffic lights. The city offers a unique blend of the modern world alongside striking Bhutanese tradition.

The remainder of the day will be at leisure to rest before enjoying dinner with your guide at a local restaurant, your first chance to learn about and sample Bhutanese cuisine.

Accommodation: Tara Phendheling Hotel or similar (3*)
Meals: D

Day 2

Day 2: Thimphu

Elevation      Weather in Paro

Today will be spent taking in the best of Thimphu’s numerous attractions. First, head to the scenic Kabisa Valley, just north of Thimphu, to the Choki Traditional Art School. Choki is Bhutan’s only private institution providing free education to underprivileged youths who have a keen interest in learning the traditional arts and crafts. During your visit to the school you will see students engaged in a number of traditional art forms, including painting, carving, and tapestry.

Before heading back into Thimphu, drop in at the Pangri Zampa Monastery, where you will have the chance of a private reading with a monk astrologer. Astrology in Bhutan is an ancient and highly respected science and locals will often consult the stars before making major life decisions such as getting married, changing jobs, or buying a car.

Also visit Thimphu Dzong (fortress). The Dzong was rebuilt by His Majesty the Third King of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, in 1962, when the capital of Bhutan was moved from Punakha to Thimphu. Since that time it has been the seat of the Government of Bhutan. Undoubtedly Thimphu’s most imposing building, you will have time to enjoy its quiet courtyards, the small Lhakhang Sarp chapel and the Dzong’s imposing utse (tower).

After lunch in a local restaurant, head to Buddha Point, home to Thimphu’s most recognized landmark, the Buddha Dordenma. Guarding the entry to the Thimphu valley, this 51 metre (167 feet) gilded bronze statue is filled with 125,000 miniature statues and sits atop a three-storey base housing a chapel and thousands of donated statuettes. The statue was commissioned to mark His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s 60th birthday and was originally made in China before being transported to Thimphu in pieces. Your final stop for the day will then be at the Memorial Chorten, a Tibetan-style stupa built in 1974 and one of Thimphu’s busiest religious sites.

Enjoy dinner with your guide at another of the capital’s restaurants.

Accommodation: Tara Phendheling Hotel or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 3

Day 3: Thimphu – Dochula – Thinleygang

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at your hotel this morning, board your private vehicle for a transfer to the Dochula Pass, east of Thimphu, where you will join the Trans Bhutan Trail. At 3,100 metres (10,200 feet) above sea level, you will be able to enjoy excellent views from Dochula at clearer times of the year. Mountain passes are some of the most sacred places in Bhutan and so it is customary to burn incense as an offering in places such as this. You may also wish to join locals in hanging colourful prayer flags as a sign of respect to the Gods.

While at Dochula you may visit the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple), built in honour of His Majesty the Fourth King Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bhutanese Monarchy. The paintings in this temple are unique insofar as they combine modern flourishes with century-old techniques. The Temple hosts a yearly tshechu (festival) which pays tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty the King and the ongoing efforts of the Royal Bhutanese Army in protecting Bhutan’s sovereignty. You should also visit the Druk Wangyal Chorten (stupa), also known as the ‘108 Chortens’, and its nearby meditation caves.

From Dochula, enjoy an exhilarating ride down into the adjacent valley along a section of the Trail known as the ‘Divine Madman Trail’. You are now following in the footsteps of the Divine Madman himself, Drukpa Kuenley, when he first came to Bhutan from Tibet in the 16th century to fulfill his destiny of suppressing evil energies.

Your destination will be the village of Thinleygang, where you will enjoy a traditional Bhutanese hot lunch at a local farmhouse. After lunch, visit the Thinleygang Lhakhang (temple).

Accommodation: Signature Trans Bhutan Trail Camping
Meals: B,L,D
Cycling Distance: 10.5 kilometres (6.52 miles)
Elevation Gain: 100 metres (328 feet)
Starting Elevation: 3,104 metres (10,184 feet)
Ending Elevation: 1,811 metres (5,942 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,104 metres (10,184 feet)

Day 4

Day 4: Toeb Chandana – Mendelgang

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the village of Toeb Chandana in the Punakha Valley. On arrival, visit the Toeb Chandana Lhakhang (temple), also known as the Chandana Lhakhang, meaning ‘where the arrow landed’. Legend has it that when Drukpa Kuenley fired an arrow from Tibet to determine his course, it landed here in Toeb Chandana. The temple itself was built in the 15th century to ward off the evil energy of a demoness and then served as the religious seat of Ngawang Chogyal. The two hills at each end of the temple resemble knees and are said to be the knees of Ngawang Chogyal herself.

Next door to the Temple is the house of Toeb Tshewang, which Drukpa Kuenley’s arrow is said to have struck when it landed. Legend has it that, dressed as a hunting beggar, Kuenley courted Tshewang’s wife and that, in a fit of jealous rage, Tshewang drew a sword which Drukpa Kuenley miraculously knotted. Realizing Kuenley’s divine power, Tshewang offered him his wife as a gift to aid him in fulfilling his prophecies. The building still houses the eleven-stepped wooden ladder that Kuenley’s arrow is said to have struck; and the descendants of Tshewang have preserved the house as a monument for fifteen generations.

Afterwards, head out on your bike along the Trans Bhutan Trail towards the town of Punakha. First, the Trail ascends towards Sew Drangsa where you will find a clearing marked with prayer flags, which is where the monks stop for lunch when using this route to transfer between residences in Thimphu and Punakha. From Sew Drangsa, the trail descends towards Punakha Dzong (fortress), offering spectacular views of the Punakha Valley on the way.

On arrival in Punakha, enjoy a live cooking demonstration followed by an outdoor lunch. Then, in the afternoon, enjoy a gentle rafting expedition down the Mochhu River. Head to the put-in spot, around 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) north of Punakha Dzong and enjoy a leisurely float down the wide river valley past Her Majesty the Queen’s winter residences and His Majesty the King’s weekend retreat.

Dinner will be with your guide at a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Dhumra Farm Resort or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Cycling Distance: 12.5 kilometres (7.78 miles)
Elevation Gain: 250 metres (820 feet)
Starting Elevation: 1,582 metres (5,190 feet)
Ending Elevation: 1,227 metres (4,026 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 1,780 metres (5,840 feet)

Day 5

Day 5: Punakha – Lingmukha – Punakha

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at your hotel, you will be transferred to the village of Lingmukha. Visit the Lingmukha Lhakhang (temple), built by the great discoverer of treasure Terton Dorjee Lingpa. Oral tradition has it that Dorjee Lingpa arrived in Lingmukha in the 14th century, built the Lhakhang and then settled there along with his disciples. The Great Master is said to have discovered many ters (treasures) in the village.

Afterwards, jump on your bike for a ride up the feeder road and out of the pretty Lingmukha Valley. The valley is commonly referred to as Lingmup Sher gi Zhom, which translates as “the golden bowl”, on account of the many rice fields which lie beneath ridges to either side.

After a picnic lunch, continue your ride down towards Punakha, winding past rice fields on your way down.

In the afternoon, visit the Punakha Dzong (fortress), which was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in around 1637 at the confluence of the Phochhu (male river) and the Mochhu (female river). Arguably, it is the most beautiful Dzong in the country. The Dzong guards Bhutan’s most treasured relic, the Rangjung Kharsapani, an image of Chenresig kept away from the public in the utse (tower). It has survived Tibetan invasions, numerous fires, floods and a glacial lake burst. The Dzong served as the capital and seat of the Bhutanese Government until the early 1950s; and the coronation of His Majesty the First Druk, Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, took place here. The building currently serves as the winter residence for the monastic body.

Accommodation: Zhingkham Resort or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Cycling Distance: 12.25 kilometres (7.61 miles)
Elevation Gain: 200 metres (656 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,144 metres (7,034 feet)
Ending Elevation: 1,227 metres (4,026 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 2,190 metres (7,185 feet)

Day 6

Day 6: Punakha – Pelela – Rukubji – Trongsa

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred by private vehicle to the Pelela Pass. At 3,402 metres (11,162 feet) above sea level, the Pelela Pass is one of Bhutan’s highest and is traditionally considered the boundary between west and central Bhutan. Local craftspeople often sell fine yak-hair products at the roadside here.

From Pelela, head east on your mountain bike along the Trans Bhutan Trail. As you descend through the meadows below Pelela, keep an eye out for the remote yak herder camps which can be seen scattered around the valley. Stop in a traditional farmhouse in the village of Rukubji to enjoy a hot lunch, before visiting Rukubji’s village Lhakhang (temple), also known as Kuenzang Choling. It is thought that this temple was built some 300 years ago by a Lama named Tshendhen Duelwa. Unlike most temples, it is not built on a ridge with a view out over a valley, but rather on an extended plateau and close to two rivers: the reason for this is that the Lama is said to have built the temple on top of the head of a snake-demoness which he subdued in the same location. Rukubji is also famous for its unique local language, and you will have the chance to learn about it from the villagers over tea. The dialect, called Ngyen-Kye, is a mix of other dialects from across Bhutan and even some English words, and is now only spoken by a dozen or so households.

After lunch, rejoin your vehicle for a transfer towards Trongsa. Trongsa is Bhutan’s geographical center point and is very closely linked to the Bhutanese Royal Family: the first two hereditary Kings ruled from Trongsa Dzong (fortress) and the crown prince still traditionally serves as the Penlop (Governor) of Trongsa before acceding to the throne. The Trans Bhutan Trail still passes directly through the middle of the city of Trongsa and, in centuries gone by, the trail would actually have passed right through Trongsa Dzong itself. Today you have the option of recreating the experience of arriving at this powerful city on foot in the same way the garps (messengers) would have done centuries ago, as you descend into the steep valley below the viewpoint, enjoying spectacular views of the Dzong (fortress) on the opposite side. At the bottom of the valley, you will cross the old cantilever bridge over the Mangdechhu (river) before heading up the other side of the valley and entering Trongsa Dzong (fortress) via the Western gate.

Check into your hotel before heading out with your guide to enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Yanghill Resort or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Cycling Distance: 10 kilometres (6.21 miles)
Elevation Gain: 300 metres (984 feet)
Starting Elevation: 3,402 metres (11,162 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,735 metres (8,973 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,402 metres (11,162 feet)

Day 7

Day 7: Trongsa – Yotongla – Geytsa

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at your hotel, head further east by private vehicle towards the Yotongla Pass. From Yotongla, ride down through meadows and open forest until you meet the Geytsa River. The last stretch for today will then be a pleasant riverside ride towards Geytsa.

After arriving in Geytsa, you will have the chance to visit the home of a family in the nearby community of Chhumey. There, you will learn about the ancient art of weaving with yak wool, before visiting a local handicraft center.

Afterwards, head back to your hotel for dinner and overnight.

Accommodation: Chumey Nature Resort or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Cycling Distance: 9.5 kilometres (5.9 miles)
Elevation Gain: 300 metres (984 feet)
Starting Elevation: 3,430 metres (11,263 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,891 metres (9,485 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,430 metres (11,263 feet)

Day 8

Day 8: Geytsa – Bumthang

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at the hotel, head back out onto the Trans Bhutan Trail this morning, for a challenging ride eastwards towards Bumthang. This section is a particularly historic section of the Trail which would traditionally have been used by the Royal family when they transferred between Trongsa and Bumthang or Bumthang and Kuenga Rabten, where His Majesty the Second King had his summer residence. From Geytsa, the Trail rises through pine forests towards the Kikila Pass, where the trail briefly follows the route of the Owl Trek.

From Kiklia, the trail descends gently into the Bumthang Valley, offering spectacular views of Jakar Dzong (fortress) on the way down.

En route, enjoy a picnic lunch and a short visit to Chuchi Lhakhang (temple). Whilst there are no official records of when this temple was built, locals claim that it was one of the 108 temples built across the Himalayan region by King Songsten Gampo in the 10th century.

Time permitting, you may wish to visit the Bumthang Brewery, producers of Bhutan’s celebrated Red Panda Beer. Nearby is Bhutan’s only commercial cheese factory. Both the brewery and the cheese factory are legacies of a Swiss-run development project called Swiss Farm, which introduced distinctive European farming and production techniques into the Bumthang area.

Dinner this evening will be at a local restaurant with your guide.

Accommodation: Jakar Village Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Cycling Distance: 17.5 kilometres (10.88 miles)
Elevation Gain: 847 metres (2,779 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,891 metres (9,485 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,574 metres (8,445 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,544 metres (11,628 feet)

Day 9

Day 9: Bumthang – Phomdrong

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at your hotel, head east out of Bumthang, riding towards the Lhodrak Karchu Monastery and enjoying spectacular views over Chamkar town and the Babzur Valley as you go. Pay a visit to the Lhodrak Kharchu monastery, which is one of the most important in Bhutan. It is believed to have been founded in 1984 by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche, a descendent of a Tibetan lama whose spiritual lineage can be traced back to one of the close disciples of the great Buddhist Guru Padmasambhava. Originally, the two-story monastery was large enough to accommodate 70 monks, but has since grown considerably and is now home to over 400. The building houses a huge assembly hall with imposing statues of Guru Rinpoche and a beautiful terrace with breathtaking views of the Chhokhor Valley and Jakar Dzong.

The Trail then begins to descend as you reach the village of Babzur and continue towards the Pema Choling Nunnery. Women and girls who enrol here follow a nine-year course in the Nyingma Peling Buddhist tradition and are known for a particular drum ceremony known as “chod”.

After your visit to the nunnery, continue your ride south towards the sacred Mebartsho (the Burning Lake), where, in the 15th century, the great treasure hunter Pema Lingpa is said to have discovered several of Guru Rinpoche’s hidden treasures. Lingpa had a dream in which he was summoned to this particular location on the Tang River and, when he arrived, he saw at the bottom of the river a temple with many doors, one of which was open. He then swam down into a large cave where he was handed a treasure chest by a one-eyed woman. He would later repeat the feat in the presence of the local people and whilst holding a lit butter lamp which did not go out underwater – and it is because of that that this pool was named “burning lake”.

Enjoy a typical Bhutanese lunch at a local farmhouse in the nearby village of Phomdrong. During your visit, your host will show you how to make Bumthap Putha, a special type of buckwheat noodle traditional to the Bumthang region.

This evening, join a local Bhutanese family for a homestay experience at a farmhouse at Phom Drong. Your hosts will prepare a traditional Bhutanese meal for you, which you will enjoy seated on the floor, as is customary in Bhutanese homes.

Accommodation: Basic Farmhouse Homestay
Meals: B,L,D
Cycling Distance: 15.25 kilometres (9.48 miles)
Elevation Gain: 840 metres (2,756 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,574 metres (8,445 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,713 metres (8,901 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,109 metres (10,201 feet)

Day 10

Day 10: Phomdrong – Ura

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast with your hosts at the farm house, ride east out of Phomdrong towards Ura. The Trail follows the old East-West highway for a short while before cutting back into the rolling countryside, passing fields of buckwheat. Enjoy a picnic lunch near the village of Tangsiji where you will rest before taking on the switchback climb towards the Sheytangla Chorten (stupa) – the views of the Ura valley from here are fantastic. From the Chorten, ride back down into the valley towards Ura, where you will spend the night at a Signature TBT Campsite.

Accommodation: Signature Trans Bhutan Trail Camping
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 18 kilometres (11.19 miles)
Elevation Gain: 1,182 metres (3,878 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,713 metres (8,901 feet)
Ending Elevation: 3,139 metres (10,299 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,576 metres (11,733 feet)

Day 11

Day 11: Ura – Bumthang

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at the guesthouse, board a private vehicle for a transfer back towards Bumthang. On arrival in Bumthang, visit the Jambay Lhakhang (temple), which is said to be one of the 180 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo on a single day, to pin down an ogress to earth forever.

Also visit the majestic Jakar Dzong (fortress), also known as the ‘Castle of the White Bird’. This huge structure dominates the Chamkhar Valley and the town below it. It was built in 1549 by the Tibetan Lam Nagi Wangchuk and was Eastern Bhutan’s main defensive stronghold. Later, it became the seat of the First King of Bhutan. Unique features include its fifty-metre utse (tower) and a sheltered passage with two parallel walls, interconnected by fortified towers, which guaranteed the fortress’s inhabitants access to water during a siege.

Dinner this evening will be with your guide at a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Jakar Village Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 12

Day 12: Bumthang – Punakha

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at your hotel, board your vehicle for a transfer from Bumthang to Punakha. En route, stop in the town of Trongsa. Enjoy a tour of Trongsa Dzong (fortress), which was first built by Ngagi Wangchuck as a small meditation room in 1541, after he discovered self-manifested hoof-prints belonging to the deity Pelden Lhamo on the same spot. Trongsa, which means ‘new village’ in the local dialect, soon sprung up around the site. The Dzong (fortress) was built in its present form in 1644 and then enlarged again at the end of the 17th century. It is home to some 450 district monks who spend their winters in Trongsa and their summers in Bumthang. You will visit a selection of the Dzong’s 23 lhakhangs (temples), before heading to the Trongsa Ta Dzong (watchtower), which now houses the interesting Royal Heritage Museum. 

On arrival, check in to your hotel in Punakha, where the remainder of the day will be at leisure.

Accommodation: Zhingkham Resort or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 13

Day 13: Punakha – Paro

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at your hotel, continue by private vehicle towards the town of Paro. Stop en route at Dopshari, where you will enjoy a cookery demonstration and a traditional Bhutanese lunch at a local farmhouse. After lunch, you will also have the opportunity to try your hand at Bhutan’s national sport, archery, and have a quick game of traditional ‘khuru’ (darts).

In Paro itself, visit Ta Dzong or the ‘watchtower’, originally built in 1649 to protect Paro Dzong from the Tibetan military. In 1968, Ta Dzong became Bhutan’s National Museum, and is now home to a number of exhibitions including sculpture, painting and artifacts depicting Bhutan’s magical past. Afterwards, continue to the stunning Paro Rinpung Dzong (fortress), meaning ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels. The original construction of this dzong is believed to have been completed in 1458 and it was restored to its present glory by His Majesty the Third of Bhutan, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, to mark his royal wedding in 1951.

Accommodation: Tushita Eco Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 14

Day 14: Paro

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, head northwest out of Paro by private vehicle for a visit to the iconic Taktshang Goemba, more commonly known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest Monastery’. Precariously perched on a sheer cliff face 900 metres (2,950 feet) above the Paro Valley floor, the Tiger’s Nest is undoubtedly Bhutan’s most famous religious building. It is built on the site where Guru Rinpoche is said to have arrived on the back of a tigress when he came to subdue the local demon, Singye Samdrup. After subduing the demon, Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated in a cave here for three whole months.

The Monastery is only accessible by foot via a one and a half to two hour hike up the Valley side. The trek offers spectacular views from the ridge and passes a small chorten, a basic monastery, and a waterfall on its way.

Once you have reached the Tiger’s Nest, you will have a chance to visit the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated, as well as the extensive network of Lhakhangs (chapels) which house images, murals, chortens, and a holy spring. You may also wish to make a diversion to the attractive Machig-phu Lhakhang (temple) on the way back down to the access road.

After the visit, you will head back to your hotel in Paro, where you will be able to relax for the remainder of the day or do some last-minute shopping for souvenirs.

In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner with your guide at a nearby restaurant.

Accommodation: Tushita Eco Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 15

Day 15: Paro

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to the airport for your international departure flight.

Meals: B

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