Bhutan (The Road of the Thunder Dragon)
Day 1: Arrival at Paro from Delhi, Bangkok, Kathmandu or KolkataOur Guide will receive you at Paro. You can start to explore the Paro town depending on your flight arrival time. Your motorcycle will be at the hotel and you can also start to have a round on the bikes around Paro valley. If you are coming from Australia, the best connection would be to fly in to Paro from Bangkok as there are daily flights.
Day 2: Paro – Local ExcursionsAfter breakfast we’ll first visit the National Museum and Paro Ringpung Dzong before continuing to Drugyal Dzong, 16kms away where we’ll visit the ruins of the Dzong. On the way back to the town we’ll see the famous Tigers Nest’s Temple on the granite cliff. You can hike to this monastery today which takes about 3 hrs back and forth from the view point. This is a magical monastery that clings on a granite cliff 600m above the valley floor.
Day 3: Paro – Thimphu via Haa valley (210km)
We begin early today as we will take a loop around the Haa valley to reach Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan. This is also a good day to get used to the traffic conditions; the road is very scenic and very less traffic. You might see about 10 vehicles on this entire day short of 65km reaching the capital. You reach heights of 4000m at the Chelila pass with great views of the Himalayan range. Have lunch at Haa valley and proceed to Thimphu through many villages and panoramic views.
Day 4: Thimphu – Punakha (77kms)
If we didn’t complete sightseeing yesterday, we’ll aim for an early breakfast so we can do some more before leaving for Punakha the old winter capital of Bhutan. En route we’ll cross the Dochula Pass at an altitude of 3150mts. On a clear day the whole range of Eastern Himalayas can be seen from here, so fingers crossed!
We then descend down to the Punakha Valley at an altitude of 1350mts. The road has lots of sharp bends, but lots of breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys. If we get to Punakha early enough we’ll visit the glorious Punakha Dzong, also known as the “the Palace of Great Bliss”.
Day 5: Punakha – Trongsa via the Phobjikha valley. (168km)
Today’s ride to Trongsa takes us through two major passes and the small town of Wangdue at 1350mts, where we’ll explore a bit, maybe visit the Dzong and then ride on to Nobding. From Nobding the road ascends sharply to Pelela Pass at 3300mts before descending through pastureland at Sephu where we reach the historical Chendebji Chorten. After consuming our much-anticipated packed lunch at Chendebji, we’ll ride to Trongsa at an altitude of 2350mts. While Punakha and Trongsa are at approx the same elevation, there are lots of bends, beautiful waterfalls and thick forest cover on the way. This part of the ride offers good view of the south Trongsa Valley and stunning views of the Trongsa Dzong.
Day 6: Trongsa – Bumthang / Jakar (68kms)
After visiting the absolutely amazing Trongsa Dzong, we’ll take a short and easy ride to Bumthang. En route we’ll pass many interesting villages and cross the Yutongla Pass at 3400m before descending into the beautiful Bumthang Valley. Our hotel in the trading centre of Jakar is at an altitude of 2680mts. Getting in relatively early will give us all a chance to explore the township with its wonderful bank and Post Office where you can buy some incredible Bhutanese stamps (not rare, but still much sort after by amateur philatelists).
Day 7: Bumthang local excursions
While at Bumthang visit the Jakar Dzong, the Kurgye Monastery, the Tamshing monastery, after lunch you can ride to Tang Mebartso or the burning lake or just explore the valley riding around.
Day 8: Bumthang – Mongar (198kms)
Today’s ride takes us through some splendid and varied terrain. The scenery for first three hours has been compared to the Alps highlighted by Bhutanese villages. There is only one pass today, the Thrumshingla Pass at 3750m. Weather permitting we should be able to see Mt. Gangkhar Phuenseum. At 7541m, it is the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. After crossing the pass we’ll officially be in ‘Eastern Bhutan” and to celebrate, the road descends 2800m within two hours! Along with the disappearance of any possible ‘altitude headaches’, the temperature and vegetation will also change. The roads here are dramatic with cliff-hanging scenes in many places. Since we will be riding the main east-west lateral route (Highway One – Bhutan’s only numbered highway!), it should be well-maintained (notice the codicil, ‘should be’!) with many workers living near the roads. As we near Mongar the air becomes noticeably thicker and the vegetation amazingly fertile with tropical and lush green foliage. Mongar itself has little to recommend it, but it is the only place to stop without riding for 10+ hours. It is also a great jumping off point to visit the Lhuntse region.
Day 9: Mongar – Trashigang (92kms)
It will be an early start today so we can get to Trashigang early enough to explore some of the town. Once again there’s only one pass to cross today, but quite spectacular riding conditions nonetheless. Heading out of Mongar the road climbs past the power station and Buddhist College at Kilikhar before it dives into rhododendron and blue pine forests. While you are still marvelling at this bit of the ride, please take extra care as soon the not-very-wide road clings to the side of a cliff for some way. It also passes through deep forests of rhododendrons and orchids! There is so much to see on today’s ride, it is advisable to consult your Lonely Planet guide for details. With so many photo opportunities it is going to take us a little longer than normal to cover 92kms. For those who like a drink or two, there are 21 bars to check-out in town!
As you will discover, the town itself is quite extensive. While few tourists get this far, the people are well-used to Westerners from years of contact with the many [mostly] Canadian teachers based here. To get a feel for the place you might like to read Jamie Zeppa’s book, Beyond the Sky and the earth – A Journey into Bhutan. Of course she was here before many of the new roads opened up, but it will still give you a useful insight into the lifestyle of the people in this district.
Day 10: Trashigang – Day Excursion to Yangtsi (54kms)
Yangtsi is in the very eastern-most part of Bhutan bordering the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The ride will be quite interesting as it involves passing through many local villages and small settlements near the road. Once again we’ll be riding along a beautiful valley floor near the river. En route we can visit the Gom Kora Monastery and the village of Duksum. After reaching Yangtsi the highlight will be visiting the Chorten Kora Monastery which is built in the same style as the Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal.
Day 11: Trashigang – Samdrup Jongkhar (180kms)
This is our last day in Bhutan and to commemorate the occasion we will be riding some very winding roads! All the way the vegetation is lush and green with many pine, fir and chirpine forests along the way. If people feel like it we can stop at the Sherubtse College, the only centre for degree studies in Bhutan. We’ll pass through the small town of Khaling and the villages of Wamrong and Deothang before finally reaching the foothills of Samdrup Jongkhar. At this point we will have ridden our bikes from west to east across the entire length of Highway One!
Day 12: Samdrup Jongkhar
Transfer to Guwahati for the night or make a 3 hrs road transfer from Samdrup to Gauwhati airport to catch a flight to Bangkok or any major cities in India.