Two weeks touring from the plains of West Bengal to the Himalayan highlands in the ‘Land of The Thunder Dragon’, the Kingdom of Bhutan. In what’s often called the happiest country on earth, we explore spectacular cliff-top fortified monasteries or Dzongs, where to this day, monks practice ancient culture and customs illuminate frequent festivals.
Tour Start & Finish at Bagdogra, West Bengal, India
Tour Duration 12 days
Tour Months Mar to Apr, Oct to Nov
See Terms for complete list of Includes and Excludes.
From the tea gardens of West Bengal to Bhutan at Phuentsholing’s border post – sub-tropical plains to Himalayan highlands, we enter the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’. For Riders the feeling of ‘Gross National Happiness’ grows literally every day. Immersed in supremely rich ancient culture, we uncover a Buddhist kingdom whose fortress Dzongs and proud valley farmhouses embellish a spectacular mountain route.
We ride through the rich biodiversity of the Black Mountain and Thrumshingla national parks, descending twisting mountain roads to Bhutan’s eastern border. Samdrup Jongkhar heralds Assam’s fertile plains as we head back west from Capital Guwahati to end a ‘once in a lifetime’ tour. Bhutan Tours are lead by our guide, Karma.
Taktsang Dzong – Cliffside Temple
Punakha Dzong – Bhutan’s Second Largest
Trongsa Dzong – Magnificent Location
Culture & Customs
Archery – A National Sport
Traditional Handicrafts – National Dress
Buddhist Festivals – The Royal Family
Black Mountain – mid-Bhutan Range
Thrumshingla – High pass 3,780 m (12,402 ft)
Dochu La – 108 Memorial Chortens
Night Stops Include
Jungle Lodges – Bhumtang (Jhakar)
Boutique Hotels – Border Towns
Village Guest Houses – Tea Garden Lodge
Day 1 - Arrive in Bagdogra
After immigration formalities, we move to our Phuentsholing hotel and collect our motorcycles. Our night stop is in Phuentsholing.
Day 2 - All the way to Paro
The last section of the highway is wider and quickly gets us to our Paro hotel in the middle of this small town. Time permitting we will visit the Paro *Dzong only a short ride from our hotel. Our night stop is in Paro.
Day 3 - The amazing Taktsang Monastery
By early afternoon we are back on the road again heading for Thimpu the capital of Bhutan. An interesting mix of old and modern traditional Bhutanese architecture, the capital is a centre for government, commerce and religious activities. The 5th Dragon King of The Kingdom of Bhutan – Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, is based in Thimpu. Our night stop is in a comfortable city centre hotel.
Day 4 - Thimphu capital city
Again it’s a day of two parts, and after lunch we hit the road again heading north east to the small town of Punakha. The road is spectacular – as are virtually all the roads we’ll ride in Bhutan, crossing – at the half-way point, Dochu La 3,116m, whose 108 Chorten built by the Queen Mother to honour the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed when fighting the Indian rebels in 2003.
If the sky is clear this provides the best place to see and take photos of Himalayan snow capped mountains ranges bordering Tibet. The road winds down the contours of a complex mountainscape to our night stop – a short ride from the marvellous Punakha Dzong, at our quiet comfortable hotel overlooking the river.
Day 5 - Punakha Dzong
We’ll have a light lunch and start the ride again further east. Combining half day sightseeing visits with half day rides works well as we ride south into the wide open valley of Phobjikha below the pretty village of Gangtey.
We’ll enjoy some real village hospitality in the homestays in the valley. The remote valley is the winter stop-over of rare black necked cranes, who migrate here annually from the Tibetan plateau. For those interested to do some horse riding, we can explore further up the valley on horseback. Our night stop is in the large and welcoming local village homes.
Day 6 - Trongsa Dzong
After lunch the ride continues for another 80kms climbing to the Yotongla pass, the second highest pass on the tour. After the pass we descend for Bumthang through the pine forest. OUr night stop is in a guest house on the edge of the Bumthang valley.
Day 7 - 7th century Jambay Lhakhang
There’s the Bjakar Dzong, constructed in 1549 as a monastery by the great grandfather of the first Zhabdrung and upgraded in 1646 when the Zhabdrung had firmly established his power. And to top the bill a visit to the local brewery to sample the Red Panda beer. You might join villagers in an archery competition, and in the evening sample the night life in the town. We stay at the same guest house, just a short walk from the town’s market.
Day 8 - Thrumshingla pass 3,750m
Leaving the Ura valley we climb to the highest point of the tour, Thrumshingla pass – 3,750m, adorned with prayer flags on tall pine posts. Coming down from the pass the climate is warmer, we reach Lingmithang in the valley of Thuethangbi with a view of Zhongar Dzong, covering 8 acres, it once represented the power house of eastern Bhutan. From Lingmithang we climb towards Mongar but turn left to head north for Lhuentse, the cradle of the Wangchuk Dynasty. Our night stop is in the small village of Autsho in a local guest house.
Day 9 - Largest Rinpoche statue anywhere!
It’s a very impressive construction given it’s 15 kms up a rough road on the side of a mountain! A short drive further up the valley gets us to the village of Khoma, famous for the Kushuthara, a silk fabric woven by the women of the region. We return to the same guest house for our night stop.
Day 10 – A windy road to Trashigang
The road follows the Gamri river to Chazam’s iron bridge where we turn right for Trashigang. Trashigang at 1,100m clings to a steep hillside above the Gamri river. It is the principal township of the biggest and most populated district in the country. We visit Trashigang Dzong, serving as the administrative seat for the district and part of the dzong occupied by the local monastic community.
Trashigang is also the principle market place for semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose way of dressing is unique in Bhutan. We night stop in a smart hotel overlooking the Dzong.
Day 11 – Your tour is nearly finished
180 kms takes us through the small towns of Kanglung, Khaling, Wamrong and Deothang. Unlike the western Bhutan where the road goes over passes between one valley and another, here it follows ridges almost the entire route and is marked throughout with stone Chortens or Stupas. Some of the older houses built on stilts, covered in bamboo matting remain, although they are being replaced by the standard Bhutanese architectural style developed in the 1980’s. Our night stop is in Samdrup Jongkhar.
Day 12 – The paddies of Assam
We wish you well on your journey and thank you for riding with Freespirit.
*Dzong – A distinctive type of fortress architecture found in the present and former Buddhist kingdoms of the Himalayas: Bhutan and Tibet. The architecture is massive in style with towering exterior walls surrounding a complex of courtyards, temples, administrative offices, and monks’ accommodation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzong_architecture
Tour Prices Include…
Motorcycle including fuel, oil, maintenance & spares.
A Jeep as a support vehicle with driver.
Royal Enfield mechanic and spares where required.
Road Captain/Tour Guide.
All domestic transfers.
All hotel accommodation for the Tour dates (unless otherwise arranged).
All meals whilst at a hotel / lodge / camp. Typically Breakfast and Dinner.
Restricted Area Permits, where required.
Road Book notes and area maps, with en-route contact details.
First-Aid Boxes are carried in the support vehicle and with the Tour Guide.
Expedition Luggage: 2 Panniers, Tank Bags (by request) and 1 Holdall for accumulated stuff*.
*Luggage can be carried in the support vehicle.
Tour Prices Do Not Include…
International Flights / Excess baggage charges.
International Airport departure taxes, airline fuel surcharges.
Visa (Passports must be valid for at least 6 months.)
Personal Travel Insurance.
Lunch. Lunch is usually a “Road Experience” and is either paid for by yourself or a ‘group kitty’.
Entrance fees to national parks, monuments and sites of historic interest.
Hotel bar and snack bills, bottled drinking water.
Vaccinations and medicine.
Laundry service, tips, room service, porters, telephone and fax calls.
Single Accommodation supplement for each tour day is £70.