12 Days
Duration
India & Bhutan
Tour Through
6/10
Toughness
Mar – Apr, Oct – Nov
Tour Months

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
Included   Motorcycle, Fuel, Hotels, Main Meals, Domestic Transfers, Guide
Excluded  Visas, Travel Insurance, Excess Luggage Fees, Catch-Up Costs

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.

Monastery Visits

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

National Parks & Passes

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

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Day 1 - Arrive in Bagdogra

Arrive in Bagdogra, West Bengal by domestic transfer from Kolkata or Delhi. We will collect you and transfer you to our Phuentsholing hotel at the Bhutan border.

After immigration formalities, we move to our Phuentsholing hotel and collect our motorcycles. Our night stop is in Phuentsholing.

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Day 2 - All the way to Paro

The first day’s ride isn’t a long ride but after the initial climb into the mountains the road becomes quite narrow, sometimes cliff-hanging, but all the way to Paro the scenery is spectacular. We will climb over 2,000m from the plains of west Bengal.

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.

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Day 3 - The amazing Taktsang Monastery

We take an early breakfast and ride further up the valley to the village of Ramthanka. It’s the end of the road, we park our bikes and begin a steady walk up to the amazing Taktsang Monastery. With a short breaks all the way and a cup of tea at the restaurant half way, the monastery – often called the Tiger’s Nest, is clearly within sight. History has it that the Guru Rinpoche visited this place on the back of a Tigress and meditated in a cave, now within the monastery’s walls. Built in 1692 it is one of the many jewels you will experience in Bhutan. The trek up is about 2 hours. We stop for lunch on the way down.

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.

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Day 4 - Thimphu capital city

After breakfast we ride uphill to the Buddha statue ‘Dordenma’ at Kuensel Phodrang, the palace of Sherab Wangchuck, the 13th Desi (Regent), overlooking the Thimphu capital city. It is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world – 51.5 meters, from where we get a great view of Thimphu 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.

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Day 5 - Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong is – probably, the most beautiful Dzong in all Bhutan and after an early breafast we enjoy the short ride up the valley from Wangdu Phodrang to visit the second largest Dzong in Bhutan. Built in 1638 at the confluence of the Pho Chhu – the father, and Mo Chhu – the mother, rivers in the Punakha Wangdue valley, it was once the seat of Bhutan government until the government moved to Thimphu.

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.

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Day 6 - Trongsa Dzong

The ride today is short at 80kms, bringing us to Trongsa with the Black Mountains to our south. About 12kms short of Trongsa we get the first views of the Trongsa Dzong across the valley. We will visit the dzong – the largest in Bhutan built in 1647, sitting on a ridge in the middle of this small town, it is the administration headquarters for the Trongsa District.

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.

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Day 7 - 7th century Jambay Lhakhang

Today is a rest day. There is the small neat market with it’s newly built shops following a fire several years ago that all but destroyed the old shops and houses in the market. Amongst other things to see in this busy market town, we can visit the 7th century Jambay Lhakhang: one of the 108 monastery built to subdue evil spirit in the Himalayan region. And if we were visiting in December we’d see the Jambay Lhakhang festival, famous for the ‘Tercham’, also known as the Naked Dance. Indeed some dancers appear naked!

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.

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Day 8 - Thrumshingla pass 3,750m

From Bumthang we have a long ride ahead of us – 180km, our destination the small village of Autsho in the Lhuntse valley, there’s more culture to be tasted in this remote valley, but not until tomorrow. The ride takes us through the Ura valley, where vegetables , mushrooms and dairy farming are the most popular forms of farming.

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.

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Day 9 - Largest Rinpoche statue anywhere!

We have another rest day – our mechanic can service the motorcycles, in local jeeps we can drive further up the valley to visit the largest Guru Rinpoche statue in the world at 151 feet tall. The lotus throne of the statue will house three different lhakhangs: the Choeku lhakhang in the upper storey, the Longku lhakhang in the middle storey, and the Trulku lhakhang and museum on the ground floor.

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.

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Day 10 – A windy road to Trashigang

An early breakfast ready for a fairly long ride today, not so much the distance as the never ending windy road to Trashigang. The journey begins in leafy fern filled forests, riding over Kori La – 2,450m, marked by a pretty chorten and ‘Mani wall’. The descent is quick through corn fields and banana groves to reach the famous road zigzags just below Yadi, a fairly recent and now fast-growing settlement.

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.

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Day 11 – Your tour is nearly finished

Your tour is nearly finished, but not before the most spectacular road to the southern border town of Samdruk Jongkhar. After breakfast we prepare for the final Dragon Route ride.

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.

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Day 12 – The paddies of Assam

In the morning we ride our motorcycles across the border onto the plains of Assam. In Guwahati we catch a flight back to Delhi or Kolkata – depending on your final destination. Your Tour is over.

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.
Motorcycle clothing.
Single Accommodation supplement for each tour day is £70.

Dragon Route Bhutan

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