Cycling in Bhutan Trip Notes

Ways to Travel:
Guided Group
Destinations:
Bhutan, Nepal
Programmes:
Cycling
Trip Code:
MIB
Activity Rating - Challenging
Challenging

You have a good level of fitness and are looking for a physically challenging holiday.  Previous experience is essential for activity based trips.

15 Days Flight Inclusive
14 Days Land only
Min age: 16

Trip Overview

Bicycles and Bhutan are a perfect fit. The tiny remote mystical Kingdom of Bhutan is probably the most culturally rich of all the Himalayan Kingdoms and is one of the most inaccessible. Tucked away at the eastern end of the mighty Himalaya, the Land of the Thunder Dragon is a wonderful place for a bike trip with some good paved roads, forests, glacial rivers, wonderful mountain scenery and cultural diversity. The whole country feels serene and is united by its love of the King and GNH (Gross National Happiness) is more important than GNP. This new trip takes us from Paro in the west to Bumthang in central Bhutan. We visit the remote Haa Valley and the capital, Thimphu. Crossing several passes over 3000m, we get wonderful views over the Himalaya. A side trip to the beautiful Gangtey Valley and Punakha Dzong are added highlights as is a visit to one of the masked dance festivals (on certain departures). There are plenty of long mountain climbs and exhilarating descents so a good level of cycling fitness is required.

At a Glance

8 days cycling (plus one optional ride) with 100% vehicle support

  • Countries visited: Bhutan, Nepal

Trip Highlights

  • Challenging cycling; high mountain passes and long descents
  • Visit the iconic Tiger's Nest Monastery
  • Cycle through spectacular Himalayan scenery
  • Festival departures available

Is This Trip for You?

This trip is classified: Road

We have made the decision to classify this trip as a 'road' cycling trip. The majority of the cycling is on paved road (75% tarmac and 25% unpaved) but the unpaved roads are often in poor condition and can be heavily affected by weather conditions.

Most of the riding you will experience will be largely on a road shared with other vehicles. 

Road improvements in Bhutan

Please be aware Bhutan is undergoing a general road project to improve and widen the highway from West to East. Whilst there will be works and the occasional delay (in particular between Trongsa and Bumthang) during the months we run this trip, we do not anticipate that any of the roads will be closed to traffic at any time. Bad weather can often affect the roads and cause delays; these will be communicated to you by your leaders and we will attempt to keep any delay to a minimum. Road conditions can be changeable, and it is important to come with an open mind and flexibility when cycling in Bhutan. If the weather has been bad, and parts of the roads are too muddy, the leader will reserve the right to miss out sections and take the van instead. We will avoid doing this as much as possible, but there may be some circumstances where this is the only realistic option.

Activity Level: 5 (Challenging) 8 days cycling, average 62km/day (38.5 miles), 100% vehicle support.

This is a Challenging bike trip with 8 days cycling (including 1 optional ride). There are 5 passes over 3000m and some of the climbs are long, although the gradients are mostly between 4% and 5%, so making it up the passes is about riding slow and steady. There are plenty of great descents and we have a support vehicle at all times. You will need a good level of cycling fitness to be able to enjoy this tour. The trip starts in Paro, which sits at an altitude of 2195m. There are many days of climbs and descents, and whilst you will not be sleeping at altitude some of the passes are just under 4000m. It is important to take this into consideration when booking on this trip. Each ride is fully vehicle supported so if at any time you struggle with the altitude you can take a break.

Travelling in Bhutan

Travelling in Bhutan is still in its infancy. All foreigners must travel through an official travel agent and be accompanied by a Bhutanese guide. Exodus uses well trained Bhutanese guides, but please be aware that the guides are sometimes restricted in what they are allowed to do and where they are allowed to take you. Bhutan is a beautiful and special place to visit. The daily rate is relatively expensive but a large proportion of this goes to the government in the form of a tax which provides free education and healthcare for all Bhutanese people. Please do not expect luxury just because a trip to Bhutan is a more expensive destination.

The hotels we use are simple and clean with heaters, hot water and attached bathrooms. At times we use small guesthouse-type accommodation which we feel is more representative of the area you are travelling in. Many of the hotels and restaurants we will visit offer a buffet lunch with a mix of Bhutanese and Continental food. Some visitors do find the food a little bland; please ask your leader if you would like to try other food and they can try and accommodate your wishes.

Tiger's Nest Hike

This half-day hike (approx. 12km) is up to an elevation of just over 3000 metres. The total ascent is around 900m. The path is good, but when it is/has been wet it can get slippy; good walking shoes are recommended (i.e. with good grip). 

Bhutan’s Festivals

Tibetan Buddhism is the religion practised by most of the people in Bhutan. This religion puts emphasis on the role of teachers or ‘lamas’ and the importance of ritual, and is imbued with a rich visual symbolism which is clearly seen at festivals. The main religious festivals are known as ‘Tsechus’ and many of the major monasteries throughout Bhutan have their own annual Tsechu. They are held in honour of the Guru Rinpoche, generally accepted as the great teacher who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, and they typically last for 3 to 5 days. Each of the Tsechus includes a number of dances involving large numbers of participants dressed in ornate silk costumes. Each dance has a special significance and some are intended to give moral instruction, others are designed to drive away evil spirits, while others simply celebrate the Buddhist faith in its many guises. Each departure of this itinerary will visit a different festival and try and take in as much of the local festivities as possible. See the detailed itinerary for more information.

Smoking

Please note that smoking is technically banned in Bhutan. Tourists are permitted to smoke in certain designated areas but must bring their own cigarettes (up to 200 cigarettes). They must, however, pay duty on any tobacco product they import (up to 200% tax). Smoking in a public place can result in a fine as long you have proof of having paid the duty. If no proof of having paid the duty can be produced then there is the risk of a minimum 3 years imprisonment.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Group

A Bhutanese leader and a guide will accompany the group in Bhutan. We have a local representative in Kathmandu who will advise you on sightseeing etc. and answer any questions you may have.

Adult min age:
16
Min group size:
4
Max group size:
15

Itinerary

Map MIB

Land Only

Start City:
Kathmandu
End City:
Kathmandu

Land Only Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Arrive Kathmandu.

    Start in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel. The evening is free to relax.

    Standard Hotel

  • Day 2

    Fly to Paro; easy warm up cycle to Drukyul Dzong (depending on flight times).

    Today we fly to Paro. The flight is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world and takes us over the eastern Himalayas. If the weather is clear, we should get a fantastic view of much of the eastern half of the Himalaya, including Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Kanchenjunga and Chomolhari (Jhomolhari). Today’s schedule depends on the flight timings. We will sort the bikes out, have a full briefing and hopefully there will be time for a short and easy cycle ride up the Paro Valley to the ruins of Drukyel Dzong.

    (If the flight is delayed we may be able to fit in a short but steep ride to the National Museum in Paro. This ride is 12km round trip with 215m ascent and 209m of descent).

    Standard Hotel 

     

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 29 km / 18 miles
    Altitude gain (m):
    343
    Altitude loss (m):
    322
    Activity (hours):
    3 (100% paved road)
  • Day 3

    Paro to Haa Valley via the Chelela Pass (3810m).

    Today is the first full day’s ride and it is a tough day. We will try and cycle from the hotel (for those who want to ease themselves into cycling at altitude they can drive out of Paro to approx. 20km short of the Chele La). The road condition is good and the route zigzags uphill for 38km to eventually reach the pass (3810m). It will take about six hours to the top with plenty of rest stops along the way. We will stop at the top for a quick cup of hot masala tea (it is usually windy and cold at the top). On a clear day it is possible to see Chomolhari and Jichudrake, the two most famous mountains in Bhutan. We put on our warm layers before the well-earned and exhilarating 29km descent down to Haa.

    Standard hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 67 km / 42 miles
    Altitude gain (m):
    1595
    Altitude loss (m):
    1129
    Activity (hours):
    8-8.5 (100% paved road with some rough sections)
  • Day 4

    A wonderful rolling ride down the beautiful Haa Valley to Thimphu

    The Haa Valley is one of the most picturesque in Bhutan. Only opened to foreigners in 2002 it is still rarely visited. The name means ‘Hidden Rice Valley’ and in the pre-Buddhist era it was well known for its animist traditions. The valley has its own guardian called Ap Chendu, who is still worshipped. It is culturally rich with temples and a dzong (a dzong is a cross between a monastery and fortress and today they are used for secular and religious activities). Almost every town has a dzong perched in a spectacular location and the one in Haa was built in 1915.

    A long but spectacular ride today of approximately 81km, which will take between 6-7 hours depending on the pace of the group. The road is paved (watch out for potholes) and is mostly downhill with some undulating sections. The riding is easy after the exertion of yesterday. It is one of the most stunning rides of the trip. The Haa Valley is quiet and is populated by farming communities. We pass beautiful farmhouses, built in traditional Bhutanese style and fields of rice and potatoes. There is plenty of time to stop and take photographs. We have lunch along the way and then there is some climbing to do in and out of side valleys before a wonderful descent to Chuzom Sa, at the point where the roads join, between Paro, Haa, Thimphu and south to Phuntsoling. Three beautiful stupas in Nepalese, Tibetan and Bhutanese style lie just above the Pa Chu. Once we reach the river and the main highway the road and traffic becomes much busier, so we will take a van transfer for the final 30km or so to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 81 km / 50 miles
    Altitude gain (m):
    750
    Altitude loss (m):
    2029
    Activity (hours):
    6-7 (100% paved road, some potholes)
  • Day 5

    Morning cycle to Cheri, afternoon sightseeing in Thimphu.

    We spend the morning exploring the outskirts of Thimphu by bike. We head out of town past the Tashichho Dzong. A very steep but short climb brings us to a nice quiet road towards Cheri. The road undulates through a wonderful forest with a couple more steep but short climbs. We pass a large painted stone depicting Guru Rinpoche before a final descent and ascent to a chorten at Cheri. A welcome break and snack stop allows us to refuel before the cycle back to town for lunch.

    In the afternoon we visit several of the sights in Thimphu by bus. The Memorial Chorten is one of the most visible structures in Thimphu and if it is open we can visit the Tashichho Dzong, the seat of the Bhutanese government. Late afternoon we drive up to Buddha Point, a 51m high Buddha statue with great views overlooking the whole of the Thimphu Valley. If you are travelling on the Thimphu Festival departure Ex London 22 September 2020, then there is the option to visit the festival for half a day today instead. 

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 33 km / 20 miles
    Altitude gain (m):
    821
    Altitude loss (m):
    810
    Activity (hours):
    4.5 (100% paved roads, some potholes)
  • Day 6

    Thimphu to Punakha via the Dochu La (3015m) passing 108 stupas with their prayer flags fluttering in the wind.

    An early start today so we can get out of Thimphu before the morning rush hour. The ride starts with a short section of ‘Bhutanese flat’ (i.e. undulating terrain!) for 5km as a warm-up. Across the valley we can see Simthoka dzong and the climb to the pass starts just beyond here. We enter the forest and a great black top road climbs all the way to the pass. Climbing in Bhutan is all about getting into a slow rhythmic pace with time to enjoy the views and stopping for plenty of rests and refreshment breaks. The climb averages 4.8% gradient, so not too steep. Finally, we emerge at the top of the pass, where 108 stupas sit, and thousands of prayer flags flutter in the wind. If the weather is good we may get a glimpse of Gankar Punsum (7570m) which is the highest peak in Bhutan. The top of the pass is 21km into the ride, and the rest of the day is mainly downhill. It is a great 39km descent on good road to Lobesa, where we have lunch. As we descend the scenery and temperature changes as we enter the more sub-tropical Punakha valley. From Lobesa we can see the Chimmi Lhakhang below. This temple was built to honour one of the more folkloric saints of the Bhutanese tradition; Lama Drukpa Kunley. The lama was known for his foul-mouth, alcohol-smelling breath, and insatiable lust towards women, yet he is revered as a great saint by most Bhutanese. It is believed that women who cannot conceive will get pregnant if they are blessed by the wooden phallus in the temple and the phallic paintings on many of the Bhutanese houses are symbolic of him. After lunch it is another 12km undulating ride to Punakha dzong. We will need to change our clothes before visiting this impressive building. Punakha’s small size defies its importance and long history. The dzong in Punakha is used as the government’s winter base due to its lower altitude and warmer weather. It sits at the confluence of the Po and Mo Rivers and is an imposing building dating from the 15th Century. From the dzong we have a short 10 minute drive to our hotel.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 72 km / 43 miles
    Altitude gain (m):
    1100
    Altitude loss (m):
    2200
    Activity (hours):
    6 (100% paved road, some potholes on the last 12km)
  • Day 7

    Punakha to Phobjikha in the Gangtay Valley (2388m) across the Lawa La Pass (3285m).

    Today is probably the toughest cycling day and the road conditions can be variable. We start cycling from the hotel and the first 13km are undulating to the main road (some of this road was narrow and rough in spring 2018). Once on the main road we head east on the new tarmac road. The next 10km undulates easily to a bridge, from where the long climb towards the Pele La starts. The road climbs constantly as it winds its way up through thick tropical forest with great views of the hills all around us and the buzz of cicadas in the air.. Most of the road is great tarmac up past Nobding. A few kilometres further on we pass the last houses at Dungding Nesa. To the left we can see the trail of the old road which was destroyed by a landslip. We head towards the right on the new road which is partly rough and partly tarmac. 4km from Dungding Nesa we come to a small junction – ahead the main road goes to the top of the Pele La. We turn off the main road here and it is a final steep 1.5km to the top of the Lawa La (65km from Punakha), marked by a large white chorten.  It is probably quite late afternoon by the time we reach the pass and we will need to put some warm layers on for the final hours ride which brings us right down into the Gangtay Valley to Phobjikha; a beautiful glacial area where the rare Black-necked cranes from Tibet spend the winter.

    Simple guesthouse

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 75 km / 46.5 miles
    Altitude gain (m):
    2221
    Altitude loss (m):
    746
    Activity (hours):
    8.5-9 (90% paved road)
  • Day 8

    Phobjikha to Pele La (3353m), then a long downhill to Trongsa (2200m).

    This morning we start the day in the bus and drive the 10km to the top of the Lawa La. We get on our bikes at the top of the pass and start with 1.5km downhill to the junction. Joining the main road it is an easy 2.5km, 30 minute climb up to the top of the Pele La at 3353m. This pass crosses the Black Mountains and is the border between Western Bhutan, where we have cycled for the past few days, and Central Bhutan which we now enter. The next 26km is a great winding downhill mostly on good road but with some rougher sections, to Chendebji, where there is a large chorten, modelled on Bodnath in Nepal.  We are now in warmer regions, with lush vegetation and waterfalls by the road. The road continues undulating easily down the valley, mostly on rough but wide road, passing a few settlements to a viewpoint, from where we can see Trongsa right across the valley. The valley is very narrow with the road cut into steep-sided walls with the river far below - it certainly is a dramatic ride. After a stop at a viewpoint it is only 13km more to our hotel (the sting in the tail today is that the last 7km are uphill!).

    Please note that parts of the road from the Pele La have not been finished yet. If there have been heavy rains then parts of the road may be impassable; the leader will determine at what points the group will need to travel in the van but we will attempt to cycle as much as possible. In spring 2018 the group cycled the whole route easily.

    Simple guesthouse

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 71 km / 44 miles
    Altitude gain (m):
    680
    Altitude loss (m):
    1895
    Activity (hours):
    7 (50% paved, 50% unpaved dirt roads)
  • Day 9

    Trongsa to Bumthang. Cycle over the Yotong La (3425m) into the Chumey Valley and over the Keke La (2700m) into the spectacular Bumthang Valley (2488m).

    Our last full days cycling, with our final two passes and a great sense of satisfaction as we ride into Bumthang and the end of our journey having ridden halfway across the country. We cycle from the hotel and the climb starts immediately as the road zig zags up into the mountains. It is 28km to the top of the Yotong La at 3425m, and it will take us about 4.5hrs, from where we get great views of the mountains surrounding us and ahead down into the Chumey Valley. We now have 24km of descent into the valley. Dotted with beautiful Bhutanese farmhouses this is a wonderful ride. The valley here is famous for weaving and we may well see some of the locals at their looms. At the end of the valley we come to a junction. Taking the left hand fork the road now winds easily for 4km through a pleasant pine forest to the Keke La, our final pass. From here we have a wonderful descent into the stunning Bumthang Valley. We cycle down through the town of Jakar, with its interesting bazaar and cross the river by bridge. The final 4km takes us easily up the valley to our hotel.

    Please note this section of the road was being worked on in spring 2018. The ascent to the Yotong La was a mixture of good tarmac and rough road. The descent into the Chumey Vally was mostly rough. The ascent of the Keke La and descent into Bumthang was paved old road. By autumn 2018 most of the section to the Yotong La and down should be completed.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 70 km / 43.5 miles
    Altitude gain (m):
    1553
    Altitude loss (m):
    1112
    Activity (hours):
    8 (50% paved, 50% unpaved road)
  • Day 10

    Day in Bumthang. Optional festival visit and/or cycle ride depending on the trip departure date.

    Today we have a whole day to explore the Bumthang Valley; by bike and by bus. There is also an opportunity to witness one of Bhutan's famous festivals (specific dates only). The spring departures feature Domkhar or Ura Festival and, with the exception of the Ex London 7th November 2019 departure (which does not visit a festival), the autumn departures feature Jakar or Thangbi Festival. Festivals in Bhutan are very colourful affairs and are a celebration of the country's greatest Buddhist saint, Guru Rimpoche. Bhutanese come together during festivals to watch various dances such as the black hat dance or the treasure dance which normally have a long history and tradition going back centuries. Most of these are masked dances and the masks themselves have an important significance. Please note that the festivals in the Bumthang Valley are more local festivals, rather than the larger ones at Paro or Thimphu. Dates, timings and dancing can be changed at the whim of the monks or locals. Please note that we cannot guarantee any local festival.

    If there is a festival we normally visit in the morning and in the afternoon (and for the non-festival departure), for those that wish to join, we will plan an optional cycle ride to Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) which is named after the legend of Pema Lingpa who entered the lake with a butter lamp and returned with treasures and holy books, and the lamp still alight. This holy site, with its bright prayer flags, is a pilgrimage place for many Bhutanese. The round trip is approximately 28km, with 100% paved road. There is also a local brewery to visit, which makes the Red Panda Weiss beer.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 11

    Flight to Paro.

    Today we will take an early 25 minute flight to Paro. There are spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain ranges during the flight. (Please note that flights from Bumthang are weather dependent). In Paro we will transfer to our hotel and in the afternoon we can visit Paro dzong and the National Museum. There will also be time to wander round the market.

    Standard Hotel

     

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 12

    Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery.

    On our final full day in Bhutan we will enjoy a hike to one of the most iconic of the countries buildings; the Taktsang (or 'Tiger's Nest') Monastery. This spectacular place is perched on the ledge of a cliff high above the Paro Valley and is still today an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Partly destroyed by a fire in 1998, it has now been completely restored to its former magnificence. We drive a short distance from the hotel and then hike to the monastery; enjoying the fantastic views as we ascend. The trail climbs on a rough trail through the forest to the cafeteria, from where we get our first good views of Takstang. After a cup of tea we continue on up. The views get even more spectacular as we get closer. Finally a steep staircase brings us to the entrance. We can visit the temples that are hewn out of cliffs and wonder at how the monastery was built. Descending to the cafeteria, we have lunch before walking down to our bus for the short drive back to Paro. The walk is approximately 12km round trip. You need trainers or walking shoes for the walk. Sticks are available to buy at the car park.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 13

    Fly to Kathmandu.

    We transfer to the airport to check in for our flight back to Kathmandu. The rest of the day is free for individual sightseeing or shopping. The iconic sights to see in and around Kathmandu include the famous Durbar Square in the heart of the old city, the monkey temple at Swayambhunath, the Hindu temple at Pashupatinath or the large Buddhist stupa, 'Boudha Stupa' at Boudhanath. Further afield is Bhaktapur, a mediaeval city a few miles east of the capital. Bhaktapur has its own Durbar Square with many temples and statues and a maze of narrow streets, which are generally quieter than the capital.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • Day 14

    End Kathmandu

    The trip ends in Kathmandu after breakfast.

    Meals included:
    Breakfast

All ascents, descents and distances listed above have been measured by our local partners or tour leaders. Please note that different GPS measuring devices can give differing results dependent on the barometric pressures at the time. Measurements stated throughout these trips notes are given to help you understand the types of terrain and distances you will encounter.

Accommodation

Hotels & Guesthouses

13 nights tourist class hotels and guesthouses, all accommodation is en suite. The hotels are simple, local style hotels. All rooms have attached bathrooms and the rooms have heaters. All food is included at the hotels and local restaurants and is usually buffet style – it is simple and a mixture of Bhutanese, continental and Chinese.

Where a single supplement is available, paying for a single only guarantees a room for single use. It does not always mean a twin or double room will be provided for sole occupancy.

Single supplement from £545.00

Food & Transport

Eating & Drinking

Breakfast is included throughout the trip plus 11 lunches and 11 dinners whilst in Bhutan.

The meals in Bhutan are usually buffet style and include Bhutanese and Western food. Bhutanese food can sometimes be considered a little bland - this is generally because chillies are frequently used in traditional dishes, and these are often omitted to adapt to foreigners' tastes. However you will find an assortment of meat, vegetable, rice and potato dishes and many examples of the infamous 'Ema Datshi' (chillies and cheese) so there will be plenty of nutrients for your cycle rides! 

Breakfasts are an assortment of hot food and fruit, and lunches will either be a hot picnic or taken at a nearby restaurant.

Please allow approximately £20-25 ($30-40) per day for other main meals in Kathmandu.

Transportation

For all transfers and road journeys we use a private bus. For the flights between Paro and Kathmandu we use either Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines. All bookings on regional flights are made in economy class. Paro-Kathmandu flights: Please note the Druk Air schedules, for flights between Nepal and Bhutan are notoriously unpredictable and the final timetable is often published very late. The itinerary is based on the latest schedules but these are subject to change. Should there be a change of schedule we will amend the itinerary and update the Trip Notes, and advise any clients booked as soon as possible. There can sometimes be holdups on the roads due to road works. Your leader will have up to date information and will time your drives and sightseeing around any hold ups.

Weather & Seasonality

When to go

You will experience a range of temperatures during the trip depending on the altitude. During the day temperatures will be approx 10ºC-20ºC. At night temperatures will drop in autumn to about 3ºC-4ºC. In the more tropical region of Punakha the days and nights will be much warmer. Although these departures do not fall inside the normal monsoon season there is always a chance of rain in Bhutan and you should be prepared for this.

Weather Information

You will experience a range of temperatures during the trip depending on the altitude. During the day temperatures will be approx 10ºC-20ºC. At night temperatures will drop to about 3ºC-4ºC. Although these departures do not fall inside the normal monsoon season there is always a chance of rain in Bhutan and you should be prepared for this. The weather can be much colder on the high passes and it is important to be prepared with extra layers for this.

Please note that the weather chart shown gives averages only and actual temperatures and rainfall may be above or below the figures shown.

Weather Charts

Joining Instructions

Travelling flight inclusive from London: 15 days

We normally use the scheduled services of Jet Airways (depending on availability). As flight timings and schedules change regularly we recommend you call one of our specialist sales staff or your agent to confirm up‐to‐date timings. Please note timings may change at a later date and cannot be confirmed untilapproximately two weeks before departure.

The Flight Inclusive price is based on a London departure, but we are happy to tailor this to your local or regional airport. Please visit www.exodus.co.uk/regionaldepartures for a useful overview
of the options available, and contact our sales team for expert advice.

If booking regional flights other than with Exodus, you must allow a minimum connecting time (in addition to the international check in time) of 1 hour at Gatwick, and 1½ hours at Heathrow; this is longer than the official minimum, but baggage handling is known to be subject to delays.

Travelling land only: 14 days starting in Kathmandu and ending in Kathmandu

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Regional Flights

The Flight Inclusive price is based on a London departure, but we are happy to tailor this to your local or regional airport. Please ask about flights from local or regional airports.

If booking regional flights other than with Exodus, you must allow a minimum connecting time (in addition to the international check-in time) of 1 hour at Gatwick, and 1.5 hours at Heathrow; this is longer than the official minimum, but baggage handling is known to be subject to delays.

Free Transfers

Exodus offers FREE airport arrival and departure transfers on any flight for this trip, for both Land Only and Flight Inclusive clients. Unless specified otherwise, the transfer will be to the Exodus start (or pre-tour) hotel and from the end (or post-tour) hotel, and will be on the date on which the tour starts/ends; transfers to other hotels in the same city and/or on different dates may attract an extra charge. Transfers may be shared with other Exodus customers on the same flight, or on a flight with similar arrival times. All those taking advantage of the free airport transfers must provide full flight details for both arrival and departure in advance. 

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Transfers Details

Exodus is a well-known established tour operator in Nepal and there have been some cases in the past where locals have pretended to be Exodus employees and have offered to carry our clients luggage and take them to the Exodus vehicle. Please do not allow anyone to do this, unless they are carrying an Exodus sign, t-shirt or badge. If you suspect that someone does not work for Exodus and are offering to help you and you cannot locate our Exodus representative outside the arrivals hall, please call our local emergency number +977 98511 34139 or +977 97510 60705.

Location start:
Kathmandu
Location end:
Kathmandu

What to Take

Essential Equipment

The hotel in Kathmandu has a luggage store for anything that you do not want to take with you to Bhutan. Most of the hotels in Bhutan have heaters, which means you can wash small items out in the evening. We spend 2 nights in Thimphu and the hotel offers a laundry facility.

You will need the following essential items:

Normal daily clothes

Cycling Helmet (Compulsory on this trip)

Padded cycling shorts

Long padded cycling tights

Loose shorts for over the padded ones

Breathable cycling jerseys

Warm gloves and socks

Waterproofs

Warm lightweight jacket

Long trousers and long-sleeved shirt for visits to dzongs (long skirt optional for women)

Sunglasses & clear lens cycling glasses

Sunhat

High factor sun-cream

Lip salve

Personal first aid kit

Chamois cream

Body / face wipes (for when the facilities are limited)

Water bottles/Camelbak or hydration system

Walking shoes/trainers for dzong visits and the walk to Takstang

Due to the variation in topography encountered on this trip, there is an equivalent range of likely temperatures. In the bottom of valleys in the sunshine it can be 25 degrees C, but at the top of the highest passes the temperature (with wind chill) will often be a lot colder (although it shouldn't be below freezing). We would recommend therefore that you pack a range of different cycling clothing and work on the layering principle. The minimum would be 2 or 3 pairs of good quality padded cycling shorts (with a pair of loose ‘over-shorts’), breathable cycle clothing (including base layers, a short and long sleeved jersey, a windproof gillet and arm/leg warmers), and a waterproof/windproof jacket. Shoes with relatively stiff soles are better for cycling.

Casual clothing is recommended and a sweater and warm jacket will be needed for the cold evenings. You should dress conservatively so as not to offend local sensibilities; short shorts, vests and tight-fitting clothing is not appropriate.

Bhutanese people do dress in their best clothes for the festivals and visitors are expected to be well dressed whilst attending. For both men and women a top with long sleeves and a collar is suggested, and smart trousers or a skirt plus smart shoes. We appreciate that not every tourist who attends a Bhutanese festival follows these guidelines but we would like to impress upon our passengers the importance of respecting local traditions and avoiding any embarrassment for both themselves and the local leaders/guides.

Water Included

Plastic bottles are a big issue in many countries where recycling isn’t yet widely available; they often end up in landfill sites or get burnt, both processes are harmful to the environment and we would like to reduce our impact here. For your trip we provide an alternative to single-use plastic bottles in order to reduce the amount of plastic used. This means that safe drinking water will be available throughout so all you need to do is bring a bottle to re-fill along the way. Please add this to your packing list!

Optional Equipment

Buff

Cycling overshoes

Whilst you will be provided with snacks (fruit, nuts, biscuits etc.) and water, we also recommend taking a good selection of energy bars/gels etc., or your favourite snacks as many things can be difficult or expensive to purchase in Bhutan.

Ear plugs - In Buddhism it’s believed that neutering or spaying cats and dogs will stop the reincarnation cycle for the animals, therefore you will notice a higher than average street dog population - we recommend packing ear plugs in case of dogs barking at night. 

Equipment Hire

Local Bike Details: Trek Marlin mountain bikes with front suspension.

Discount for bringing your own bike: £150.

Internal Flights Weight Limit

20

A quality local hire bike is now included in the overall price of our cycling holidays. At the time of booking we will take your height in order to reserve equipment. There may on occasions be insufficient bikes available in the correct size; we will endeavour to find suitable alternative equipment but this cannot be guaranteed. We will tell you before you book whether suitably sized bikes are available.

Conditions

1. The equipment remains the property of the supplier and you may not sell, hire out or part possession with the equipment.

2. You must not misuse the equipment and must return it in the same condition as when received (ordinary wear and tear excepted). The supplier is entitled to charge for any damage caused to the equipment during the period of hire.

3. You must ensure that the equipment is adequately secured when not in use. In the event of the equipment being lost or stolen, you may be liable for the replacement value of the equipment

4. You must not use the equipment whilst under the influence of drink or drugs and should immediately notify the Supplier in the event of breakdown or loss.

Bringing Your Own Bike

If you prefer the familiarity of your own bike, you may of course bring it along. Please advise us at the time of booking and you will receive a discount off the price of the holiday, as specified above. You will be responsible for any extra baggage charges, please speak to our Sales team for individual airline fees. Any clients bringing their own bike should ensure they have adequate cover for loss, damage or theft under their travel, home contents or a specialist insurance policy. If Exodus is confident that we have taken all reasonable care to ensure the safety of your bike, in the rare event of loss, damage or theft you will need to claim under your own insurance policy.

Extra Bike Bits

You may like to bring your own pedals and saddle (excluding the seat post) or gel saddle cover to fit to the hire bikes. We encourage this, if it is your preference. However, please note that you are responsible for your own equipment, and removing your saddle/pedals at the end of the trip. We cannot guarantee the return of any bike parts left behind.

Exodus Policy on Cycling Helmets

Wearing a helmet is mandatory for anyone taking part in any guided Exodus cycling holiday. Group members must bring their own helmets, as they are not available for hire, even if they are hiring a bike from Exodus.

For self-guided cycling holidays wearing a helmet is highly recommended. Customers who choose to ignore our advice do so entirely at their own risk and on the understanding that it may affect the validity of their travel insurance. It should also be noted that in some countries we travel to wearing a helmet is already a legal requirement.

Cycling of all kinds has its dangers and accidents can happen from time to time. Please ensure that you are properly prepared for the riding you are going to undertake.

Recommended Cycling Clothing

Padded cycling shorts (with loose 'over-shorts' where recommended), breathable clothing, and a lightweight waterproof/windproof top. Shoes with relatively stiff soles are better for biking, but are not essential unless you are cycling long distances. Most people want to carry certain items with them during the day while cycling, for this we recommend a large bum-bag or small close-fitting daysack.

Reading List

Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A portrait of Bhutan by Queen of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk
Buttertea at Sunrise: A year in the Bhutan Himalaya by Britta Das
Married to Bhutan by Linda Learning
Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon: Journey into Bhutan by Katie Hickman
Beneath Blossom Rain by Kevin Grange
Buddhism Humphreys (Pelican)
Detailed and authoritative account of all the branches of Buddhism.
Flowers of the Himalaya. O. Polunin & A. Stainton (O.U.P., Bombay)
Excellent, comprehensive botanical guide, well-illustrated but expensive.
Bhutan, a Kingdom of the Eastern Himalayas. Serindia Publications (London, 1984)
Well illustrated book with good coverage of the whole country, especially the people.
Two and Two Halves to Bhutan. Peter Steele (Hodder and Stoughton, 1970)
An interesting account of a doctor and his family in remote eastern Bhutan in 1968/9.
So Close to Heaven - The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas. Barbara Crosette (Vintage, 1996)

Practical Information

Passport

Bhutan

All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information below is primarily for UK passport holders, and other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.

Nepal

All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information below is primarily for UK passport holders, and other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.

Visa

Bhutan

You will need a visa for Bhutan, which we will organise for you. The cost of the visa is included in the price of the trip (USD40). You will need to send us a clear copy of your passport on booking. We need this in order to organise your Bhutan visa in advance of your arrival. Please make sure that we have a copy no later than 8 weeks before departure. The passport copy can either be sent by post or scanned, in which case it has to be very clear and in colour. If you need to get a new passport for the journey, please apply for this immediately, and send us the copy/scan as soon as you receive your new passport. It is VERY important that the information you give us is 100% correct, and that the copy of the passport you send us is the one on which you will be travelling to Bhutan. Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

Nepal

Most nationalities require a visa for Nepal, which can be obtained in advance or on entry. If you wish to apply before departure the current visa cost is £20 for a 15-day visa and £35 for a 30-day visa for UK passport holders. The current cost of a visa on arrival is US$25 for 15 days, US$40 for 30 days or if extending your stay $100 for 90 days. All are multiple entry. The visa on arrival fee can be paid for in cash in US Dollars, Pounds Sterling or Euros. Application forms are available in the immigration hall (or for electronic passports, there are visa registration machines which, after inserting your passport, automatically fill out a form for you. If you use the machine you will not need a passport photo). You must first join the queue to pay the visa fee and then go to the relevant immigration desk to obtain your 15, 30 or 90-day visa stamp.  If you use the paper form to obtain a visa on arrival then you will also need one passport photo (a photo is not required if you use the electronic registration machines but we recommend you bring one with you anyway in case, for any reason, the machines cannot read your passport). There can be long queues for visas on arrival.

Non UK nationals should check requirements with their nearest embassy (a few nationalities are not permitted visas on arrival).

Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

Vaccination

Bhutan

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Nepal

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A.

There is low to no risk of malaria throughout Nepal and antimalarial tablets are not usually advised although may be considered for certain higher risk groups; you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. The risk is highest in the low lying southern ‘terai’ districts bordering India.

A yellow fever certificate is only required if travelling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission or for travellers having transited for more than 12 hours through a country with risk of transmission.

Dengue fever is a known risk in Nepal. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Most of our trips to Nepal go to high altitudes where there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness. Our itineraries are designed to enable everyone to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Please refer to the Altitude Warning within the Trip Notes for further advice on AMS.

Travel health can often be something people forget about before going away, but a little preparation and knowledge can go a long way to help you stay fit and healthy while abroad.

The Travel Health Pro website recommends to have a rabies vaccination on this trip, as cycling is considered a higher risk activity.

The above information can change at short notice; as we are not qualified to answer all your questions about travel health we strongly recommend you contact your Medical Professional or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information. Please note: vaccinations that are routinely recommended to residents of the UK, North America or Australasia are not considered to form part of the travel health advice, and you should ensure these are kept up to date where necessary.

For additional information please visit: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries

Dengue fever and/or Chikungunya are known risks in places visited on this trip. Both are tropical viral diseases spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for either, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Insurance - are you adequately covered?

It is a condition of joining any of our holidays that you must be fully insured against medical and personal accident risks (to include repatriation costs and air ambulance or helicopter rescue services where appropriate). On arrival in destination for your trip, you will be asked to present details to your leader or local representative of your policy.

If you are resident in the UK we strongly recommend the Exodus travel insurance policy, this is specifically designed to cover all activities on your trip. If arranging your own policy please ensure that you are covered for all activities that are part of the trip, optional activities that you intend to take part in and/or on high altitude itineraries, that you are covered up to the maximum altitude of the trip.

Local Time

Bhutan's Timezone:
Asia/Thimphu +06 (GMT +06:00)
Nepal's Timezone:
Asia/Kathmandu +0545 (GMT +05:45)

Electricity

Bhutan's Electricity:

Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Kingdom of Bhutan usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

Nepal's Electricity:

230V, 50Hz. Mains electric 'load shedding' (planned temporary power‐cuts) occurs regularly throughout towns and cities in Nepal. On teahouse treks the majority of lodges now have electricity and charging facilities in the communal areas for batteries, for a fee (around Rs150-350 per hour). Battery life can be affected by cold - lithium batteries are best.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Kingdom of Bhutan (Druk Yul) usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

Money

Bhutan's Currency

The national currency of Bhutan is the Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN), with an exchange rate at the time of publication of approximately 88 to the UK£ and 64 to the US$. Indian rupees can also be used in Bhutan (but only Rs100 notes or less, not the new Rs500 or Rs2000 notes). The exchange rate is the same as the BTN.

Nepal's Currency

The national currency of Nepal is the Nepalese Rupee (NPR), with an exchange rate at the time of publication of approximately 153 to the UK£ and 115 to the US$.

It is illegal to import or export rupees, but foreign currency is not limited, provided it is declared on arrival.

Keep your change receipts, as you will need them if you want to change rupees back into hard currency at Kathmandu airport.

ATM Availability

There are ATM machines in Kathmandu but we recommend you do not wholly rely on using them as they can frequently break down.It is recommended you take cash (US$ or £) to change in Bhutan. Credit cards (American Express, Visa or Mastercard) can be used for more expensive purchases in the better souvenir shops. There are ATM machines in Bhutan mainly of Bank of Bhutan in Thimphu and Paro. The maximum withdrawal in a day is Nu 30,000 ($ 500 or so ) in local currency. The Bank of Bhutan accepts both Visa card and Mastercard. For purchases you can use Visa and Mastercard in larger shops but it may be tedious and time consuming as confirmation is required. There is, normally, a 5 % charge for this which may vary from shop to shop.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

The Nepal Rupee is divided into 100 Naya Paise. It is illegal to import or export rupees, but foreign currency is not limited, provided it is declared on arrival. Take your personal spending money in cash (dollars, sterling or euros can all be changed easily). Traveller’s cheques are no longer accepted or exchanged in Nepal. You will need approximately £50 Nepal for lunches and dinners and drinks, plus extra for any optional sightseeing tours or shopping. Please note that you can change Nepalese rupees back into US dollars at Kathmandu airport on departure from Nepal. If you wish to do this you should keep the original currency exchange receipts. Please note £50 notes or any Scottish or Irish Currency cannot be changed in Nepal and Bhutan The Bhutanese Ngultrum is tied to the Indian Rupee, which can be used throughout Bhutan (Please note only Indian notes up to Rs100 denomination can be taken or used in both Nepal and Bhutan - do not carry Indian Rupee notes of 500 or 2000 denominations). Money can be changed at Paro airport on arrival. Ngultrums are impossible to change back, so if you are left with any at the end of the trek make sure you exchange them for Indian notes which can be used in Nepal. It is illegal to import or export Rupees or Ngultrums, but foreign currency is not limited, provided it is declared on arrival.

Tipping

Tipping is of course entirely at your discretion, but is customary in Bhutan. We suggest you allow about £125 ($170) per person for this. You should collect this amongst yourselves in Bumthang and divide is equally between your Bhutanese leader and drivers.

(If you have a western leader their tip is not included in the above. Tipping of the leader is at your discretion but we suggest you send an envelope around the group at the end of the trip in Kathmandu).

On top of this collect approx £25($35) per person as a kitty for hotel porters (you can give this to your Bhutanese guide in Paro to divide between the hotels).

Please note if you are part of a smaller group then it is recommended that you consider increasing the above amounts slightly.

Bike ride around Paro, Bhutan

Responsible Tourism

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Exodus Community

Join the Exodus online community

Don't forget to visit the Community area on our website. You can view the range of Exodus videos and podcasts, read trip write-ups which have featured in the national media and take advantage of some special deals on travel gear and equipment.

In the Community Travel Forum you'll find the Departure Lounge where you can discuss your trip with fellow travellers before you depart. When you get back from your holiday remember to upload your images to the relevant trip page on our website. This helps other people see what our holidays are really like and you'll be entered automatically into our monthly photo competition.

To make full use of the Community you'll need to join My Exodus. It's free, registration is simple and easy, so what are you waiting for?

Important Information

On all guided trips

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely partake in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity.

Although rarely enforced, by booking this trip you agree to section 16 of our Booking Conditions which clearly states that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these circumstances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred.

On all trips

In booking this trip you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability you should call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary.

In an emergency, please contact our 24 hour out of hours service on +44 (0) 844 326 7041.

Every time that you travel abroad you should take the time to read the warnings in the essential information in the brochure.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers, and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately 2 to 3 weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; in order to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, as stated in our brochure, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

As fuel prices, airport taxes and exchange rates fluctuate, and airlines manage their rates to match demand, it is proving harder than ever to guarantee our Flight Inclusive prices. Although we endeavour to keep our website as accurate as possible, daily fluctuations mean that our Flight Inclusive price may be out of date. For accurate prices we recommend that you contact one of our Travel Experts, or your Travel Agent.

TRAVEL AWARE –STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD

 

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the NHS have up-to-date advice on staying safe and healthy abroad. For more on security, local laws, plus passport and visa information, see https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/

Keep informed of current travel health news by visiting https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/

Advice can change so check regularly for updates.

For all latest travel information about your holiday, please visit our Travel Safety Advice page.

How to Book

1. Check availability

Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.

2. Secure your place

You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.

3. Complete your booking and payment

When you're ready to book, go to www.exodus.co.uk for online booking, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque. Book with confidence: Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582 issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA ‐ The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all monies paid to us for your trip are fully protected.

TRIP NOTE VALIDITY

These Trip Notes are valid from the "Current as" date on page one. They will occasionally be updated post booking and pre-departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary bookers will be written to separately. All customers will also receive a link to the most up-to-date version of the Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions pre-travel.