Mountain biking in Bhutan is a whole new sport that is steadily gaining popularity amongst the Bhutanese and visitors alike. The country’s topography, especially in the western, central and eastern regions, are not the most cycle-friendly but that is precisely why mountain biking is gaining momentum amongst visitors. The mode of transport itself calls for a certain intimacy seldom experienced in vehicles.
With better roads replacing the old and the increasing number of off-road roads, biking is now becoming a very unique and original way of seeing and interacting with the country, people and the Bhutanese environment.
Most biking trips go through well paved roads while others trail on to dirt roads and trails. The traffic is still relatively very light and the experience very intimate. This is the “Road Less Travelled.” The more adventurous have the option of making side excursions for more “off-the-road” ventures if preferred. The surface accommodates most types of frame styles: from MTB, Hybrid, and Road, depending on your cycling style and experience. Biking trails mostly meander through small towns and villages and rural areas; it’s just you, your bike and the tour group and the agrarian and natural scenery.
Biking in Bhutan allows you many opportunities for self reflection along with the absorbing, rich environment. There are also numerous opportunities for optional hikes with a bit of climbing thrown in.
There are some challenging climbs with one in particular that is more than seven hours. You peddle the pads over two miles (3,400 meters) above sea level. The effort made is equally rewarded with a view and an experience that is as rare as anything in this increasingly globalizing and monotonous world. Riders should have an adequate level of fitness and stamina and be experienced enough in the art of mountain biking. Tours are fully supported by a van following riders. The van allows riders the option to sit in and take a break.
|ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE LOCATION||Entry By Road from India or Fly to Paro International Airport|
|DEPARTURE TIME||2 Hours Before Departure|
There are two potential biking trails: Jemina (in Thimphu) – Ta Dzong (in Paro); and Wochu – Dzongdrakha – Bondey trails. The trails snake through pastoral landscapes and stunning sceneries.
Jemina – Ta Dzong Trail
Physical Description: The Jemina – Ta Dzong mountain biking trail lies between an altitude of 2280 – 3600m above sea level. To make a loop, it is suggested that the journey trail start from the Paro Town Square and continue to bike along the Paro – Thimphu Highway until Khasadrapchhu.
From here, you bike across the bridge at Khasadrapchhu and follow the asphalt road through the narrow Jemina valley. The logging road to Jedekha starts from the industrial estate.
The logging road ascends at an average gradient of 11% till Jedekha, where the actual biking trail begins. From Jedekha the trail until Jele Dzong Pass climbs at an average gradient of 8%.
The topographic terrain is mild till the Jele Dzong Pass. It does not exceed 70%. From the pass the trail descends continuously and in some places the trail bends sharply at an average gradient of 15% until it meets the farm road. The farm road ends near the Ta Dzong gate. You follow the asphalt road to get back to the starting point. The topographic terrain from the pass till Ta Dzong is very mild with an average side slope of 40%. In occasional bends the side slope goes up to 80% to a stretch of about 50m.
Thimphu – Pangrizampa – Hongtsho trail
The Pangrizampa – Hongtsho trail starts from the Thimphu Town Square (known locally as the Clock Tower) and continues biking along the Thimphu – Dechencholing highway until the junction at Dechencholing – Pangrizampa and Dechencholing – Tango/Cheri road. From here we follow the dirt motor vehicle road until Pangrizampa (the bridge of Pangri).
From Pangrizampa the biking ascends along the logging road until Taba Top at an average gradient of 11%. The logging road ends here. We continue biking until Thimphu City to make a loop.
The trail falls between an altitude of 2,300 and 3,700m above sea level. The total length of trail loop is 46 km.
Some important cultural entities that can be viewed by biking along the Thimphu -Pangrizampa – Hongtsho trail are the Tashi Chho Dzong, the Parliament building, Dechenphodrang Lhakhang, Dechencholing Palace, Pangrizampa Lhakhang and Kabjisa village. From the Taba Top, a bird’s eye-view of the following monasteries are visible: Dodedra, Tango and Cheri monasteries. From Sinchula Pass a glorious vista awaits the rider in the form of the snow capped Himalayan eastern range, including Jhumolhari. As the trail descends towards Hongtsho, clear views of Hongtsho valley overlooking the Trashigang monastery across the valley can be seen. As the journey ends, you come across Semtokha Dzong, the oldest in Bhutan and after about 5 km ride from here, you will be back at the Clock Tower Square.
Khuruthang – Samdingkha – Punakha trail
Although the proposed biking journey is over 17 km, the new trail construction is slightly over 7 km. The proposed journey will take off at Khuruthang and stay along the feeder road until the footpath suspension bridge at Samdingkha.
From Samdingkha the new trail mostly follows along the footpath at an average gradient of 10% until Punakha Dzong where the trail connects to the road. The terrain topography of the new trail is generally steep exceeding 100% in some stretches. However, the trail is an up-gradation of the footpath.
After reaching Punakha Dzong, you keep following the asphalt road along the Mo Chhu till Khuruthang town, a place to stretch the arms and spend a night at the hotels.
Punakha, the old capital, is a pleasant sub-tropical valley. It is home to the impressive Pungthang Dewachenpoi Phodrang Dzong- the administrative and religious centre of the district. In winter it is home to the Bhutanese Central Monk Body. Built by Shabdrung Ngwang Namgyal in the 17th century, the fortress stands at the confluence of two rivers- the Pho (male) Chhu and Mo (female) Chhu Rivers. The trail passes through several villages: Jimithang, Manakha, Jara, Samdingkha, Jangkhorlo and Tempakha.
Topographical details can be sought through email.
Courtesy : Tourism Council of Bhutan