Bhutan for cyclists: luxury on two wheels

The Bhutanese people are traditional and humble. Living a modest life on an unspoiled land, they are the faithful disciples of Mother Nature; committed to protecting the beauty of Bhutan and promoting sustainable tourism. So exploring this beautifully preserved landlocked country by bike is, without a doubt, the most wonderful way of seeing Bhutan. Because of the untouched beauty, there really is no other cycling trip quite like a Bhutan cycling trip. For pure outdoor luxury on two wheels, make sure you add these cycle routes to your bucket list.

Dochula Pass

From the capital of Thimphu to Dochula, cyclists will have a tough uphill ride against them. This challenging incline is arduous and tiring; for beginners or young riders, it could be something of a struggle. Slowly but surely though, as you take the 14 mile climb up to Dochula Pass, the rewards will become apparent. Here, you will get the most spectacular panoramic views of the Himalayan Mountains. And the 108 traditional Chorten buildings dotted around the mountain pass make your ride even more extraordinary with their grand yet calming presence.

This is one of the highest passes in Bhutan so kick back, have a spot of lunch and take in the mind-blowing landscapes. The views are particularly beautiful in the winter when the snow-capped Eastern Himalayas form the backdrop to your cycling journey. To descend, take the route back down to the capital, or continue your journey to Wangdue with 26 miles of scenic, forest-lined downhill riding.

Bumthang Valley

Bhutan is often compared to Switzerland because of its small yet sparsely populated land, its carefully preserved natural sites and the breath-taking mountain scenery. And the cycling route from Trongsa to Bumthang is the perfect example of this natural affinity. Bumthang is known as the spiritual heart of the country and its principle town Jakar is said to be one of the most beautiful areas of Bhutan. Here you will find the “Little Switzerland” that other cyclists talk about, and the entire route from Trongsa to Jakar will give you the most breath-taking mountain views ever to be seen in South Asia.

The entire journey from Trongsa to Jakar is around 41 miles, with a total ascent of 1609.89 metres and a maximum elevation of 3,443.4 metres. Expect some rapid uphill rides and hairpin turns as you leave Trongsa. Before you reach the Bumthang District, you should pass through Yutung La Pass and the coniferous Chummey Valley.

Black Mountains

Reserved for confident cyclists only, the route over the Black Mountains is one of the most challenging routes in Bhutan. From the luxuriously green and fertile Punakha Valley, there’s over 40 miles of picturesque riding until you reach Gangtey, where you can stop and admire the Gangtey Monastery. Although physically demanding, the cycle over the Black Mountains is extremely significant as the Gangtey Monastery resides on the border of East and West Bhutan.

Ride on and you’ll reach the incredible Phobjikha Valley, a massive glacial valley, home to the Himalayan Black Necked Crane. For anyone with an interest in nature and bird-spotting, the Black Mountains is not to be missed.

James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel.

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