Bhutan Bicycle Tour: A Cyclist’s Shangri-La

Bhutan Bicycle Tour: A Cyclist’s Shangri-La!

with Jock Montgomery and Karma Tshering


April, 2015 Bhutan Bicycle Tour. For millennia, the kingdom of Bhutan remained impenetrable. Today, a fortunate few can discover a country, whose culture and traditions are intact, and whose landscape of mountain peaks, snow-fed rivers and alpine valleys has been preserved. If you want to experience Bhutan first hand, there’s no better way than on a bicycle: You’ll meet friendly locals in their traditional Bhutanese dress, ride through stunning rural landscapes and wilderness, stop en route to visit quaint villages, vast monasteries and imposing fortresses built with that unique Bhutanese architectural design and elegance. If there is a Shangri-La for biking enthusiasts, Bhutan is certainly it!

Bhutan Bicycle Tour: A Cyclist’s Shangri-La

The Cost of Visiting Bhutan – and the Cost of Not Invariably, when people hear about Bhutan, they respond with, “Yeah … I hear it’s really expensive!” After more than a dozen visits there, I can tell you that, while this is true, one should recognize that this the Bhutanese way of keeping the tourist numbers – and the resulting impact – to a minimum. For over 30 years, Bhutan has been viewed by the world as a model for sustainable tourism: minimal impact, cultural preservation, ecotourism, wildlife and forest conservation, and the promotion of what King Jigme Singye Wangchuk coined the country’s “Gross National Happiness.” So my reply is: “As is usually the case, you get what you pay for, and in Bhutan that means a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime experience. In my humble opinion, the cost of missing it is far greater than the cost of getting it.”

This will be my 14th visit to Bhutan and my 5th Bhutan bicycle tour. On the testimonials page you can find comments about past Bhutan bicycle tours by Nicolas, Eric, Belinda and Anthony.

My motto for any adventure is “Be safe and have fun!” A bicycling trip in Bhutan involves a healthy mix of a little hardship tempered with a bit of luxury and a lot of learning and discovery, new friends, and lots and lots of fun. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Trip Highlights

  • 12 full days in-country, with over 500k of spectacular cycling
  • Traverse the remote eastern half of the Kingdom on nearly traffic-free roads that are 90% paved (semi-slick tires recommended)
  • 3 layover days to relax and soak up the local culture and to ride on remote single-track trails
  • Ride the world’s longest downhill 82k (and there are 4 more descents of over 60k)
  • Ascend 5 high passes, 2 above 3,500m
  • Rise to the challenge of the high pass of the trip: the legendary 3,798m/12,457’ Thrumshing La
  • Hike up to the spectacular Tiger’s Nest Monastery perched high on a cliff face
  • Experience – and photograph – the unforgettable Himalayan panoramas at the passes
  • Immerse yourself in the rich Bhutanese culture through numerous visits to monasteries, museums and homes
  • Rest in comfortable lodging and luxury campsites and refill with our tasty picnic lunches, and delicious local delicacies (especially the chewy yak meat!)
  • Chat with our experienced English speaking drivers, and if you ever tire they can give you a lift !
Photographed while on a Bhutan Bicycle Tour: A Cyclist’s Shangri-La, with Compass Rose Expeditions

Having fun photographing Bhutanese school children

Bhutan Bicycle Tour: A Cyclist’s Shangri-La!

Cycling in Bhutan on a quiet road with early morning fog in the background

Photographed while on a Bhutan Bicycle Tour: A Cyclist’s Shangri-La, with Compass Rose Expeditions

Buddhist prayer flags and the cliffside Tiger’s Nest/Taktsang Monastery first built in 1692


Pre-trip, 4/7 Fly from home to Bangkok

Fly from your home country and arrive Bangkok. Stay on your own at the hotel of your choice (I can give you some recommendations). Consider spending a few days in Bangkok to rest up, get over jet lag and see a bit of Thailand.

Day 1. 4/8, Fly Bangkok to Paro. Tour Paro valley and hike to the Tiger’s Nest

Fly across the Himalayas and to a small mountain airstrip in Paro, Bhutan. Visit some the Paro valley and then make the spectacular hike up to the Cliffside Taksang Monastery.

Day 2. 4/9, Fly to the Jakar, tour Bumthang

Fly the Bumthang valley. Tour the valley which is full of interesting sites, markets, monasteries and there are some dirt trail riding options.

Day 3. 4/10, Ride to the Tang Valley

We ride on dirt roads to the remote Tang valley. Visit the Ugyencholling museum. Stay in a private manor that is now a guesthouse.

Day 4. 4/11, Single track trails to Bumthang

Return to Bumthang on some fantastic single track trails which takes us up to a ridge-top view point and then down through blue pine forests to the town of Jakar and more touring in Bumthang valley.

Day 5. 4/12, Ride 62k Bhumtang via Shirtung La (3548m) to Ura, single track to Shingkhar

Ascend to the Shirtung La, and at the top of the pass we’ll hopefully have a clear view of Gangkhar Puensum the world’s highest unclimbed peak. Ride on single track trails to Ura village, continue on dirt roads to the hamlet of Shingkhar.

Day 6. 4/13, Ride 52k Shingkhar/Ura via Thrumshing La (3,798m), to Sengor campsite

Return to Ura and make our way over the highest pass of the entire trip the Thurmshing La. Ride 20k of our huge 82k descent to our campsite, at Sengor.

Day 7. 4/14, Ride 85k Sengor (3051m) to Mongar (1590m)

Continue downhill over 60k to the Kuru Chu River and then make our way up a series of switchbacks to the remote village of Mongar.

Day 8. 4/15, Ride 92k Mongar via Kori La (2,390m) to Trashigang

Ride up to the Kori La, then descend 42k to the Drangme Chu/River and then up to Trashigang the easternmost point of our trip across Bhutan.

Day 9. 4/16, Layover in Trashigang, monastery visit, optional cycling

Visit the Dzong, hangout in town, go on an optional day ride or hike. Take it easy!

Day 10. 4/17, Ride 85k Trashigang via Yongphu La (2,544m) to Wamrong campsite

Ride 25k on switchbacks up to the Yongphu La (2544m), with our final sweeping panoramic views. We continue on undulating terrain to our campsite.

Day 11. 4/18, Ride 94k Wamrong via no name pass (2,388m) to Samdrupjongkhar

Ride to our final pass at 2,388m and then another amazing descent of 3080m all the way to the border town of Samdrupjongkhar.

Day 12. 4/19, Drive to Guwahati airport, and home

Cross the border to India, drive to Guwahati airport and fly to Bangkok and onward home.


Jock Montgomery

In 1983 I moved to Nepal to train raft guides and lead river expeditions and treks across much of the Himalayas. I was based in Kathmandu for 12 years and now make my home in Bangkok, Thailand. I have been leading trips and expeditions for over 30 years, and currently lead river running, sea kayaking, trekking and mtn biking trips and expeditions across the Himalayas, and throughout Southeast Asia, North America, Greenland, Patagonia and Ecuador/Galapagos. This will be my eleventh trip to Bhutan (and fourth bicycle tour). I speak Nepali, spoken by most Bhutanese, and intimately know the country’s sites, history and cultures. When not leading trips, I am in demand as a commercial and editorial assignment photographer. I teach photography and lead private photography workshops throughout Asia.

Jock Montgomery

Jock Montgomery

Visit Jock’s photography website at:

Karma Tshering

Karma Tshering. Karma is a licensed, high altitude trekking, mountain biking and cultural guide and he has been leading trips since 1998. Karma is extremely outgoing and friendly, and he has great enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge of Bhutan’s history, people, language and religion. He is a strong rider and when time allows he’ll gladly ride with us.

Local guide for the Bhutan Bicycle Tour

Karma Tshering


April 8—19, 2015, 12 Days in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Prices (in US$)

  • $3,995/person with 8-12 participants
  • $380/single supplement
  • $750/person for the Bangkok to Paro flight and Guwahati to Bangkok flight
    (Price will be reconfirmed 3 months prior to departure.)
  • $205/person for domestic flight
  • $385/person for bicycle rental

Payment Schedule

  • At time of reservation $1,000.00
  • 90 days prior to departure: balance due
  • Reservations are made on a first-come basis

Cancellation Fees

  • Minimum Fee $1,000.00, non-refundable
  • 61-90 days prior to departure 50% of land cost
  • 60 days or less prior to departure 100% of land cost

What is Included

  • Expert leadership, instruction and support staff
  • Airport and other transfers
  • Ground transportation, minibus, van
  • Transportation fees and taxes
  • Entrance and zone fees, “special” permissions
  • Porter tips
  • Meals as specified, breakfast lunch, dinner (B, L, D)
  • Bottled water, and tea and coffee with meals
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Group first aid kit

What is not included

  • Mandatory travel health insurance. Trip cancellation insurance is strongly recommended
  • International airfare from home to Bangkok, and from Yangon to home
  • Customary but optional tips for local guides
  • Visas and Immunization
  • International air-fare and accommodation on route from home to Bangkok
  • Personal expenses, including laundry, snacks, drinks, alcohol etcetera
  • Overweight luggage charges
  • Airport taxes
Download Trip Application

For more information and to register for this tour please contact Jock at

Cycling Bhutan from Thimpu to Bhumtang

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Cycling Bhutan from Thimpu to Bhumtang

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