Bhutan, a land of mountain, monasteries, and magic, is landlocked by China in the North and India on the other three sides. The uniqueness of the country is that it measures its development by the GNH, or Gross National Happiness, index rather than the GDP. Riding in Bhutan offers a tunning view of mountains sitting in the lap of verdant valleys occasionally strewn together by rivulets, making it an ideal bike riding destination.
So, plan a road trip to Bhutan, a paradise for anyone seeking either solace in solitude or adventure through a bike riding experience.
Exploring the country on a motorcycle is a cut above the rest of the experiences.
By the time you will finish reading this article, you will realize that riding in Bhutan or planning a road trip to Bhutan is one of the best choices for an exotic vacation.
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Riding in Bhutan: A Grand Expedition
A road trip to Bhutan can be an experience of a lifetime, with a drive through snaking roads running parallel to the waistline of mountains or cutting across the traditional villages. The lush greenery embellishing the beautiful valleys will pump you with abundant excitement and zeal for adventurism.
Riding in Bhutan will pamper both the rider and the nature lover aficionado in you. You can witness one of the most beautiful hill towns peppered with monasteries with high-pitched chimes and the chanting of monks breaking the monotony of silence.
Biking on windy mountain roads and passing through the blossoming deciduous and coniferous forests will leave you enthralled.
As a biker, you can have pit-stops and indulge yourself in the charming and mythical tribal stories .
Also, learn about pit-stops that every biker should take!
On the way, you might not find many eating joints. However, there are small home-run tea points where you can savor home-made tea, Maggi, chicken, rice and pork curries. You can also enjoy the Bhutanese cuisine by either dining in one of these road-side eateries or pamper yourself in one of the plush hotels/restaurants .
Happy and Safe
Known as the “Happiest Country” in the world, Bhutan is a fairyland.
The concept of GNH came into existence with the advent of globalization in the country. The quality of life measures both material and spiritual development. Bhutan’s official religion is Buddhism, which was adopted by none other than the Great Ashoka to spread peace throughout the world.
The life of commoners in Bhutan is a concoction of perfect harmony and is the mirror of the philosophy of Buddhism. The malicious virus of individualism and materialism has not yet corrupted their society, which is why they have the highest GNH.
Bhutan has the history of maintaining a state of comity with all her neighbors and a politically stable environment, making it one of the safest for tourists. People of Bhutan are very warm and helpful.
This country has a low crime rate and is perfectly safe even for solo travelers .
Even the remotest areas with no comfortable access to humans are deemed safe, so you can absorb yourself in the serenity and beauty and at the same time allow yourself to be purge of the virulent fallout of modernization.
Any traveler visiting this temple of tranquility and serenity has to pay a heavy royalty. It is like an entry fees to savor the graceful beauty and elegance of this country inhabited by artists of happiness.
Owing to the friendly relation with India, Bhutan has waived this royalty for Indians, consequently allowing Indians to soak themselves in the magisterial beauty of this nation free of the entry cost.
Indians with a valid voter ID card are allowed to travel to Bhutan without a passport.
Other foreign tourists visiting Bhutan have to book their trip through government-approved local agents, but this does not apply to Indian citizens. This results in slashing the trip budget to almost half.
However, riding in Bhutan does need a valid Indian driver’s license. The Indian currency is also widely accepted in Bhutan. You can even withdraw Bhutanese currency using your Indian debit card at a nominal charge of INR 20 per transaction.
So, riding in Bhutan is not only adventurous but also hassle free without any complexities of visa, paperwork, royalty fees, government-approved travel agents,and so on.
Mecca for Bikers
Revive your affection for motor-biking on a thrilling ride across the mountain kingdom of Bhutan. Visiting a country by a two-wheel ride can be unpredictably mesmerizing. Long rides well supplemented by curvy roads on high altitudes can certainly inject you with the adrenaline rush never felt before.
With the highest number of curves per kilometer, riding in Bhutan proves to be Mecca for bikers all over the world.
Love biking, take a look at the types of roads every biker should explore once!
The roads are clean and tidy and the traffic rules are strict, so you will not find rash traffic or busy roads. The country has no traffic signals and the traffic is regulated by the roundabout system of roads. You can rediscover the sense of freedom, fun and elation that motorcycling offers. You can challenge yourself in the maze of narrow passages with shops on either side.
It is an adventurous experience you would love to repeat.
While you let yourself loose and enjoy the ride, do not over-speed; the official speed limit for riding in Bhutan is 50 kmph as no one is in a hurry there.
So, you can embark on a trip that is both exhausting and rejuvenating at the same time.
A trip to Bhutan officially begins at Phuentsholing, the border town of India and Bhutan. The four and a half hour drive from Phuentsholing to Paro is extremely scenic with 5-6 major waterfalls on the way. Plan to leave early in the morning so that you can enjoy the beautiful view.
The next morning start the hike to Tiger’s Nest , the sacred Buddhist Temple which hangs on the cliff of the Paro Valley.
It is a 3-hour strenuous uphill hike. You can take a refreshing break after 90 minutes of walk at the café located on the ridge. Other places to visit in Paro are Drukgyel Dzong, Paro Rinpung Dzong, Kyichu Lhakhang and National Museum.
Next day, start your ride to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, which is 60 km from Paro.
On the way, you will pass through Cheli La, the highest mountain pass in Bhutan and Haa Valley, a small and cold town. You can visit the Indian Army Camp in Haa Valley.
The permit issued at Phuentsholing is valid only for 7 days , you need to extend the permit at Thimpu in order to visit other places in Bhutan.
Visit Takin Preserve to see the National animal of Bhutan and Tashichhoe Dzong, a seat of government and religious activities, and also enjoy a casual evening ride around the town of Thimpu. You can also ride to Tango Monastery, a renowned Buddhist college and residence of a high lama.
Also, visit the School of 13 Arts and Crafts and the Folk Heritage Museum.
The following day in the morning, start your journey to the eastern part of Bhutan.
You will reach Punakha passing through Dochula Pass (3200 meters); you can witness a spectacular view of the mountains. In Punakha, you might have to struggle a bit to find a room. You must see the Chimi Lhakhang temple and Punakha Dzong .
You can witness the Tsechus festival if you are interested in the cultural dances and festivities.
Do not forget to take a walk on the Iron Bridge built over the Punakha River.
Leave early from Punakha to reach Bumthang, a traditional home to the great Buddhist teacher Pema Linga. It is a beautiful 9-hour drive. Local people address Bumthang as second Switzerland. You will cross Wangdue, Pele La and Trongsa on the way.
Explore the valley of Bumthang, Jakar Valley, Jakar Fort and Burning lake .
Next drive is from Bumthang to Thimpu. It is a 12-hour long drive (257 km). The route you will take is Bumthang – Trongsa – Pele La – Punakha – Douch La – Thimpu. You will reach Thimpu by the evening and can go shopping and buy souvenirs.
While this trip will come to an end you will be filled with mixed feelings of sad and glad—sad as the trip is ending and glad that you did the trip.
All About Bhutan
How to Reach
You can also reach Bhutan either by air or by road. There is no rail network . The international airport is in Paro, a valley town. There are regular flights from Delhi and Kolkata to Paro. You might get reasonable tickets in Druk Air, the national carrier of Bhutan.
For riding in Bhutan, go via the road network, you can enter from the west (via Kolkata): the Phuentsholing–Jaigaon Border; or from the east (via Guwahati): the Somdrup Jongkhar–Darranga Border.
When to Visit
Though Bhutan is a year-round destination for tourism, the best time for riding in Bhutan is either spring or autumn; however, the Tscehus Festival draws many tourists.
What to Carry
Do not forget to pack some woolens (light woolens during summers and heavy woolens for winters); positively carry an umbrella because it can rain anytime in Bhutan.
Keep a swimwear if you care to take a dip in the hot springs. Carrying a pair of comfortable shoes, hiking gears, earplugs (for a good night sleep as dogs in Bhutan tend to sleep during the day and bark all night), hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses are recommended.
Do not forget to take a flashlight for the occasional power cuts. Bhutan is a no-smoking zone , and buying and selling of tobacco is a punishable offense; however, travelers can carry tobacco to a prescribed limit.
Go, unleash your biker’s instinct and transcend the human-made boundaries to set foot on a soul-enriching journey which will change your outlook forever. The challenges of riding in Bhutan amidst the company of one of the happiest and content peoples on earth will kick-start or boost a positive change in you.
Exchange smiles with a “Kusuzangpo” (how the Bhutanese greet each other) when you cross the ever-smiling people of Bhutan.
So, pack your bags and get your motorcyclist mind racing; the uncompromising attitude and the affable nature of the Bhutanese will make your ride to Bhutan an unforgettable experience.