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Tour of the Dragon is not a road bike race or a classic mountain bike race, nor it is a gravel grinder, because it doesn’t fit into any of the categories defined by the International Cycling Union. Since the distance of the race is 250+ kms, we would categorize it as an ultra-marathon mountain bike race on roads that happen to be extremely challenging.
Tour of the Dragon starts in Bumthang and travels 255 km over 4 mountain passes which on average are well above 3000m/9800ft before finishing at the Changlimithang parking in Thimphu. It is the toughest one-day mountain bike race in the world. During the course of the race, you will gain nearly 4000m and descend 4000m which is impossible to do without training and acclimatization.
All international participants spend at least 6 days prior to the race day along the route to acclimatize and get used to the altitude while exploring and immersing yourself into Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions. You’ll have ample of opportunities to assess the gradients of the road, the terrain and adapt your training to it.
For details about the race and other related information, please check programs on Day 6 & 7.
Paro International Airport, Bhutan
The race takes place on 4th September 2021. You must plan to arrive in Bhutan on 29th August so that you have enough time to acclimatize and adapt your training to road conditions and gradients.
This is the toughest one-day mountain bike race in the world. International participants usually spend at least 6 days prior to the race, along the route of the race, to acclimatize to the altitude and adapt their training to the road conditions and gradients. As is the race, altitude is one serious factor.
USD2650 – for single person traveller (Base Price)
3.5% discount – for a couple or group of 2 people
14% discount – for a group of 3-5 people
18% discount – for a group of 6-10 people
20% discount – for a group of 11 people & above
Registration Fees (Additional) to be paid separately:
Please note that once registered, the fees are non-refundable. However, you can participate in the next edition of the race.
Arrive Paro International airport by either of only two airlines operating in and out of Bhutan; Drukair, the national flag carrier or Bhutan Airlines, a private airline which was started in 2011. You will be received by our guide and driver at the exit gate and then transfer you to the hotel. After checking in and settling yourself in the new surroundings, you will be taken on your first adventure into the ‘Kingdom of Thunder Dragon’. We will visit the National Museum of Bhutan and drive to the highest motorable mountain pass, Chelela at an altitude of 3,900m/12,800ft.
Note: The coverage on the first day depends on your flight arrival time.
The National Museum of Bhutan is located just above the Rinpung Dzong (administrative headquarter of Paro district). It is housed in an ancient watchtower called Paro Ta Dzong (Ta Dzong means “watchtower fortress”) built in 1649. It displays hundreds of ancient Bhutanese artifacts and artworks including traditional costumes, armour, weaponry and handcrafted implements for daily life. The collection at the National Museum preserves a snap-shot of the rich cultural traditions of the country. Ta Dzong was converted into the National Museum in 1968.
|Distance to Chelela||35km|
|Chele La Pass Altitude||3,900m/12,800ft|
Chele La Pass is the highest motorable road point in Bhutan at an altitude of about 3,900m/12,800ft above sea level. The air is thin and fresh at this altitude. It is a good trip for acclimatization. On a clear day, the mountain pass offers a grand view of surrounding Himalayan peaks, Paro valley and Haa valley. We can spend some time walking along the pass among the colourful prayer flags and enjoying the beautiful views around and appreciate the pristine environment. If you are interested, we can arrange a prayer flag hoisting activity for you with a small fund to buy the prayer flags. The prayer flags are traditionally hoisted to bring peace, harmony, ward off bad luck and clear obstacles on your path.
Overnight at Khangkhu Resort or Bhutan Mandala Resort.
|Distance to Thimphu||55km|
Today after breakfast, drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Along the way, you can ride your bike for some stretch of road as and when you want. On arrival in Thimphu, visit the Buddha statue overlooking Thimphu valley.
The magnificent 169 feet tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha is located on a hilltop overlooking the Thimphu valley. From here you can see a nice view of Thimphu city. It was built to celebrate the 60th birth anniversary of the Fourth King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck and also for the purpose of bringing peace in the world. The giant Buddha statue houses more than 100,000 8-inch tall Buddha statues of the same type. The construction began in 2006 and was completed in 2015.
You will have the opportunity to ride your bike to the Buddha Point.
After lunch at the Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant, visit the National Institute for Zorig Chusum where the 13 traditional arts & crafts of Bhutan are taught. If the class is in session, you can hop in and observe while the students get hands-on training. Opens during working weekdays & on Saturdays 10am-noon.
Located in the neighborhood of the Zorig Chusum, the National Library of Bhutan is considered as a national treasure of Bhutan and a fundamental source of Bhutanese history, religion, medicine, arts and culture. Opens during working weekdays & on Saturdays 10am-noon.
Leisure time to explore Thimphu town.
Overnight at Kuenphen Rabten Resort or Hotel Amodhara.
|Distance to Punakha||74km|
After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we drive to Punakha valley via Dochula, a sacred mountain pass you will enjoy spectacular views of some of the highest snow-capped peaks of Bhutan on a clear day. You will also ride your bike to the pass to adapt your training to the altitude and road gradients.
Dochula is a sacred mountain pass at an elevation of 3150m. On a clear day, you can see a grand view of some of the perenially snow-capped highest mountains of Bhutan. From there continue driving towards Punakha and gradually descend to a warm low altitude valley within an hour. Optionally, you may ride your bike downhill for some stretch of road.
Visit the famous 15th-century Chimi Lhakhang popularly known among tourists as “Temple of Fertility”. This temple is associated with the 15th-century Tibetan Buddhist master who was affectionately known as the “Devine Madman”. A gentle walk through the terraced rice fields and traditional farmhouses painted with phalluses will give you a unique experience. Explore the nearby village.
After lunch, visit the historic 17th-century Punakha Dzong considered as the masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. This magnificent fortress displays fine Bhutanese arts and craftsmanship which continues to influence the Bhutanese architecture to this day. You will spend some time appreciating the intricate woodworks and sacred wall paintings.
After visiting the Punakha Dzong, you will walk to the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan and enjoy its beauty.
Overnight at Hotel Lobesa or Meri Puensum Resort.
Today we hike to the picturesque Khamsum Yuellay Namgyel Chorten and then drive to Phobjikha valley. The drive to Phobjikha will be about 3 hours under normal road condition and takes you through the lateral national highway connecting western, central and eastern region gradually ascending up the pristine mountains of Bhutan and eventually enter the most beautiful valley in Bhutan.
Hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten
Drive about 20 minutes from the main town of Punakha to the road head from where you cross a suspension bridge over Mochu (female) River and the trail takes you through paddy fields. Normally it takes just under one hour to reach the serene site of the marvelous chorten. The view below is stunning with glacial fed Mochu river snaking through the fertile valley of Punakha. Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten is located on a ridge overlooking the picturesque Punakha valley.
After lunch, drive to Phobjikha Valley.|
Distance 80 km
Time 3 hours
Phobjikha Altitude 3,000m/9,840ft
Phobjikha is a vast U-shaped glacial valley at an elevation of about 3,000 meters (9,840 ft) and it is a winter home for endangered Black Necked Crane from November to March and migrates back to Tibet by the beginning of spring season. Every year on the 11th of November, Black Necked Crane Festival is held to celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part in the lives of the local people during winter months.
Gangtey Monastery & Gangtey Nature Hike
One very famous landmark in Phobjikha valley is the 17th-century Gangtey Monastery popularly know as Gangtey Goenpa (gonpa literally means “remote place” and is usually a place of religious significance). After visiting the monastery, venture out on an exciting Gangtey Nature Hike through the pristine valley surrounded by splendid nature all around. Taking up the Gangtey Nature Trail is highly recommended. The trail is about 5km and takes approximately 2.5 hours. The nature trails begin from the Gangtey monastery and take you through wonderful meadows, forests, beautiful traditional village houses, farmlands and crystalline streams. This short nature trail gives you a great feeling of the valley and understanding of the community living there.
Overnight at Yueloki Guest House or Dewachen Hotel & Spa
After breakfast, we drive to Bumthang via Trongsa crossing 3 high mountain passes en route. Lunch will be served at Trongsa. We may have to start early especially if you would like to ride your bike along the way. There will be a briefing to the riders and an audience with HRH Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck at 3:00-5:00 PM in Bumthang.
Distance from Phobjikha to Bumthang: 150 km
Driving Time: 4.5 hours
Bumthang Altitude: 2,800m/9,185ft
En route to Bumthang, stop at Pele La Pass (3,390m/11,120ft) to enjoy the views of stunning snow-clad Himalayan peaks (weather permitting) and take some moment appreciating the pristine environment. We’ll also make a brief stop at Chendebji Chorten, an 18th-century stupa built following the same structural pattern as Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa to subdue the malevolent spirit that was said to inhabit the area in the form of a giant snake. From there continue driving for about 2 hours and stop at Trongsa for lunch.
After lunch, continue driving to Bumthang. En route, stop briefly at the highest motorable pass between Trongsa and Bumthang, Yotong La at 3,425m/11,235ft to enjoy the pristine environment and fresh air at this altitude. Then gradually descend down to the village of Chumey. At Chumey stop by the roadside Yathra Weaving Center (Yathra is the colorful textiles handwoven out of sheep and yak hair) at Chumey village and get insights on traditional attires and weaving culture of the people of Bumthang. Continue driving towards Chamkhar, the main town of Bumthang. The valley of Bumthang is considered as the religious heartland of Bhutan and home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries in the country.
3:00-5:00 PM : Riders briefing and an audience with HRH Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck
Swiss Cheese & Wine Factor and Tamzhing Lhakhang
If you are interested and if time permits, visit the Swiss Cheese and Wine factory which was established by Mr. Fritz Maurer, a Swiss volunteer who came to Bhutan in the early 1960s and made Bumthang his home. After that visit the sacred Tamzhing temple built in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa who is considered as the patron saint of Bhutan. Among the many treasures and religious artifacts handcrafted by the Pema Lingpa himself, there is an armory that stood the test of time for five centuries bearing no rust or any sign of deterioration. It is believed that you will be cleansed of all your past sins and defilement if you circumambulate the inner sanctum of the temple 3 rounds carrying that sacred armory. This is one activity enjoyed by all visitors with fun and a sense of veneration.
Overnight at Kaila Guest House or Mountain Lodge.
3rd September 2021 [Friday]
9:00 AM-1:00 PM Registration validation and race packet pick up in Bumthang
Venue: Mountain Resort
2:00-5:00 PM Race-bag drop
After validating your registration in the morning at Mountain Resort, you will visit a few important landmarks in Bumthang valley and take a short roundtrip drive to Mebar Tso (Burning Lake). Mebar Tsho is a sacred lake from where treasures hidden by the 8th-century Guru Padmasambhava was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa in the 15th century. Return to the hotel for lunch. The distance from Bumthang town to Mebar Tsho is 14km and takes about 1 hour round trip.
You may have to retire to bed early at least by 5 PM to get enough rest as you have a long race day tomorrow.
Overnight at Kaila Guest House or Mountain Resort
4th September 2021 [Saturday]
12:00 AM Wake-up call
1:00 AM Report to start area, biking inspection and light breakfast for participants
2:00 AM RACE START (Flag off by Dasho Dzongdag)
3:00 AM Every rider is expected to cross Kiki La
7:30 AM Riders should cross Tshangkha by this time
9:00 AM Reach Chendepji
11:00 AM Reach Pele La
1:30 PM Riders should cross Wangdue check post
6:00 PM Final cut-off time at Dochula Pass. If you make it to Dochula by 6:00 PM you are allowed to continue to the finish line.
7:00 PM Awards ceremony at the Changlingmethang Parking, Thimphu
Tour of the Dragon starts in Bumthang, central Bhutan (2610 m, 8560 ft), and takes you to Thimphu across 4 mountain passes, or las as they are called in Dzongkha.
The riders follow the Bumthang Chhu (river in Dzongkha) for a couple of kilometers and then climb 6 km through the blue pine forest to Kiki La at 2870 m (9420 ft). From there it is down to Nangar. Through more blue pine forest and agricultural land you follow a gentle road through Chumey and up to Gaytsha (2950 m, 9680 ft).
The road then climbs 7 km up through blue pine forest to Bong Bridge and then gets a little steeper for about 5km through mixed conifer and rhododendron forests and pastures until you reach Yotong La at 3430 m (11250 ft). From Yotong La it is a 29km downhill ride to Trongsa. The pass is dominated by fir and rhododendron forest, open pastures and rock outcrops. As you go down to Dorji Gonpa, which is almost halfway, firs give way to spruce and hemlock and mixed broadleaved forest dominated by birch and oaks and rhododendrons. Below Dorji Gonpa, the road passes through broadleaved forest and agricultural fields.
From Trongsa, the road descents gently for 7 km to the Bjee Zam bridge at 1900 m (6230 ft) and then climbs 6 km through broadleaved forest to a viewpoint from where the Trongsa Dzong seems just a stone’s throw away. The road continues climbing for another 10 km along cliffs and through broadleaved forests and agricultural settlements. At Tshangkha it passes the headquarters of the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park. After reaching Tashiling, a few km further, most of the climbing is done. For the last 20km, you will only climb some 150m (500 ft), but there are some ups and downs. As you near Chendebji, hemlock replaces broadleaved species on some of the ridges and in the valley. You pass Chendebji Chorten and a little later will reach Chendebji village (2430 m, 7970 ft).
The road climbs through mixed conifer forest past Nikachu bridge at Chazam and Rukubji to the small settlement of Longte. By this time most of the trees have been replaced by pastures and agricultural fields. Through these pastures dominated by dwarf bamboo, you reach Pele La (3350 m, 10,990ft). You then continue your long descent through fir, birch, rhododendron forest and many small waterfalls to Wangdue Phodrang. After passing the village of Nobding, there is a single restaurant a further 12km down and then a few shops at Teki Zampa another 15km further. Just past here, a new Japanese bridge spans the Dang Chhu. At Chuzomsa, there is a side road to an abandoned slate mine. After a long, almost flat stretch you reach Wangdue Phodrang.
From Wangdue Phodrang, you continue to Metshina (1410 m, 4625 ft). From Metshina, the distance to Dochula at 3150 m (10,330 ft) is 38.3 km and the race is all uphill, with an average slope of 5% and a few short sections of up to 10%. You will pass Thinleygang (11 km), Lumitsawa (15km), Lampiri (28km), and a memorial chorten for traffic accident victims (32km). Thinleygang is the only place recognizable as a village, having a couple of shops and a BHU (Basic Health Unit). Racing 1700 m (5575 ft) uphill is as breathtaking as the views.
After Dochula, it’s all downhill to Thimphu at 2330 m (7640 ft), with a small climb only at the end to the Changlingmethang Parking.
|Start Point||Elevation||End Point||Elevation||Highest Point||Distance|
|Jakar town||2610 m||Gaytsha||2950 m||Kiki La – 2870 m||27 km|
|Gaytsha||2950 m||Trongsa||2150 m||Yotong La – 3434 m||41 km|
|Trongsa||2150 m||Chendebji||2430 m||Near Chendebji – 2440 m||43 km|
|Chendebji||2430 m||Wangdue Phodrang||1200 m||Pele La – 3430 m||87 km|
|Wangdue Phodrang||1200 m||Thimphu||2330 m||Dochula – 3150 m||70 km|
Aid stations are located approximately 20 km apart. Aid stations will feature water, fruit, and other nutrition that will be announced prior to the race start. There will be mile markers at each aid station.
All riders are encouraged to carry a water bottle and any other necessary or needed personal food supplements between aid stations.
There will be six mobile aid cars roving along the route with food supplements, basic medical kit, and one technical personnel for minor bike repairs. You can get support at aid stations, but it is prudent not to count on the roving vehicles as it is impossible to know where they will be when you need them.
Traffic will be open to vehicles but will be monitored by local police and transportation officers. Most of this route is on the national highway in Bhutan, so vehicles will be on the roads.
Medical personnel will be available at the start and finish line as well as roving on the course. There will be an ambulance on standby.
There will be intermittent and undisclosed checkpoints along the course where you will check in with timing personnel. You will be given your finish time at the awards ceremony.
** Riders need to cross Dochula Pass by 6 pm. If not, the sweep team will pick you up. After the cut-off time, all resources such as volunteers, marshals, aid stations and officials will not be available to riders who insist on completing the race after the cut-off time.
Day rooms will be provided at the end of the race for all the riders to wash up and refresh themselves before attending the awards ceremony.
This is not the final information. You will receive complete information soon after you book the trip.
Overnight at Kuenphen Rabten Resort or Hotel Amodhara.
After a leisurely breakfast, you’ll explore Thimphu town and visit a few landmarks in the capital like Bhutan Postal Museum especially if you are interested in philatelic products and stamp collections. Visit Royal Takin Preserve which is the only animal enclosure in Bhutan and then drive to the only nunnery in the capital city, Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery also known as Zilukha Anim Dratsang.
After lunch, before driving back to Paro, we pass by the Changlimithang Archery Range to witness the game of archery if the match is in progress. You’ll see archers singing and dancing each time the target is hit from a whopping distance of 145m. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan.
Then we drive to Paro.
Distance from Thimphu to Paro: 55km
Driving Time: 1.5-hours
On arrival, you will spend your leisure time exploring in Paro town.
Overnight at Khangkhu Resort or Bhutan Mandala Resort.
After breakfast, transfer to Paro International Airport for your onward journey. Your guide will assist you to complete all exit formalities before you check-in.
All tour services we provide are independent with flexible itineraries which can be customized to suit your interest and requirement. You can form a group to get discounts. Apart from the predesigned packages which have proven successful, Bhutan Acorn Tours & Travel can also arrange the following add-on activities to enrich your experiences in Bhutan. These activities can be fitted into any tour itineraries.
Please note that some of the activities may involve extra fees.
All your deposits and any payment less administrative fees of US$100 per person will be refunded if you notify us at least 30 days prior to your arrival date. Refer the cancellation fee schedule below to determine the applicable charges:
|DAYS TO ARRIVAL||CANCELLATION CHARGES PER PERSON|
|30+||US$100 administrative fee per person|
|16-29||50% of the total cost|
|8-15||20% of the total cost|
|0-7 days||No refund is available|
In the case of trekking, no refund is permitted if the trek could not be completed due to inclement weather conditions or illness. However, accommodation and meals will be provided.
In case the trip is cut short or duration lost due to unforeseen reasons after arrival in Bhutan, no refund is available as the payment would have been already made to hotels and other logistics.
There shall be no charges for the number of days of delay either during arrivals or departures or both, due to weather conditions, communication problems, cancellation or delay in Bhutanese airline flights, sickness or any other legitimate reason as Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) may deem reasonable. However, the Tourist will be charged on the actual expenses on accommodation, food, transport and any other services provided.