KE Adventure Travel tours the land of the Thunder Dragon with 'once in a lifetime' bicycle traverse of Bhutan

This legendary route includes high mountain passes, timeless Buddhist villages, and the heart of Himalayan culture

The Thunder Dragon tour, a once-in-a-lifetime bicycle traverse of Bhutan, returns to KE Adventure Travel for three dates in 2008.

Originally developed through a personal relationship with the King of Bhutan, the Thunder Dragon tour was pioneered by KE in 1999, becoming an icon of adventure travel in a land that actively restricts the number of tourists allowed into their country.

The 2008 version will feature a few new twists in the trip route, and for the first time will be available in the spring in addition to perennial fall dates.

"Uncrowded and unspoiled, Bhutan is a rare combination of towering mountainscapes, cultural splendor, and general harmony," said Peter Rudy, North American director for KE Adventure Travel. "Even the most experienced cycle traveler will find Bhutan a revelation.''

The Thunder Dragon tour will lead riders across the mountainous paradise on a spectacular, largely deserted single-track road from west to east.

For 11 days, the small group will traverse steep-sided and heavily wooded ridges, blending long climbs on easy-angled switchbacks with mind-blowing descents that seem to last for hours. Staying primarily in character-rich lodges, travelers will immerse themselves in the cultural richness of Bhutan's Buddhist villages.

Sparsely populated, Bhutan is likened to Switzerland because of its small size, affinity for privacy and stunning mountain scenery. More than 90 percent of the Bhutanese population are hill farmers who live in rugged mountain villages, and some of the rarest of Himalayan wildlife, such as the blue sheep, takin and golden langur, are quite common in those areas.

Buddhist teachings and philosophy are influential throughout the kingdom, as they have been since the 7th century. With a deep and traditional reverence for nature, Bhutan's environmental preservation standards are some of the highest in the world.

The trip includes time for visits to the Taktsang Monastery and Punakha Dzong as well as forays into regions known for the Himalayan Black Neck Crane as well as Bhutanese archery.

The Thunder Dragon tour will begin at Paro in the west and finishing at Samdrup Jongkhar in the east, climbing 50,856 feet but descending 59,715 feet.

The road is generally low gradient, narrow and almost traffic-free. The tour will cross 10 mountain passes, the highest of which is the Pele La (12,540 ft). The longest single downhill involves more than 10,000 feet of descent over 53 miles, one of the longest downhill cruises in the world.

The average time in the saddle will vary between 6 to 8 hours each day, with at least two longer days of up to 10 hours. A support vehicle will be available throughout the trip.

Apart from an emergency tool kit, riders will not be required to carry any luggage.

KE Adventure Travel will lead three trips to Bhutan in 2008 (May 4-15, Oct. 19-30, and Nov. 16-27), as well as a spring trip in 2009 (May 3-14). All meals, lodging, and overland ground transportation are included.

ABOUT KE ADVENTURE TRAVEL: Specializing in sensitive explorations of cultural gems, pristine environments, and spectacular wildlife areas, KE Adventure Travel has built a sterling reputation on 24 years of trip planning expertise, world class service, and a continually growing trip selection of more than 140 of the world's greatest adventures on six continents.

KE Adventure Travel is the recipient of the National Geographic Adventure award (2007) for "Best Hiking and Trekking Operator on Earth"; as well as an AITO Award for Responsible Travel (2007). Known for extreme loyalty among repeat customers — their North American director is a former client "“ KE Adventure Travel works only with small groups, enabling their trip planners to be more creative and have less impact on sensitive areas.

KE Adventure Travel was founded in 1984, with international offices based in the Lake District of Northern England and North American offices based in Denver, Colo.

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