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The route is a river valley course with impressive views of the surrounding mountains and fantastic views down the Paro Valley, but without any extreme climbs, keeping within an altitude range of 2200m and 2535m.
Mostly on trails and mountain paths with some road sections, the route has a number of climbs but with an altitude variation that stays between 2,200m and 2,530m there are no tremendously difficult sections although it remains a suitable challenge.
From the start at Zhiwa Ling, the first few kilometres are downhill on the road before crossing a metal swing bridge festooned in prayer flags. It then follows the Paro Chu River downstream where runners are at 2200m altitude. The route remains undulating along the Wang Chu tributary – going up one side for several kilometres, crossing a bridge and returning down the other side.
From here you start to drop to the valley passing by the luxury Uma Resort (2413m) before dropping back to the river, and crossing the ornate Paro Bridge in front of Paro Dzong. From here the route passes to the South of the town. The marathon route then rises up on the road for 3km on to 2,400m, followed by a short climb on a wide track before picking up forest trails along a line of Chortens festooned with prayer flags. A short but steep climb at 30km on road takes you onto trail around a spur before dropping and rising on a number of side valleys.
At 32km there is an amazing section through paddy fields bringing you close to rural Bhutan before a final loop with incredible views of the Tigers Nest as you approach the finish line back at Zhiwa Ling. The first half of the race is easier than the second half with long sections of flat to undulating running on the gravel trail of the river banks, with one longish climb between 15 and 20km (Marathon route 12-17km half marathon route), where runners are rewarded with fantastic views up the valley before the drop to the finish
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The entry fee for the Thunder Dragon Marathon Bhutan is included in the price of the Marathon package.
The Thunder Dragon Marathon starts early in the morning and the exact time will be confirmed during the tour.
There is an 8 hour cut-off for the Thunder Dragon Marathon to ensure that all runners finish during daylight.
Your race pack will be given to you upon your arrival
There are no official pace setters for this event
Drink stations will have water every 5km in the valley and water and bananas at approx 5km distances on the mountain.
Personal Refreshments and Clothing
There are no provisions for runners to leave personal refreshments along the course
Transfers to and from the race is included in the price of your package.
Finishers T-shirts, Medals and Certificates
All travellers will get the event t-shirt, all runners who finish the event will get a medal and a certificate.
Prizes will be awarded at the Celebration Dinner
The expected temperature on race day is 23 degrees Celsius
Bhutan and Gross National HappinessGross National Happiness - Running Bhutan’s Himalayan Kingdom Half Marathon, May 2014 The day dawns gently over the Paro valley as I stretch and peer out over the valley from the chalet ...
Gross National Happiness – Running Bhutan’s Himalayan Kingdom Half Marathon, May 2014
The day dawns gently over the Paro valley as I stretch and peer out over the valley from the chalet amongst the pines. Below me the expanse of rice paddy fields and small farms watered by the Paro Chhu River slowly comes to life. The light strengthens and, while the valley turns a variety of green hues in response, the pre-monsoon drizzle drops dully off the pine trees onto the pine cushion carpet outside my window. The pine needles smell fresh and invigorating in this early morning hour. Across the valley ethereal wisps of cloud caress the pine-covered Himalayan foothills and draw a brief curtain across the buttressed walls of the Paro Dzong, the fort monastery and administrative centre of this peaceful agricultural community. This idyllic visage is, however, not the reason for my early rise.
I am awake because I am in Bhutan’s mountain kingdom, a small landlocked country in South Asia located at the eastern end of the Himalayas, approximately 255 kilometres east of Mount Everest; bordered to the north by Tibet and to the south, east and west by India. I am awake at this early hour because I am running the Himalayan Kingdom Half Marathon today in a country where gross national happiness – a core Buddhist value – is a counterpoint to gross national product; where economic growth is a means to achieving more important ends such as cultural heritage, health, education, good governance, ecological diversity and individual wellbeing.
And, with calf and upper leg muscles still somewhat stiff from a climb to the prayer flag festooned Taktshang Goemba or Tiger’s Nest Monastery at 10,000 feet above sea level in Paro’s vicinity two days ago, I approach the start line to witness the unique yet simple and evocative Buddhist ceremony to bless the race. As the countdown commences all the advice and information I have gleaned to date flitters through my mind until, all of a sudden, I become focussed, and we are off into the early morning.
Running at 8,000 feet above sea level is somewhat unusual; running at this altitude for the first time is even more so. I listen to my own derived advice and start off slowly. My heart beats strongly and my breath is short as I try to find my rhythm.
Walk, run, walk, run for the first few kilometres and then through a narrow rocky path before I break free onto a stony country road. At last, I have some rhythm now. On my right the Paro Chhu River, swollen from the overnight rains, warbles over the rounded river stones – all descendants of the great rocks and crags that thrust heavenwards into the Himalayan sky. On my left is an irrigation canal and homesteads, with resident dogs cuddled up against the chill, children in the national dress on their way to school, and farming families toiling in the paddies.
The kilometres pass by and I have settled down. But running at this altitude is hard work. I pass a few runners and we exchange friendly greetings and words of encouragement.
Then, at around the ten kilometre mark it starts to rain and with supporters cheering us on at the water point we turn away from the urbanized centre of the Paro valley and progress up a gentle ascent behind which the upper reaches are white from the previous evening’s snowfall.
The road becomes somewhat stony now and more care must be exercised over the surface. I reach the fourteen-and-a-half kilometre mark at 7,545 feet, feeling strong ahead of the four kilometre climb to the highest point of the race.
I am part of a group of runners and our progress ebbs and flows as we come to the realization that this is a serious, serious climb. Walk, run, walk, run as the route continues to ascend, leaving the tarred surface behind until even the dust surfaced road gives way to what can best be described as a basic trekking path. The narrow path ascends past irrigation furrows then alongside a fence until it winds through thick brush and the ever-present pines. Upwards, ever upwards and, just as I thought it would level off far above the Paro Dzong, the path edges upwards once again. My calf muscles are threatening to seize up on me now as I coax myself ever upwards until the gradient eventually tempers and I have crested the hill at 8,313 feet.
I rapidly realize that with just over two kilometres to go there is little likelihood of a swift descent. The track is very narrow, without any camber and at one point it runs dangerously close to barbed wire fencing, while at other points the descent to the valley below on my right is best described as cliff-like. A missed footing, or a wrong turn and one could end up far from the designated route within seconds.
I hear the footfalls of a fellow runner behind me and listen to the question that is on every runner’s mind as we descend to the valley floor: ‘When will this punishing bush path end?’
‘Focus, take one step at a time and the descent will inevitably end,’ I reply as we pass the route markers and check points with leg muscles straining against the pull of gravity. And then, almost unexpectedly, I burst out of the bush onto a tarred road at the twenty kilometre mark and utter a primeval cry of joy, knowing that the end is near. My fellow runner passes me and down the road I go, switchbacks and wet surface and all until race officials, well-wishers and finishers clap me across the finish line.
I have conquered the altitude, the notorious hill and my tired calf muscles. But, more importantly, I have once again conquered myself, as our greatest victories are always over ourselves. What a feeling of euphoria and accomplishment! The Himalayan Kingdom Half Marathon is tough but every finisher knows full well that they have been tried and tested and that they have overcome the adversity. After all, isn’t this why we run?
Bhutan, the land of the Thunder Dragon, is mystical, enchanting and like nowhere you have ever been. Voted one of the world’s top travel destinations, Bhutan remains accessible only to the privileged few.
Nestled between Tibet and India it is a country of raw natural beauty; from stunning mountain scenery to tropical plains. This pristine scenery is home to exotic wildlife and is one of the last refuges of species like the Black-Necked Crane, the Golden Langur and even the Royal Bengal tiger. The Bhutanese people with their Buddhist beliefs have a strong sense of identity and of the interdependence between man and nature. This is expressed in the national policy of Gross National Happiness and concern for the environment.
The Thunder Dragon Marathon highlights all of the aspects of Bhutan that make it so special. Running through the beautiful Paro Valley, the route takes in fantastic scenery and passes many iconic landmarks, like the Tigers Nest, Monastery, Paro Dzong and many religious Chorten – a true mountain and cultural experience.
- Guaranteed Race Entry (runners)
- Flights Kathmandu to Paro
- All meals included
- Celebration dinner & cultural show after the Marathon
- All sightseeing & entrance fees
- Guided hike to Taktsand Monastery
- Invitation to Travelling Fit exclusive VIP Facebook Group - Exclusive to Travelling Fit Runners
- Visa for Bhutan
- ITINERARY 1 ALSO INCLUDES 4 Nights' Accommodation - Check-in 25 May Checkout 29 May
- Guided tour of Capital City Thimphu
- ITINERARY 2 ALSO INCLUDES 6 Nights' Accommodation - Check in 23 May Check out 29 May
- Sightseeing in Punakha
- Guided hike to Soela Gompa
- Drive to the Capital City Thimphu & hike to Buddha Point
- ITINERARY 3 ALSO INCLUDES 8 Nights' Accommodation - Check in 21 May Check out: 29 May - Including 3 nights camping
- Guided 4 day Druk Path Trek
- Flights from Bangkok or Delhi available – Surcharge applies
an AU$850 deposit is required to secure your booking
Final balance is due 90 days prior to departure