The Dragon Challenge – China & Bhutan

Nights
13
Date
May 17, 2025
  • Half Marathon
  • Marathon

If you have questions regarding Marathon Tours & Travel’s Dragon Challenge Package please: EMAIL OUR TRIP DESIGNER or CALL 617-242-7845

Make it a tour of a life-time by combining China and Bhutan! Compare two historic cultures, from the bustle of China to the quiet tranquility of Bhutan.

The Great Wall Marathon and Half-Marathon is widely considered one of the world’s most challenging marathons. Despite the arduous course on the iconic Great Wall of China, runners will be rewarded by the breathtaking surroundings and views. As the route leads participants through the lower valley and into the villages, onlookers will be cheering and the festive atmosphere is a real energy boost!

The Thunder Dragon Marathon and Half-Marathon highlight all of the aspects of Bhutan that make it so special. Running through the beautiful Paro Valley, the route takes in fantastic mountain scenery and features many iconic landmarks, such as the Taktsang Monastery (also known as Tigers Nest), Paro Dzong and many religious Chorten or shrines. It is a true Himalayan mountain and cultural experience.

The Dragon Challenge  is two (2) challenging races separated by 1800 miles and eight (8) days!

Meals Included

Meals Included

Meals as outlined on the Itinerary

Guide

Guide

English-speaking guides

Transfers

Transfers

Airport transfers included

Accommodation

Accommodation

Excellent accommodation options

Excursions

Excursions

Guided tours per the Itinerary

A Helping Hand

A Helping Hand

Services of Marathon & Travel staff

Worldwide Events

Worldwide Events

Travel 1800 miles in eight days

Medal Bling

Medal Bling

Earn the Dragon Challenge Medal!

Travel Package Information

  • Itinerary

    • The Dragon Challenge/13 Nights/May 14 - 27, 2025

      Wednesday, May 14
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      Arrive in Beijing and transfer to the Kempinski Beijing. This evening enjoy a welcome cocktail reception.

      Thursday, May 15
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      Following breakfast, we will travel to the Great Wall for a mandatory inspection of the on-Wall route. Both runners and spectators will visit the Great Wall and receive race details. All runners must walk the 3.5 km of the wall, which is part of the Great Wall Marathon course. It is very important to familiarize yourself with that specific section in order to take proper precautions and incorporate it into your race strategy. Non-runners are also welcome to participate in this walk (good physical condition is required for this strenuous walk). (Breakfast and lunch included)

      Friday, May 16
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      This morning you will enjoy a behind-the-scenes view of Hutong, the old city of Beijing. You will travel the ancient alleyways via three-wheeled bicycle rickshaws. We then travel to the Summer Palace for a tour of the man-made lake followed by lunch. We will return to the hotel early enough to allow you rest time before race day. Tonight we will gather at the hotel for a pre-race pasta dinner. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)

      Saturday, May 17
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      Race Day! It will be an early morning departure for the Great Wall Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 8.5K fun run. A boxed breakfast will be provided upon departure and a lunch from Subway is available after the race. You will also have the opportunity to get at a massage! Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own. (Breakfast and lunch included)

       

      Sunday, May 18
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      After breakfast we start the day by coach bus to Tiananmen Square, the largest square in the world. We will walk through the square from the south to the north, passing Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum. Next is the Imperial Palace and the Forbidden City, one of China’s architectural masterpieces. This was forbidden to the common people until the early 1900’s. Lunch will follow before returning to the hotel to get ready for the Gala Dinner. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)

      Monday, May 19
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      After a late breakfast we will transfer to the airport for our early afternoon flight to Bangkok. Arrive in Bangkok and transfer to the Novotel Bangkok Airport hotel. We recommend booking your International flights for morning or afternoon arrivals into Bangkok if possible, our flights to Bhutan the following morning typically have very early departures. (Breakfast and lunch included)

      Tuesday, May 20
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      We will have an early morning flight to Paro, Bhutan. Drive to Punakha via Dochu La Pass (approx 2 1/2 hours). Afternoon sightseeing in Punakha; visit the Devine Mad Monks Temple (Temple of Fertility) and the remarkable Punakha Dzong, past home to the King of Bhutan. Overnight Punakha. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)

      Wednesday, May 21
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      Today we start our acclimatization activity with a hike Soela Gompa via Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten. The recommended hike is approximately 20km with a high degree of difficulty (elevation gain and altitude) and will take approximately eight (8) hours. This will definitely provide you with a beautiful Himalayan trekking experience and bragging rights. An option to return after visiting the Chorten for a shorter hike can be arranged. Overnight in Punakha. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)

      Thursday, May 22
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      Drive to the Capital City Thimphu (2 1/2 hours). Tour Buddha Point and the giant seated Buddha, the Takin Reserve (National animal), Thimphu Dzong and craft workshops. After lunch drive on to Paro (1 hour) visiting the National Museum with the chance to hike part of the marathon route before visiting Paro Dzong. Overnight Paro. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)

      Friday, May 23
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      Hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tigers Nest) six (6) hours. On the way back visit Kichu Lhakhang Monastery. Overnight Paro. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)

      Saturday, May 24
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      Free time for shopping in Paro. Race day briefing. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)

      Sunday, May 25
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      RACE DAY!

      Early breakfast before the 9:00 am start of both races. Celebration dinner and Cultural show at Olanthang Hotel. Overnight Paro. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)

      Monday, May 26
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      After breakfast we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Bangkok. Arrive in Bangkok and transfer (walk or hotel shuttle) to the Novotel Bangkok Airport hotel. This evening we will enjoy a final dinner together. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included)

      Tuesday, May 27
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      Depart for home or continue your tour of Asia. (Breakfast included)

  • Packages & Rates

    • The Dragon Challenge Tour | Thirteen-Night Package: May 14 – 27, 2025

      China Features:

      • Five night accommodation at the Kempinski Beijing
      • Buffet breakfast daily
      • Lunch and dinner most days per itinerary
      • All hotel taxes
      • All current airport taxes and surcharges
      • Roundtrip airport transfers (during schedule days and times)
      • Tours per the itinerary with English-speaking guides
      • Tips for guides and drivers
      • Admission and fees for activities on the itinerary
      • Guaranteed entry into the Great Wall Marathon or Half-Marathon
      • Pre-race pasta dinner
      • Post-race massage
      • Post-race celebration dinner
      • Services of Marathon Tours & Travel Staff

      Thailand Features:

      • Flight from Beijing to Bangkok Thailand
      • Two night accommodation at the Novotel Bangkok Airport Hotel
      • Meals as outlined on the itinerary
      • All hotel taxes
      • Airport transfers (walk or hotel shuttle)
      • Services of Marathon & Travel Staff

      Bhutan Features:

      • Bhutan Travel Visa
      • Roundtrip flight from Bangkok to Paro Bhutan
      • Airport transfers
      • Two night accommodation in Punakha and four night accommodation in Paro
      • Meals as outlined on the itinerary
      • All hotel taxes
      • Tours per the itinerary with English-speaking guides
      • Admission and fees for activities on the itinerary
      • Tips for guides and drivers
      • Guaranteed entry into the Thunder Dragon Marathon or Half-Marathon
      • Post-race celebration dinner
      • Services of Marathon & Travel Staff

      Additional Features:​

      • A unique Dragon Challenge finisher medal and finisher shirt.

      Not Included:

      • Incidentals
      • Travel Insurance
      • International flights from home airport to China
      • China Visa
      • International flights from Bangkok Thailand to home airport

      Pre-Race Hong Kong Extension | Three-Night Package: May 11 – 14, 2025

      Features:

      • Five-star accommodations – three (3) nights at Harbor Grand Kowloon
      • All hotel taxes
      • Domestic flight from Hong Kong to Beijing
      • Cocktail reception (May 13)
      • Sightseeing with English-speaking guide for planned activities
      • Entrance to activities as outlined on the itinerary
      • Gratuities and tips (for included meals and for guides/drivers on included tours)
      • Services of Marathon Tours & Travel Staff

      Not Included:

      • All activities listed as optional
      • International flights to/from China
      • Gratuities and tips (not outlined under Features)
      • Incidentals
      • Travel Insurance
      • China Visa ($250 – to be confirmed)

      Important:

      Your passport should be valid for six (6) months after your last expected day in China. You should have at least two full pages available in your passport.  A China Tourist Visa is required of all travelers to China. Approval of the China Visa is not guaranteed.

      Travel Insurance

      Travel Insurance for U.S. Residents

      Travel Insurance for Canadian Residents

      2024 Rates (all prices are per person in US dollars) – 2025 Rates Coming Soon

      Double OccupancySingle Occupancy
      Thirteen-Night "Dragon Challenge" Package$8960 per person$10,175
      Pre-Race ExtensionDouble OccupancySingle Occupancy
      Hong Kong Superior Room$1535 per person$1885
      Optional: Upgrade to Superior Harborview Room$1600 per person$2015
      Optional: Lantau Island Tour with Lunch$175 per person$175
  • Hotels

    • Beijing, China
      Kempinski Hotel Beijing

      Located in the diplomatic district of Chaoyang, the hotel boasts timeless European style with a rich Chinese cultural history. As the first Kempinski hotel in China, Kempinski Hotel Beijing Yansha Center blends timeless European style with rich Chinese cultural history to create a true Chinese experience travelers. With more than six different restaurants and bars, YouYi shopping center, two private gardens, and easy transportation access points to some of Beijing’s most iconic and monumental scenes, Kempinski Hotel Beijing Yansha Center is Beijing’s portal into China.

      Bangkok, Thailand
      Novotel Bangkok Airport

      Designed with an intriguing Thai influence and a complete understanding of guests’ needs. Novotel is situated right next to the airport terminal. A leisurely five (5) minute stroll via the air-conditioned underground walkway or a short ride in the complimentary airport shuttle van service. With an abundance of facilities that include seven (7) restaurants and bars, VOUS Spa, a swimming pool surrounded in tropical gardens with pool bar, well equipped fitness center with sauna and steam-room it is the perfect place to recharge.

      Paro, Bhutan
      Raven's Nest (Paro)

      One of the newest hotels in Paro with 21 guest rooms conveniently located by both the race start and finish. The compound boasts of hundreds of varieties of flowers, herbs, nourishing fruit trees and vegetables all grown organically. Each of the rooms offer a majestic view of the snowcapped peaks, the beautiful Paro valley and the meandering stream. Built of handcrafted stones, wood from the high Himalayas and local mud, the buildings remind you of the ruggedness of the environment.

  • Event Information

    • The Dragon Challenge participants will receive the following:

      • Your entry into the 2025 Great Wall Marathon or Half-Marathon, finisher medal and race shirt.
      • Your entry into the 2025 Thunder Dragon Marathon or Half-Marathon, finisher medal and race shirt.
      • The Dragon Challenge unique finisher medal and finisher shirt.
      • The Dragon Challenge awards will be presented at the Thunder Dragon celebration dinner to the top male and female participants based on their combined Great Wall and Thunder Dragon times.

      The Great Wall Marathon & Half-Marathon:

      Race Date:  May 17, 2025

      Race Time:  7:30 AM

      Course: This demanding course includes 5,164 steps on the Great Wall at Huangyaguan, which includes steep up and down portions.  More than six (6) kilometers of the full marathon are run on the Great Wall. All other races are on the Great Wall for about three (3) kilometers.  Most of the course runs through the small farmlands and villages of Tianjin Province. Many runners/walkers opt to carry a camera during their event and not be concerned about their finish time. For many, this is an experience of a lifetime, not a race!

      Temperature: Expected temperatures range from 80F to 90F degrees. Humidity is high while running in the valleys.

      Entry Fee: All tour packages include the race entry fee, pre-race inspection tour of the course, race t-shirt, pasta dinner, transportation from your hotel to the start, return transportation back to your hotel and a sandwich lunch after the race. This must be paid by runners and non-runners alike. Your entry is guaranteed after receipt of a completed tour application form and deposit by check.

      Time Limit: The course time limit is eight (8) hours. There is also a six (6) hour cut-off at 34K for the Marathon. Runners must reach this point within six hours in order to continue.

      Difficulty: Difficult. The wall section consists of steps of varying height, width and some steps are made of brick. Extra precaution should be taken when running this part. A few places on the wall section see no steps at all, but instead a ramp of rocks and concrete. These ramps can be slippery and extra attention must be paid to your footing! In some of the villages the surface is gravel and dirt roads. More information on Race website here.

      The Thunder Dragon Marathon & Half-Marathon

      Race Date:  May 25, 2025

      Race Time:  9:00 AM

      Course: The race route starts at Udumwara, underneath the cliff that the Tiger’s Nest is built on. The route is approx. half road surface and half farm trails, on the full marathon there is a 4km section of single track. The first 8km are on road surfaces and slightly downhill alongside the Paro Chu (river). At 8km the half marathon splits off to the right and makes its way up and behind Paro Dzong (Fort). The full marathon carries straight on with a long and gradual climb alongside the Wang Chu (river) on farm tracks above rice fields.

      At 18km the marathon route crosses the river and returns towards Paro on the other side on a gentle downhill gradient to 25km. Here, the route has the toughest climb, for about 4km on road, rising above the Paro National Museum, then on single track for 1km to the highest point of the race at 2.560m.

      Dropping back down to the Paro Chu the marathon and half marathon re-join beneath Paro Dzong to cross the famous wooden bridge. The last 10km for both distances are on a gradual but long uphill climb on a mix of road and wide farm track, rising above Paro Chu, with views of the river and rice fields, before dropping into the finish back at Udumwara.

      The total height gain on the marathon is 995m and for the half 450m. The altitude at the start is 2.400m and the lowest point, in Paro Town, is 2,200.

      Temperature: Expected temperatures range from 60F to 70F degrees. Humidity is comfortable in May and light rain is a possibility.

      Entry Fee: All tour packages include the race entry fee, race t-shirt, pre-race pasta dinner, finisher medal and post-race celebration dinner. Your entry is guaranteed after receipt of a completed tour application form and deposit by check.

      Time Limit: The Marathon course time limit is eight (8) hours.  There is no time limit for the Half Marathon.

      Difficulty: Difficult, if you do not have experience running at altitude and / or on hilly course that include some single track trail with steep descents. More information on Race website here.

  • Registration & Booking

    • Rates: All prices are based on current exchange rates may change due to currency fluctuations.

      Race entry: Guaranteed entry is included in the package cost. There is a limit of two (2) entries per room reservation.

      Reservations and Payments: A completed tour application together with an initial non-refundable deposit of $800 per person must be received before confirming your reservations. Final payment is due on or before January 15, 2025.

      Cancellations: The initial deposit of $800 for the Dragon Challenge package is non-refundable. No refund applies to cancellations after January 15, 2025.

      Not included in price: All items not specifically listed under package features.

      Insurance: For your protection, trip cancellation, baggage, health and accident insurance is highly recommended for all participants. However, no representation or description of the insurance made by our staff constitutes a binding assurance or promise about the insurance.

      Travel Insurance for U.S. Residents
      Travel Insurance for Canadian Residents

      Security Policy: Marathon Tours & Travel’s security policy requires that anyone staying in our room block must be registered as part of our package. If a registered client attempts to house a non-registered guest and /or invite them to attend any of our scheduled activities, the registered guest’s tour package will be forfeited and parties may be denied access to future tours. Please note that no exceptions will be made as this policy will be strictly enforced.

      Responsibility: These tours are operated by Marathon Tours, Inc. of Chelsea, MA who acts only as an agent for the passenger to the companies offering such services and assumes no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity caused by any reason whatsoever by any party offering such services. All terms and conditions offered are governed by the laws of Massachusetts. The right is reserved to cancel the tour prior to departure with a refund, less applicable credit card and processing fees, made as full settlement to the passenger. The right is reserved by Marathon Tours, Inc. to deny acceptance of a booking application by any person. Marathon Tours, Inc. may make any changes or alterations in the itinerary as it deems necessary for the proper handling of the tour. The sole responsibility of any airline used is limited to that set out in the passenger contract evidenced by the ticket. The airlines concerned are not to be held responsible for any act, omission or event during the time that the passengers are not on board their aircraft.

  • Testimonials

    • "The Race Courses were hard but great..." - 2019

      The Race Courses were hard but great. Was impressed that ALL THE UPHILLS WERE ON THE COURSE!

      "Great group of travelers..." - 2019

      Great group of travelers, great hosts and guides.

      "Loved the course..." - 2018

      Loved the course… It was difficult but so so so enjoyable… The scenery was spectacular… The single track was FUN! Course markings were excellent, rest stops plentiful.

      "Overall, the Great Wall marathon and experience was absolutely life changing..." - 2018

      Overall, the Great Wall marathon and experience was absolutely life changing. Before this trip my option and understanding of China was not at all what I saw and experienced. This was eyeopening and hugely educational. I feel fortunate to have taken this trip and am excited to share what I learned with my friends and family. Job Well Done!!

      "I was thrilled with the beauty of the country..." - 2018

      I was thrilled with the beauty of the country and being able to spend so much time hiking it. The camaraderie of most participants and staff added to the fun

      "This is a unique trip..." - 2018

      This is a unique trip because the run is actually secondary in the experience. Words really can’t describe it, I’m telling friends to go and then lets talk!

      "It was professionally organized..." - 2018

      It was professionally organized, the guides were great, every day was an adventure, the hikes, especially Tigers Nest was just awesome. Jeff’s attention to detail and his ability to connect with everyone on the trip makes it a great experience.

      "Inspirational..." - 2018

      Inspirational, spiritual and unique.

      "Our tour guide was absolutely wonderful..." - 2018

      Our tour guide was absolutely wonderful. His organisational skills were second to none and he never missed a thing. During the trek he was always calm, kind and knowledgeable and looked after everyone. Once back in Thimphu and Paro he was on top of everything without having to be asked. He is probably the best guide we have had over the course of many trips. We cannot speak highly enough of him.

      "Very physically difficult..." - 2018

      Very physically difficult which led to an even deeper spiritual journey.

      "I had an incredible time on this trip to China..." - 2018

      I had an incredible time on this trip to China. Running the GW was extremely difficult but also very rewarding when I crossed the finish line. The comradery and friendships of fellow runners made this event even more special. Both Scott and Jeff were extremely helpful on this journey and made the experience so much fun. Thank you for creating a first class running experience!!!

      "Jeff was terrific as were the local guides..." - 2018

      Jeff was terrific as were the local guides. I appreciate having a MTT representative on-site who is very knowledgeable, helpful and truly cared about my well-being. Also, the nicest and most enjoyable local guides and drivers of any tour I’ve ever taken.

       

Meet the Reps

Ann Haebler

Senior Trip Designer

Ann Haebler

Senior Trip Designer

Ann joined the Marathon Tours & Travel team after spending five years working as Group Sales Manager for a domestic tour operator specializing in train travel. She has now been a member of the team for eight years and hopes to continue to expand her knowledge of the world. Since her seventh grade world geography class, she has had an interest in learning about all the world has to offer.

During her time majoring in geography at the University of New Hampshire, her love of travel really kicked into high gear after spending a semester abroad in Australia. Let’s just say it was love at first flight! She has completed several half-marathons, 10K and 5K’s around the globe and in her local community.

Ann currently manages trips to Bhutan, Dragon Challenge, Comrades Ultra Marathon, Rio de Janeiro, Big Five, the Australian Outback, Sydney, Cape Town, Dublin and Patagonia in addition to being an Oceania Cruise Line Specialist.

 

Jeff Adams

President

Jeff Adams

President

Jeff first found Marathon Tours & Travel as a client while pursuing his interest for international adventure travel. He is respected for being an innovative corporate and philanthropic leader with a passion for helping clients accomplish their goals.

Prior to joining Marathon Tours & Travel, Jeff enjoyed a 28 year career in various client centric leadership roles at Morgan Stanley. Jeff is a middle of the pack runner who enjoys a good challenge – like earning the Abbott World Marathon Major Six Star Medal twice and becoming a Seven Continents Club Finisher at the 2019 Cape Town Marathon

In addition to completing 44 marathons, Jeff is also an avid climber, skier and paddler. Jeff is a proud member of the Oceanites Board of Directors, President of T.O.U.R.S. (Tour Operators United for Runners), a Founding Board Member and Past President of the Make A Wish Foundation in North Texas, and recently concluded ten years of service on the National Board of Back on My Feet.