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Cycling Tropical South India

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Cycling Tropical South India

1-Join tour Bangalore and drive to Mysore
Meeting up in the city of Bangalore today we then drive south-west, heading towards the city that once stood at the heart of the regal state of Mysore. Famed for its silk and its sandalwood and home to the magnificent Maharaja’s Palace, Mysore today is one of India’s most popular destinations and on arrival there may be time to take a look around the palace and the nearby Devaraja Market. Designed by Henry Irwin and completed in 1912, the palace is one of the largest in India and was built for the 24th Wadiyar raja on the site of the original wooden structure that was destroyed by fire in 1897. A rich fusion of Hindu and British architecture, the palace is a fascinating mix of the elegant and the gaudy, with mirrored halls, beautifully carved doors and mosaic floors sharing space with vividly painted pillars and wonderfully ornate furnishings.
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

2-Explore Srirangapatna and the Chamundi Hills
This morning we take to the saddle for the first time, cycling out of Mysore and riding on to the island of Srirangapatna, just to the north-east of the city. Lying in the Cauvery River, Srirangapatna has long been a Hindu site of pilgrimage, but it is more famous for its connections with Tipu Sultan, the ‘Tiger of Mysore’. A thorn in the side of the British, Tipu posed a real threat to Britain’s imperial expansion in 18th century India. Allying himself to the French, his 17 year reign was finally ended in 1799, when he was killed during the bloody battle of Seringapatam. Our visit to his stronghold includes a chance to explore the old Summer Palace and Tipu’s mausoleum before driving back to Mysore. This afternoon we then head out into the surrounding Chamundi Hills, home to the towering Sri Chamundeswari Temple and the five metre high representation of Shiva’s sacred bull, Nandi, one of the largest in the country.

Cycling distance: approximately 48 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

3-Drive to Hassan. Cycle to Belur Temple
Leaving Mysore this morning we drive next to Hassan, located some 130 kilometres to the north-west. Steeped in the history of the Hoysala dynasty, the town was founded during the 11th century and lies close to the stunning Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebid. After checking in to our hotel we’ll take a ride out to Belur, lying on the banks of the Yagachi River. Once the Hoysala capital, Belur is home to the spectacular Chennakeshava Temple, considered to be one of the finest examples of Hoysala artistry in India. Built by King Vishnuvardhana in the 12th century, it reputedly took over 103 years to finish and its temple facade is covered in a beautiful and intricate collection of sculptures and friezes. After our visit we will return to Hassan for an overnight stay.

Cycling distance: approximately 64 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

4-Drive to Kushalnagar. Cycle to Madikeri
After breakfast we drive towards Kushalnagar and the verdant landscapes of the Western Ghats. On arrival we then continue the rest of the way to Madikeri by bike, climbing up into the craggy hills to the old British hill station. Dubbed the ‘Scotland of India’, this region is renowned for its natural beauty, with waterfalls, plantations and lush wooded slopes in abundance and part of the day’s ride takes us through some 12 kilometres of forest. Madikeri lies around 1,300 metres above sea level, in the cool hilly terrain of the Coorg countryside and on arrival we’ll have the rest of the day free to enjoy its charms and its scenic splendour.

Cycling distance: approximately 35 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

5-Exploring Madikeri by bike
Madikeri lies at the heart of the region’s lucrative coffee trade and this morning we’ll have a chance to explore a little of the surrounding countryside by bike. The Kodagu hill region is considered to be one of southern India’s most beautiful settings and this morning’s ride takes us along a narrow, winding track through the lush landscapes towards Abbi Falls. Set in the middle of a coffee plantation, the falls cascade over the rocks into the waiting waters of the River Cauvery and a hanging bridge across the gorge provides some spectacular views of the falls themselves.

Cycling distance: approximately 30 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

6-Cycle from Madikeri to Iritty
Heading towards Kerala this morning we cycle next to Iritty, on the banks of the Valapattanam River. Surrounded by hills, this small market town was once a part of the Chera Kingdom that ruled much of Kerala between the 9th-11th centuries. Along with the Chola and Pandyas, the Cheras were one of southern India’s principal dynasties during the early centuries of the Christian Era. Part of our ride today takes in a beautiful downhill section between Virajpet and Iritty that passes through a countryside blanketed in large coffee and spice plantations. On arrival in Iritty later today, we’ll have the rest of the day to relax.

Cycling distance: approximately 86 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

7-Cycle to Calicut, then travel by road to Guruvayur
Leaving after breakfast we have a short drive first thing this morning to the small fishing town of Thalassery, where we have an opportunity to visit its bustling fish market before we continue our journey. Mounting our bikes again, we then continue on to Calicut (Kozhikode), one of the most important cities on the Malabar Coast and once one of the most prosperous trading cities anywhere in Asia. During the Middle Ages the city was dubbed the ‘City of Spices’ and was a major player in the trade in eastern spices. It also bears the distinction of providing a significant landmark in the history of European involvement in the Indian subcontinent when, in 1498, the Portuguese navigator, Vasco de Gama, landed on nearby Kappad Beach, thereby opening up the sea routes between Europe and India. On arrival in Calicut we then continue on to Guruvayur by road.

Cycling distance: approximately 83 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

8-Guruvayur sightseeing
This morning we explore Guruvayur by bike, taking in the palm-fringed beaches, fishing villages and quiet backroads of the Thrissur District. One of India’s most historic cities, Guruvayur is also home to the magnificent Sree Krishna Temple, one of the most important Hindu shrines in India. Dedicated to the god Vishnu, the temple attracts pilgrims from all over India and one of the highlights of our journey today are the 40 or so temple elephants that reside here. On festival days they are decked out in all their finery, but more often than not we can find them and their mahouts wandering the roads around the temple. Returning to the hotel later, we then have a free afternoon to continue exploring at our leisure.

Cycling distance: approximately 40 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

9-Cycle to Kochi (Cochin)
Cycling along coastal back roads we head next for the bustling port of Kochi (Cochin), passing through a landscape peppered with small fishing villages, rice fields and traditional communities. With a beautiful natural harbour that earned it the title of ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’, Kochi, as you might expect, was founded on trade, originally with the arrival of Jewish and Arab spice traders in the first century AD. Crossing over to Fort Kochi by ferry, we’ll be spending the next two nights here soaking up the rich history of this unique setting. Following the arrival of Arab traders, the town’s prosperity and importance increased even more with the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, to be closely followed by the Dutch and the English, an eclectic heritage that has helped produce a fascinating mix of styles and influences.

Cycling distance: approximately 96 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

10-Free day in Kochi
Today has been left free for us to enjoy the many highlights of India’s oldest European settlement. Home to the oldest church and the oldest synagogue in India, the port also boats the majestic Mattancherry Palace, originally built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, but extensively renovated by the Dutch some 100 years later to earn it the title of ‘The Dutch Palace’. We’ll also take in the famous cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, said to have been brought here by Chinese traders from the court of Kublai Khan. After a free afternoon, this evening offers the chance to pay an optional visit to the bustling bazaars along the ‘Broadway’, or perhaps enjoy a performance of traditional Kathakali dancing. Thought by some to be the very essence of Keralan culture, the visually impressive Kathakali dance portrays events from the great Indian epics of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, with the face make-up of the artists providing a unique feature of the performances.
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

11-Cycle to Alleppey
Riding through the centre of Fort Kochi this morning we head towards the beach road and then turn south. Following the coast we then pass through a collection of fishing villages and coconut plantations en route to the town of Alleppey, once one of the backwater region’s busiest ports. A little of Alleppey’s colonial heritage still remains sprinkled amongst the busy streets and, on arrival, we’ll follow the canal that links the Indian Ocean with Vembanad Lake, one of the longest and largest in India. On arrival at our destination we’ll check in to our traditional Keralan homestay, where we can sit amongst the serene gardens and watch backwater life pass us by. There is also the option to enjoy a relaxing Ayurvedic massage.

Cycling distance: approximately 65 kilometres
Overnight: Simple Homestay

12-Explore Alleppey by bike. Board traditional houseboat and cruise the backwaters
A short cycle ride this morning introduces us to a few of Alleppey’s colonial and cultural charms, before we board our houseboat this afternoon. Occupying the alluvial plain between the Indian Ocean and the Western Ghats, Allepey is the ideal spot to enjoy a little something of the area’s famous backwaters and aboard our traditional ‘Kettuvallom’ we’ll enjoy luxurious comforts and home-cooked Keralan cuisine as we cruise through the stunning network of canals and channels that make up this remarkable region. Boats are the villagers’ lifeline, acting as taxis, mail delivery, school buses and even cargo vessels. We may see great pyramids of coconuts or even the odd buffalo being carried along in this time honoured fashion, whilst along the narrow channels the industrious villagers survive on narrow spits of land, keeping cows, pigs, chickens and even cultivating vegetable gardens.

Cycling distance: approximately 20 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Boat

13-Cycle to Varkala
After breakfast on the houseboat we disembark and meet up with our support vehicle once more. Driving on to the ferry at Valaazhikal, we then cross the river with our bikes and begin riding to the Amrithanadamayi Ashram, a spiritual retreat dedicated to the revered Hindu spiritual leader, Mata Amrtanandamayi Devi, more popularly known as the ‘hugging saint’ by her followers. Joining the main road we then continue to Quillon (Kollam), where we’ll stop for lunch at a seaside guest house. The final part of the day’s journey then sees us negotiating a network of quiet backroads towards Varkala Beach, a small laid back community of coffee bars, restaurants and yoga schools that occupies the red cliffs above a lovely white sand beach.

Cycling distance: approximately 85 kilometres
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

14-Relaxing on Varkala Beach
Our final day has been left free to enjoy the relaxing delights of Varkala. You could take a stroll along the beach, sandwiched between the red laterite cliffs and the warm waters of the Arabian Sea, or make the most of one of the excellent seafood restaurants. Dolphins are often spotted off these shores, but be aware that the currents here can be strong, so stick to the safe swimming areas.
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Rooms Available

15-Tour ends Thiruvanathapuran
Departing after breakfast this morning we drive south, heading for the international airport at Thiruvanathapuram (Trivandrum), where our tour ends.

Tour includes:

14 Breakfast
2 Lunch
2 Dinner
Bus, Boat, Bicycle
12 nights Standard Hotel
1 night Simple Homestay
1 night Standard Boat
Tour Staff:
Driver(s), Local Guide(s), Assistant Cycle Guide, Bike Mechanic, Explore Tour Leader / Cycle guide
Cycling Information:
On this tour we cycle 667 km over twelve days (an average of 56 km per day) with further optional rides available. We travel mainly on quiet, surfaced roads though traffic levels increase closer to towns. A support vehicle accompanies the rides throughout the tour and drives us past the less interesting sections. We have graded the route as moderate to challenging.
Included Bike:
21 or 24 gear Trek 4300 mountain bikes with lockable front suspension
Group Size:
Generally 10 – 16

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explore holidaysExplore have been running small group adventure holidays throughout the world since 1981 and have a vast array of experience, knowledge and well established close personal contacts in all the countries in which they operate, which makes them stand out as one of the most trusted adventure tour operators in the UK.

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