Cycle to the idyllic backwaters of Kerala, where children often learn to row boats before they ride a bike. Experience a unique way of life on the water by spending time on a Keralan houseboat. Encounter life along the west coast of India with a ride through four different states: Kerala, an enclave of Pondicherry, Karnataka and Goa. Explore Kochi, a fascinating blend of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences, and witness the peak of local culture in an incredible Kathakali dance performance.
Beyond the crowded sights of northern India lies another world, one where the rhythms of daily life are that bit slower and the surroundings that bit greener – a place that lends itself to leisurely exploration by bike. Take a two-week cycling adventure up the west coast of India, on roads that are sandwiched between the lush forests of the Western Ghats and the golden sands of the Arabian Sea. Ride through incredible countryside with the chance to swap bike for boat and enjoy a river cruise. Explore towns where Portuguese and French influences sit alongside Hindu and Muslim monuments. In this spiritual place, the bike is a place of active meditation, a place to let the brain relax and refresh while roads are navigated and gorgeous surroundings are absorbed. The rewards of hot days in the saddle lie in beautiful beaches, the welcoming waters of the Arabian Sea and the taste of fresh coconut.
NEW UPDATES FOR 2019:
In 2019 this trip will become an 8 day itinerary that focuses on exploring Kerala. The trip will begin in Trivandrum and finish in Kochi. Please search trip code HHXK or ‘Cycle Kerala’ for more details.
Welcome to Trivandrum, locally known as Thiruvananthapuram. Your Indian adventure begins with an important group meeting at 6pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. If you arrive in Trivandrum with free time to spare, perhaps wander around Kerala’s capital and admire its British colonial architecture, visit an art gallery, or stroll through the intricate Puthenmalika Palace, which was previously closed to the public for 150 years. In the evening, maybe head out for dinner with your fellow travellers.
Cycling distance: none
Say 'hello' to your bike support team this morning, then get suited up and fitted to a bike before starting your first ride in South India. Leaving from Trivandrum, head straight towards the beach on the flat road that takes you all the way up to the Varkala. The scenery is memorable, with Kerala on your right and nothing but long stretches of sand, palm trees and the Arabian Sea on your left (approximately 45 kilometres). Varkala sits on India's Keralan coast and is home to some of the whitest and most pristine beaches in the whole country. Even though this is a popular destination for Indian tourists, the beaches are quiet and laid-back. The town itself, a string of laid-back bars, restaurants, guesthouses and hotels, will be explored on an orientation walk. If you want to get active, there are plenty of water sports on offer. If you have time, perhaps take the bike and cycle through fishing villages to Varkala Lighthouse. Sitting on the sand and watching the sun dip below the horizon is the perfect way to end a day here.
Cycling distance: approx. 45kms/28 miles, mostly flat with approx. 170m/560ft of elevation gain.
By support vehicle (approximately 60 kilometres) and bike (approximately 40-50 kilometres), ride to the backwaters of Kerala this morning and discover sleepy Alleppey. Once a significant trading port, the town is now famed for the long ‘snake boats’ races that take place in August every year. Here you will board a typical Keralan houseboat (Kettuvallam) to cruise through the complex system of beautiful lagoons and canals. These floating cottages have western toilets, private bedrooms, a dining area and sundeck for you to relax on. The backwaters are best explored by boat as life revolves around the water here – children often learn to swim before they can walk and they row boats before they ride a bike. Float down the waterways, try your hand at fishing, and just lay back and enjoy this unique landscape.
Notes: The houseboats cruise through the backwaters the whole day. As per the local administration rules, at around 5:30pm the boats are supposed to be put aside for overnight stay. Air conditioning is available only from 6pm-6:30am. Fans are available throughout the day along with options to recharge your gadgets. Each houseboat will have 3-4 rooms so the group will be split between a few houseboats.
Cycling distance: approx. 50kms / 31miles
Continue riding through the fragmented countryside, which is broken up by lakes and waterways, to Kochi (approximately 60-80 kilometres). Spread over several islands, Kochi is a fascinating place full of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences. Some of the sights to see include St Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica and the famous Chinese fishing nets. To gain better insight into this intriguing town you’ll take a cycling tour of Fort Kochi. This is the historic heart of the city where crumbling mansions line streets of antique shops and spice markets. Tonight you’ll attend a Kathakali dance performance. This classical dance is a powerful drama that combines devotion and physical virtuosity with symbolic storytelling. It requires rigorous training to attain complete control of the body and emotional sensitivity to be able to render all of the dance's subtle facial expressions and hand gestures.
Cycling distance: approx. 62km/39 miles, mostly flat with approx. 100m/330ft of elevation gain.
Take a break from the bike today and head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Kochi for a guided walking tour. Explore the Dutch Palace (Kochi Palace), which was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese and later claimed by the Dutch in 1663. The Dutch improved upon the existing palace before presenting it to the rajas of Kochi. Continue on to the Jewish quarter – the Jewish community here has roots going back as far as 1,000 AD, and you’ll see the Jewish synagogue in the city. The tour will take around three hours and the rest of the day will be free to do as you wish. During free time, why not join one of our Urban Adventures such as Home Cooked Kochi or Kochi Food & Culture Tour. Please check with your leader in advance if you would like to book one of these tours and they can assist in making arrangements. Later, perhaps take a sunset cruise around the harbour to see the Chinese finishing nets against an orange sky.
Cycling distance: none
Continue up the west coast and head a bit inland to Trissur (Trichur). You’ll drive around 10 kilometres today but have a full ride of 60-80 kilometres. Trissur has a history deeply rooted in the spice trade but it is also known as the Cultural Capital of Kerala. Trissur’s thriving cultural traditions date back centuries, and it supports several institutions that are focused on preserving the dying classical Keralan performing arts. On arrival you will take a short orientation walk, covering the main sights that this delightful town has to offer. Centred around a large park and temple complex, Trissur is home to a Nestorian Christian community dating back to the 3rd century AD, as well as many other religious sites, such as the 1,300 years old Hindu Vadakkunnathan Temple dedicated to Shiva. Aptly nicknamed “The Niagara of India”, the nearby 24-metre (80 foot) Athirappilly Waterfalls is the largest waterfall in Kerala and is well worth a visit.
Cycling distance: approx. 65km/40 miles, flat with approx. 190m/620ft of elevation gain.
Travel approximately 50 kilometres by support vehicle and 60-80 kilometres on bike to Kozhikode (Calicut), once the capital of the Zamorin dynasty. Kozhikode has been a prosperous trading town ever since the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama first landed near here in 1498, opening the trade route between Europe and India. Northern Kerala's largest city sits proudly between the Malabar Coast and the Wayanad hills, providing easy access to serene beaches and the nearby Kadalundi Bird Sanctury, which is home to over a hundred species of native birds. On arrival you will take a short orientation walk, covering the city’s main sights, including the Mananchira Lake and square. While you’re here, don’t forget to head over to Sweet Meat Street and try the famous Kozhikodan Halwa – a local sweet dessert delicacy.
Cycling distance: approx. 58km/36 miles, mostly flat with approx. 150m/500ft of elevation gain.
Today you spend your last day cycling in the state of Kerala. First drive two hours then cycle 45kms towards the northern coastal city of Kannur. Once named by Marco Polo as a ‘great emporium of spice trade’ the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial influences still linger although these days it is better known for its weaving and cashew trades, as well as some excellent beaches.
The temples around Kannur make for some fascinating exploring, including the revered Shiva Rajarajeshwara Temple and the Hindu Parassinikkadavu (Muthappan) Temple. It is here you can experience the stunning fire-inspired Theyyam ritual dance performance first hand.
Despite the myriad cultural opportunities the sandy beaches of Kannur are an ideal place to unwind, relax and enjoy the sunset over the Laccadive Sea.
Cycling distance: approx. 48km/30 miles, mostly flat with approx. 190m/620ft of elevation gain.
Shake off the sleep with a morning ride along the seaboard (approximately 40-60 kilometres). Leave Kerala state behind and enter Karnataka, heading for the small but prosperous port town of Bhatkal. As the town is quite a way up the coast, there will also be a drive of approximately 260 kilometres today. The town is best known for its imported goods markets – the Dubai Market and the Mirchi Gully – and is home to some of the finest mosques in the country. Take a walk about town and see the main sights, including the famous lighthouse and the Shiva Temple. Bhaktal is also renowned for its mouth-watering seafood dishes and the famous Bhatkal Chicken Biryani, both of which are great options for dinner.
Cycling distance: approx. 46km/29 miles, lightly undulating with approx. 340m/1120ft of elevation gain.
Leaving Bhaktal behind, cycle to Murudeshwar (approximately 13 kilometres north of Bhatkal) to see the magnificent Shiva temple. Built on top of a small hill and surrounded by Arabian Sea, the world's second-tallest statue of Lord Shiva sits between the shore and a huge 20 storey Gopura. Continuing north, discover the massive yet abandoned 16th century Mirjan Fort on the banks of the Aganashini River. End a good day cycling (approximately 60-80 kilometres) in Gokarna, one of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage centres. Mahabaleshwar Temple is considered as holy as the Shiva temple in Varanasi, and it houses the 'Atmalinga', which is said to bestow vast blessings to those who merely glimpse it. Gokarna is also home to India's most beautiful beaches, a small but lively bazaar, and some of the best eating Karnataka has to offer. There are incredible all-you-can-eat thalis, excellent street food (try the bhel puri), and of course there’s the local fish – served fried, roasted or curried as you like it.
Cycling distance: approx. 60-80 kms / 37-50 miles
Get your bearings on a short orientation walk in the morning. The rest of the day is free for you to explore beautiful Gokarna and its spiritual vibes. Head to Gokarna’s main beach or take the winding path that leads to Kudle beach. If these don’t take your fancy then there’s plenty more to choose from with the south-facing Om beach, Half-moon Beach and Paradise Beach all accessible. If you're looking for something more active, you can try your hand at surfing at Gokarna Beach or kick back with a beachside yoga class. If you feel like some extra cycling, your leader will be able to advise you of the best local routes to follow.
Cycling distance: none
Cross into the state of Goa and cycle to the beautiful beachside town of Palolem (approx. 60-75 kilometres, plus an approx. 25 kilometre drive). Today is an undulating ride with numerous small rolling hills but the views of forested mountains on one side and pristine waters on the other make for an enjoyable day.
Once we reach the town of Palolem you will be amazed by the beautiful Palolem Beach – if you feel like you’ve seen it before then maybe you have as it was featured in the film The Bourne Supremacy - if it's good enough for Jason Bourne then it's good enough for us!
After a short orientation walk you have ample time to enjoy the pristine beaches during the day before retiring to our remote accommodation for the night for a quiet night's sleep.
Cycling distance: approx. 77km/48 miles, undulating with approx. 550m/1840ft of elevation gain.