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Cycle Southern India Coast to Coast


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  • Trip Notes
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Cycle Southern India Coast to Coast

For those who love cycling, there isn’t a better way to see India than from the back of a bike.   This moderate level cycle tour the perfect mix of  physical challenge, culture and stunningly beautiful scenery. 

Tamil Nadu and Kerala are the two southernmost states of India and they provide the perfect contrast to experience the two Indian coasts – referred to as Ghats in India.  Seeing them on the bike gives you the time to soak up the varied cultures and to truly appreciate the different landscapes and lifestyles.

You will pass some of the most impressive sites that India has to offer, including Pondicherry – a former French colony – and Meenakshi Temple – a magnificent holy site in Madurai.

You’ll start on the Western Ghats and after its cooler highlands and tea estates you’ll come to the Eastern Ghats of Kerala and her tranquil backwaters.  Here, a relaxing houseboat cruise provides the perfect setting to reflect on your 14 day cycle adventure before heading home.

Trip highlights

  • Discover India and her diverse culture, religion, and people
  • Spend two nights in two palatial mansions
  • Feast on local cuisine including delicious piquant Chettinad curries
  • Ride door to door on most cycle days
  • Enjoy life on a Kerela houseboat
  • Visit Auroville and experience its philosophy of spiritual and balanced living
  • See all 3.3 million gods of the Hindu cosmos at Sri Meenakshi-Sundareshwara Temple
  • Explore the abandoned ruins of Gangaikondacholaprum, the town built by Rajendra I
  • Take a trekking or boat safari in Parivar Wildlife Park
  • Ride through tea, cardamon, rubber, and spice plantations
  • Sip long drinks on a converted rice barge as you float along a stunningly beautiful backwater cruise

With an average of 70 kilometres per day and ten full cycling days, this is a moderate level tour.  You’ll find yourself on mostly quiet backroads with higher traffic as you enter and exit the city areas.

The major prerequisite is a love of new things and an open heart and mind.  It’s true that India has so many things to offer that it can get a bit overwhelming.  But you’ll find that life gets simpler when you spend time in the saddle and your days offer the perfect chance to reflect and soak in all that you are experiencing.

Complete the enquiry form today to find out how you can experience Mother India in all her beauty.

Trip Notes


Day 1
Depart London
Flights usually depart from London in the morning.

Day 2
Arrive Chennai
Those who are on the group flights will land in Chennai early in the morning. Those not on the group flights will need to be at the airport when the group land if they would like to join the group transfer. Once everyone has arrived we will then depart on the 3½ hour drive to Pondicherry with a break at Mahabalipuram which is famous for its shore temples and rock carvings. Carving in stone is still a living art here and we will see stonemasons chipping away along the roadside, practicing skills that have flourished for centuries. On arrival in Pondicherry we assemble the bikes and explore this former French colony, a short 6km ride, before an evening briefing about our cycling adventure.
Ride approx. 6km.

Day 3
Circular ride to Auroville, a new-age spiritual commune. Founded in 1968 by ‘The Mother’ and named after her Guru Sri Aurobindo, it offers a more balanced way of living. Revitalized by some earthly fruit juices, we ride the 15km back into town, seeing some fishing communities and cycling along the promenade, which still retains some of its Gallic charm. Depending on time, lunch may be at Auroville or back in Pondicherry, and the rest of the day is free.
Ride approx. 32km.

Day 4
Starting from our hotel, we ride out of Pondicherry and soon leave the bust city for quiet back roads, experiencing rural life where simple mud huts contrast with the brightly colored saris worn by the local women. We end the ride after 60km and after lunch transfer 50km to Gangaikondacholaprum, the abandoned city of the Chola king Rajendra 1. There is plenty of time to explore the Chola ruins and magnificent Brihadishwara temple before the final 35km ride to Kumbakonam.
Ride approx. 87km.

Day 5
Scenic morning ride following quiet roads and tracks along the banks of the Cauvery River to Thanjavur. Previously a capital between the 9th and 13th centuries, it regained its status under the Nayaks in the 16th century who rebuilt the Royal Palace, Durbar hall and libraries. Afternoon you are free to visit the Palace which houses one of the finest collections of bronze sculptures and stone carvings in southern India, followed by a visit to the huge Brihadishwara Temple, one of the largest in India and known locally as simply the Big Temple.
Ride approx. 49km.

Day 6
Leaving the city by the old road, we head out into the Tamil Nadu heartland, to an area renowned for its impressive mansions built by wealthy traders known as Chettiars. Some of these palatial houses have been converted to boutique hotels, offering a glimpse of the past. The grand interiors of Burmese Teak and elaborate plaster work retain much of the traditional architecture of a bygone age. But it’s from the kitchens tucked away at the rear of the house that the real flavor of India comes to life: Chettinad cuisine is as traditional as its buildings, the piquant curries are slow cooked in copper pots over a wood stove, and are as memorable as the ride to get here.
Ride approx. 102km.

Day 7
We follow the back road to Madurai. Riding from the hotel we pass the granite quarries and workshops of the master masons, whose caste have been carving temple pillars for 2500 years. Around the town of Melur we’ll see hundreds of red clay horses surrounding small village shrines – these represent the god Aiyannar who protects the village boundaries. Another rocky outcrop is the sacred abode of Lord Murugan, the son of Shiva and also known as Skanda, the most revered god in Tamil Nadu. Staying on the outskirts of Madurai we avoid the worst of the busy traffic.
Ride approx. 99km.

Day 8
The morning is free to explore the old city and Sri Meenakshi-Sundareshwara temple, one of the largest temple complexes in the India coast and one of the highlights of Tamil Nadu. Thousands of huge stone pillars line the hallways, each adorned with different deities, are said to represent the 3,333,333 gods of the Hindu cosmos. A constant flow of worshipers, offering pujas, (rituals performed by the temple priests to the various deities) add to the heady atmosphere of incense and camphor smoke, and make this an unforgettable experience of Hindu culture. Blessed, we leave the heat of Madurai for the cool air of the Cardamom Hills, transferring 2 hours to our lunch stop close to Theni. Hidden behind the banana plantation are the vineyards of southern India coast’s new venture in to wine making. These give way to the forested slopes of the Western Ghats and a slow but beautiful ascent up through the rainforest to Thekkaday, a small town close to the entrance of Periyar Wildlife sanctuary and our accommodation for the next two nights.
Ride approx. 40km.

Day 9
Kerala, the land of coconuts and nicknamed ‘God’s own country’, is the southernmost state of India coast. High levels of education and healthcare have given Kerala an enviable reputation elsewhere in India and its unique balance of Hindu, Muslim and Christian sets it apart from its neighboring states. Today is free to relax or go on one of the trekking and boat safaris to the nearby Periyar wildlife park. Centered on a man-made reservoir, it is possible to see wildlife all year round, although the best time is the dry season (March-May) when herds of Elephant come to the lake to graze by the shore; if you are very lucky you may even see a leopard or tiger coming down to quench their thirst.

Day 10
Riding from the hotel we cycle through cardamom and tea estates, stopping mid-morning for tea and to visit the local tea factory, learning more about the tea making process. Refreshed, we continue along hilly tea plantation roads with a lunch break at a small roadside restaurant en route to Vagamon, an area of outstanding natural beauty and one of the most scenic roads in Kerala. We end the ride with a superb winding descent on a quiet road and stay at an old plantation bungalow.
Ride approx. 70km.

Day 11
Today we ride through rubber and spice plantations en route to Kottayam, known as the Syrian Christian heart land of Kerala. Here grand churches dot the landscape and we break for lunch at Palai to visit St Thomas Church, its white washed facade and distinct gilded ceiling predates its Portuguese renovation. All roads converge into Kottayam City, and we avoid the city by following country roads, entering a world in which the author Arundhati Roy set in her book ‘The God of Small Things’, close to the Shore of Vembanad Lake.
Ride approx. 75km.

Day 12
Another free morning to relax and enjoy the lake view; or ride to the nearby Kumarakom bird sanctuary and then take a sightseeing ride along the shore of the lake. Midday we board our houseboats for a stunning backwater cruise. The houseboats, converted rice barges now come with a captain, cook and crew; we just sit back, sip long drinks and watch the world go by.
Ride approx. 35km.

Day 13
In the middle of the morning we disembark at Alleppey, the ‘Venice of the East’. Riding along the old canal road, we can view some of its more historic buildings. We take the coast road north to Marari Beach for our first view of the Arabian Sea, and finally know that we’ve cycled across India from coast to coast. The afternoon ride ends at Fort Cochin.
Ride approx. 61km.

Day 14
Today is free for you to explore the town of Cochin, its bazaars and old harbor area. Warehouses filled with the smell of tea and spices are lime-washed bright green, yellow and blue; rickety old bikes and hand-painted trucks piled high with goods, fill the narrow streets and food stalls stand on every corner. Further along the road we come to Mattancherry and the Dutch Palace. Next to the Palace is the synagogue, built in 1568 for the Jewish members of Cochin’s trading communities, adorned with hand-painted tiles from China and elegant Belgian chandeliers, all donations from wealthy merchants. The area around the synagogue is excellent for shopping. For food, try the fish market near the Chinese fishing nets, where you can buy the day’s catch and have it cooked to your own taste. There’s also plenty of shopping opportunities here.

More Details

Additional Trip Notes:
Start and Finish: Various Dates from 4 October 2014 to 2 January 2015
Start point: Chennai
Finish point: Cochin

Group Size:
This is a small group adult holiday exploring India coast. The group is usually between 4 and 16 in size, with an average of 12 like-minded clients booking individually, in a couple or as friends together.

Activity Level:
You are moderately fit and have an interest in remote or challenging environments. Some previous experience is required for activity based trips.

You will spend 10 nights in hotels, 1 night in a houseboat and 2 nights in India coast grand homes; one of these is a palatial wedding mansion built by the Chettis and the other is a 19th Century plantation family home. Houseboats are comfortable, the majority of cabins on board are on a twin share basis, and all cabins have toilet facilities.

Breakfast: 13
Lunch: 11
Dinner: 8

For meals not included you should allow approx. GBP8 (approx. USD12.80) per lunch and dinner, GBP2-3 (approx. USD3.30-4.80) for lunch, and GBP4-5 (approx. USD6.40-8) for dinner without drinks. This amount may vary according to how much you drink. Generally you can eat out very cheaply in India. There is a good choice of restaurants and sometimes there is a choice between Indian and Western style food. If you are a vegetarian, South India is an ideal destination. Lunches on riding days are usually taken in local roadside cafes. Tea and soft drinks are very cheap. A (large!) bottle of beer is approx. GBP3 (approx. USD5). Mineral water is widely available. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.

Weather & seasonality:
The most important feature of the Indian climate is the monsoon. The main monsoon strikes the coast of Kerala in late May and sweeps its way northward over the next month or so. The ideal time to visit is during the dry season from October to March, but monsoons have been known to be late and it can rain as late as November. Days will be hot and the nights warm: the average range of maximum daytime temperatures being between 21 and 30degC and from 6 to 20degC at night. However, in the hills temperatures can be considerably cooler and you can expect temperatures to drop to a few degrees above 0degC at night. We ask you to note that frequent rainstorms can be expected throughout the tour on November departures. However, the storms are usually of quite short duration and the sun normally comes out fairly quickly afterwards.



Departure dates:

Sat 3 Oct 15 – Sat 17 Oct 15
Sat 28 Nov 15 – Sat 12 Dec 15
Sat 19 Dec 15 – Sat 2 Jan 16
Sat 09 Jan 16 – Sat 23 Jan 16
Sat 23 Jan 16 – Sat 06 Feb 16
Sat 13 Feb 16 – Sat 27 Feb 16
Sat 27 Feb 16 – Sat 12 Mar 16
Sat 12 Mar 16 – Sat 26 Mar 16
Sat 22 Oct 16 – Sat 05 Nov 16
Sun 06 Nov 16 – Sat 19 Nov 16
Sun 27 Nov 16 – Sat 10 Dec 16
Sun 18 Dec 16 – Sat 31 Dec 16


From £2,469 including flights
From £1,729 excluding flights

What’s included?

  • 13 breakfasts, 11 lunches and 8 dinners
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)

What’s not included?

  • Travel insurance
  • Local bike hire (from GBP110 paid on booking)
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations


“If you’re looking for a company with experience you can’t beat these guys. This operator started life in February 1974 when two friends got together to provide an overland truck to travel to the Minaret of Jam, deep in the heart of the Hindu Kush, the most inaccessible of the world’s great monuments.

For the company, and people who work for them “it’s all about adventure” which is what they were founded on and what they are still about today. Their trips take place all around the world where they help travelers to delve into local traditions, cultures, cuisine, lifestyles – anything that contributes to a country’ unique identity.

We love that their groups and guides travel courteously and respectfully, in smaller groups to minimise the impact, to ensure that every holiday is a beneficial experience for everyone involved.”

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