Get to see the very best of Kerala – sandy beaches, meandering backwater canals, the lush green hills and thick wilderness
Get up close to the coastal and rural life of Tamil Nadu.
This trip acquaints you with the most famous Dravidian temples, dating back to centuries: Sree Meenakshi Temple and Thanjavur.
Experience a little bit of France in India at the seaside town of Pondicherry.
From coastal South to east of South India, starting from Kochi and ending in Chennai, this tour takes you through two contrasting; backwaters and hills of Kerala to rural & coastal sides of Tamil Nadu.
Journey into the heart of Tamil Nadu gives you a chance to peek into the 2500 years old Dravidian civilization. The state is particularly known for centuries-old temples and brilliant architecture. This cycling tour will certainly transport you into civilizations before. Along with a slice of history, expect to cycle down pristine coastlines, forested mountains, and bucolic small villages where children run to greet you with a big smile. Gorge on fresh seafood at local haunts picked
out by our experts and soak in some of India’s beautifully detailed rock carvings in laid-back Mahabalipuram. You also have a short rendezvous with the French colony, Pondicherry with perfect spots for yoga sessions. Add to this, a chance to tap your adventurous side and trying surfing and scuba diving. The trip is planned as a mélange of food, culture, classical music, temples, history and a
great cycling topography.
Meet your trip leader at the hotel, post-lunch at 13:00hrs, and head out to see Fort Kochi by foot.
One of the foremost trading hubs on the western coast of India, Fort Kochi drew colonial interest with its aromatic spices. Along with traders from China, Portugal, Arab and Holland, came a cocktail of religions, cultural practices, and diverse food. Kerala owes its cosmopolitan vibe to the traders who braved the seas to come to this land.
Later, in the evening, go to see the traditional dance form, Kathakali (you can also see the face painting before the show). After the show, we will have dinner at a seaside restaurant known for seafood and Indian delicacies.
There is a lot to pack in this day but be well rested for the night as we start early on the next day.
Day 2: Alleppey (Alappuzha)
A classic coastal ride along a beautiful stretch of white sandy beach on one side and unevenly spread serene backwaters on the other. See the birdlife in action with egrets, cormorants, herons, kites, kingfishers, ducks, and many more. A short stop to see the art of making traditional boats, locally called “Kettuvallom”. They make wooden boats both for backwaters and sea.
We may also see coconuts, cut into halves being dried under the sun. The dried coconuts will be further pressed in the oil mills nearby to make the coconut oil. From curries to Ayurvedic oils, coconut and its oil is an essential part of daily life here.
Other common sights that you may see – People collecting clams by diving in and out of the backwaters, small village fish markets and auction centers, ladies walking door to door for selling fish, fishermen returning from sea, and Christian churches almost every few kilometers.
We keep biking through small fishermen villages, lush coconut trees, and plentiful fish farms.
From below sea level village in Alleppey to the hill station of Vagamon, the lands transforms from rice fields & lakes to rubber plantations & valleys.
We take an hour vehicle transfer to cycling start point. A hilly ride, with both dips and steep climbs, but the shades of plantations help you grapple with this challenging ride better. The last 15 km of cycling is an uphill ride all the way to the hotel.
Vagamon is an enchanting hill station where you can either relax or indulge in outdoor activities like easy hikes or explore nature trails.
We take in the spectacular views of the western ghat mountains before descending to the neighboring state Tamil Nadu.
Cycling through many villages with banana plantations, vegetable farms, vineyards, and windmills we reach the town of Theni. Post cycling we have around 2 hours of vehicle transfer to Madurai.
Madurai one of South India’s oldest cities and has been a center of learning and pilgrimage for centuries. This is where Mahatma Gandhi took the decision, in 1921, to wear nothing but khadi (homespun cloth). Khadi textiles and tailors’ shops are everywhere in town.
It’s best to visit the main temple early in the morning when it is relatively less busy. Meenakshi Amman (Sri Meenakshi) temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort, Goddess Parvati. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2500-year-old city of Madurai. The temple complex houses 14 magnificent Gopurams or towers including two golden Gopurams for the main deities.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 7: Chettinad
After a short transfer from Madurai city, we ride to Chettinad, famous for its unique cuisine, architecture, and temples.
Chettinad is home to the Chettiar community, a wealthy merchant class family from Tamil Nadu. With palatial houses that used to host life celebrations, festivities, and rituals, the village has a story to tell of its glorious past.
The evening is at leisure and you can explore the village by walk.
After breakfast, we ride into the adjoining temple village, Thanjavur. The World Heritage–listed Brihadishwara Temple is the main highlight here with its large Maratha Palace complex. Thanjavur is dotted with beautiful living temples in the entire region.
The village is also known for Thanjavur dolls, Thanjavur paintings which can be bought as souvenirs.
Today is a classic ride where we pass through small villages and see plenty of rice fields on one side and the river Kaveri flowing on the other.
Kumbakonam dates back to a historically significant period and was ruled by many distinguished dynasties of India – the Early Cholas, Pallavas, Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks, and the Thanjavur Marathas. It rose to be a prominent city between the 7th and 9th centuries AD when it served as a capital of the Medieval Cholas. The town reached the zenith of its prosperity during the British Raj when it was a prominent centre of European education and Hindu culture; an apt moniker, “Cambridge of South India” was attributed to the city. Kumbakonam is known for its temples and religious groups, called ‘maths’. There are around 188 Hindu temples within the municipal limits of Kumbakonam. Apart from these, there are several thousand temples around the town thereby giving it another apt sobriquet, the ‘City of temples’.
The ride to Pondicherry is slightly long but not difficult. It’s easy to pace up given that there are no major climbs. You will find fishing villages and salt plains, as you ride along the breezy sea. A former French colony, Pondicherry is a quaint seaside town with cobble-stoned boulevards, bright cafes, buildings remnant of French architecture, and the famous Aurobindo Ashram. The town was distinctly divided into the Black (local) and White (for Europeans) town and has a vast amount of history and architectural interest.
Head out in the evening to explore the Pondicherry town. You can walk along the main Goubert Avenue where the whole town congregates in the evenings for walks as the breeze from the sea makes the weather ever pleasant.
This morning, we ride around Auroville. A unique township, Auroville was constructed to include communities from all over the world, based on the vision of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. It wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics, and all nationalities. It has ballooned to encompass more than 80 rural settlements spread over 20km and about 1800 residents. If you’re really interested in the philosophy it’s worth the ride out to the visitors center to find out how it all works and eat some great food at the café.
You can also try your hand at surfing in the mild waves of the Tamil Nadu coast or take a quick dip with scuba experts on this day.
After breakfast enjoy a gorgeous ride to Mahabalipuram through the coastal route; the East Canal Road (highway) stretches along the coast and you can detour anytime into the untouched beaches for a quick dip. Cycling is easy as there are no ascents – you will only have to hydrate yourself a lot due to the clammy weather. Famous for its ancient rock carvings, especially the Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram was once the second capital and seaport of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. Mahabalipuram is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and has various historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th centuries and remains a renowned center for stone carving. As you enter the village, you’ll see and hear the constant tapping of hammer and chisel as artisans chip away at exquisite sculptures.
Mahabalipuram is a very small town, most of which you can cover on foot. It wakes up to the sound of sculptors’ chisels on granite, creating impressive sculptors, which make for great souvenirs. You can browse hassle-free and buy from the fixed-price Poompuhar Handicrafts Emporium or from the craft shops that line the main roads. Explore the lighthouse and take a guided trip to the temples of Mahabalipuram.
After the morning exploration of Mahabalipuram’s age-old temples, we take a transfer to Chennai. Explore a bit of Chennai if you have the time. The hot sultry seaside city represents a wonderful cusp of traditions and contemporary lifestyle. Visit the busy Mylapore temple area to see pilgrims buzzing in and out of the famous temple and the streets drenched in a splash of color.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 14: Departure to Chennai Airport
Please make arrangements as per your onward travel.
by Thang Nguyen on Musings of a South India Coast to Coast Bike Tour
South India Bike Tour from Kochi to Chennai
We had a great trip, biking from Kochi to Chennai. Our group of 3 made up of one avid young cyclist, and two elderly newbies. The avid biked ahead at twice the speed, so Ajesh, the van driver, followed/led her thru the daily course. Muthu - the guide- and the newbies followed later. Muthu helped shield the crazy Indian traffic from the newbies. We all had a good time. We rode early into sunrises over beautiful countryside, sampled exotic fruits and local cuisine, stayed in historic mansions or local boutique hotels, smelled different Indian spices, visited old majestic temples, and took photo with many warm wishers from villages. There were not many foreign tourists back roads, so we were quite noticeable and welcome. The traffic was just crazy and nerve-racking at times for us newbies coming from the US and riding on the right side of the road (not that it mattered), although Muthu did his best to shield us from the traffic, and re-route the route to less traveled rural roads. Experienced bikers might be more comfortable with traffic though. We would rate the trip higher otherwise. Guide Muthu and driver Ajesh were great: friendly, helpful, professional, timely. We enjoyed their company.
Feb 24, 2020
by Sheila Wong on Musings of a South India Coast to Coast Bike Tour
Immersive bike ride
The Kochi to Chennai ride is a true immersion in the sights, sounds, and smells of South India. It is suitable for adventurous riders. There’s some tough hills going through the Western Ghats (days 3 & 4), with rest of the ride through Tamil Nadu mostly flat. The guide and driver were friendly and attentive. The lodging and food are good. The historical sites visited, especially the ones in Mahabalipuram, are wonders.
Oct 9, 2018
by Lael Hinds on Musings of a South India Coast to Coast Bike Tour
We had a wonderful experience on our bike trip in Tamil Nadu. The two guides were exceptionally friendly and helpful, the driver was also wonderful. I would recommend riding with this tour company without reservation! Thank you for a wonderful time!