Kerala, one of India's smaller states, lies to the south west of the sub continent, bordered by the Arabian Sea and the hills of the Western Ghats. Known as "God's own country", it is extremely fertile and people are very friendly. There is a huge range of crops and prolific birdlife, in addition to the occasional elephant, monkeys, deer and elusive tigers.
Our adventure begins in Fort Cochin (Kochi) the site of the first European settlement in India. It is a blend of Portugese, Dutch, British and Chinese influences. We stay in a wonderfully serene part of town. From here we make our way to Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, then climb to Munnar in the highlands, known for its tea plantations. We descend to Kumily and Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary a three nights' stay gives time for a side trip into neighbouring Tamil Nadu and a trek in the park. We then head back to the coast via the backroads of Vagamon to the backwaters of Kumarakom, with an overnight on a house boat. From here it is a flat final day's ride back to Cochin and the end of a fabulous trip.
***Combine this tour with our Bicycling Rajasthan's Forts and Palaces***
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Day 1: Arrive Fort Cochin
Highlights: Fort Cochin
Namaste! You will be welcomed in the traditional Indian way with hands clapped together and then transferred to your hotel.
Our hotel is in Fort Cochin, close to the harbor, markets and good cafes. After lunch we have a brief tour of the city; it has one of the finest natural harbours in the world. Ancient mariners from Arabia, China, Holland, Britain and Portugal have all left their mark on this attractive island city, often referred to as the Venice of the East. We visit the oldest European Church in India "St. Francis Church". Where Vasco Da Gama was buried before his remains were taken back to Portugal. Cantilevered Chinese fishing nets are a unique feature and there is good shopping in neighboring Princess Street.
Day 2: Cochin to Thatteked
Highlights: Plantations, bird sanctuary
We drive out of town for about two hours (with no Freeways, driving even on a highway is slow) then cycle on a very minor road to the bird Sanctuary of Thatteked. We will pass rubber, banana, coconut and pineapple plantations and have time for a visit to the bird sanctuary.
Bicycling Distance: 47 km / 29 mi
Day 3: Thatteked to Munnar
Highlights: Munnar, jacaranda trees, tea and cardamom plantations
Our bicycle route today swoops down through a forest to the Periyer River and the Kallerkutty dam. From here we start the challenging climb to Munnar and its world famous tea plantations. We will also see jacaranda trees and cardamom plantations. With the gain in altitude the temperature will decrease from c.32 / 90 F at the coast to c.25 / 77 at Munnar, with night time temperatures dropping to 10 C / 50F.
Bicycling Option: 69 km / 43 mi with a 1,395 m / 4,600 ft altitude gain.
Day 4: Munnar to Kumily
Highlights: Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
A rolling day on the bike as we ride to Kumily, known for its spices and proximity to Periyar Tiger Reserve. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary covers 777 sq km of which 360 sq km is thick evergreen forest. The greatest attraction of Periyar is the herds of wild elephants that come down to play in the lake. The day is quite hilly but there is an overall loss in altitude as we descend to 800m / 2,640 ft. The day starts with a spectacular descent through forest and tea plantations, later passing rice fields, coffee and cardamom. There will be excellent views of the Western Ghats.
Bicycling Option: 96 km / 60 mi
Day 5: Kumily - Theni return
Highlights: Rural India
We take an excursion into neighbouring Tamil Nadu, a poorer state where you will see many bullock carts and perhaps a working elephant or two. We start with a fabulous descent into a wide fertile valley and continue gently descending till the town of Theni. Here we have lunch then return on the highway in the mini bus. Time to relax in the afternoon by the pool or do a little shopping.
Bicycling Option: 70 km / 43 mi bicycling on backroads, return by mini bus.
Day 6: Kumily
Highlights: Rest DayOptions include an early morning three hour gentle hike in the Park accompanied by a guide, who will indentify plants, birds and other wildlife. There will be a late breakfast on return. Then a visit to a tea plantation and factory and a late afternoon trip on Lake Periyer where you are likely to see wildlife, most likely deer, buffalo and elephants, by the lake side. Take binoculars.
Day 7: Kumily to Kumarakom
Highlights: Great bicycle ride, mangrove forests, bird sanctuary, and more
We start the day with a climb as we make our way to the grasslands of Vagamon. We finish with a fabulous 24 km descent. On reaching the highway we board the mini bus to drive (1 and 3/4 hrs) to Kumarakom. A spectacular day's biking. Kumarakom is a paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and canals adorned with white lilies. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary,on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, is a favorite haunt of migratory birds like the Siberian stork, egret, darter, heron and teal.
Bicycling Option: 88 km / 55 mi
Day 8: Overnight on a House Boat
Highlights: Rest DayAfter a late start we drive just 25 km to board our house boat, modeled on a traditional rice boat ("ketuvallam"), for lunch and a delightful lazy day cruising on the picturesque lake and canals.
Day 9: Alleppey to Cochin
Highlights: Coastline and CochinAfter breakfast on the house boat we bike around 55 km on a flat road, parallel with the coast, back to Cochin; there will be time for some last minute shopping before our farewell dinner.
Day 10: Depart
Highlights: Safe TravelsWe wish you "bon voyage" and hope to see you again. An airport transfer is included.
HighlightsFort Cochin, overnight on a houseboat, spice markets, Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, tea, coffee, banana, cocunut, cardamom plantations, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary
Includes"The Usual" plus... Use of a quality 27-30 speed bicycle; Use of a 24 - 27 speed hybrid bicycling; 9 nights accommodation including one night on a houseboat; 9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 7 dinners;
Begin/EndFort Cochin Airport
Arrive/DepartCochin Int'l Airport (COK)
Total Distance370 km / 228 miles
Daily Distance0 - 96 km / 0 - 60 mi
What to Expect
Paved roads. We will drive out of Cochin and Kumarakom. On other days a reasonably fit cyclist will be able to bicycle the entire distance.
NotesA Visa is required to travel to India. The US has outsourced the process to Travisa Outsourcing.
Click on the "pins" for details about each day's highlights.
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