“A two week cycling holiday across southern India, travelling in a small group, through stunning everything along the way. It wins the yellow jersey of cycling holidays.”
Pondicherry | Auroville | Chidambaram | Thanjavur | Brihadishwara Temple | Chettinad | Madurai | Western Ghats | Thekkady | Option to visit Periyar N.P | Kottayam | Kumarakom bird sanctuary | Kerala backwater houseboat cruise | Fort Cochin (Kochi)
Description of Chennai to Kochin cycling holiday across India
There is something very special about cycling coast to coast in any country, but this Chennai to Kochin cycling holiday across India, through the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kochin makes for a wonderfully adventurous way to holiday here. From the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea, we cycle for ten days out of fourteen, mostly on quiet back roads with the exception of some cities, such as Madurai. Staying at an eclectic mix of accommodation, from houseboats to small locally owned guesthouses to grand mansions, we are able to take in all aspects of life in southern India.
After arriving in Chennai, we transfer south to Pondicherry to pick up our bikes, a former French colonial town in a stunning waterside location, which also offers a lovely flat start to our cycling trip. After a couple of days exploring in and around the town, we take our first long cycling expedition into inland Tamil Nadu, with a 100km cycle through rural villages, stopping at remote and very welcoming spots for chai and chat and really feeling like we are covering serious ground on our velo tour.
Following the banks of the Cauvery River, our next urban stops are Thanjavur, famous for its royal palace and enormous Brihadishwara Temple and then the Chettinad region, where we cycle past 18th-century mansions built by wealthy traders from this period. This area is also famous for its unique cuisine, where curries are slow cooked in copper pots, perfect pick me ups for hungry cyclists, our time here made replete by a stay at one of its mansions. After another 100km cycle through Tamil Nadu’s back roads we finally arrive in one of India’s urban greats at Madurai where the magnificent Meenakshi Temple is one of the cultural highlights of the trip.
For natural heritage highlights we tackle some of the Cardamom Hills, passing vineyards and plantations into the foothills of the Western Ghat Mountains, to the rainforest region of Thekkaday in Kerala. Here we spend a couple of days either resting or exploring the beauty of Periyar National Park, famous for its tiger and elephant populations.
More hilly cycling awaits now, as we make our way through the plantations and hill stations that Kerala is famous for, our next urban stop being Kottayam City, with a wilder Kerala never too far away, such as on the shores of Vembanad Lake and its stunning Kumarakom bird sanctuary where we take a houseboat cruise on Kerala’s backwaters. This is our final leg before hitting the coast of the Arabian Sea and the port town of Fort Cochin, a vibrant multi-cultural city of spice markets and beach bliss. The perfect place to finish this journey on two wheels through some of India’s most spectacular land and culturescapes.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Chennai to Kochin cycling holiday across India
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a cycling trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints (or tyre tracks!) although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants, use markets to purchase traditional gifts and crafts and get a real impression of India.
Water: Water is a really important issue with cycling trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. Lack of recycling is already a massive problem in India so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle where possible.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation & Meals: We will spend 10 nights in hotels and guesthouses, 1 night in a houseboat and 2 nights in Indian grand homes; one of these is a palatial wedding mansion and the other is a 19th Century plantation family home. Near Kottayam, we will usually sleep at a homestay, where clients have the chance to eat home cooked cuisine and immerse themselves in local culture. You will notice that our hotels employ locally and use produce from markets in the area wherever possible. Many hotels are waste and energy conscious and have their own policies like asking guests to turn off the power when leaving a room in order to save electricity. Where meals are not supplied, our group leaders always encourage people to try local restaurants and street food vendors. They can make recommendations which will help boost small businesses and celebrate local specialties like Keralan fish or rice in a banana leaf.
Local Craft & Culture: We are keen to encourage guests to engage with the culture of India and to purchase local crafts and services where possible. Your local guide will be able to recommend the best of the area’s colourful and vibrant markets and small businesses and through our commerce, local people are supported. We stop at a local tea factory and have a full day to explore the bustling bazaars at Cochin. There are local crafts and souvenirs available here, as well as some delicious regional food.
Charity: For years we have been involved in campaigning for tiger conservation in Bandhavgarh. In late summer 2014 we teamed up with The Corbett Foundation, an Indian charity dedicated to conservation-oriented research. They have proved instrumental in enabling us to get the funds to where they are needed. Through this we have now completed the building of a community hall at Tala Village, solar pumps in the park for wildlife and staff in the dry season, bio gas plants and smart stoves for villagers and provided the salary for 2 full time teachers at the government school. Our work in India continues to be of great significance and most recently we have been able to purchase a 4 wheel drive medical vehicle and pay for outreach medical support.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 14 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.