Discover Bulgaria by Bicycle on a SpiceRoads Cycle Tour
Bulgaria by Bicycle P1140312

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Patricia Weismantel

Traveling through Bulgaria you feel like you were the last one invited to the party. The Thracians, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and Turkish were all there first and have left plenty of proof to remind you of your tardiness in visiting Bulgaria.

For many Bulgaria still remains a mystery, perhaps associating it with yogurt or Communism, but there is a lot on offer as others have discovered long ago. Wedged between Romania

Bulgaria delights

The team

and Turkey, with a long Black Sea coastline and Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria’s absorption of cultures while still maintaining their own identity and language, makes it a fascinating biking destination.

The natural starting point for most visitors is Sofia, the capital, and this is where our bicycle group of international riders met. Here a tour of Sofia’s monuments – the elegant golden-domed Alexander Nevski Cathedral and St. George Chapel, built by the Romans in the 4th century and later turned into a Muslim and then a Christian sanctuary, are prime examples of the variety of things to come.

Cycling through the idyllic countryside on small backroads takes us to highs such as Glozhene Monastery. The location perched on the top of a steep rocky hill which juts out amid the greenery is explained as the preferred location of the miracle-working icon of St George the Victorious. Not liking a monastery built in its honour on the Cherni Vit River, legend has it that the icon flew – not once, but three times – to the same place. A replica of the icon can be found at the modest monastery.

Bulgaria's Arc of Liberty

Arc of Liberty

Our next high is the pass that separates northern and southern Bulgaria where we are exposed to the massive Arc of Liberty, symbolizing the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 from the Ottomans during the Russian-Turkish War. After a glorious descent we are in the Valley of Roses where the scent is heavenly. The Damascus rose was brought from Syria during the Crusades in 1270 and have thrived ever since. The roses are picked in May and June, when the humidity is high, and are quickly distilled into essential oil. Undoubtedly the most fragrant ride of the tour!

We cross the valley and meet a shepherd minding his flock before we enter the Sredna Gora Mountains where we are again immersed in many eras. In Koprivshtitsa we are surrounded

by hundreds of examples of well-preserved 19th century Revival architecture and learn about the many famous Bulgarian revolutionaries that were born here and led the April Uprising in 1876. Hisarya, our next stop, was seized by the Romans from the Thracians and it quickly gained a reputation as a spa town and those in search of a cure for sickness came from all over the Balkan Peninsula, the Aegean Islands and even Asia Minor. Though there are still ruins from the Romans the main attraction remains the mineral springs with temperatures between 24 and 49 degrees C, said to be particularly effective with kidneys, liver and gallbladder diseases, gastritis and diabetes.

Once cured we head to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, but once having passed the gritty industrial suburbs, an eclectic hodgepodge of architectural styles awaited us in the cobble-stoned steep streets of the old town. There’s evidence Plovdiv was first settled in 500 B.C., Thracians arrived next, then Philip II of Macedonia conquered the region in A.D. 341. Between 1204 and 1364 alone, it changed hands 11 times. The spectacular Roman amphitheater once held 3,000 people who gathered for theater performances and gladiator combats and is now used for summer concerts. A few of the best anti-Ottoman National Revival buildings are museums but the houses themselves are worth a visit. Getting lost in the old city led us to discover a tiny art museum that featured a national artist from Plovdiv. Such a pleasant find!

Plovdiv Amphitheater

Plovdiv Amphitheater

Our cycling continued in the Rodopi Mountains, where nature and food took over from history as the highlights. We rode from the Pamporovo Ski Resort through pine forests and meadows of flowers to the Trigrad River then it was up a narrow road through a marble gorge and a visit to the Devil’s Throat. We entered a tiny door in the solid rock wall and were greeted by an icy blast of air, not the normal temperature associated with Hades. A slippery passageway led us down to the “Hall of Thunder,” a vast cavern that owes its name to the 40m/140ft waterfall from the Trigrad River pounding down. Decision time, to continue on and climb a ladder of 288 steps out next to the waterfall or return the way we came. We all made it out to see the light!

Organic honey, fresh cheese, home grown tomatoes, we were always well fed with the dishes that were influenced by the those that had been there previously. Greek and Turkish tastes were evident in the shopska salad and filo pasteries, and so were Russia’s in the stuffed peppers, but again Bulgarian specialties still have their place at the table, such as trator, a chilled yogurt, cucumber, dill, walnut and sunflower oil soup.

More rolling hills took us up and down through pine forests to Velingrad and our last spa town of the tour. Though it is the source of 70 separate springs with healing mineral water the town also boasts the largest karst spring in the country, the Kleptuza, which provides the town’s water supply. One last dip in the spa waters gave us time to reflect on all that we had seen on our cycling tour and it was mutually agreed upon that we were glad we had finally made it to the party that is Bulgaria.

 

Beautiful Bulgaria

Idyllic river setting

Highlights of Bulgaria

beans for lunch

Bulgaria's Valley of Roses

Valley of Roses


Bulgaria by Bicycle P1140312 Koprivshtitsa  Bells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Patricia Weismantel

Traveling through Bulgaria you feel like you were the last one invited to the party. The Thracians, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and Turkish were all there first and have left plenty of proof to remind you of your tardiness in visiting Bulgaria.

For many Bulgaria still remains a mystery, perhaps associating it with yogurt or Communism, but there is a lot on offer as others have discovered long ago. Wedged between Romania

Bulgaria delights

The team

and Turkey, with a long Black Sea coastline and Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria’s absorption of cultures while still maintaining their own identity and language, makes it a fascinating biking destination.

The natural starting point for most visitors is Sofia, the capital, and this is where our bicycle group of international riders met. Here a tour of Sofia’s monuments – the elegant golden-domed Alexander Nevski Cathedral and St. George Chapel, built by the Romans in the 4th century and later turned into a Muslim and then a Christian sanctuary, are prime examples of the variety of things to come.

Cycling through the idyllic countryside on small backroads takes us to highs such as Glozhene Monastery. The location perched on the top of a steep rocky hill which juts out amid the greenery is explained as the preferred location of the miracle-working icon of St George the Victorious. Not liking a monastery built in its honour on the Cherni Vit River, legend has it that the icon flew – not once, but three times – to the same place. A replica of the icon can be found at the modest monastery.

Bulgaria's Arc of Liberty

Arc of Liberty

Our next high is the pass that separates northern and southern Bulgaria where we are exposed to the massive Arc of Liberty, symbolizing the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 from the Ottomans during the Russian-Turkish War. After a glorious descent we are in the Valley of Roses where the scent is heavenly. The Damascus rose was brought from Syria during the Crusades in 1270 and have thrived ever since. The roses are picked in May and June, when the humidity is high, and are quickly distilled into essential oil. Undoubtedly the most fragrant ride of the tour!

We cross the valley and meet a shepherd minding his flock before we enter the Sredna Gora Mountains where we are again immersed in many eras. In Koprivshtitsa we are surrounded

by hundreds of examples of well-preserved 19th century Revival architecture and learn about the many famous Bulgarian revolutionaries that were born here and led the April Uprising in 1876. Hisarya, our next stop, was seized by the Romans from the Thracians and it quickly gained a reputation as a spa town and those in search of a cure for sickness came from all over the Balkan Peninsula, the Aegean Islands and even Asia Minor. Though there are still ruins from the Romans the main attraction remains the mineral springs with temperatures between 24 and 49 degrees C, said to be particularly effective with kidneys, liver and gallbladder diseases, gastritis and diabetes.

Once cured we head to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, but once having passed the gritty industrial suburbs, an eclectic hodgepodge of architectural styles awaited us in the cobble-stoned steep streets of the old town. There’s evidence Plovdiv was first settled in 500 B.C., Thracians arrived next, then Philip II of Macedonia conquered the region in A.D. 341. Between 1204 and 1364 alone, it changed hands 11 times. The spectacular Roman amphitheater once held 3,000 people who gathered for theater performances and gladiator combats and is now used for summer concerts. A few of the best anti-Ottoman National Revival buildings are museums but the houses themselves are worth a visit. Getting lost in the old city led us to discover a tiny art museum that featured a national artist from Plovdiv. Such a pleasant find!

Plovdiv Amphitheater

Plovdiv Amphitheater

Our cycling continued in the Rodopi Mountains, where nature and food took over from history as the highlights. We rode from the Pamporovo Ski Resort through pine forests and meadows of flowers to the Trigrad River then it was up a narrow road through a marble gorge and a visit to the Devil’s Throat. We entered a tiny door in the solid rock wall and were greeted by an icy blast of air, not the normal temperature associated with Hades. A slippery passageway led us down to the “Hall of Thunder,” a vast cavern that owes its name to the 40m/140ft waterfall from the Trigrad River pounding down. Decision time, to continue on and climb a ladder of 288 steps out next to the waterfall or return the way we came. We all made it out to see the light!

Organic honey, fresh cheese, home grown tomatoes, we were always well fed with the dishes that were influenced by the those that had been there previously. Greek and Turkish tastes were evident in the shopska salad and filo pasteries, and so were Russia’s in the stuffed peppers, but again Bulgarian specialties still have their place at the table, such as trator, a chilled yogurt, cucumber, dill, walnut and sunflower oil soup.

More rolling hills took us up and down through pine forests to Velingrad and our last spa town of the tour. Though it is the source of 70 separate springs with healing mineral water the town also boasts the largest karst spring in the country, the Kleptuza, which provides the town’s water supply. One last dip in the spa waters gave us time to reflect on all that we had seen on our cycling tour and it was mutually agreed upon that we were glad we had finally made it to the party that is Bulgaria.

 

Beautiful Bulgaria

Idyllic river setting

Highlights of Bulgaria

beans for lunch

Bulgaria's Valley of Roses

Valley of Roses


Thank you for sending in your SpiceRoads adventure pics.  I have posted a few below.  If you haven’t sent in yours in yet – you still have time.

Competition ends 29th October, 2014.

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Bulgaria by Bicycle P1140312

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Patricia Weismantel

Traveling through Bulgaria you feel like you were the last one invited to the party. The Thracians, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and Turkish were all there first and have left plenty of proof to remind you of your tardiness in visiting Bulgaria.

For many Bulgaria still remains a mystery, perhaps associating it with yogurt or Communism, but there is a lot on offer as others have discovered long ago. Wedged between Romania and Turkey, with a long Black Sea coastline and Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria’s absorption of cultures while still maintaining their own identity and language, makes it a fascinating biking destination.

Bulgaria delights

The team

The natural starting point for most visitors is Sofia, the capital, and this is where our bicycle group of international riders met. Here a tour of Sofia’s monuments – the elegant golden-domed Alexander Nevski Cathedral and St. George Chapel, built by the Romans in the 4th century and later turned into a Muslim and then a Christian sanctuary, are prime examples of the variety of things to come.

Cycling through the idyllic countryside on small backroads takes us to highs such as Glozhene Monastery. The location perched on the top of a steep rocky hill which juts out amid the greenery is explained as the preferred location of the miracle-working icon of St George the Victorious. Not liking a monastery built in its honour on the Cherni Vit River, legend has it that the icon flew – not once, but three times – to the same place. A replica of the icon can be found at the modest monastery.

Bulgaria's Arc of Liberty

Arc of Liberty

Our next high is the pass that separates northern and southern Bulgaria where we are exposed to the massive Arc of Liberty, symbolizing the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 from the Ottomans during the Russian-Turkish War. After a glorious descent we are in the Valley of Roses where the scent is heavenly. The Damascus rose was brought from Syria during the Crusades in 1270 and have thrived ever since. The roses are picked in May and June, when the humidity is high, and are quickly distilled into essential oil. Undoubtedly the most fragrant ride of the tour!

We cross the valley and meet a shepherd minding his flock before we enter the Sredna Gora Mountains where we are again immersed in many eras. In Koprivshtitsa we are surrounded by hundreds of examples of well-preserved 19th century Revival architecture and learn about the many famous Bulgarian revolutionaries that were born here and led the April Uprising in 1876. Hisarya, our next stop, was seized by the Romans from the Thracians and it quickly gained a reputation as a spa town and those in search of a cure for sickness came from all over the Balkan Peninsula, the Aegean Islands and even Asia Minor. Though there are still ruins from the Romans the main attraction remains the mineral springs with temperatures between 24 and 49 degrees C, said to be particularly effective with kidneys, liver and gallbladder diseases, gastritis and diabetes.

Once cured we head to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, but once having passed the gritty industrial suburbs, an eclectic hodgepodge of architectural styles awaited us in the cobble-stoned steep streets of the old town. There’s evidence Plovdiv was first settled in 500 B.C., Thracians arrived next, then Philip II of Macedonia conquered the region in A.D. 341. Between 1204 and 1364 alone, it changed hands 11 times. The spectacular Roman amphitheater once held 3,000 people who gathered for theater performances and gladiator combats and is now used for summer concerts. A few of the best anti-Ottoman National Revival buildings are museums but the houses themselves are worth a visit. Getting lost in the old city led us to discover a tiny art museum that featured a national artist from Plovdiv. Such a pleasant find!

Plovdiv Amphitheater

Plovdiv Amphitheater

Our cycling continued in the Rodopi Mountains, where nature and food took over from history as the highlights. We rode from the Pamporovo Ski Resort through pine forests and meadows of flowers to the Trigrad River then it was up a narrow road through a marble gorge and a visit to the Devil’s Throat. We entered a tiny door in the solid rock wall and were greeted by an icy blast of air, not the normal temperature associated with Hades. A slippery passageway led us down to the “Hall of Thunder,” a vast cavern that owes its name to the 40m/140ft waterfall from the Trigrad River pounding down. Decision time, to continue on and climb a ladder of 288 steps out next to the waterfall or return the way we came. We all made it out to see the light!

Organic honey, fresh cheese, home grown tomatoes, we were always well fed with the dishes that were influenced by the those that had been there previously. Greek and Turkish tastes were evident in the shopska salad and filo pasteries, and so were Russia’s in the stuffed peppers, but again Bulgarian specialties still have their place at the table, such as trator, a chilled yogurt, cucumber, dill, walnut and sunflower oil soup.

More rolling hills took us up and down through pine forests to Velingrad and our last spa town of the tour. Though it is the source of 70 separate springs with healing mineral water the town also boasts the largest karst spring in the country, the Kleptuza, which provides the town’s water supply. One last dip in the spa waters gave us time to reflect on all that we had seen on our cycling tour and it was mutually agreed upon that we were glad we had finally made it to the party that is Bulgaria.

 

Beautiful Bulgaria

Idyllic river setting

Highlights of Bulgaria

beans for lunch

Bulgaria's Valley of Roses

Valley of Roses


Bulgaria by Bicycle P1140312

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Patricia Weismantel

Traveling through Bulgaria you feel like you were the last one invited to the party. The Thracians, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and Turkish were all there first and have left plenty of proof to remind you of your tardiness in visiting Bulgaria.

For many Bulgaria still remains a mystery, perhaps associating it with yogurt or Communism, but there is a lot on offer as others have discovered long ago. Wedged between Romania and Turkey, with a long Black Sea coastline and Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria’s absorption of cultures while still maintaining their own identity and language, makes it a fascinating biking destination.

Bulgaria delights

The team

The natural starting point for most visitors is Sofia, the capital, and this is where our bicycle group of international riders met. Here a tour of Sofia’s monuments – the elegant golden-domed Alexander Nevski Cathedral and St. George Chapel, built by the Romans in the 4th century and later turned into a Muslim and then a Christian sanctuary, are prime examples of the variety of things to come.

Cycling through the idyllic countryside on small backroads takes us to highs such as Glozhene Monastery. The location perched on the top of a steep rocky hill which juts out amid the greenery is explained as the preferred location of the miracle-working icon of St George the Victorious. Not liking a monastery built in its honour on the Cherni Vit River, legend has it that the icon flew – not once, but three times – to the same place. A replica of the icon can be found at the modest monastery.

Bulgaria's Arc of Liberty

Arc of Liberty

Our next high is the pass that separates northern and southern Bulgaria where we are exposed to the massive Arc of Liberty, symbolizing the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 from the Ottomans during the Russian-Turkish War. After a glorious descent we are in the Valley of Roses where the scent is heavenly. The Damascus rose was brought from Syria during the Crusades in 1270 and have thrived ever since. The roses are picked in May and June, when the humidity is high, and are quickly distilled into essential oil. Undoubtedly the most fragrant ride of the tour!

We cross the valley and meet a shepherd minding his flock before we enter the Sredna Gora Mountains where we are again immersed in many eras. In Koprivshtitsa we are surrounded by hundreds of examples of well-preserved 19th century Revival architecture and learn about the many famous Bulgarian revolutionaries that were born here and led the April Uprising in 1876. Hisarya, our next stop, was seized by the Romans from the Thracians and it quickly gained a reputation as a spa town and those in search of a cure for sickness came from all over the Balkan Peninsula, the Aegean Islands and even Asia Minor. Though there are still ruins from the Romans the main attraction remains the mineral springs with temperatures between 24 and 49 degrees C, said to be particularly effective with kidneys, liver and gallbladder diseases, gastritis and diabetes.

Once cured we head to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, but once having passed the gritty industrial suburbs, an eclectic hodgepodge of architectural styles awaited us in the cobble-stoned steep streets of the old town. There’s evidence Plovdiv was first settled in 500 B.C., Thracians arrived next, then Philip II of Macedonia conquered the region in A.D. 341. Between 1204 and 1364 alone, it changed hands 11 times. The spectacular Roman amphitheater once held 3,000 people who gathered for theater performances and gladiator combats and is now used for summer concerts. A few of the best anti-Ottoman National Revival buildings are museums but the houses themselves are worth a visit. Getting lost in the old city led us to discover a tiny art museum that featured a national artist from Plovdiv. Such a pleasant find!

Plovdiv Amphitheater

Plovdiv amphitheater

Our cycling continued in the Rodopi Mountains, where nature and food took over from history as the highlights. We rode from the Pamporovo Ski Resort through pine forests and meadows of flowers to the Trigrad River then it was up a narrow road through a marble gorge and a visit to the Devil’s Throat. We entered a tiny door in the solid rock wall and were greeted by an icy blast of air, not the normal temperature associated with Hades. A slippery passageway led us down to the “Hall of Thunder,” a vast cavern that owes its name to the 40m/140ft waterfall from the Trigrad River pounding down. Decision time, to continue on and climb a ladder of 288 steps out next to the waterfall or return the way we came. We all made it out to see the light!

Organic honey, fresh cheese, home grown tomatoes, we were always well fed with the dishes that were influenced by the those that had been there previously. Greek and Turkish tastes were evident in the shopska salad and filo pasteries, and so were Russia’s in the stuffed peppers, but again Bulgarian specialties still have their place at the table, such as trator, a chilled yogurt, cucumber, dill, walnut and sunflower oil soup.

More rolling hills took us up and down through pine forests to Velingrad and our last spa town of the tour. Though it is the source of 70 separate springs with healing mineral water the town also boasts the largest karst spring in the country, the Kleptuza, which provides the town’s water supply. One last dip in the spa waters gave us time to reflect on all that we had seen on our cycling tour and it was mutually agreed upon that we were glad we had finally made it to the party that is Bulgaria.

 

Beautiful Bulgaria

Idyllic river setting

Highlights of Bulgaria

Beans for lunch

Bulgaria's Valley of Roses

Valley of roses


Bulgaria by Bicycle P1140312

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Patricia Weismantel

Traveling through Bulgaria you feel like you were the last one invited to the party. The Thracians, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans and Turkish were all there first and have left plenty of proof to remind you of your tardiness in visiting Bulgaria.

For many Bulgaria still remains a mystery, perhaps associating it with yogurt or Communism, but there is a lot on offer as others have discovered long ago. Wedged between Romania and Turkey, with a long Black Sea coastline and Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria’s absorption of cultures while still maintaining their own identity and language, makes it a fascinating biking destination.

Bulgaria delights

The team

The natural starting point for most visitors is Sofia, the capital, and this is where our bicycle group of international riders met. Here a tour of Sofia’s monuments – the elegant golden-domed Alexander Nevski Cathedral and St. George Chapel, built by the Romans in the 4th century and later turned into a Muslim and then a Christian sanctuary, are prime examples of the variety of things to come.

Cycling through the idyllic countryside on small backroads takes us to highs such as Glozhene Monastery. The location perched on the top of a steep rocky hill which juts out amid the greenery is explained as the preferred location of the miracle-working icon of St George the Victorious. Not liking a monastery built in its honour on the Cherni Vit River, legend has it that the icon flew – not once, but three times – to the same place. A replica of the icon can be found at the modest monastery.

Bulgaria's Arc of Liberty

Arc of Liberty

Our next high is the pass that separates northern and southern Bulgaria where we are exposed to the massive Arc of Liberty, symbolizing the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 from the Ottomans during the Russian-Turkish War. After a glorious descent we are in the Valley of Roses where the scent is heavenly. The Damascus rose was brought from Syria during the Crusades in 1270 and have thrived ever since. The roses are picked in May and June, when the humidity is high, and are quickly distilled into essential oil. Undoubtedly the most fragrant ride of the tour!

We cross the valley and meet a shepherd minding his flock before we enter the Sredna Gora Mountains where we are again immersed in many eras. In Koprivshtitsa we are surrounded by hundreds of examples of well-preserved 19th century Revival architecture and learn about the many famous Bulgarian revolutionaries that were born here and led the April Uprising in 1876. Hisarya, our next stop, was seized by the Romans from the Thracians and it quickly gained a reputation as a spa town and those in search of a cure for sickness came from all over the Balkan Peninsula, the Aegean Islands and even Asia Minor. Though there are still ruins from the Romans the main attraction remains the mineral springs with temperatures between 24 and 49 degrees C, said to be particularly effective with kidneys, liver and gallbladder diseases, gastritis and diabetes.

Once cured we head to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, but once having passed the gritty industrial suburbs, an eclectic hodgepodge of architectural styles awaited us in the cobble-stoned steep streets of the old town. There’s evidence Plovdiv was first settled in 500 B.C., Thracians arrived next, then Philip II of Macedonia conquered the region in A.D. 341. Between 1204 and 1364 alone, it changed hands 11 times. The spectacular Roman amphitheater once held 3,000 people who gathered for theater performances and gladiator combats and is now used for summer concerts. A few of the best anti-Ottoman National Revival buildings are museums but the houses themselves are worth a visit. Getting lost in the old city led us to discover a tiny art museum that featured a national artist from Plovdiv. Such a pleasant find!

Plovdiv Amphitheater

Plovdiv amphitheater

Our cycling continued in the Rodopi Mountains, where nature and food took over from history as the highlights. We rode from the Pamporovo Ski Resort through pine forests and meadows of flowers to the Trigrad River then it was up a narrow road through a marble gorge and a visit to the Devil’s Throat. We entered a tiny door in the solid rock wall and were greeted by an icy blast of air, not the normal temperature associated with Hades. A slippery passageway led us down to the “Hall of Thunder,” a vast cavern that owes its name to the 40m/140ft waterfall from the Trigrad River pounding down. Decision time, to continue on and climb a ladder of 288 steps out next to the waterfall or return the way we came. We all made it out to see the light!

Organic honey, fresh cheese, home grown tomatoes, we were always well fed with the dishes that were influenced by the those that had been there previously. Greek and Turkish tastes were evident in the shopska salad and filo pasteries, and so were Russia’s in the stuffed peppers, but again Bulgarian specialties still have their place at the table, such as trator, a chilled yogurt, cucumber, dill, walnut and sunflower oil soup.

More rolling hills took us up and down through pine forests to Velingrad and our last spa town of the tour. Though it is the source of 70 separate springs with healing mineral water the town also boasts the largest karst spring in the country, the Kleptuza, which provides the town’s water supply. One last dip in the spa waters gave us time to reflect on all that we had seen on our cycling tour and it was mutually agreed upon that we were glad we had finally made it to the party that is Bulgaria.

 

Beautiful Bulgaria

Idyllic river setting

Highlights of Bulgaria

Beans for lunch

Bulgaria's Valley of Roses

Valley of roses


 

Vietnames_women_carrying_vegetables

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a newbie to Asia I was keen to explore the region as much as possible. I had contacted a few travelling buddies but discovered every single one was away on the October long weekend……so it looked like I was going to be travelling solo.

Where to explore?

I searched the SpiceRoads cycle tour website and found that the Vietnam adventure Red River Delta Bicycle Tour was guaranteed to depart. It was a 3-day cycle tour starting on Thursday and ending on Saturday afternoon – just perfect for the long weekend getaway.

Getting ready to go!

The day of my overseas travel adventure arrived! I was packed,
with visa stamped firmly in my passport,
a few Vietnamese Dong in hand and my boarding pass checked in, and ready to go!  The flight was a short one and before I knew it I was in a cab and arriving at my guesthouse. It was quite late by this stage so I went straight to bed in preparation for the 7am pick-up.

All aboard

I woke up early and headed down for breakfast of the most delicious French baguette, a cup of steaming Vietnamese coffee and lots of fresh fruit. Binh, our guide, arrived shortly after to pick me up. Driver Chu was waiting outside, we both jumped in and then we were off to pick up Simon and Susan the only others on the tour.  Simon and Susan, like me are English and had recently moved to Asia.  They were keen to make the most of their time there.  Cycling is their preferred method of travel.

Vietnamese localsDay 1 – From Hanoi to the countryside

We swapped the hectic of Hanoi for the peace and quiet of the traditional pottery village of Bat Trang, where we watched local potters carefully hand-making delicate crockery and getting it ready for distribution in the city and overseas – it was mesmerizing.  We were then on our bikes and heading into the heart of the delta, through many traditional villages and rice fields.

We didn’t see another tourist all day; we met local snail farmers, dined in local cafes and visited the Keo Temple, built in 1061 under the Ly Dynasty – one of the most revered temples in the Red River Delta! Binh, our guide, was always smiley, cheerful and very informed on the history and the culture of the area.

Ninh_Binh_Karst_PeaksDay 2 – Striking landscapes

The next morning we woke up to spectacular views of karst peaks in Ninh Binh!  Out of the three days this one was the most impressive.  We cycled along narrow country lanes, single farm tracks and gravel paths and all around lush green rice with a backdrop of these magnificent karst peaks – it was truly awe-inspiring. A land version of the world-renowned Halong Bay but less touristy!

We climbed the Bich Dong Pagoda, built on three levels on the edge of a limestone cliff, explored natural caves by boat and visited Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of the Dinh and Ly dynasties.

We stayed overnight at a lovely basic guest house in the lush forest of Cuc Phuong – Vietnam’s first national park.

Day 3 – Getting close to nature

We woke up early to the sound of birds and after a hearty breakfast we cycled through the dense tropical forest, home to some of Asia’s rarest animals and exotic plant species. The highlight of the day was a visit to the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre with a variety of native monkeys and gibbons, including the critically endangered langurs.  They were all saved from wildlife smugglers and are being rehabilitated before being re-introduced to the wild.

The finale

Exhausted, but happy – we met our van and were whisked back to Hanoi. It was the perfect long weekend getaway and I got the break I needed.  Cycle touring really is the best way to explore a country!

Vietnames_women

Man_pushing_load_on_ferry Vietnam_Guides Vietnam_women_crop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More related articles:

Padal past preconceived notions of Vietnam

Let SpiceRoads Cycle Tours Introduce You to the ‘Real’ Vietnam

The Faces of Vietnam

Exploring Vietnam with SpiceRoads Guide Anh Co Nguyen

Experience the charm of Hue and Hoi An with SpiceRoads Cycle Tours
tour of Friendship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What made you join the Tour of Friendship and the SpiceRoads team?

I joined the Tour of Friendship because I have ridden a lot in Thailand and it was a great chance to get into race mode.   SpiceRoads was an easy choice as they made the whole experience easy.

 

IMG_0272Have you competed in many road races before?

I’ve raced in Germany, USA and, of course, New Zealand (where I am from)

 

How much training did you do before the event?

I did very little training as I was in the process of shifting homes, but I had come off a 6-day off-road tour (650km) with some mates, and that was torture.  A great warm up!

 

What was the route like?  (roads, scenery)

The route and the tour were very well planned and executed.   The scenery……..well, Thailand is always  wonderful!

 

tour of FriendshipTell me about the atmosphere.  What were the other riders like?  Was it sociable?

The atmosphere was amazing.  Everyone was there for the same reason: to ride, race and enjoy. All the riders showed respect for the others and I also got a push up a hill by one of the Japanese girls when I lost my chain. Big highlight.

 

How long were the days and how did you find the distances?

The distances were well balanced.  A good mixture.  Good climbs.  But the 40 degrees was a bit on the warm side. However, having said that there was always plenty of cold water being handed out.

 

You were on the podium after every stage and even made first place on Stage 5!  You must have been chuffed.  What was it like on the podium?

It was very pleasing to get some podium finishes. Competition is a wonderful thing – it drives you harder the next day, to always try to go one place better.

 

Apart from winning.  What was the highlight of the event?

One of the highlights was racing with the very young 30 year-olds and a Hong Kong guy saying, “I hope I can ride like you when I’m twice my age.”

 

What would you say to someone that is thinking about getting involved?

Do some good training 6 days a week, 4-5 hour rides at your own pace, some sprints and speed work towards the end.  Then come and enjoy!

 

IMG_0277 IMG_0214 IMG_0205 Tour of Friendship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More related articles:

Tour of Friendship 2015

SpiceRoads in Tour of Friendship 2013!

Challenge TJ on the Tour of Friendship 2016!

Comments (1)

  1. .

    thank you!!

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