Discover astounding natural and cultural wonders while cycling through these national treasures.
A cycling holiday is considered by many the perfect way to explore a country. These eight adventures cover routes that are amazingly beautiful in their own unique ways. From enchanting forest trails to helicopter drops to mountain biking with snow-capped peaks around you, there’s something for everyone!
This journey explores central Burma starting at the hill station town, abortion Kalaw, founded by British colonial officers. A leisurely cycle through pine-dotted countryside of the Shan Plateau will head downhill to the shores of Inle Lake, the country’s second largest lake and home to the Intha fisherman, who row their boats with one leg. There’s a visit to Pindaya, where thousands of Buddha images are found in limestone caves, before heading to Mandalay and the lowlands. Cross U Bien Bridge, Asia’s longest teak crossing, cycle along the historic Irrawaddy River, and discover Shwenandaw Monastery. The “golden palace,” is a wonderfully fragile, yet grand example of 19th century Burmese teak architecture, heavily gilded with gold and adorned with glass mosaics and impressive carvings of Buddhist myths. Mt Popa awaits with Popa Taung Kalat, a temple populated by Burma’s most revered spirits, perched at the top of 900 steps, offering spectacular panoramas of the plains below. And finally, at the end of the easy descent passed paddy fields and water buffaloes, there’s Bagan, a Buddhist centre of learning centuries ago with thousands of temples and stupas along the Irrawaddy.
A centre for international commerce, this 400km long island will surprise those looking for dramatic changes in scenery over a small area. No wonder it was named Ihla Formosa, or ‘Beautiful Island’ by Portuguese sailors. Winding roads provide tough-but-rewarding climbs and exciting descents. A major attraction for any cyclist is Taroko Gorge, an awesome 19 km long canyon, often described as the ‘Jewel of Taiwan’ with magnificent metamorphic formations along the roaring Li-Wu River. And among and around the over 100 peaks of the Central Mountain range, there are numerous hot springs where you can soak and relax after a hard day’s biking. But there are not just mountains – there are the lush plains and meadows of the East Rift Valley and the beaches and palms all along the coast.
Discover the karst formations unique to the terrain around Guilin as the local weather sculpted the terrain over the millennia for a breath-taking landscape. Along the way, witness the vast array of ethnic tribes that populate the region, untouched and still practicing their own colourful traditions in their singular architecture. Climbing 37 km up to Leishan pass at 2,200m is one of many views of vast unbroken scenery — terraced rice fields and numerous small Miao and Dong villages dot the landscape. The Duliujiang River leads to the superb wind and rain bridges of Zhaoxing and Chengyang, built with beautiful pavilions as protection from the elements. And then there’s the stunning karst scenery that dominates Yangshuo surrounding verdant green rice terraces with majestic limestone outcroppings.
Montenegro’s wild landscapes, azure seas, and rich cultural heritage are all draws to this tiny mountainous country. From Mount Orjen’s foothills, wagon-trails lead to Perast and its island of Our Lady of the Rocks, artificially created by sinking seized ships loaded with rocks. Gentle biking through rolling mountains finds a way to the coast and Budva. Over 2,000 years old with a well-preserved medieval fortress surrounding it, its coastline has fantastic beaches and a vibrant nightlife that earned its name as the Montenegrin Miami. But don’t forget the brilliant views at Lovcen National Park of Montenegro and across to the Italian coast. And Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has stunning architecture and a beautiful setting in the Boka Kotorska Bay with an Old Town that’s a labyrinth of cobbled lanes linking small squares, ancient churches, and former aristocratic mansions.
Explore this high altitude cold desert along glacier-fed rivers and through Tibetan villages. Cross the Indus River to Tibetan monasteries, including the Thiksey monastery with a three-storey Maitreya (future) Buddha image. Then either bike along or raft down the Zanskar River to discover the literal ups and downs from Tsermachenla to Likir. The cycling continues passed quaint villages and farms to the daunting but exhilarating Warila pass. A challenging 5,195m climb is rewarded with stunning views and a chance to spot a snow leopard. Then it’s back down through the Nubra and Shyok valleys, scented with wild lavender and sea buckthorn. After the switchbacks to the top of Khardungla pass (5,359m), views of the Saser Mutztagh and Stok mountain ranges will surround an exhilarating downhill to Leh.
Ride dirt trails and take in majestic views of the Himalayan ranges of Langtang and Annapurna while biking from the ancient Kathmandu Valley to lakeside Pokhara. Among the unforgettable mountain views with challenging climbs and exhilarating descents, there’s Bhaktapur, a UNESCO World Heritage site, an ancient Newar town that has preserved its culture as well as its cobbled streets, palaces, temples, and elaborate carvings, gilded roofs, and open courtyards. And there’s learning about the the worship of the Kali, goddess of victory over evil powers, and the trout farms in the Himalayan foothills. Gorkha Palace resides on top of a hill at an altitude of 3,281m where the king would watch over his people from this tallest palace in Nepal. Gorkha is also the home of the great Gurkha warriors. Pokhara is Nepal’s second largest city with a beautiful lake that provides another picturesque backdrop to the end of the adventure.
China’s southwestern province is an apt inspiration for the Shangri-La in the book Lost Horizons. Fascinating history, breath-taking scenery, ancient architecture, and diverse cultures are surrounded by mountains and plains. At 3,300m, Napa Lake is fed by the melting snows of the three mountains that encircle it and is a favoured spot for migratory birds. Haba Mountain and Jade Stone Dragon Mountain form Tiger Leaping Gorge, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the deepest canyons in the world, at almost 4,000 metres. The depth and the steep angles of canyon faces could induce vertigo, but this canyon created by a rollicking tributary of the Yangtze River is breath-taking. Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is also called the “Little Potala Palace”, after the home of the Dalai Lama until the most recent one fled to India in 1959. The karst terraces at Baishuitai are ethereal ridges continually sculpted by the cascading water flowing down into ponds.
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A heart-pounding adventure awaits in the heart of the Tien Shan Mountains with the marble pyramid of Khan Tengri (6995m) and Pobedy Peak (7439m). Snow-capped mountains provide a stunning backdrop for mountain biking through verdant valleys and up to passes teeming with grasslands and wildflowers. This trip, starting from Turgen River Gorge, is truly off the beaten track with dirt roads through pine trees and across plains. The highlight of this trip is two days heli-biking. From 3500m, feel the adrenaline rush down single track and jeep dirt roads back to camp. The adventure continues to the top of Mingtur Pass (3900m) and the Chon Ashy Pass (3820m) down into Kyrgyzstan. This is a tough off-road tour, with challenges for mountain biking, high altitudes, and extreme weather conditions. It is a true adventure for those that want a unique biking experience with spectacular high mountain scenery.
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