Truly Tamil Nadu Bike Tour | Unventured

Truly Tamil Nadu Bike Tour

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  • 10 Days
  • 600+ Kms
  • Chennai International Airport
  • Chennai International Airport

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Tour Overview

A journey through the heartland of Tamilnadu

More often than not when people talk about the South of India they are referring to Tamilnadu. The heartland of “Dravida”, this region has seen some of the greatest rulers leave behind their legacy in the form of grand temple architecture, exquisite palaces and flavorful cuisine. On this trail you will be riding through the very center of Tamilnadu, which is known to have influences dating back to the 4th Century BC of native tribal kingdoms to the European settlements of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the French. In modern day this region is also popular for spiritual revolutions that are centered around sustainability, architectural experiments and alternative technology.

We’ve curated this trail making sure you pass some of the most impressive landscapes; meet and interact with locals, indulge your senses with incredible sounds, scents, tastes and textures that Tamil Nadu has to offer.

Who can do this tour

MEDIUM INTENSITY

Moderately challenging due to some long stretches of riding and warm weather conditions. This is a Hybrid/Mountain bike adventure. We will be riding an average of 60+Kms on each day with moderate climbs and rolling terrain. The days we will be riding begin early and clock in about 4-6 hours of riding.

The ride through the day will be through small villages, countryside backroads and on some days on the highway for very short distances, for most part of the ride we’ve mapped routes away from the highway for ease of riders. Evenings are at leisure, you can choose to rest or alternatively step out to explore the region.

Itinerary

We start our ride from the by lanes of Pondicherry, a quaint French colonial town by the Bay of Bengal and make our way through the temple and heritage towns of Chidambaram, Thanjavur and Madurai. Through the 7 full riding days we will average about 80 KMs per day through quiet village roads and occasionally hit the high way to get across to the bylanes. The traffic en route will be light to moderate. Along the way we will savor the flavorful cuisine of Chettinad, stay in beautiful heritage mansions, experience classical art forms and walk through ancient temples to learn about Tamilnadu’s rich history, culture and way of life.

Day 1 : Arrive in Chennai

“Vanakkam” and welcome to Chennai. After arriving at the Chennai International Airport (MAA) meet your tour host who will get your adventure going with a tour orientation. On the first day of the tour, we will drive to Pondicherry, a 160 Kms drive which will take about 3+ hours. En route we will stop at Dakshina Chitra, a cross-cultural living museum of art, architecture, lifestyles, crafts and performing arts of South India. You will also relish some scrumptious Southern Indian dishes which range from a variety of “Thali meals” to crisp “Dosas”(Rice & Lentil Crepes) enroute. We will reach Pondicherry, a quaint French colonial town known for its chic boutiques and tree lined, colonial French Quarters by early evening. We will take our bikes out for a short ride along the sea facing promenade. Accommodation is at a beautiful Heritage Villa. Dinner and overnight in Pondicherry.

Drive Distance: 160 KMs (Airport to Pondicherry)
Accommodation Type: Heritage Hotel

Highlights:

● Meet and greet your fellow travellers and tour host
● Introduce yourself to the South Indian cultures and traditions at Dakshinachitra
● Try different Southern Indian Dishes
● Bike fit and acclimatisation ride

Day 2: Explore Pondicherry and Auroville

This morning we get going post an early breakfast and start with a loop ride around Auroville, a good start to get the legs warmed up and acclimatize to the weather and the terrain. A new-age spiritual commune, Auroville was founded in 1968 by ‘The Mother’ and named after her Guru, Sri Aurobindo, and it offers a balanced and sustainable way of living. Revitalized by some earthly fruit juices, we explore Auroville , and later ride to a beautiful farm to savour a ‘farm to table’ lunch or alternatively pick from the many quaint Café’s in Pondicherry to try some Tamil – French fusion cuisine. Post lunch, we ride back into town, past a few fishing communities and cycle along the promenade, which still retains some of its Gallic charm. The rest of the day is at leisure to explore Pondicherry at your own pace, Dinner and overnight in Pondicherry.

Ride Distance: 30 KM
Accommodation Type: Heritage Hotel

Highlights:

● Visit to Auroville a global community village
● Farm lunch
● Ride to Auroville and along the promenade

DAY 3: Ride from Pondicherry to Chidambaram

Starting from the hotel, we ride out of Pondicherry and soon leave the busy city for quiet back roads. The ride distance for the day is about 90km through villages and mild off trail routes bedecked with mud huts and along the coastline to get to Chidambaram. We will take time out to visit cashew farms and processing units to grab some as a ride snack and a side for our Lunch en route. The town is believed to be of significant antiquity and has been ruled by different rulers from various dynasties ending with the colonial rule of the Birtish empire. Chidambaram is one of the many temple towns in Tamilnadu, it’s etymology translates to “Region of Wisdom” and rightly so you will hear many fascinating stories of Gods and legends on your evening tour of the Nataraja temple. Dinner and overnight in Chidambaram.

Ride Distance: 90 KMs
Accommodation Type: Heritage Resort

Highlights:

• Ride along the backroads
• Visit a cashew farm and processing unit
• A guided tour of the Nataraja Temple

DAY 4: Rolling terrain to Thanjavur

Today we will ride along the banks of one of the holy rivers of India, the Cauvery. On our 100+ KMs ride we will ride through heritage towns, and stopover at the ancient city of Darasuram to visit Airavateeswara temple, recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The monument you will see here surpasses the sculptural quality of many famed temples in the region and dates back to the 12th century. . Lunch is en route as we ride further to Thanjavur (the rice bowl of Tamilnadu), we are expected to reach the destination by early evening. After checking into the accommodation, we will head out to explore the beautiful 11th Century Brihadeshwara Temple, another UNESCO certified world heritage monument, on a guided walk. Dinner and overnight in Thanjavur.

Ride Distance: 105 KMs
Accommodation Type: Heritage Resort

Highlights:

● Scenic ride along the river Cauvery
● Stopover at Airavateeswara temple
● Guided Tour of the Brihadeshwara Temple

DAY 5 : Ride to Chettinadu

Our next stop along this journey is at Tamilnadu’s heartland Chettinad, renowned for its impressive mansions built by a wealthy community of traders known as Chettiars. Some of these palatial houses have been converted into boutique hotels, offering a glimpse of the past. The grand interiors with Burmese Teak and elaborate plaster work retain much of the traditional architecture of a bygone age. The real flavour of the region comes to life from the Kitchen that is tucked away in the rear end of these homes. The curries of Chettinad cuisine have some of the world renowned flavours. These are slow cooked in copper pots over a wood stove, and are as lovely as the ride to get here. The day’s ride of 95 KMs has rolling terrain through villages and farm lands. Dinner and overnight at a palatial heritage resort which was formerly the home/palace of one of the Chettiars.

Ride Distance: 95 KMs
Accommodation Type: Heritage Hotel

Highlights:

● A rolling terrain ride along open roads
● Overnight at a Heritage mansion

DAY 6 :Exploring Chettinad

Today, post a relaxed breakfast we will set out to explore Chettinadu and its towns of Athangudi and Karaikudi. About 15 KMs east is the popular hand-made, eco-friendly Athangudi tile making unit that has retained its traditional patterns and designs. The process of making these tiles has been passed on from generations and commonly used in palaces and in many Indian homes even today. We will visit the Athangudi Palace to understand the mansion’s architecture and art. Onward we will ride to Karaikudi, further south to explore this heritage town known for its palatial limestone bungalows . This town is home to the 1000 window palace owned by the late Royalty of the region, and we will ride through the beautiful town and market place known for antiques from various parts of the world, and then loop back to our place of stay. Later we head to a weaver’s unit to understand how silk threads turn into sarees with various designs and patterns. Enjoy the evening lounging by the pool and learn how to make Chettinad cuisine and relish a delicious plantain leaf meal. Dinner and overnight in Chettinad.

Ride Distance: 40 KMs
Accommodation Type: Heritage Hotel

Highlights:

● Explore Karaikudi and Attangudi
● Visit to a handmade tile unit
● Enjoy a Chettinad meal
● Visit a weavers place

DAY 7 : Ride to the temple town of Madurai

Today we leave behind the opulence of the heritage mansion at Chettinad and head out looking for culture, traditions and street food around one of the biggest temple complexes in the world. As we take the back roads to Madurai, we pass the granite quarries and workshops of the master-masons, the community that has been carving temple pillars for 2500 years. Around the town of Melur we’ll see hundreds of red clay horses surrounding small village shrines – these represent the local deity who protects the village boundaries. In the evening we explore the old city of Madurai and the Meenakshi amman temple.. Thousands of huge stone pillars line the hallways, each adorned with different deities, that are said to represent the 3,333,333 Gods of the Hindu cosmos. A constant flow of worshipers chanting prayers, add to the heady atmosphere of incense and camphor smoke, and make this an unforgettable experience of understanding the local way of life. We will try the local cuisine on a food trail across Madurai town in the evening. Overnight in Madurai.

Ride Distance: 90 KMs
Accommodation Type: Hotel

Highlights:

• Learn about old shrines and local deities of Tamilnadu
• Guided walk around the Madurai temple complex
• Evening market walk & street food trail

DAY 8 : Ride to Trichy (Tiruchirapalli)

Today is the last ride day of the tour and we have a long one ahead of us. Post an early breakfast we head out from the temple town of Madurai toward Tiruchirapalli (Trichy), once known for a brand of cigars called “Cheroot” back in the 19th century UK. Today this town is known for manufacturing electrical energy that supports a large part of southern India. This “Holy Ground” of India back in the time was known for its Rock Fort which was impenetrable by the many surrounding Kingdoms and even the French. The 135 KMs ride is engaging with stories of the region and the wars that Trichy has been central to. We will reach the destination by early evening, and post checking into our accommodation we will step out to explore the Rockfort temple, a spectacular monument perched on a massive rock which rises abruptly from the plain to tower over the old city. Dinner and Overnight in Trichy.

Ride Distance: 135 KMs
Accommodation Type: Hotel

Highlights:

● Visit to the Rock Fort Temple
● Ride through small towns and backroads.

DAY 9 : Fly from Trichy to Chennai

We’ll take the morning flight to Chennai, the capital city of Tamilnadu, located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal. Chennai or Madras as called by the British East India Company, is the cultural, economic and educational hub of Southern India. We have the afternoon to explore the city and we head out on a guided walk listening to fascinating stories and legends that brings to life Mylapore (the central hub of Chennai) and the modern day Colonial Madras. Time permitting we will visit “Kalakshetra” an arts and cultural academy dedicated to the preservation of traditional Indian dance art forms, especially Bharatanatyam (Classical Indian Dance) and Gandharva (Classical Indian Music) Music. Dinner and overnight in Chennai.

Flight from Trichy to Chennai (1.10 Hrs)
Accommodation Type: Hotel

Highlights:

● A guided walk around Mylapore
● Leisure time to explore the Chennai city

DAY 10 : Onward Journey to home-destination

Post breakfast, depending on your flight schedule we check out and head toward the Chennai International Airport for your onward flights. Some of you may be planning some further travel adventures in this beautiful land. Speak to us at Unventured about what other travels in South India or India in general could await you.

Drive Distance: Hotel to Airport
Accommodation Type: NA

Tour Inclusions

We aim to offer an end to end experience that combines endurance with local off the beaten path experiences enjoyed in the company of like-minded travelers. We’ve ensured a well planned trail that you will endure but also have the luxury of pausing to soak in the attractions, enjoy their stories and celebrate the journey all along.

On our tour, we’ve got the right mix of local experiences like cooking sessions, visit local artisans, temple experiences, stay at unique boutique accommodations and connect with the locals.

This tour is supported by a team that consists of mechanical support, a support vehicle at short distances and of course a NOLS certified Unventured tour host to ascertain everything is planned to your comfort, and all you have to do is rest and ride!

PREPAREDNESS – PHYSICAL & MENTAL

The tour is a good blend of adventure, riding, food, nature, culture, and real-world experiences of Tamilnadu, giving you a unique insight into the local way of life via off the beaten path experiences. Information with regard to people, culture, currency and introducing the region’s political, historical and cultural structures will be via detailed emails well before the tour begins. This tour is graded as medium intensity in terms of physical activities, and the riders MUST have prior experience in long distance riding in their own hometown or be willing to set aside dedicated training time prior to the tour. A training regime will be emailed to you to get you going, so as to help you enjoy than endure this adventure.

Cycling Support

Your tour will be supported by a well trained mechanic, and a full repair kit with essential spares. However, we strongly encourage participants to carry their basic bike maintenance kit along. We will also be carrying a back-up cycle along the expedition; just so that nobody misses out on the riding experience should their bike have a serious breakdown.

Accommodation: Accommodation will be at Heritage Hotels, Heritage Bungalows, Homestays and Eco Hotels offered on a twin-sharing basis (with good hygienic attached bathrooms).

Transport: We will have a dedicated AC private vehicle at your service through the entire term of the tour. There will also be a carrier vehicle for the cycles. All transfers from the Airport to the hotel will be in comfortable cars or vans.

Meals: All meals from Day 2 to Day 9 are included in the package. On Day 1 Lunch and Dinner are included, while on Day 10 Breakfast and Lunch would be provided.

Our tour cost is inclusive of:

  • Internal transfers to the Airport and hotels
  • A carrier vehicle to transport cycles and luggage through the tour – Starting from Chennai Airport on Day 1 and drop off on Day 10
  • Good Quality cycles and Helmet (Hybrid bikes)
  • Accommodation on all days on twin share basis
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on all days - From Day 2 to Day 9
  • Flight from Trichy to Chennai
  • Clean drinking water (We stay off bottled water for the lack of sustainable disposing methods in the region. However you will be given a 1 micron filter bottle and water will be purified and filtered drinking water from reliable and clean sources)
  • All entry fee to museums and places of interest
  • All entry fee to forest reserves if crossing any
  • All guided tour experiences
  • Private AC vehicle for the Group
  • An English speaking NOLS Certified Unventured Guide

Excludes

  • Flights to and from home destination
  • Meals those not mentioned in the Inclusion
  • Alcohol and aerated beverages
  • Optional Activities
  • Personal expenses
  • Visa Charges/Travel Insurance
  • Filming and Camera charges
  • Evacuation charges, damage of any nature.
  • Expenses incurred due to reasons beyond our control such as bad weather or road blocks due to landslides etc.
  • Those not mentioned in the “Inclusions” section
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