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October 5, 2009 7:35 AM   Subscribe

I want to do a 2-3 week cycling trip in a foreign country around New year. Need suggestions as to locales/routes. Details inside.

HWMO and I want to do a little foreign (i.e., non-US/CAN) travel around the New Year. Have done a few long distance cycling trips in the US and Europe, and loved it. But now it'd be cool to... branch out. We would love some suggestions as to which countries to look at or even routes to consider. Here are some general qualifications:

1) We are both into history, archaeology, and natural goodness (waterfalls, unique ecosystems, etc). Oh, and delicious food/wine.

2) We'd rather avoid temperature extremes. You know, winter cold or blazing heat. Neither is fun to cycle in all day.

3) No tour companies. I like doing things my way, having some flexibility in the schedule, and not being a pansy. We will need to rent bikes for the duration, though. Preference to hybrid bikes/routes.

4) Some people call me a space cowboy, but most call me El Cheapo. So while a place like Australia would probably be awesome to do a cycling trip, it'd also probably be out of my price range.

5) An average mileage around 50 per day, if you care. So maybe a total trip mileage of 600-800.

6) A place with a backpacker's sensibility of safety. I've traveled fairly extensively, but usually on train or bus or whatever, and obviously you are more vulnerable on a bike. I'd rather not go cycling and disappear into the Congo or something in the process.

7) Two or three weeks. As I mentioned, around New Year 09/10.

If we don't go cycling, we'll probably just go bum around India for a few weeks, but I wouldn't imagine its a cycling destination. Tell me if I'm wrong.

Any ideas/comments/lewd remarks, MFs? You people always have something to say. I love it.
posted by letahl to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A friend was recently in Croatia, on the coast. It's pretty cheap and the picture looked fantastic. Not sure if it would be too cold around that time of year though.
posted by molecicco at 7:44 AM on October 5, 2009

Spain and Portugal. Friendly, compact, civilised and the weather will be pleasant during the day and not too cold at night. Lots to do and see. I don't know where you've been or how far you want to branch out. North Africa or Egypt/Jordan may be too edgy for you.

Eastern Europe isn't great for a leisurely cycle trip. Not a great deal to see, and the roads are on the whole terrible.

Check this place out for inspiration, if you haven't. You'll get good advice in their forums too.
posted by fire&wings at 7:47 AM on October 5, 2009

Bikely is another excellent resource.
posted by fire&wings at 7:49 AM on October 5, 2009

@fire&wings: Portugal must be one of the worst countries in the world to cycle in. Not that I've been everywhere. But the Portuguese simply aren't used to cyclists sharing the road.

The relationship isn't exactly one on one, but in my experience the countries with the least traffic deaths per 100,000 inhabitants are also the best ones for a safe cycling trip. Though this would mean Malta is the best European destination.

Places with lots of loose packs of dogs aren't that great either, e.g. Turkye.
posted by ijsbrand at 8:06 AM on October 5, 2009

If you can afford to get there, the South Island of New Zealand is the place to be for cycling trips. You can camp, they are biker firendly, and they have good beer.
posted by poopooplatter at 8:07 AM on October 5, 2009

A coworker of mine just did a 3-week bicycle tour of Holland. Apparently bikes are the primary form of transportation there, and he had a fantastic experience.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:26 AM on October 5, 2009

ijsbrand - I've only cycled the southern coast of Portugal but I found it excellent. Maybe it varies further inland.
posted by fire&wings at 10:11 AM on October 5, 2009

France, obviously, as a first choice if you haven't been there. You can camp with ease, the wine and food are mighty fine, and the people are well used to cyclists and it's got history in spades. There is some taster info here and details on how to buy the full book. Bonus: riding a stage from the Tour de France.

My other suggestion would be South Africa: cycling out from Cape Town, along the Garden Route and over to Port Elizabeth. Cheap as chips to eat and drink well, plenty of exposure to cyclists and some awesome scenery to boot. Some info here.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:17 AM on October 5, 2009

If we don't go cycling, we'll probably just go bum around India for a few weeks, but I wouldn't imagine its a cycling destination. Tell me if I'm wrong.

If you are an adept urban cyclist, then cycling in India is actually not so bad. I lived there for a year in 2001 and got town around entirely on my Litespeed race bike with 700x23 tires, and made weekend excursions with friends by bike. It was a great way to see the countryside which is gorgeous.

Motor traffic generally sticks to the centre of the road. The sides of the road are swarming with cyclists and pedestrians. There aren't marked lanes, but everyone generally sticks to their "section" of the road. The motorcyclists and scooters are annoying though, as they go everywhere. And be very careful at intersections.

However, only the poor ride bikes in India. Your foreigner looks and your fancy bike will attract a lot of attention. Mostly very friendly attention, but keep your wits about you.
posted by randomstriker at 12:15 PM on October 5, 2009

I'd second NZ . I've cycled Picton to Christchurch. It's nominally a main road but it's really pretty quiet and the views are just great. That trip would only take a few days but there are lots of other options (such as A circuit from Picton through Nelson and Hanmer Springs).

New Year is holiday time in NZ - this will (certainly for first two weeks of Jan) make things busier than they would be in February (schools back in early Feb) but nevertheless things are not what you'd call crowded. The weather in January - February should be warm but I don't think you'd every describe it as hot ! Being surrounded by ocean you may also get a few days of rain !

You mention India. I have cycled in parts of India. It was 15 years ago but it was pretty good and December is as about as cool as it's going to get. We cycled Mysore to Trivandrum. You certainly do get a lot of interest in the bikes and fair skinned women are objects of interest. The main thing I think is that you get to places on bikes in India that 99.999% of tourists never do and so you're interesting just because you're there. There's no doubt in my mind that it's an amazing experience (India being just an amazing place in so many ways) but you certainly have to think/plan a great deal more than you would for some other cycling locations. If you can read a copy of 'Ram Ram India' - it's a great book and will at least give you some minor insight into the issues that may arise.

One last thing France was mentioned. I think that even Southern France would be a big cool in January for my taste. I mean there's no doubt it could be done and France is just a great place to ride but if you're trying to find some sunshine it wouldn't be my first idea.
posted by southof40 at 6:03 PM on October 5, 2009

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