Here lies my top 5 favorite cycle touring countries. As a mere mortal I can’t claim to have cycled extensively in every country on Earth but I have done a few tens of thousands of miles in about 35 of them and, of course, I have my favorites.
The quality of the roads and amount of traffic weigh heavily on my subjective opinion. As does the food, climate and experiences with people. ‘Subjective’ and ‘favorite’ are the keywords here but I hope that if you’re looking for inspiration on locations one of these will spark your imagination.
#1 | Turkey
I had a rough start cycling in Turkey but except for those first 48 hours it was probably the most enjoyable travel experience I’ve ever had, it’s an amazing place to ride a bike.
I cycled through Turkey with Ellie, from Bodrum on the south west, to Istanbul. Bodrum didn’t win my heart but as soon as we got inland and headed north everything else in Turkey did. Just a few miles from the coast we began to climb up the first of three large ranges that lay between us and Istanbul, the roads were quiet, people stopped to chat to us and figs grew at the road sides in abundance. A nice touch is that Turkey has water taps and shade shelters dotted about at the sides of the roads, stumbling across one is a welcome oasis in the heat.
I was really impressed by the Turkish food. Commonly you can find lots of crisp salads, spicy meats and fresh yoghurt. Their olive oil, balsamic vinegar, bread and molasses are all world class. If you like food, people and rugged terrain then you’ll love Turkey. Continue reading My Top 5 Favorite Cycle Touring Countries→
I can imagine how many people from the west have journeyed out to India and have commented on its lively rhythmic culture, the sites of temples, smells of spices and other less appealing things. But, what I find most surprising and beautiful, and bear in mind I’ve only seen Mumbai so far, is how green the place is. Buildings are everywhere but flora bursts from every crevasse growing in brickwork and on the tops of buildings, the plants are fighting back against the urban sprawl and the activities of over 20 million individuals. Given this I’ve now got high hopes for rural India.
Mumbai has many British colonial buildings such as Victoria Station, now renamed ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus’ (there’s a popular movement to replace all British names with Indian ones) and many seem to be a graceful state of decline. Continue reading India; first impressions→
Walking around Istanbul essentially consists of stumbling clumsily from one United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) protected site to another. The city has a jaunty skyline punctuated by some of the worlds greatest mosques, it didn’t take long to realise that the city had more than it’s fair share of brilliance. Just one of the many sites of cultural interest would make a great city, a handful of them would even make a world class capital but Istanbul is bursting at the seams. It’s also bursting at the seams in other ways; the city is swamped by a population of about 16 million people – the road networks and public transport system are choked every hour of every day. Bodies teem through the vast network of bazzars, which are themselves of world heritage value. Istanbul it’s a highly crowded but highly stimulating and enjoyable place to be and I was absolutely thrilled be be there. Continue reading Istanbul, one big UNESCO site→
The ferry from Kos to Bodrum on the south west coast of Turkey was a brief affair. One passenger, a resident Turk, warned us that we should be very careful on the roads because Turks don’t think about or expect cyclists on their roads and their driving is dangerous and aggressive. It wasn’t the most warming forecast of what we could expect in Asia! We duly noted concerned gentlemen’s warning but kept in mind that many people had said the same about Greece, Bosnia and Croatia already and we coped just fine in those countries.
By the time we had reached Bodrum it was getting quite late; there was perhaps an hour of twilight left before we’d be forced to search for a camp by torchlight. I didn’t relish the prospect of digging about trying to find an unoccupied patch of land to pitch the tent on my first night in a new country. Especially using a new map and surrounded by people I didn’t know or understand so the race was on. Continue reading Amazing Cycle Touring in Turkey→
Many people will look at Ellie and I cycling through Europe and think that, however we might dress it up, we’re essentially on holiday. Those people would be close to the truth. It may be grueling at times, just making and breaking camp every day is taxing without having cycled a mile, but so is reserving deck chairs with beach towels. However, the Greek island of Kos really was a shameless holiday right in the middle of our tour. We’d cycled keenly through Greece and had tackled some steep terrain and hot weather before reaching Athens. So, upon reaching Kos, a large section of the tour lay behind us and the faintly daunting prospect of Turkey ahead. It was the perfect time for a break. Continue reading Kos, a holiday→
Greece sits on the edge of Europe and attracts many immigrants from the east. Some legal, but only ‘some’. Not all the immigrants that pass through Greece stay in Greece though, the country is used as a gateway for the rest of Europe. I read in the news recently that Greece has asked the EU for help with its illegal immigration problem as it feels it shares an uneven burden due to its geographical location.
Walking down the streets of Athens the level of immigration becomes patently clear, some streets are only populated by Pakistanis and, I assume, Indians. It was rather surprising at times to walk from an ancient Greek icon to a nearby street selling eastern spices, fabrics and, that modern Asian stereotype; mobile phones and cheap and fake consumer electronics. Continue reading Athens, Greece and immigrants→
Ultralight Cycle Touring and Fully Loaded Bicycle Travel