Top cycling routes in India

India cycling routes are as eclectic and colourful as an Indian spice stall. In Kerala you can cycle along the coast or backwaters, or up into the glorious Western Ghat Mountains, and treat yourself to a local Ayurvedic massage at the end of the day. In Rajasthan you have historic, Mughal influenced towns alongside luscious national parks such as Bharatpur and Sariska. And then for the ultimate spicy hit, you have the Himalayas that line your route between Manali and Leh in Ladakh. This is where you can end every day at a beautiful Buddhist shrine to give thanks for landscapes that even the most ardent atheists will worship.
Chennai to Cochin

1. Chennai to Cochin

A coast to coast cycle starting in Tamil Nadu’s Chennai and finishing two weeks later in Kerala’s Cochin. Or vice versa, of course, starting on the Arabian Sea and heading east to the Bay of Bengal. Take in cities such as majestic Madurai or slightly crazy Kottayam, as well remote areas. Highlights of these include the cycling through Western Ghat foothills, tiny Tamil Nadu villages or the Thekkaday rainforests.
Coastal & backwater Kerala

2. Coastal & backwater Kerala

Dip in and out of the coast to visit beaches like Chavakkad, Cherai or Varkala, or temple towns like Guruvayoor as well as the backwaters. Here you cycle alongside myriad waterways, spend a night on a houseboat and visit villages en route. Time in historic Fort Cochi is always a treat with its spice bazaars and lively arts scene. Cycle into neighbouring Karnataka too, for treats such as Bandipur National Park.

3. Goa

There’s a Goan expression which is kenna chill, kenna thrill (sometimes chill and sometimes thrill) which can definitely be applied to cycling here. Discover the core, not just the coast, by exploring its trading history at Velha, also called Old Goa, its wildlife at Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary, and do some island hopping too. Small group tour operators craft superb itineraries by Goan guides who know how to combine chill and thrill.
The Golden Triangle

4. The Golden Triangle

Some cycling vacations in Rajasthan include Delhi and the Taj Mahal, two of the points on the Golden Triangle, as well as Jaipur. Some may include a cycling tour in Delhi but another popular route is cycling from Bharatpur in Rajasthan to Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted royal city just outside Agra and the Taj Mahal. Time your arrival at sunset to see its red sandstone light up in all its splendour.
Western Ghats, Kerala

5. Western Ghats, Kerala

Few people associate Kerala with mountains, but this is a rapturous range, especially for mountain biking. Trips usually start in the town of Munnar, with the backdrop of Anamudi, Kerala's highest peak at 2,695m. Anamudi is not one for biking up, but the River Periyar Valley is, as are the challenging foothills, forests and plantations. Stretching into Tamil Nadu, challenges include hairpin bends through Valparai’s rainforest.

6. Karnataka

Karnataka is home to the Western Ghats range and some cycling vacations start in this most underrated state, in its cultural capital of Mysore, and head south through the mountains into the state of Tamil Nadu. Karnataka also has a coast, and seaside cycling includes highlights such as the port town of Bhatkal, the beautiful Shiva temple at Murudeshwar overlooking the Arabian Sea and a gorgeous beaches at Gokarna.
Maikal Hills

7. Maikal Hills

Central India is often overlooked but it is highly underrated, especially when it comes to cycling through the verdant Maikal Hills in Chhattisgarh. The highest point is 941m so there are not too many climbs, but this is all about cycling through rich forest and remote tribal villages, alongside rivers and also discovering cultural highlights such as Bhoramdeo Temple, or protected natural ones like Kanha National Park.
Manali to Leh, Ladakh

8. Manali to Leh, Ladakh

Just look at the pictures; they say it all. Starting in Himalayan town of Manali, Himachal Pradesh state and ending in Leh in Ladakh, this mountain biking is both gnarly and gorgeous. Spend two weeks crossing passes such as Rohtang La or the iconic Khardung La, pass mountainside monasteries and camp by bright blue elevated lakes, or in the Chandra River Valley. Now, THIS is a trip.

9. Rajasthan

Superb small group cycling tours take you along back roads out to greats such as Kumbhalgarh Fort or around temples and palaces in Udaipur. Discover the more luscious sides of Rajasthan in Bharatpur and Sariska National Parks or Aravalli Hills. You can even do a circuit of this regal state within two weeks, if you include a train transfer from Delhi across the Thar Desert to Jaipur. Then, on your bike.

10. Sikkim

This stunning state is Himalayan and cycling heaven too. It is also experienced cycling terrain, cycling at an altitude of up to 3500m through landscapes of soaring peaks, monastery filled valleys between Gangtok and Darjeeling, and over passes in the Kangchenjunga range. This range’s highest peak is also called Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world at 8,586m. Which makes quite a backdrop for a Himalayan cycling vacation.
Tamil Nadu

11. Tamil Nadu

Cycle in the Blue Hills, the name given to the Nilgiri Mountains which are part of the Western Ghats range. Natural highlights include Mudumalai National Park where you can see Asiatic elephants, sloth bear, primates and even leopards or tigers if you are lucky. Cycling through the state’s colonial hill stations and tea plantations is also stunning such as Munnar, Ooty and Coonoor, hopping on the ‘toy train’ in between the latter two.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about India cycling or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Bill Bourne] [Intro box - Leh: Himanshu Garg] [Chennai to Cochin: Vinoth Chandar] [Coastal & backwater Kerala: patrickcam] [Goa: Abhiomkar] [The Golden Triangle: Chubby Chandru] [Himalayan hill stations: Jibran Bin Dawood] [Karnataka: Thejas Panarkandy] [Maikal Hills: Honza Soukup] [Manali to Leh, Ladakh: Vyacheslav Argenberg] [Rajasthan: Honza Soukup] [Sikkim: shankar s.] [Tamil Nadu: Bikash Das] [Western Ghats, Kerala: Bill Bourne]