This unusual vacations guide takes you on a journey of eclectic adventures, one of which is guaranteed to wow you into doing something different.
Cycling & archaeology vacations
For some, archaeology vacations summon up sepia photographs of moustachioed men standing over large holes. For others, especially cyclists, these trips are less about epic images and more about getting to know the landscapes and cultural context around ancient sites, on foot and by bike.
If you prefer to travel without preconceptions and are happy to embark on an exciting expedition that connects the modern day with the past then cycling could well be the missing link.
Local guides are experts in cultural heritage and history. There’s always a story to listen to and a tale to tell. Cycling guides are on hand to encourage and inform, as well as allowing you to enjoy the ride rather than worry about getting lost. It’s a conversational pace not a head down race to the finish.
You’ll get to experience the context of an archaeological site and hear how people used to live alongside understanding insights into modern day lifestyles. There’s also much more freedom associated with this type of tour as you can control how and when you visit without being constrained to coach group time tables.
Although archaeology and cycling may seem like an unusual combination it actually works really well. You can cover more ground by bike and really get a feel for the landscapes that you’re traveling through. You’ll be living in the moment but also experiencing what people might have felt like years ago. They’d have felt the same sun on their backs and wind on their cheeks; they’d have paused for thought at a scenic spot or felt their stomach rumble prior to settling down for lunch.
Jordan and Greece, for instance, make excellent locations from where you can experience ancient archaeological sites as well as getting a daily dose of exercise in the saddle. Let's find out more...
Our Unusual combinations Vacations
Cycling & archaeology in Jordan
Cycling through the foothills of the Rift Valley from Jerash to Madaba is a really unique experience with rides to Little Petra and the Siq Al-Barid adding to the exhilaration of exploring Petra on foot.
Archaeological sites, such as the extensive Greco-Roman ruins in Umm Qais, about 40kms north of Jerash, are just remarkable and really do deserve to be seen whilst in the region.
To the south of Jerash (approx 75kms), the Byzantine mosaics of Madaba, including the 6th century map of Jerusalem covering the floor of St George’s church, also provide some stunning examples of ecclesiastical art.
The northern section of the trip completes with an easygoing ascent to the top of Mount Nebo that rewards with views across the Holy Land. The descent is then an enjoyable free wheel down to the Dead Sea before embarking on further cycling adventures south to Petra and Wadi Rum.
Don Stauffer went on a cycling vacation to Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan. Here's why he thought the combination of cycling and archaeology worked: "I really liked the connection that biking allowed me to have as a traveler. So even though I was with a group it wasn’t like a bus trip. The bike allows me to be closer to the scenery, the people that we run across along the way and really experience the country. A bit like trekking except that you get to cover more ground. Also these cycling vacations are a nice mix. Not too much cycling and not too little. I would call it the Goldilocks of cycling. Just in the middle!" Read the entire interview with Don Stauffer.
What are the roads like?Jordan boasts some quality tarmac that makes cycling an absolute pleasure. The secondary roads are very peaceful and you’re just as likely to meet a Bedouin on a camel as you are a car or coach.
Around Amman, in the north, olive groves align fairly flat roads whilst gradual ascents lead to villages dotted across the fertile hillsides of the Rift Valley.
In the south, the roads away from the Kings Highway can vary dramatically from potholed and covered in sand to recently resurfaced to a very high standard. Cycling as part of a group with a local guide is the best way to stick to surfaces that are best suited to cyclists.
Best time for cycling & archaeology vacations in Jordan
Always, always, start out as early as possible. This will give you plenty of time to reach an archaeological site before midday as well as space to relax out of the saddle in the late afternoon. July and August are not the best times to go on archaeology and cycling vacations in Jordan as it’s too darn hot. Either side of summer, however, is much better.
Although you can expect a few showers in the spring and much colder temperatures in the winter, especially at night, the lack of crowds around the archaeological sites are certainly worth the waterproofs and extra layers. Organised small group trips won’t run in July and August nor January and February – it’s too hot and too wet.
The problem with deserts…Andrew Appleyard: “Finally, you can't cycle on sand. I tried it once, much to the bemusement of my local Bedouin guide who ended up shouldering my bike and climbing on his camel before we both headed back to base.”
If you'd like to chat about Unusual combinations or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Cycling & archaeology in Greece
It really makes a difference to explore without windows, as you would do by car or coach. Cycling lets you feel the warm breeze as you ride and stop off at those lovely little cafes and bakeries in out of the way villages without having to navigate narrow streets on the hunt for parking spaces.
A self guided itinerary will feature average daily distances of 45kms so you can combine seaside towns and mountain villages with archaeological sites, including the excavations of the ancient city of Mantinea and the ancient Hellenistic, Byzantine and Classical ruins of Tegea.
To the northeast of the Peloponnese, the acropolis of Mycenae and UNESCO-listed amphitheatre of Epidaurus can both be reached from the fishing village of Nafplio which makes it a great base from where to return for an afternoon dip. The central city of Tripoli also provides a convenient setting from where to explore by bike as does the traditional port town of Paralio Astros, on the east coast.
Christos Panagiotopoulos is General Director at our Greek cycling archaeology tour specialists, Arcas Travel: “Greece and history are two words connected in so many ways. This is country where you can find yourself surrounded by ancient stadia, in the shadows of temples and overlooking the ruins of ancient Greek theatres. Now just imagine raising all those senses even higher as you take a trip like this on a bike. When cycling you have the time to feel more, you are exposed to nature and you become one with the environment. A bike is exactly what you need to get as close to the people of Greece and to the Greek history. It is not a trip to see things…it is a trip to feel things!”
What are the roads like?Expect quiet tarmac roads for the most part and some dirt trails. While you don’t need to be very experienced, a decent level of fitness is advisable. Greece can be mountainous and there might be some strenuous hill climbs involved, especially in and around Athens. You’ll be riding on sealed roads for the most part, sometimes on new coastal paths, sometimes in dedicated cycle lanes. Outside of the cities, Greek roads are usually light on traffic except in some coastal areas during peak season.
Best time for cycling & archaeology vacations in Greece
The best time for a cycling and archaeology vacation in Greece is either spring or autumn. Restaurants are empty, the roads aren't busy, and temperatures are comfortable. The scenery is incredibly beautiful during these seasons as well – think wildflower meadows in spring and olive agitators in October.
Keep clear of July and August, when temperatures can easily reach 30°C. It’s also worth checking the Greek Orthodox Easter period (which changes every year), when Greek expatriates flock home and the roads can be heavy with traffic.
More about Unusual combinations
Our unusual combinations travel guide allows you to undertake different activities that complement each other – walking and yoga, for instance, or cycling and archaeology.
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Not only will yoga and walking vacations in Spain and Austria invite you to stretch your legs in sublime scenery but you’ll also be reducing the risk of injury by unwinding tight muscles and increasing flexibility. And cake is allowed too - winning!
The combination of cycling and sailing takes you to some sublime settings, Montenegro’s Adriatic coast and the islands of the Greek Cyclades, for instance.
Sailing to the lesser-visited Ionian islands of Greece is a remarkably relaxing experience, especially when combined with daily yoga sessions and scenic strolls on dry land.
Our top ten unusual combination vacations have been hand-picked to help responsible travelers make the most of their time away.
We asked our responsible travelers and specialist tour organisers why they think vacations with unusual combinations work so well.