Asia, the world’s largest and most diverse continent, offers a plethora of stunning cycling trips for avid riders and adventure enthusiasts alike. From picturesque landscapes and charming villages to bustling cities and ancient temples, these routes provide an unparalleled opportunity to explore this vibrant and rich region. With terrains varying from flat plains to challenging mountainous peaks, there is truly an adventure for every level of cyclist.
One of the main appeals of these jaw-dropping routes is their capacity to unveil the unique cultural and historical elements of each country. As you pedal your way through these captivating paths, expect to be mesmerized by the diverse heritage, fascinating architecture, and warm hospitality of the local communities. Be prepared to venture off the beaten path!
In this article, we will delve into seven of Asia’s most awe-inspiring cycling routes, where cyclists can immerse themselves in the beauty and wonder of this incredible continent. From the tranquil countryside to adrenaline-pumping trails, these journeys promise unparalleled experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.
Understanding the Thrill of Cycling in Asia
Riding through Asia will allow you to experience the beauty of nature, immersing yourself in stunning mountain ranges, lush forests, and pristine coastlines. Many of these routes pass through picturesque villages and bustling cities, giving you the opportunity to experience the unique blend of ancient traditions and modern-day lifestyles.
Cycling in Asia is not just about the aesthetics, but also the physical challenge it presents. The various terrains and climate conditions push a cyclist’s endurance and resilience, providing an exhilarating sense of accomplishment. Moreover, cycling in Asia allows you to explore remote and offbeat locations that are often inaccessible by other forms of transportation, making the journey truly unforgettable.
Safety is always a priority when cycling, and Asia offers well-maintained cycling routes to ensure a smooth and secure ride. Whether you are tackling rugged mountain pathways or cruising through flat country roads, these routes are designed to cater to all skill levels, providing a satisfying and challenging cycling adventure. Additionally, the friendly and hospitable nature of the locals aids in creating an environment where cyclists feel welcomed and supported.
1. The Karakoram Highway, Pakistan-China
The Karakoram Highway is an incredibly picturesque and challenging cycling route. It connects Pakistan and China, running through the Karakoram mountain range. This 1,300-km-long route is world-renowned for offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience to cyclists.
The road conditions on the Karakoram Highway are an exciting challenge for cyclists. Throughout the route, you will encounter high passes, steep gradients, and narrow sections. The highest point crosses the Khunjerab Pass at 4,693 meters (15,397 ft) above sea level, which might cause some difficulty due to low oxygen levels. Although it can be a popular cycling route for hardcore enthusiasts, it is important to plan and prepare for these challenges.
One of the most attractive features of the Karakoram Highway is its breathtakingly scenic beauty. The route offers a fantastic panorama of some of the world’s highest peaks, including K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. Along the way, you will encounter picturesque valleys with lush green meadows, pristine rivers, and countless glaciers. The diverse landscape and captivating natural beauty make this a true bucket-list cycling adventure.
2. Bali’s Volcano Route, Indonesia
Bali’s Volcano Route is a popular cycling tour in Indonesia that takes riders through the picturesque volcanic landscape of the island. Starting from the base of Mount Batur, a 1,717-meter active volcano, the bicycle route covers approximately 60 kilometres of panoramic views of volcanic mountains, lush forests, and traditional Balinese villages.
Cyclists begin their journey in Kintamani, a highland village close to Mount Batur. The route then leads down to the caldera and around the stunning volcanic terrain, providing an exciting and diverse cycling experience all while taking in the beauty of Bali’s natural surroundings.
- Scenic views: The Volcano Route offers breathtaking views of Mount Batur and its adjacent crater lake, Danau Batur, as well as other scenic spots like Mount Agung and Mount Abang.
- Traditional villages: Along the route, cyclists will pass through traditional Balinese villages such as Penglipuran and Tenganan, where they can learn about local customs and experience the rich culture of the island.
- Varied terrain: The route features diverse landscapes, from the steep volcanic slopes of Mount Batur to lush forests and agricultural fields, making it a challenging and rewarding ride for cyclists of all skill levels.
- Ecotourism: Many tour operators in the area offer eco-friendly cycling tours of the Volcano Route, emphasizing sustainable practices and supporting local communities along the way.
3. Ho Chi Minh Highway, Vietnam
The Ho Chi Minh Highway is an incredible cycling route that stretches over 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometers) along the spine of Vietnam. This historic route offers cyclists a thrilling experience steeped in natural beauty and cultural significance.
- Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: Cycle through this UNESCO World Heritage site and marvel at its spectacular cave systems, limestone karst landscapes, and lush, ancient forests.
- Khe Sanh Combat Base: A crucial, strategic point during the Vietnam War, Khe Sanh offers a glimpse into the country’s tumultuous past.
- Pleiku – Kon Tum Indigenous Villages: Meet with the warm and welcoming local people while discovering their unique indigenous culture and traditions.
- Nha Trang Beach: End your journey on the pristine, white sand beaches of Nha Trang, where you’ll find seaside relaxation and thriving nightlife.
The Ho Chi Minh Highway provides a diverse and challenging mix of terrains for cyclists. Expect both paved and dirt roads, steep climbs, and swift descents, ensuring a thrilling and engaging ride. Riding conditions can vary depending on the season, with April through October generally being the most favourable period for cycling.
The trail is suitable for all skill levels, from beginner to advanced riders. There are also several tour operators that offer guided, all-inclusive trips along the route, providing support vehicles, accommodations, and meals to make your journey smoother.
One should also understand that there are no dedicated bike trails. You will be sharing the streets with fast-moving motorcycles, cars and transportation trucks.
While most of the route passes through remote, rural areas, you’ll occasionally encounter bustling towns and major cities, presenting opportunities for unique cultural experiences. The combination of stunning landscapes, historical significance, and authentic encounters with local communities make the Ho Chi Minh Highway an unforgettable cycling adventure in Asia.
4. Shimanami Kaido, Japan
The Shimanami Kaido is a spectacular cycling route that stretches across the Seto Inland Sea in Japan, connecting the main island of Honshu with the island of Shikoku. This picturesque 70-kilometre journey takes riders along a series of islands and across awe-inspiring suspension bridges, providing breathtaking views and an unforgettable cycling experience.
The Shimanami Kaido is known for its well-maintained, dedicated bicycle paths, which make for a safe and comfortable ride. In addition to the suspension bridges, riders will encounter:
- Kurushima-Kaikyō Bridge: The world’s longest suspension bridge with a combined length of 4,105 meters (13,465 feet)
- Multiple Islands: Riders will traverse six islands en route, each providing its own unique landscape and charm
- Art and Scenery: The route is lined with picturesque landscapes and art installations that will pique riders’ visual interests
Here are some tips for those planning to cycle the Shimanami Kaido:
- Rental Bikes: A variety of rental bikes, from standard to electric-assist, are available at various terminals along the route
- Route Markers: The route is well-signed with blue line markers, making navigation straightforward
- Climate: The best times to cycle the Shimanami Kaido are spring and autumn, for mild temperatures and vibrant foliage
- Accommodations: There are plenty of guesthouses, hostels, and hotels along the route to rest and recharge
- Pace Yourself: With so much beauty to take in, it’s recommended to allocate at least two days to complete the route and fully enjoy the experience
In conclusion, the Shimanami Kaido offers a one-of-a-kind cycling adventure through Japan’s remarkable Seto Inland Sea region, with picturesque landscapes, impressive bridges, and rich cultural experiences. With proper planning and the right mindset, this cycling route is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who ventures to conquer it.
5. Tibet to Nepal, China-Nepal
The Tibet to Nepal cycling route is a breathtaking journey that showcases the majestic beauty of the Himalayas. Starting in Lhasa, Tibet, the route covers approximately 1,000 kilometres and traverses vast landscapes, including barren plateaus, winding mountain roads, and traditional villages. The highest point on the route is the formidable Gyatso La Pass at 5,220 meters above sea level, offering stunning views of Mount Everest and other towering peaks.
As you pedal through this challenging yet rewarding route, the diverse culture and warm hospitality of the Tibetan and Nepalese people will enrich your experience. Encounter ancient monasteries, revered temples, and vibrant markets along the way, immersing you in the unique history and traditions of this region.
- Altitude: The Tibet to Nepal route features elevations of over 5000 meters, making altitude sickness a significant concern for cyclists. It is crucial to acclimatize gradually, spending at least three days in Lhasa before embarking on your journey. Monitor your body for symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath, and descend to lower elevations if needed.
- Road Conditions: Portions of the route may be unpaved, rocky, or covered in sand, requiring a high level of skill and appropriate equipment, such as a mountain bike with sturdy tires. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather and the possibility of landslides, which can disrupt the route.
- Permits and Visas: Before setting off on your Tibet to Nepal cycling adventure, ensure that you have the necessary travel permits and visas in order. For Tibet, you will need a Tibet Travel Permit, while a visa will be required for entry into Nepal. It is highly recommended to consult with your travel agent or local embassy to confirm the specific documentation needed.
- Personal Safety: As with any adventure, take steps to ensure your personal safety. Carry a basic first aid kit, communicate your itinerary to friends or family, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Observe local customs and regulations, especially when visiting religious sites, to prevent any misunderstandings or conflicts.
With careful planning and a commitment to safety, the Tibet to Nepal route promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime journey filled with unparalleled natural beauty and cultural immersion. Much like the Karakoram highway, embarking on the whole route will be one of the greatest cycling adventures you’ll ever do.
6. The Mekong Discovery Trail, Cambodia
What to Expect
The Mekong Discovery Trail is an exciting and adventurous cycling route that takes you along the stunning Mekong River in Cambodia. This trail offers a unique opportunity to explore Cambodia’s rural countryside, fascinating riverine ecosystems, and vibrant local communities.
The trail covers a distance of approximately 180 kilometers and can be completed in 4-7 days, depending on the desired pace and stops made along the way. The terrain varies from flat dirt roads to uneven and sometimes muddy trails, so a good level of fitness and some off-road cycling experience is recommended.
Accommodation options include homestays, guesthouses, and hotels, which allow you to experience and support local communities.
- Floating Villages: One of the most enchanting features of the Mekong Discovery Trail is the opportunity to visit floating villages, where houses, schools, and markets are set on stilts above the water. This unique way of life is adapted to the seasonal changes in water levels of the Mekong River.
- Rare Wildlife: The Mekong River is known for its incredible biodiversity, and a trip along the Mekong Discovery Trail offers a chance to spot some of the world’s most endangered species, such as the Irrawaddy dolphin and various bird species.
- Ancient Temples: Along the route, you’ll pass through the ancient capital city of Oudong, which is home to an impressive collection of temples and historical sites, like the 16th-century Phnom Preah Reach Troap temple complex.
Remember to stay within the guidelines and respect the local culture and environment while enjoying this exceptional and unique cycling adventure in Cambodia’s Mekong Region.
7. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
The Epic Trail
The Annapurna Circuit is a breathtaking cycling route that takes you through diverse landscapes in Nepal, from subtropical forests to arid deserts, and picturesque mountain villages. Traversing the circuit, which is approximately 160-230 kilometres, takes cyclists through an elevation gain of 5,000 meters, offering awe-inspiring views of the Annapurna Massif and Dhaulagiri mountain range.
Cyclists embark on this adventure in Besisahar and follow the Marsyangdi River Valley before ascending the challenging Thorong La Pass at 5,416 meters. After conquering this high point, riders descend into the picturesque Kali Gandaki Gorge, the world’s deepest gorge.
Things Not to Miss
- Manang Village: This ancient village is located at an altitude of 3,410 meters, and it’s an ideal spot to acclimatize and soak in the local culture. Do not miss the short hike to Gangapurna Lake’s glacial blue waters for an unforgettable experience.
- Muktinath Temple: Located at 3,710 meters above sea level, this sacred temple is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists. It is known for its 108 waterspouts, where devotees bathe to cleanse their sins.
- Marpha: This picturesque village, famous for its apple orchards, offers a pleasant break and a taste of local delicacies like apple pie and apple brandy.
- Tatopani Hot Springs: After days of cycling, make sure to relax and rejuvenate your muscles at Tatopani’s natural hot springs, nestled beside the Kali Gandaki River.
Remember to plan your ride between March-May or September-November for optimal weather conditions, as the winters can be harsh, and the summer months experience the monsoon season. The Annapurna Circuit is truly an exhilarating and unforgettable experience for those who love adventure and cherish the beauty of nature.
Getting Your Own Bike
If you’re looking for a bike that you can bring overseas without hassle, our wide selection of foldable bicycles is perfect for any type of rider. For high-altitude mountain bikers looking to tackle some of the routes on this list, our Birdy JK11 Gravel is the most durable foldable bike for the task. If you are looking for an easy ride, our Birdy Rohloff is perfect for road riding with minimal maintenance required.