Explore Jordan – Sea to Sea: from the Dead to the Red

Set amid the vast deserts of the Middle East, Jordan is a compact, very varied, and hospitable country.  It is also a new destination for cycle-enthusiasts seeking the freedom and exhilaration of rolling through an exotic land. One week’s exploration will turn up millennia of history, raw nature, and a nip of nomadic Bedouin culture.

Cycling adventures are notably lower-in-price and higher- in-authentic experience than most forms of travel (this one in particular will cost you $2,185 including bike rental).

A new 8-night trip in Jordan, offered locally by Terhaal can be booked in the U.S. via Tennessee-based Bike Tours Direct. Rated “moderate” means pedaling and “sailing” for about 28 miles a day. The good news is that the hills are not-that-high and your small group (maximum 14) will be accompanied by professional local cyclist-guide, as well as a support car for those too pooped to pump. This thoughtfully-constructed trip also features family, village and Bedouin visits, music, dance and even a goat-milking opportunity.

Starting off near The Dead Sea, the lowest, saltiest and one of the most mysterious places on earth, ride the tarmac ribbon called the “King’s Highway” to the first stop: the ancient town of Madaba. The marvel of an early Byzantine mosaic map of the Middle East was discovered on a church floor here last century and is on view today. Stops en route to visit Crusader castles in Karak and Shobak, the natural springs and olive groves of Tafileh, and on to the hidden pink city of Petra, UNESCO Heritage site.

In the great Jordanian Rift Valley visit in and around the wind-cut sandstone cliffs of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, home to a great variety of plants, birds and the rare Nubian ibex.

Near Petra, cyclists will have the unusual opportunity to explore Wadi Rum, a massive sand valley that’s now carved forever into world consciousness as one of the most dramatic locales in the film, “Lawrence of Arabia.”  The very one T.E. Lawrence described as “vast, echoing and god-like.”  Unique overnight with a nomadic Bedouin family at their campsite in the Wadi, possible descendants of those who made up Lawrence’s army…

The two departures scheduled are both at optimal times of the year – April and October, 2013.


For another angle on Jordan, award-winning Toronto-based G Adventures offers 8 days to soak up the country’s highlights in a less strenuous manner. Partnering with The Discovery Channel, participants on this tour benefit from maximum variety –  a healthy mix of active exploration, uncommon landscapes, amazing wildlife and local cultures, simple language lessons and a hands-on cooking demo before dinner in Wadi Musa, near Petra.

Departing from Amman, the hilly capital, travel by mini bus and 4×4’s with some good walking prospects en route. Although one cannot sink or swim in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, one can float and read while bobbing on the surface.  In the Red Sea resort city of Aqaba, there’s time for snorkeling and sun.

Their CEO, Chief Experience Officer, is the full-time guide, and local experts are engaged during the trip.There are one or two departures a month year-round for 16 participants maximum.


Island Hopping In The Philippines By Bike

One of the most biodiverse countries in the world, the Philippines is one great big archipelago made up of over 7000 islands.  Bangkok-based SpiceRoads Cycle Tours has pin-pointed five of the Visaya Islands to explore over 13 adventurous days by bicycle in small groups.

For a solo adventurist, this is an incredible opportunity to connect with kindred spirits and experience an exotic locale in an intimate manner. Although each of the five islands (close neighbors) has a distinct identity, they share two strong features: fine beaches and clear blue seas. Riders will spend seven nights at beachside resorts, collapsing and snoring, or diving into the fun of sea and sand after a day in the saddle.

Cyclists will cover 315 miles over a total of nine cycling days threading first through the long and narrow island of Cebu. Then on to the famous Chocolate Hills of Bohol to visit the Tarsier Sanctuary, wheeling past acres and acres of terraced rice paddies. Visit volcanic Camiguin Island, then Siquijor, home to many mystic healers and then on to the premier sugar-producing island of NegrosWhew. 90 percent of the cycling is on tarmac for moderate-to-challenging rides.

Cost: $3,150 plus an additional $225 for bike rental but no additional charges for the six boat rides tossed in.  And to entice you, they are offering a $250 discount off the first departure, Oct. 14. In 2013, departures are scheduled for Feb. 17, April 14 and Oct. 13.

Click http://www.spiceroads.com.

Re:Cycling in France

One of the liveliest festivals of the year, the Feria de Pentecôte (Pentecostal Fair), takes place in the Languedoc region of southwestern France in Nimes, May 23-28, 2012.  Positioned between the Atlantic and Mediterranean this region is a sexy mix of French and Spanish cultures dotted with vestiges of local Roman history.

Mingle with the locals to watch the grand Pégoulade (procession) — a giant snake of dancers, singers and illuminated floats undulating through the streets. The air is filled with music of the peñas (small brass bands), everyone dances the ‘Sévillane’ ‘til the wee hours, eats paella, watches water-jousting in the Canal de la Fontaine, snoops around in the evening market, and goes to mass in the cathedral. It’s one big outdoor Spanish-accented French soirée, complete with fireworks and Provençal-style bullfights in Nimes’ Roman amphitheater, the best-preserved in the country.

One way to “get under the skin” and feel more of a participant and less a spectator is to pump your pedals in a cycling tour in the Languedoc timed to connect with this ethnic fair.

ExperiencePlus!, the first North American tour company to offer cycling tours in Europe starting in 1972, offers two new spectacular tours aimed to take advantage of the Feria de Pentecôte: an 11-day journey of over 430 miles for $4,550 per person (double) that begins and ends in Nimes/Perpignan. Or an 8-day version for $3,595 that ends in Carcassone, an awesomely intact medieval fortress town.

ExperiencePlus! Is the winner of two recent National Geographic Traveler “50 Tours of a Lifetime,” and features Maria Elena Price and Monica Price, co-owners, among its “World’s Top 10 Tour Guides.” Click http://www.experienceplus.com or call them in Colorado: 800-685-4565.