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Where should I tour during late December through January?

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Where should I tour during late December through January?

Old 08-22-10, 09:29 AM
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ydnr
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Where should I tour during late December through January?

My friends and I have decided to go on our first tour this winter, as this is the only time we will be available to take off from work for an extended period of time. We're having difficulty deciding on a destination after lots of research and we wanted to see what you, the experienced, can share with us.

Initially we decided to tour Thailand, since the weather seems to be optimal for touring, but were advised by others not to go because of the protests and possibility of it being unsafe. Then we became fixated with the idea of cycling from Paris to Barcelona, but the weather seems terrible for that time of year.

Can anyone recommend an incredible place in the world to tour during this time? We're from Texas and are looking for a place with incredible sights and weather between 45F/7C to 70F/21C. Also, we plan to do relatively light touring. Staying in hostels or couch surfing with no camping this time around. Thanks in advance everyone!
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Old 08-22-10, 09:49 AM
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New Zealand's South Island...

A loop round is approximately 1300 miles...

I'm planning this trip with a bunch of guys for jan-feb 2012... some info on my website www.whoopswrongplanet.com

Check out www.crazyguyonabike.com for inspiration as well


Paris-Barcelona would not be good in dec-jan *brrrr*

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Old 08-22-10, 09:51 AM
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You might want to do some research into Costa Rica. I was there for a couple of weeks in January and it was wonderful. Accommodations are cheap and so are the meals. And January and February are the dry months there.

If you've got limited Spanish, you can still get around well. The country makes a lot of money from tourism and a lot of the people know some English.

One drawback is the terrain. Costa Rica is mountainous and the roads have a lot of steep grades. Downhills are fun, but climbs are not.
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Old 08-22-10, 10:06 AM
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New Zealand sounds pretty awesome and we never really thought about touring there. We'll be going from roughly December 27th through January 21st plus or minus a few days. Costa Rica's been mentioned and definitely sounds do-able; do you know of any good S. American destinations known for touring?
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Old 08-22-10, 10:22 AM
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I suggest the dangers of Thailand have been overstated, you'd be fine. But if you don't want to go there, you could still stick with South-east Asia. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos? Malaysia? Or what about southern India or Sri lanka?
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Old 08-22-10, 10:33 AM
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Southern Hemisphere travel is always good. As Imi mentioned, South Island New Zealand is good as there is a lot to do and see year round. Argentina and Chile are also good countries to visit especially in the northern areas. Being that you only have three weeks to travel, you may want to stick to a smaller country or region for your journeys.
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Old 08-22-10, 11:03 AM
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Alright, so it seems like parts of Asia, S. America, and New Zealand are my best bets so far. Are there any regions in S. America where the towns are close enough for us to sleep at hostels each night? I think it's definitely possible in regions you guys have mentioned in Asia. I'll look more into New Zealand.
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Old 08-22-10, 11:06 AM
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+Eleventy-billion to New Zealand South Island.

Get the book Pedaler's Paradise for the South Island (or add the North one too). Lots of campgrounds, almost all have kitchens (bring cookware but no stove), good food, clean water, friendly people, amazing scenery, towns are close together, lots of hostels, very hilly... only downside is wind.

Great place for a first tour since you already know the language, it's easy to find accommodation and food/water supplies, you don't have to do too much planning, just go and have fun. There are also lots of tourist bus services so if you want to change location or end up running out of time to make it back for your flight, it's easy to get a ride.
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Old 08-22-10, 11:13 AM
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Tasmania, Australia, would be nice time to visit.

New Zealand: I did North Island one Christmas, and there was fair amount of traffic around Auckland. If I were to go again, I'd try the South Island.

Vietnam; did that one Thanksgiving and this and perhaps Cambodia would be on my list.

Within the US - I wouldn't put it as "incredible" but I've done winter touring near San Diego, CA; Brownsville, TX and southern FL. With that in mind, I wonder how Cuba might be that time of year.
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Old 08-22-10, 11:27 AM
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Check out Tasmania as well...


edit: ah, beat me to it mev
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Old 08-22-10, 12:13 PM
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I liked NZ *way* better than Tassie. More roads, more variety of scenery, friendlier traffic.
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Old 08-22-10, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
I liked NZ *way* better than Tassie. More roads, more variety of scenery, friendlier traffic.
Were you on the South Island?

For myself, I found somewhat the opposite, particularly on traffic. I've been to Tassie twice, once for a week around Thanksgiving and once for four weeks from mid-November to mid-December. I was in North Island of New Zealand for four weeks starting week before Christmas:
- The roads were narrower with more high speed traffic (perhaps crossing Auckland twice and Christmas break had something to do with it). I went north to Bay of Islands and then back down to Wellington.
- I do agree there was more variety on the North Island in that things change pretty rapidly.

My NZ time, I was perhaps also still suffering from withdrawal from Australia syndrome and I do still have South Island of NZ on the list...
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Old 08-22-10, 01:42 PM
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Yes, South Island. I was on the SI for 6 weeks and the East Cape of the NI for 2. SI is much less populated.
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Old 08-22-10, 02:36 PM
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ydnr, I've toured in most of the places suggested: NZ (both islands), Tasmania, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, and a few others not mentioned.

Thailand & Laos - northern Thailand & Laos are superb places to tour in the winter months. Comfortable temperatures, dry season, good roads, nice scenery, interesting sites to see, friendly people, safe, great food, absurdly low prices. Pretty winning combination. I, too, think the political problems have been overblown. Even when things have gotten chaotic, tourists have not been targeted. You can fly into Chiang Mai, or into Bangkok followed by a train to either Chiang Mai or a town on the border near Vientiane, Laos. The route from Vientiane to Luang Prabang is a classic. Great scenery but a fair bit of climbing on quiet, well-paved roads. In northern Thailand, I did a wonderful loop from Chiang Mai north along the borders of Burma and Laos, then back to CM. Not too difficult. I took buses short distances to get in and out of CM because of bad traffic near the city.

NZ - I liked both islands for touring, though lots of Kiwis go on holiday after Christmas. The traffic was noticeably heavier in January than when I was there in November/December. Great scenery. It can be rainy, or not; hard to predict though the summer is usually drier, I think. Friendly people. Almost overrun with touring cyclists on my last trip.

Tasmania - easily my favorite part of Australia for touring. Fine scenery, not much traffic on most of the roads I followed. I saw a lot of native fauna while riding and hiking. Friendly folks. I had crazy weather, hot, cold, snow, dry (late Feb early March)

Costa Rica - Great country, superb scenery, friendly folks, less-than-fabulous for touring, IMO. Many paved roads are in bad condition (unless things have changed in the past 10 years). Extremely mountainous, hot at low altitudes. Not easy cycling at all.

Sri Lanka - one of my favorite places I've visited. Cycling was not always great, however, but not terrible either. Road quality varied from very good to awful. Bus drivers in west-central part of the country were maniacal, elsewhere they were fine. Friendly people, wonderful food. Incredibly diverse sights. Far fewer hassles than India (I'm told). Hot & humid. Dec/Jan is generally a good time weather-wise for most of the island in terms of monsoon patterns.

Malaysia - easy place to visit, but very hot and humid, monsoon period in Dec/Jan for the east coast. Delicious and diverse food (Chinese, Indian, Malay). Cheap prices. Roads were often narrow with more traffic than I expected. I feel that Thailand & Laos are better for touring.

Chile/Argentina lake & volcano region (La region de los lagos) - Magnificent scenery, not a lot of paved roads, Chileans and Argentines go on holiday after Jan 1, so a similar problem as NZ in terms of heavier traffic and fewer accommodations available.
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Old 08-22-10, 03:10 PM
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What do you guys think about Santiago, Chile across S. America to Buenos Aires?
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Old 08-22-10, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
Costa Rica - Great country, superb scenery, friendly folks, less-than-fabulous for touring, IMO. Many paved roads are in bad condition (unless things have changed in the past 10 years). Extremely mountainous, hot at low altitudes. Not easy cycling at all.
The roads in Costa Rica are not in great shape, but the ones I travelled weren't all that bad either. I've been on worse. It's been said the drivers are reckless there, but I didn't have any problems when I was there in January. The country is mountainous and the climbs are steep, which slows the average speed noticeably. Even if you're used to mountains in the U.S. or Canada, the climbs are a lot steeper. If you don't enjoy climbing, then I'd agree that it's not going to be a fabulous place for touring.
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Old 08-22-10, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
If you don't enjoy climbing, then I'd agree that it's not going to be a fabulous place for touring.
The funny thing is, I do enjoy climbing. But except for part of the Pacific coast, there is almost nothing BUT climbing in CR. I liked biking around Arenal volcano. I remember a stretch of unpaved road there was in better shape than some of the paved roads I was on. The road from San Isidro down to Dominical along the Pacific coast was in awful condition. I had to take the descent slowly because of all of the potholes.
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Old 08-22-10, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by ydnr View Post
What do you guys think about Santiago, Chile across S. America to Buenos Aires?
My riding in Argentina was limited to the lakes and volcanoes near Bariloche. From what I've read, most of central Argentina isn't particularly interesting. The Andes in south-central Chile (near Temuco, Valdivia, & Puerto Montt) are lower than near Santiago, and the passes are much lower. The 2 Andean passes I crossed were neither that high nor that difficult, but both were dirt roads. I think one of them has since been paved. I rode a mountain bike on that trip. Most of my accommodations were hospedajes (bed & breakfast), which were inexpensive and pleasant. I think there might be a problem with availability in January. My trip was in December.
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Old 08-23-10, 02:51 AM
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I'd recommend Australia or New Zealand. I've never been to New Zealand, but would like to go. And I have been to quite a bit of Australia on two tours which resulted, eventually, in a move to Australia.

Now late December to early January is school holidays here in Australia, so many of the more touristy areas will be quite busy, but Australia is a big country and there's lots to see ... lots of stuff that is off the beaten track.

If you head up to Queensland at that time of year, it will be HOT ... but if you stay south, the temperature is more moderate. Most of the days last December were in the mid-20s in this part of Victoria (north of Melbourne). I would also strongly suggest Tasmania ... it is a beautiful little island. Rowan was born and raised there, and I have spent 6 weeks there.
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Old 08-24-10, 06:05 AM
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My girlfriend visited Thailand in March with another female and had absolutely no problems. If I recall correctly she said demonstrations were very rare and involved people spilling blood from blood banks on government buildings, or something else similar and ridiculously lame.
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Old 08-24-10, 07:05 AM
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Originally Posted by imi View Post
Paris-Barcelona would not be good in dec-jan *brrrr*
Out of curiosity how cold would that be likely to be? Would it actually be below freezing much of the time? Are we talking snow and ice or just chilly weather?
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Old 08-24-10, 12:30 PM
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Probably mostly be wet, windy, grey and chilly... but could even be snow and ice in France... basically grotty horrible weather, often below freezing at night

The further south you get it would get better, the Pyrenees probably not too bad as the coastal crossing (from Perpignan) isn't too much of a climb... Then in spain it would probably be nicer (I've often slept on Costa Brava beaches (border to Barcelona) in december and january...

Virtually all campsites would be closed, so wild camping or hotels would be your choice

There again it's only about 700 miles, so you could get lucky with a mild period... or not :/

Doable? yeah probably... My cup of tea? nah

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Old 08-24-10, 02:03 PM
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Never been to the southern hemisphere, but what would appeal to me about going far south, is getting back into long evenings. Nights are too long in places like France , even if the weather was better. I don't want to be any place where it starts to get dark at 4.

New Zealand sounds great, only downside I have heard is very negative attitude of trucks or drivers in general to cyclists, which surprised me...
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Old 08-24-10, 05:03 PM
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Australia's summer starts in December. The weather is usually in the upper 70's depending on the region.
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Old 08-24-10, 06:17 PM
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ydnr, I'm glad to see that you've mentioned Thailand, Chile, & Argentina as possibilities. The majority of American & Canadian cyclists seem afraid to get out of their comfort zone of US/Canada/western Europe/Australia/NZ, which is a pity. And since you don't want to camp, you will find much cheaper accommodations and food in developing countries than you will in those "comfort zone" countries.
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