Top Five: Temples by bike
Temple of Artemis, Turkey
The goddess Artemis was the daughter of Zeus, goddess of the hunt, wilderness and childbirth, and was generally considered a goddess of women. Her temple Ephesus in ancient Turkey was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, and much of it remains standing – huge avenues of sky-high columns, an amphitheatre to rival Rome and the remaining façade dwarfs any cyclist. The staggering feat of engineering stays strong despite arsonist attacks and the ravages of time.
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Petra Great Temple, Jordan
Nobody forgets their first glimpse of Petra. Everyone arrives on foot or by donkey to the main Treasury, passing through the narrow siq (entrance) with its towering rose-coloured walls. But saddle up for something truly special as we visit parts of Petra by bike, arriving on two wheels outside the temple of Siq Al Baida (Little Petra) – a smaller, lesser known part of the ancient city where the remains of painted frescoes have decorated these red rocks since the 1st century AD. Pause for a spot of energy-boosting baklava and admire the incredible architecture before heading out into the desert on two wheels …
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Temples of Bagan, Burma
Arriving in Bagan by boat is exquisite, gliding along the Irrwaddy River towards a forest topped with thousands of gleaming golden crowns. The Bagan temple complex is home to over 4,000 temples and pagodas where Buddhism, Hinduism and Nat worship converge amongst the glittering shrines. We dedicate a whole day to weaving our way on two wheels between these phenomenal structures, visiting both the buildings photographed in National Geographic, such as Ananda Pahto with its bejewelled hti (umbrella), and the smaller hidden gems. As the sun sheds its dying rays across the golden rooftops we head to Shwe Sandaw Temple for an incomparable 360 degree view across all of Bagan.
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Angkor Wat Temple, Cambodia
Rising early, take to two wheels before the crowds begin to surge. The various temples are linked by a network of shady avenues perfect for biking, and being on wheels speeds up the process so you can capitalise on the time spent at each historic site. From the jungle-covered Ta Prohm, with the amazing roots of the Fromagier trees clinging to the ancient stones to the famous Bayon temple topped with the four faces of the king. The day ends at the incredible Angkor Wat, largest temple complex in Asia, with its huge moat, long causeway and massive towers.
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The Golden Temple of Dambulla, Sri Lanka
Emerging dramatically from the lush plains of Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’, one cannot miss the entrance to the Dambulla Cave Temple as you ride along the Old King’s Route. Crowned by a gaudy, gigantic golden Buddha, the largest and best preserved cave complex on the 'Teardrop Isle' rises to over 1,000 feet above sea level. Leaving the bikes at the base of complex, look beyond the kitsch exterior as you make your way up the stairs and along the gentle slope of Dambulla Rock from where you can access the five cave shrines. These UNESCO protected cave temples are decorated with intricate rock paintings and carvings, and house some 157 Buddhist statues. The complex, a sacred pilgrimage site for more than 22 centuries, is one of the most outstanding examples of religious art anywhere on the island.
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