Trip of the Year
6th Olympic Expedition
“From Tokyo to Paris – Islands Route”
February 23 – July 27, 2024
Prelude in Taiwan island – Tokyo – 25 Japanese islands – Réunion island – Madagascar island – Corsica island – Paris
(Choose the wanted part of the expedition to see the day by day route or click at the bottom “SHOW ALL ON MAP” to see the whole route.)
BaltiCCycle Olympic expeditions are usually transcontinental routes, such is the 6th one, but it can also be called “island” because we will visit 29 islands! These will be Asian islands (Taiwan, Japan), African islands (Réunion, Madagascar), and European Corsica. You can travel with us for 5 months (156 days) or join a selected section – islands give many options. As usual, we start from the city that hosted the previous Summer Olympics, Tokyo, and head to the host of the current Olympics, Paris, but this time we also invite you to the prelude stage, i.e. to Taiwan. Why?
Taiwan is called a paradise for cyclists. It will be good to stay there before a long “wandering” and catch up. We will go around this paradise, surrounded by 3 seas, from Taipei to Taipei, but to feel its flavors more clearly, there will be several demanding inland sections with majestic mountains, deep gorges, and lakes.
The route in Japan is planned to visit areas that we did not explore either in 2012 (going from Fukuoka to Tokyo) or in 2023 (going from Wakkanai to Tokyo). Sakura will accompany us! After the start in the capital of Japan, we will board a ferry to Shikoku Island. Admiring the blooming cherry trees and impressive tidal whirlpools of Naruto Strait, we will go to Takamatsu, from where we will take a ferry to the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. One of them is Naoshima, where we can see unusual sculptures on open air – a collection of the Setouchi art triennial. And so, we will land on Honshu Island at the northern end of the famous Shimanami Kaidō route. This will be the only repeated section of the Olympic expeditions. We cannot deprive new participants of the attraction of cycling through the bridges that connect 9 islands in the Seto Inland Sea, especially since a new bridge – Iwagi – was opened in 2022. Then we will traverse the island of Shikoku, known for its 88-temple pilgrimage trail, southwards through the central mountainous area, zigzagging along a ridge with spectacular views. We will cycle to the Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park southernmost tip of Shikoku and will reach Cape Ashizuri with its striking granite cliffs and rock terraces. Going further along the west coastline we will arrive at the Sadamisaki Peninsula, from where we will take a ferry through Bungo Channel to the island of Kyushu.
In Kyushu, the Land of Volcanoes, we will visit the stone Buddhas near Usuki, and onsens on Beppu “Hell Circuit”. We will head towards the west coast through the Aso Kujū National Park with its majestic Mount Aso, steamy hot springs, and vast pastoral grasslands. After a short visit to Amakusa Islands (“Heaven’s Grass”) we will continue our journey in Kyushu – south along the coast, around the Satsuma Peninsula, to end our stay on this island in Kagoshima with the famous lookout point at the active Sakurajima volcano.
More islands lie ahead: Tanegashima with the Space Flight Center; we will tour Yakushima, climb Miyanoura Mountain, and admire the over 7,000-year-old Jōmon-sugi cedar; 3 Amami islands; and finally tropical Okinawa, which we will also tour along the coast. We fly from Naha airport to the African islands!
On the route to Madagascar, we will visit the French Overseas Department – small but impressive by the natural beauty Réunion Island. Cycling around the island on fertile plains, and white and black sandy beaches, we will enter also a rugged and mountainous interior with spectacular cirques, calderas, and one of the most active volcanoes in the world – Piton de la Fournaise – as well as picturesque Creole villages nearby.
We want to experience Madagascar in its diversity, it is still a sparsely populated area, hence there are few roads. However, there is a wealth of endemic specimens of fauna and flora and geographically diverse areas: geysers, crater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, savannah, mountains, endless beaches, and mangrove forests. Not all roads here are passable by bicycle, so some sections will be covered by a four-wheel drive car, a bus, and various types of boats. The expedition can be divided into four stages, which differ significantly both in terms of the complexity of the route and its character. The first is the capital of Antananarivo (Tana), popular vacation spots – Lake Itasy and the seaside resort of Antsirabe, the Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park – a thicket of crevices among sharp-shaped limestone blocks.
The second is the section along the west coast, the most difficult due to unpaved roads. In return, beautiful views of the Great Reef and lagoons, visits to isolated fishing villages where you can taste fresh sea delicacies, and observe the work of the Vezo people engaged in fishing, but also… whales. Here is the Avenue of Baobabs – the iconic landscape of Madagascar, the salt lake of Ihotra with thousands of flamingos.
During the third stage, we drive on roads with better surfaces, which means more populated areas, in a north-eastern direction. We visit national parks: Zombitse (on the border between dry and humid zones), Isalo (Jurassic landscape, sand mountains like sculptures), Andringitra (high granite mountains, a climbers’ paradise); Ranomafana (an oasis of various species of lemurs and other animals). This is where the river and the town of Ilakaka are located, where 50% of the world’s sapphire mining comes from. We will visit Ihosy – the capital of the Bara people, who have preserved their polygamous social structure, as well as cities marked by colonialism.
The fourth stage is the eastern coast and the return – including crossing rivers and canals – to the capital. Along the way, there are cities where the locality is intertwined with the remains of colonialism, and there are many wonderful sandy beaches. We will visit the last national park on the route – the Andasibe-Mantadia, and rest at the picturesque Lake Mantasoa.
We will move from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Corsica is also called the Island of Beauty, and it is one more paradise for cyclists. From the Cap Corse with quiet fishing villages in the north to the impressive Bonifacio Citadel on white cliffs in the south, we will follow the La Grande Traversée (GT20) route: ”From Bastia to Bonifacio, you will appreciate the blue shades of the seaside and fall for the authentic villages with their quirky interior. You will have the chance to taste locally sourced products and share them with the producers directly. Take in and immortalize the most scenic mountain and ocean landscapes along with exploring the island’s heritage rich in history”.
For the last part of the ride to Paris, we will start in Marseille. Cycling along the Mediterranean Sea with yacht-strewn shores till Nice we will pass the glamorous resorts and cliffside towns of Côte d’Azur. We will turn North from Nice and will cross the last high mountains on our 2024 route – the West Alps. From Albertville, we will have a chance to see the highest mountain in Europe Mont Blanc (4808 m). Coming close to Geneva but not entering Switzerland we will direct to Dijon, the “City of Dukes”, the capital of Burgundy. Then four more days through the forests and rural landscapes of Grand Est, and we will enter Paris on the day before the Opening of the Olympic Games.
Separate section of the route were prepared by Sigitas Kučas, Rolandas Liutika and Vitalis Tamašauskas.