So you’ve decided to go on a cycling holiday. That’s fantastic news and very exciting!
The next part is the hardest. You now have to choose from all the amazing cycling holiday locations around the world. There really are some fantastic places to have the best bike adventures.
Cycling treks or bike touring is something that must be experienced at least once in your lifetime.
In fact, whenever we recommend that someone spend their vacation riding a bicycle it generally results in raised eyebrows, a slightly quizzical expression and the statement “you think I should do what?”
Once you have tried it, trust me, you won’t be able to wait to take off on your next cycling adventure. As I mentioned in the 4 reasons why you should go on a cycling holiday, it is the perfect combination of physical exercise and mental relaxation.
I still remember our first cycling tour like it was yesterday. That sense of excitement as we climbed onto our bicycles, possessions piled into pannier bag, wondering what adventures awaited us.
We had chosen the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and the Queenstown Trail on New Zealand’s beautiful South Island as the first cycling holiday locations. We had a lot of fun planning it and hoped it would be the first of many cycling holiday adventures.
John and I are always on the lookout for destinations for the best cycling adventures. That is why I reached out to 12 cycling influencers and enthusiasts and asked them this important question:
Where do you recommend for the best bicycle touring?
Table of Contents
For bicycle tour destinations, I like them to be flat with no cars! So I’d probably go for something nice and easy following a river.
One of the nicest cycling holidays I went on was cycling along the river Danube. It’s a popular cycling route and one that’s suitable for all the family. I like cycling holidays to be easy where you can talk to the people you’re cycling with. River cycling is perfect for this.
Mike McLeish | Pinch Flat
Mike left his career in public health to become a bicycle blogger. He now gives advice on bicycle travel destinations as well as tips on nutrition, weight training and cycling gear.
Douro Valley, Portugal
One of the best cycle trails for cycling holiday is here in Portugal, in the Douro Valley. We love this cycle trail because it’s unique, the view is stunning and you actually can ride by the UNESCO world landscape of the ‘Douro vinhateiro’. Also it is a plus if you enjoy being surrounded by nature. You should definitely check this cycling trail; it’s very popular among tourists.
Tiago and Sandrina | The Wise Travellers
Tiago and Sandrina are nature lovers from Portugal who travel the world promoting ecotourism.
Danube Cycle Path, Germany
When it comes to cycle touring in Europe, Germany is a hard act to follow. Purpose built bicycle paths span out across the country, many of which keep cyclists safely away from traffic. Of these, the Danube Cycle Path is one of the most well known cycling routes in Europe.
A popular route for people of all ages and abilities, it’s not uncommon to see whole families riding sections, with kids on their own smaller version of a travel bike complete with mini-panniers!
With accommodation options ranging from frequent campsites to guesthouses, the Danube Cycle Path is ideal for people just starting their bike touring experiences, and cyclists who want to enjoy a few days or even weeks of pleasant pedalling through Europe.
Camino de Santiago, Spain
My favorite cycling trail whenever I’m on holiday is cycling Camino de Santiago. I especially recommend the trail from Madrid to Galicia. I really enjoy the peace and quiet because there aren’t plenty of tourists in this route. It is a very easy trail to cycle around and you will cross many small villages and quaint towns along the way.
There are plenty of spots to refill water like restaurants and bars, which are also perfect for nice meals when you get hungry. You can just buy snacks in the supermarkets if you prefer. The cycling trails is pretty level until Leon, which is very close to Galicia. There you’d have to climb up a couple of hills but not really difficult.
The part in Segovia with the famous aqueduct to Galicia is also a nice, tranquil place to rest and sleep. You just need to have the Credential, which is like a passport for people going on a pilgrimage. For each stage, you get one stamp on the Credential. You can then present it in Albergues where you’ll be allowed to sleep for free and sometimes they provide breakfast. You can always make a donation here, too. The Credential can be purchased inside the many churches in the Santiago route and costs around €3-5.
Ruben Arribas & Rachel Pregunta | Gamin Traveler
Ruben and Rachel are the team behind Gamin Traveler. As well as travel guides they provide inspiration and tips on how to achieve an on-the-move lifestyle.
Portreat to Devoran, UK
I recommend cycling from Portreat to Devoran. It may only be 11 miles long but the Sustrans Mineral Tramways Coast to Coast is completely traffic-free, beautifully diverse and takes in some great historical sights, such as the Carnon Viaduct. It’s a great ride to do at a slow-ish pace and especially good for families.
Rocacorba Climb – Girona
The climb averages out at 7 per cent over 9.9 kilometres – which will sound like fairly average metrics to many a seasoned cyclist. However, the elevation varies dramatically over the course of the climb to the weather station, so it’s renowned for feeling tougher. Since Girona is home to a disproportionate number of pro cyclists who are drawn to the mixture of excellent terrain and character-full city medieval streets (think Bruge, but warmer), this is a popular test of form for some of the strongest rider’s in the world in the lead up to the Tour de France.
Read the post Cycling in Girona.
Cap de Formentor – Mallorca
The lighthouse of Formentor lies around 20 kilometres from Port de Pollença – making it a relatively short out and back ride compared to other routes around the island. The road to the lighthouse is far from flat, but the views make every metre climbed deliciously worth it. Since spring 2018, the road has been closed to all but cyclists, walkers and tour buses, too, making the journey significantly more enjoyable by bike – especially as you drop back to the mainland via the hairpin laden descent. There are some tunnels on the way, so take lights – and since the locals sometimes call this ‘the meeting place of four winds’ – expect some gusts.
Read the post Riding in Majorca.
Michelle Arthurs | Ride. Write. Repeat.
Formerly the editor of Total Women’s Cycling, Michelle currently works at Cycling Weekly. She also shares cycling tips and stories on her blog Ride. Write. Repeat.
Michelle shares with us two of her favourite rides along with the disclaimer that they are “not necessarily beginner friendly – but they can always be aspirational.”
My favourite cycling holiday location is the Danube cycling trail from Passau to Vienna. It’s an easy well-marked trail with ever-changing scenery and lots of stops for sightseeing, historical points of interest and wine tasting. It’s a great trail that combines activity with a lot of culture.
Read the post Danube Cycling Route: What You Need to Know.
Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail – Alberta, Canada
The only problem with cycling the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail is keeping an eye on the path rather than the jaw dropping peaks. The 22km trail (one way) links two of Alberta, Canada’s most renowned mountain towns. In the midst of Canada’s oldest National Park, the town of Banff draws visitors from around the world. Located outside the gates of the park, Canmore retains a small town feel with bustling shops and restaurants.
The trailhead begins across from the Alberta Visitor Centre as 2801 Bow Valley Trail in Canmore. There is free parking at the Tourism Canmore Visitor Information at 907 7th Avenue. Here you will find public restrooms as well as a bicycle pump and maintenance stand.
Suitable for riders of all abilities, the cycle path can be busy. Not to worry. You will want to take your time gazing at the lush valley surrounded by majestic mountains that seem to go on forever.
Sue & Dave Slaght | Travel Tales of Life
Sue and Dave are Canadian Travel Bloggers whose adventurous spirits keep them living the theme of ‘never too old to explore’.
Italian Riviera, Italy
The Liguria Coast, affectionately known as the Italian Riviera, stretches from Genoa down through the UNESCO World Heritage listed Cinque Terra and onwards till you reach a certain leaning tower in Pisa. With sharp climbs, steep descents, often through blackened tunnels, this cycling trip is not for the faint of heart! Train and ferry connections link up the route and some spectacular scenery and sumptuous pizza is never far away.
Read the post Cycling the Italian Riviera.
Warren and Erin | Sling Adventures
Warren and Erin are self confessed travel addicts. After trying to travel and hold down full time jobs they decided to take on the life of digital nomads.
The Rhone Route, Switzerland
This 350 km cycling route follows the river Rhone from Alpine landscape through the Valais mountains, into sunny Wallis. Make your way by train with your bicycle to your starting point in Oberwald. Here you can visit the active glacier, the source of the Rhone, before it’s completely gone in 700 years from now.
You start at an altitude of 1.437m and soon there are some bigger descents and ascents, even up to 2.432m. After Brig it becomes mostly flat and an easy ride for recreational cyclist. Along the way, take some time to visit some of the stunning castles and taste the exclusive Swiss wines at one of the many wineries. Enjoy a break under the trees of a local apple orchard and enjoy the sunny views over sunflower fields with snow capped mountains in the back. After a couple of days you enter the promenades of the famous Swiss lake at only 384m. If you really got a taste for more, this trek is now extended another 650 km into France where the Rhone ends in the Mediterranean Sea!
Eleven Cities Tour, Netherlands
The Dutch love 2 things, ice skating and cycling. When there’s enough winter weather and all the lakes, streams, and canals in Friesland freeze up, ice-skating fever breaks out in the Netherlands. The 11 city skating tour dates back to 1890, while the first official registered race was in 1909. A tour of over 200 km on ice, visits all 11 cities in the province of Friesland. However, due to climate change, the last organised race took place in 1997. Fortunately, you can also enjoy this tour on roller blades or by bicycle! The tour passes through the flat countryside fields and through the most picturesque historical cities in Friesland, each with their own charm. The beauty of the far flat views shows the famous Dutch skies know from golden century master paintings. You follow the water ways and lakes and it becomes clear how important water is for the Dutch landscape and infrastructure.
You can join an organised bicycle tour but you can easily grab a map and follow the numbered signs along the bike lanes (also know as “knooppunten”) and the special honey comb shaped “11 city tour” signs. If you want a physical challenge you can finish this trip in 1 day. Or spend several days, make the most of being in Friensland and stay in one of the cosy numerous BnB’s along the way.
Eline Klassens | Headstand Nomad
Eline is a qualified Ryoho yoga and zen-shiatsu therapist and an expert at the headstand. She blogs about how you can incorporate a healthy lifestyle as well as spiritual development into your travels
Amman to Aqaba, Jordan
Cycling over the red, sandy mountains of Jordan surrounded by desert is an experience that forced me to reconsider my definition of beauty. The melting pot of barren, flat nothingness and rugged rock structures that teeter towards the sky make for a striking and adventurous cycle to the Red Sea. Every day of the just-shy-of-400km journey from Amman to Aqaba offers a different terrain, a unique landscape, and sites of cultural and geological significance.
Starting in the country’s bustling capital, alive with markets, street food stalls, restaurants with curb-side dining ideal for people watching, and the echoing sound of the call to prayer, the route then heads south towards Madaba. Stop at Mount Nebo, with views across the water to Jerusalem, before heading down to the Dead Sea for a float and mud exfoliation!
The next section of the route through the majestic Maai’n Mountains towards Wadi Moujeb should ideally be taken as a short day of cycling so as to leave time for a canyoning trip in the spectacular Waterfall Canyon.
The climbing, sliding, jumping and abseiling over smooth red cliffs patterned with water-eroded swirls is a fun way to relieve any saddle soreness, and wading through the fast moving water and standing under the impressive waterfall is an exhilarating and welcome opportunity to cool off!
Finish the day with a visit to the nearby Crusader Castle of Kerak, a 12th Century fortress that was once of great strategic importance.The dusty mountains and hills of the Dana Nature Reserve stretch for miles, a desert cloth lying creased and crumpled. Look a little closer, and you’ll notice the botanical diversity; the carpet of sand and rock is speckled with the hardiest of plants able to withstand the soaring temperatures.
Stop in Shawbeck to take in the Crusader Castle Montreal, before descending into the Nabatean city of Baidah, otherwise known as Little Petra. This is a spectacular taste of what is yet to come.
Allow a day away from cycling to explore the ‘Lost City’ of Petra and hike up to the highest point, where you tower above the famous al-Dier (or ad-Dayr in Arabic), more commonly known as ‘the Monastery’. The intricate detail and the sheer size seen in both this Nabatean temple and the smaller but more decorated ‘Treasury’ are two of the greatest examples of ancient craftsmanship in the world.
The fourth day of cycling through the Arava Valley is, in my opinion, the best. Steep climbs and exhilarating downhills with hairpin bends past Bedouin settlements and through small villages. Eat under the stars and spend the night at the Bedouin Camp at Roberts Rock. Just be warned that the tents can get hot so I chose to sleep outside!
The final day is the longest distance but the route is flat and relatively straight. Follow the road just south of Roberts Rock all the way to Aqaba, with the mountains of Edom to the east and Israel’s peaks to the west. With no respite from the sun on this section of the route, the thought of the glistening Red Sea will fuel you onwards. Finally, the inviting water comes into view; snorkelling awaits!
Joss Hooren | Little Green Globetrotter
Joss has been keeping a travel journal since the age of five. She finds that it enables her to capture her “thoughts, musings, emotions and sensory information” which she uses to reflect on experiences and the impacts they had on her in her travel blog; Little Green Globetrotter.
Netherlands by Bike and Barge
One of my favourite types of bike touring vacations involves a boat. A bike-and-boat tour has a host of advantages for leisure cyclists:
- Bike-and-boat tours typically involve manageable distances and routes. If a tour guide doesn’t travel with the group, help with maintenance issues is just a phone call away.
- Returning to the familiarity of a “floating hotel” at the end of a cycling day reduces the uncertainty associated with the unknown, and not having to search for a place to eat.
- The ability to wash clothes and have them dry while out cycling means being able to pack less and light.
- Torrential rain? Feeling “under the weather?” No problem, take a day off from cycling and stay on board.
- Bike touring vacations don’t have to be ruled out because one or more travelling companions don’t cycle. They can relax on the boat.
I was first introduced to bike-and-boat tours on the Danube. The boats tend to be larger than the smaller vessels plying the canals and smaller rivers of Europe. I thoroughly enjoyed the Danube experience, but I much preferred the social interaction within the smaller group on a bike-and-barge tour. For more information on this type of tour, and specifically one in the Netherlands while the tulips are in bloom, see The ultimate guide to Cycletours’ Netherlands by bike and barge.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
There have been times when a brief cycling experience has turned out to be the highlight of a trip. Biking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco comes to mind a one of my favourite cycling holiday locations. Very little of the trail before and after the bridge is shared with other vehicles so it’s a relaxing ride. The other surprising feature is that in a city renowned for its hills, there’s only one steep but short 0.7-mile ascent to the bridge. The 10-minute descent on the Marin County side corkscrews down to the picturesque town of Sausalito. Another interesting layer of the 8-mile ride across the bridge from San Francisco to Sausalito is the 30-minute ferry ride back to Fisherman’s Wharf. For more information, see A detailed guide to biking the Golden Gate Bridge.
Uluru, Central Australia
When planning a visit to Australia, try your very best to incorporate a trip to the Red Centre. It’s there that you’ll experience the powerful spiritual presence and magnificent beauty of Uluru. Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, lies in the heart of the continent. It resembles a massive iceberg rising out the desert, with a significant portion of its bulk underground.
Above ground, it has a circumference of 9.4 km around the base. The trail is maintained for both hikers and cyclists, with shelters, water stations and information panels at strategic intervals. With the short distance from the bike rental station to the base of Uluru, the round trip is roughly 15 km.
I was surprised to find rich green belts, and pools of surface water protected from the blazing summer sun. Information panels explain why Uluru is such a sacred place, and how it figured so prominently in the life and culture of the original inhabitants. In fact, might I suggest a visit to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre before the ride? You’ll learn about the natural environment, how Uluru was formed, its significance to the traditional owners, and the “handback” and joint management of the national park.
Save it for later ‘Best Bicycle Touring: 12 Expert Bloggers Share Their Top Destination for Cycling Holidays‘.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this collaborative post! I don’t know about you but I’m having a hard time deciding which of the best bicycle touring locations to try first.
So many choices, so little time!
Hopefully the feedback from these expert bloggers has inspired you to dust off your bike, throw some clothes in pannier bags or a backpack and take off on a cycling adventure.
Share this post with your family and friends so they’ll join you on your adventure.
Do you have any bike trails that you can recommend or a story you’d like to share from your cycling holidays abroad? If you do, leave a comment below.