Cycling Holidays In EuropePosted on: 21 July 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves
The 96th Tour de France is well underway and it may just inspire you to polish your bicycle bell and go on a cycling holiday.
Perhaps nothing like the 21 gruelling stages of the famous Tour but a cycling holiday through gently rolling countryside and with plenty of stops for good food and drink.
Here’s a rundown of the best cycling holidays in Europe and the UK from travelbite.co.uk’s Natasha von Geldern.
From cycling holidays that follow the pedals of the Tour, to off the beaten track cycling holidays elsewhere in Europe and cycling holidays in the UK, there’s something here for everyone. We even have some holiday tips for mountain bikers.
Cycle Holidays In France
France is a natural choice for a cycling holiday, whether or not you follow the Tour de France. With historic towns and welcoming villages at every turn, and miles of unspoilt and often spectacular scenery in between, France is a great destination for any cyclist.
The roads are smooth and cyclists receive much greater respect from passing motorists than in the UK. Away from the main roads, there’s a well developed cycle network consisting of “veloroutes” (long-distance cycle routes, linking towns and regions) and “voies vertes” (traffic-free lanes following the paths of former railways, canal towpaths and river valleys).
The valleys of the Loire, Indre and Cher rivers in France are one of the best cycling holiday destinations in Europe.
Pedalling along leafy, riverside roads; through exquisite medieval towns and villages; and delicious food and wine for “après bike” opportunities – cycling holidays in the Loire Valley are definitely worth the effort!
Brittany is another region of France particularly convenient for cycle holidays. Brittany Ferries will whisk you and your bike across the channel to connect with the national cycle network from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth. It’s possible to mix and match cycling routes – setting off from one French port and ending up at another.
There are a number of cycle holiday companies who will organise your cycling tour in France (and carry your bags). Or base yourself at a comfortable B&B and explore the quiet lanes and villages.
Cycling Holidays In The Vineyards Of Alsace
This is a particularly cycle-friendly region, with 430km of cycle tracks in the capital, Strasbourg, alone and plentiful cycle hire available.
Cycle touring the famous vineyards of Alsace is an experience not to be missed. The 170km Route des Vins D’Alsace route winds its way from north-west of Strasbourg to Thann, south of Colmar, through the Alsace plain and the foothills of the Vosges Mountains.
There are stop-offs for tastings at wineries all along the route, which passes through pretty villages and past medieval castles.
Well-marked trails lead off the main route, up through the vineyards, providing ideal opportunities for a break from the saddle and a leisurely stroll.
Most of the villages along the way have small family run hotels offering a warm welcome and fine food.
Cycling Holidays In Poland
Cyclists from all over the world will be heading to Poland this summer for the country’s biggest cycle race.
The Tour de Pologne starts on August 2nd and finishes in Krakow six days later after 1,253 km or about 780 miles. That’s the same as cycling from London to Dundee – and back.
You can catch the atmosphere or tackle the route yourself on a cycling holiday. The Tour of Poland is widely regarded as one of the most challenging road bicycle race routes in Europe.
The wonderfully scenic route will take cyclists up to the north eastern city of Bialystok, down to Lublin and Rzeszow, and then through the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane, before reaching Krakow.
Cycle The Norwegian Fjords
Catch the overnight ferry from Newcastle to Bergen, with your bike on board, and embark on a cycling holiday in the Norwegian fjords.
Bike Adventures has an outstanding trip through some of the finest scenery in Europe with fjords, mountains, lakes, rivers and mighty waterfalls.
From Bergen cycle along the shore of beautiful Hardangerfjord and visit Voss – the adventure sports capital of Norway. Other highlights include the magnificent Sognefjord – Norway’s longest (204kms) and deepest (1,308m) fjord.
The trip ends at the small town of Selje, where you can catch a ferry back along the coast to Bergen.
Volcanic Cycling Holiday In Catalonia
For a cycling holiday that's a little different, explore the lakes and volcanoes of the Garrotxa region of Spain’s northern Catalonia by bike.
Inntravel offers guided cycling holidays through this tranquil area. Cycle through ancient stone villages, fields and woods to the city of Girona. The cycling is on country lanes, disused railways and some tracks across volcanic hills and woodland.
Visit the historic towns of Camós and Besalú and enjoy views towards the eastern Pyrenees. In clear weather you can make out some of the highest peaks, including Canigou.
Explore Besalú with its fortified Romanesque bridge and streets lined with ornate medieval mansions.
Spring and autumn are the best time for cycling holidays in this lesser-known part of Spain with average temperatures of 16 to 20 degrees Celsius.
Catch the train from London to Girona, including a sleeper overnight from Paris.
Cycling Holidays In Amsterdam
Well, not in Amsterdam itself but from Schagen to Amsterdam down peaceful country roads and on cycle paths of a quality that you only get in the Netherlands.
Windmills, harbourfront villages, canals and cafes, as well as glasses of Grolsch in the sun – this is what cycling holidays in the Netherlands are all about. Schagen is only an hour’s train ride from Amsterdam Central station.
It is estimated there are around 16 million bicycles in the Netherlands and the country has the best cycle lane network in the world. You can cycle on more than 19,000 kilometres of bicycle paths and lanes.
There are hundreds of cycling routes and the easy terrain makes it suitable for even families with young children to enjoy a cycling holiday.
Mountain Biking Holidays In Europe
For those who like a different type of cycling holiday adventure – on a mountain bike - the Alsace region of France has two outstanding nature parks (Parc Ballon des Vosges and the Unesco-listed Parc Vosges Nord) offering exciting mountain bike tracks through the breathtaking countryside around the Vosges mountains.
The Vosges also provide visitors with well-earned sustenance in the shape of meals served in many traditional old farm buildings that have now been converted to welcoming inns.
Or take the ride of a lifetime in the French alpine resort of Meribel, in the heart of the Three Valleys region of France. The world’s largest mountain bike course is the star of the Trois Vallées Mountain Bike Challenge. Try a 70km touring event of all three valleys or a timed descent of a 7,000 ft drop from the top of the Saulire (2,700m) down to Brides-les-Bains (600m).
There are a further 25 marked mountain bike trails in the region. With varying degrees of difficulty the trails are through the valley’s forests and meadows, providing all manner of circular routes and options – all with fantastic views over the Mont-Blanc, Beaufortain and Vanoise mountain ranges. Chair lifts and cable cars take the slog out of uphill rides.
Cycle Holidays In The United Kingdom
You don't have to cross the channel to find great cycling holiday destinations. Explore the east of England on two wheels, enjoy the fresh air and diverse vistas of these beautiful counties.
East of England Tourism has developed a range of circular cycling holiday discovery maps of between 13 and 30 miles long as well as a wide selection of family-friendly cycling holiday options.
The Apples and Ales tour through the Cambridgeshire countryside allows for scenic views and a little indulgence sampling the produce of Willock's Farm Orchards.
Alternatively, take the kids to explore the wetlands at Marston Vale Millennium Country Park, cycle around the expansive walk, marvel at the interactive centre and then rest weary limbs in the café with a traditional cream tea and Tip Tree jam.
To search for more cycling holiday routes in England visit the East of England Tourism website.
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