Cycling is a great way to get around, not just in your daily life but on holiday too. Cycle tourism helps to lower the negative environmental impacts of your holiday and slows down the speed at which you travel. Taking things at a slower pace means you can really appreciate the sights and sounds of a new destination, after all, isn’t that what many of us go on holiday for? Combine some healthy fresh air and exercise with a whole lot of beautiful sights and delicious food and that sounds like a pretty good getaway to me, so here’s some inspiration to get you planning your next trip.
1. Lake Garda (Northern Italy)
Lake Garda and surrounding area has a multitude of bike trails leading through the beautiful northern Italian countryside, with trail distance and difficulty varying greatly. A new 140km-long trail is due to open this year (expect pandemic related delays) which will take cyclists from Lombardy, through Trento, on to Veneto and back again, as well as linking up to the continent-spanning European cycle routes Eurovelo Route 7 and Eurovelo Route 8.
The great advantage of Lake Garda as a cycling destination is that you can either choose a base and explore a different trail area each day, or you can travel the entire circumference of the lake using the connecting cycle routes. For the more experienced cyclist a trip around the lake offers beautiful scenery along the way and several villages, towns and cities nearby to explore. Just bear in mind you will need to travel with luggage (or arrange for this to be sent from one place to another) and might want to allow time for stopping off at the many attractions en route.
Daily cycle rides are a great option for more casual cyclers or family groups; you can choose the distance, take minimal luggage and if you feel like you need a day off, spend a day relaxing by the lake. There are also several routes around 30-40km distance which are ideal for a casual days cycling, and the paths themselves are wide and mostly concrete or wooden. Valle de Laghi offers you the chance to explore the Medieval town of Arco and discover historic castles, or the Sirmione route leads through various agriturismo areas with their abundant vineyards, olive groves and truffles. There are many, so do some research and get out there!
2. Rhine Cycle Route (Switzerland, France, Germany, Netherlands)
If you’re looking to really cover a good distance on your bike, dedicating days to the trip, then take a look at EuroVelo Route 15, the Rhine Cycle Route. Spanning four countries and running along one of the longest rivers in Europe, the 1,500km route with signposts and services along the way is perfect to really get stuck into your cycling and experience that feeling of being on the open road (or bike path!)
What’s also great about this route is that although it covers an impressive distance, it is suitable for cyclists of all fitness levels and abilities as well as family groups, ensuring as many people as possible can see the beauty of the Rhine river landscape and explore the picturesque towns and villages along its path. Visit the Rhine Falls in Switzerland, the city of Strasbourg in France, Medieval castles in Germany and classic windmills in the Netherlands. The route also passes by 9 UNESCO sites, so it’s the ideal way to combine an active holiday with a bit of culture too.
3. Limburg (Belgium)
If you’re looking for some unique cycling experiences then head to Limburg, a province in the Flanders region of Belgium. Considered the country’s capital of cycling, several innovative bike projects have been, and continue to be, developed here over the last few years. For the adrenaline seekers try the Adventure Mountain at Be-MINE for some off road biking, or for a more soothing day out try Cycling through the Trees or Cycling through Water. Both these offer unusual concepts, the former taking you on a journey not just through but above beautiful forest, specifically Bosland, the largest adventure forest in Belgium’s Flanders region, and the latter leading you through a pond (without getting wet!) in the De Wijers nature reserve and open-air museum in Bokrijk.
Coming in spring 2021 there is also Cycling through Heathland trail which will give cyclists an expansive view over Hoge Kempen National Park via a long bridge, creating a new perspective of the extraordinary nature reserve and the many animals within it. Limburg offers great variety and is the perfect place to set up a comfy base (camping and other accommodation options are available in the area) and enjoy daily cycling adventures in a range of interesting landscapes.
4. Atlantic Coast Route (Portugal)
The EuroVelo 1 route runs all the way from Norway to Portugal, spanning six countries as it follows the Atlantic Coast, but it is the Portugal stretch of the journey, specifically the Algarve, which makes for the perfect warm and sunny summer holiday. This section of the route follows over 200 kilometres of spectacular coastline and crosses the Algarve in its entirety, from the Spanish border at Huelva to Sagres with its impressive fortress.
Cycle along exploring the scenery as you go, with a variety of both human and natural heritage in the area. From sheltered dunes to rocky coves, tiny bays to stretching sandy beaches, shallow lagoons to wild waves, this is a whole new way to see the Atlantic Ocean. Add to that the pleasant Algarve climate, blessed with over 300 days of sunshine a year, and it makes for one gorgeous holiday.
5. La Seine à Vélo (France)
La Seine à Vélo cycling route is the perfect combination of natural and cultural heritage. The 400km cycle path starts at Notre-Dame cathedral in the centre of Paris and travels through more than 130 towns along the River Seine, ending up in Normandy. Some of the picturesque towns en route include Giverny, Les Andelys, Deauville and Honfleur.
Works started on the route in 2015 and it is designed for cyclists to enjoy the best the area has to offer, passing through a mixture of urban and rural landscapes. This part of France has been popular with many famous artists over the years, so any art lovers will particularly enjoy this trail. Artists who lived here include Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Victor Hugo among others, and you can even stop off to visit Monet’s Garden along the way, as well as several other museums and castles that are well worth a visit.