Many travelers to Europe are now choosing to go by bike to see the best of the Austrian Alps, rural France and cities such as Bruges. With the growing popularity of trails around Spain’s diverse regions and islands, the bicycle tour is set to remain a favorite way to see the continent.
Green cycle ways:
From ascending the mountain heights to tracking the Atlantic coastline, much of the French countryside caters for the distance cyclist. The cycle routes or voids vertes, meaning ‘green ways’, are only for cyclists, pedestrians and the odd horse rider and they run through the whole of the country, most picturesque in areas such as the Loire Valley. Starting from Laval in Pays-de-la-loire is a typical route that encounters disused railways and canal towpaths for good, flat riding, as well as taking you via rural villages, rivers and chateaus.
Mountain climbs and river trails:
The Alps present the greatest challenge in France and the cycle season begins in April, running to September-October, depending on altitude. Alp d’Huez, Col d’Izoard and Cormet de Roseland are all top destinations for serious cycling holidays in Europe. Across the border into Austria, the Alps arguably reach new levels of drama and beauty and the Western Tyrol region is one of the best examples of this; green pastures and glacial peaks wherever you turn. Centred around the outdoor sports capital Innsbruck, there are miles of hiking and biking trails that can take you around the Wipptal Valley and the more gentle Tuxer foothills.
Austria’s more horizontal countryside presents no less of a pretty picture; the path between Vienna and Passau in Germany takes in the highlights of the River Danube and is a classic cycle route for visitors to the area. Some tour companies allow you to combine the bankside trail with a return trip by boat to get the best of both worlds. In the other direction, the river will take you into the heart of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, exploring the city of Bratislava, Slovakia before traversing Hungarian farmland and reaching the magnificent capital of Budapest.
Alternative Spanish holidays:
Spain is fast-becoming an unexpected highlight of European cycling tours. Best known for sunshine and sands, cyclists are heading instead for the mountainous northern routes and the Moorish sights of the South, as well as the rocky landscape of inland Majorca. Cycle between Cordova and Granada in the natural regions of Andalusia and discover the history of enlightenment and the trade routes that link the two. For families interested in cycling holidays Spain will alloy them to enjoy the floral fields and characterful villages of Catalonia, whilst adult groups can taste the native Rioja with a wine tour around the vineyards of the Ebro river valley.
Continental trails offer a great deal of variety and can be suited to match age, ability and group size. Serious cyclists may find the freedom of solo travel the best option, with the chance of meeting up with companions along the way, whilst tour groups can be a good idea for those just starting out or simply for the benefit of experienced guides and well-designed routes. There are plenty of trails that are entirely car-free in parts of France and Northern Spain, so these may be worth looking into if you’re bringing children. Overall, the flexibility of travelling Europe by bike is appealing to many and as international travel goes, it may save you a few pennies as well.
Ilena Sanchez is a travel writer and blogger whose love for cycling holidays in Europe has taken her all over the continent, from the French Alps to the banks of the Danube. In recent years. Her work for a number of travel blogs has introduced her to the growing opportunities for the cycling holidays Spain can offer and she has plans to make another visit before the year is out.