Bike Your Way Through Europe's 10 Best Cycling Routes
As London announces plans to spend a billion pounds on bike highways, Oslo pledges to make its downtown car free by 2019 and Germany commits to a 62-mile bike highway, Europe is fast becoming a standout destination for cycling vacations. Already, interlinked cycle networks span countries and even the entire continent. Europe’s beloved (mainly) car-free routes accommodate all levels and ages of cyclists, whether you’re a beginner setting off on your first quick, two-day, 50-mile trip or you have pedaled tens of thousands of miles across the world. From gastronomic trips to historically immersive rides, the following routes offer a little something for everyone looking to see the best of Europe from two wheels.
① Ciclovia Alpe Adria Radweg
Not to be confused with the recently opened hiking route of the same name, this 255-mile (410-kilometer) bike path starts in Salzburg, winds through the Alps and ends on the Mediterranean coast in Grado, Italy. The Austrian section was designed to show off the beauty of the Alps without impossible mountain climbs, while the Italian portion winds along rivers and lively towns offering copious wine and pasta. Largely made up of dedicated cycle paths, this route is so well signed that maps are practically useless.
② Danube Cycle Path
One of the most well-known and beautiful bike routes in Europe, the Danube Cycle Path is a 230-mile (370-kilometer) portion of a longer route. It follows the iconic Danube River from the scenic German village of Passau to Vienna, Austria, crisscrossing the border between the two countries throughout much of the ride. Almost entirely care free and fairly flat, the Danube path is perfect for cyclists of any age and ability.
③ Piva River
Skill Level: Easy
Great if you're seeking: A unique ride, quiet roads, river gorges
Just after crossing into Montenegro from Vučevo, Bosnia, a steep climb up otherwise-peaceful E762 road sends you nose-diving into a deep gorge carved by the teal waters of the Piva River. The route continues along the Piva and passes through some 60 tunnels. Although tunnels normally pose danger for cyclists, most tunnels along this 17-mile (26-kilometer) stretch are short and cars are rare, drastically reducing the threat of an accident. The quiet way winds through a canyon before reaching Plužine, a little resort town where cyclists can take a dip in Lake Piva.
Skill Level: Easy to challenging
Great if you're seeking: Dirt roads, mountains, valleys, fjords
Originally built to transport materials for construction of the Bergen-Oslo Railway, this is one of the most popular and scenic cycling routes in Norway. Hop on the train from Bergen or Oslo with your bike, or rent one in town, and set off on the dirt path between the towns of Haugastøl and Flâm. Combining history and in-your-face nature, the 51-mile (82-kilometer) route can be completed in one day, or you can take it slow and extend the journey over several days, staying in towns along the way. Taking kids? Stick to the first 16 miles, where the road is in good condition.
⑤ Flanders Beer Tour
Photo: Visit Flanders
Skill Level: Easy
Great if you're seeking: Beer, beer and more beer!
Belgium has the beer lovers covered with a variety of brewery routes in the Flanders region. Choose your own adventure by using the Flanders Cycle Route Planner to piece together several dedicated beer routes, which range from 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 kilometers), and make your way to traditional Belgian breweries and abbeys producing some of the world's best beer. (Note: Both the Flanders Cycle Route Planner and the guide to the region's dedicated beer routes are in Dutch—Google Translate might be helpful.)
⑥ Alsace Wine Road Cycle Route
Skill Level: Intermediate
Great if you're seeking: Wineries, charming villages, quiet roads
Cyclists won't need to feel too bad about indulging in all the wine and food that can be had in the Alsace wine region thanks to this 75-mile (120-kilometer) route, which runs along the eastern slopes of the Vosges Mountains. The Alsace Wine Road is one of the most beautiful cycle routes in France; the route follows former rail lines and parts of the Roman road and often leads to intimate wine tasting experiencing in small villages.
⑦ Iron Curtain Trail
Photo: Jen Sotolongo
Skill Level: Challenging
Great if you're seeking: Lesser-traveled regions, cultures, inexpensive luxury
Mountains, inexpensive spa towns, and delicious food and wine are all part of the journey along the Bulgarian section of the Iron Curtain Trail. The route begins on the low-traffic roads of the Thracian Valley, which is home to several wineries including Orbelus Organic. Then the path heads east into the mountains that form the border with Greece, passing through affordable spa towns like Gotse Delchev and Devin. From there, climb into the untouched nature of the Rhodope Mountains, where abundant sheltered picnic areas provide fresh spring water and free camping options.
⑧ Hebridean Way Cycle Route
Where: United Kingdom
Skill Level: Easy to intermediate
Great if you're seeking: Remote roads, abundant wildlife, scenic Scottish coasts and landscapes
The 156-mile (251-kilometer) Hebridean Way is a national cycle route that crosses islands connected by ferries and causeways. The remote and peaceful roads meander alongside the rugged Atlantic coastline and soar over hills that offer awe-inspiring vistas and plenty of opportunity for wildlife encounters.
⑨ Vasco-Navarro Railway
Where: Basque Country, Spain
Skill Level: Easy
Great if you're seeking: Nature, small villages, dirt paths
Formerly a train route, the converted 51-mile (82-kilometer) Vasco-Navarro Railway is now one of the longest bike routes in Spain. The flat path guides cyclists from the Basque capital of Vitoria Gasteiz to the historic city of Estella, passing through mountains, rivers and gorges, and attractive towns and villages.
The 75-mile-long (123-kilometer) Parenzana Railway used to connect Trieste, Italy, with Porěc, Croatia. It later became known as the "Path of Health and Friendship" and unites the three countries of the Istrian peninsula. The hilly route cuts through olive and peach groves, vineyards, and colorful Adriatic villages. There are plenty of opportunities for gourmet food stops along the way.
This article originally appeared on AFAR.
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