If – during my 38 years of guiding bicycle tours – I would have gotten $10 for every time someone asked me what’s my favorite ride, I would no longer need to work. Not that I’d ever want to quit my job, because I love it so much!
Naturally, being the salesman that I am, my answer would always be a trip they hadn’t done yet.
But here it is, my official Top 10…, eh….Top 11 best bike rides in Europe (and there’s no way these can be ordered, because they all have their reasons why they should be #1)
1) France: Dordogne valley between Argentat and Beynac (110 miles); One of my favorite regions of France, for its authenticity, the peace, the great food, the old Romanesque churches, the castles and the history (such as the Hundred Years War between France and England). Make sure to divert from the valley every now and then to visit villages like St-Céré, Autoire, Loubressac, Rocamadour, as well as the lively town of Sarlat.
2) Italy: South-Tyrol from Reschen Pass to Merano(50 miles); Starting at the top of the pass, it’s all pretty much all downhill for about 50 miles on specially marked bike paths, and you’re always surrounded by some of the most majestic mountains of the Alps. Pass by villages, lakes, meadows, apple orchards and end your ride in the noble spa town of Merano.
3) Italy: The Tuscan hills around Siena; Tuscany has some of the prettiest hills in the world. Surely you have seen those epic photos of fields of red poppies, the cypresses, the ‘Siena’ colors of the soil, multiple horizons and hill-top towns like Monteriggioni and San Gimignano. Seeing it from the bicycle seat is like immerging into this landscape of Chianti Classico and the eternal ‘Le Crete’ hills.
4) Spain: Rioja vineyards between Logroño and Haro (35 miles); this is best done in the fall (October), when the leaves are turning. The colors are so incredible no matter in which direction you look. And you’ve got the roads to yourself. Villages/towns to include are La Puebla de la Barca, Laguardia, Navaridas, Elciego, Baños de Ebro, San Vicente, Rivas de Tereso, and of course Haro. Prepare yourself for some hills. And be sure to visit some of the tapas bars in Haro for an unforgettable and fun meal while mingling with the locals!
5) Germany: Tauber Valley from Rothenburg to Wertheim (63 miles); Take two days to follow the Tauber river until its confluence with the Main river. It’s easy to follow, and you’ll pass through many villages and medieval towns without having to study the map. Don’t forget to visit the splendidly carved Riemenschneider altar pieces in Rothenburg, Detwang and Creglingen.
6) Germany: Mosel Valley from Trier to Koblenz (132 miles); You’ll need four days to do this stretch. Every couple of miles you’ll pass another quaint wine village, each tempting you with its delicious white Riesling wine. Throughout the trip you will always be surrounded by the steep hills covered with vineyards, whereas you stay on you bicycle down by the river. Essentially, it can be considered as a downhill trip (very, very gently) and you are even making use of the prevailing winds. Numerous Roman buildings to be discovered in Trier, and a hilltop castle or ruin around every bend of the river .
7) Austria: Salzach Valley from Gerlos Pass/Krimml to Salzburg (115 miles); This could very easily be the most scenic of all the routes listed here. With the snowcapped Grossglockner and many other mountains by your side, enjoy lots of downhill and flat meadows (and a few ups) as you descend from Gerlos Pass (1628m = 5340 ft) to Salzburg (443m = 1450 ft).
8) Austria: Danube Valley from Linz or Enns to Krems (80 miles); Easy cycling along the wide river makes this an unforgettable experience. Especially the stretch through the wine region Wachau between Melk and Dürnstein (23 miles) is some of the most pleasant cycling you’ll encounter anywhere in Europe. And be sure to visit the Baroque abbey of Melk: it’s a masterpiece!
9) Netherlands: the canals of Giethoorn (4 miles); This community is nicknamed Venice of the North because there are no roads as all transportation takes place on the canals. One cyclable path passes through the village, consisting of an endless string of humpback bridges. Stay in low gear and do it either in early in the morning or evening. It’s outrageous! However, you should feel comfortable on the bike, because it does take some skill to negotiate the bridges.
10) Netherlands: Tulip fields near Keukenhof (in April: 20 miles); does this need any further explanation? The colors and the scents of the flowers (tulips, narcissus, hyacinth) get you high…, in a natural way! And the North-Sea is nearby, across over the dunes.
11) Denmark: Danish Riviera between Copenhagen and Helsingør (30 miles); the route consists of bike paths along Denmark’s ‘gold coast’, consisting of sumptuous villas, quaint fishing villages, and dotted with interesting museums such as the Karen Blixen Museum (author of Out of Africa), the Nivagaard art museum and the supreme Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in an incredible setting overlooking the Sound.
your friendly European expert,
Ron van Dijk