Guest post by Dakota Murphey
Cycling holidays are a brilliant way to explore Europe’s beautiful landscapes and historic sights. Whether you prefer gentle rides through vineyards and châteaux in the Loire Valley on your winter break in France. Or, perhaps a more challenging climb up mountain passes in the Dolomites or coastal routes in Northern Portugal, there are routes to suit all abilities and all offer incredible sights along the way. Here, we’ll cover some of the continent’s most scenic, interesting and varied routes.
Stay safe and close to all the best cycling routes
Before planning a cycling holiday, it’s important to focus on the ways you’ll ensure safety. Without care and attention, cycling accidents are a risk, so in order to really enjoy your time away, it’s worth taking steps to keep yourself safe. Wearing a helmet and using lights on your bike, even during the daytime, helps improve visibility. Pack high-visibility vests and wear light or reflective clothing if you’re cycling at night or in low-light conditions.
Arranging a villa with great access to nearby cycling routes and with the bonus of a hot tub or pool to wind down in post-cycle is ideal. On arrival, ask your accommodation about local cycling laws too. Some places require lights at night, for example. Be alert to traffic conditions, follow local road laws and take particular care at junctions. With caution and preparation, you can ensure a safe and fun cycling holiday! With this in mind, let’s explore some of the best places for a cycling trip to remember.
Research your route thoroughly before embarking to identify any steep or dangerous sections of the road. GPS cycling apps like Strava are useful for planning routes and directions, but also consider your fitness and skill levels when selecting routes to avoid taking on climbs that are beyond your abilities and could put your safety at risk.
Make sure you always carry a fully charged mobile phone, ID and spare cash in case of emergencies or the need for a taxi ride home. It’s also worth packing essential spares like inner tubes and a mini pump to deal with punctures, so you aren’t stranded if your bike suffers a break or puncture.
France cycling holidays
Famous for hosting the annual Tour de France (Le Tour), cycling enthusiasts arrive in France each year keen to cycle the route of their cycling heroes. There is even an opportunity to stay in a luxury villa or chateau along the famous route.
The Loire Valley, meanwhile, is a delightful region to explore by bike, with lots of flat, quiet roads that meander through picturesque villages and pretty châteaux. Cycle from Amboise to Chenonceau along the Cher River, stopping at the ornate Château de Chenonceau, which spans the river, and the majestic Chambord, the largest château in the Loire. The route winds through vineyards and charming towns like Azay-le-Rideau, where you can refuel at a riverside café.
Provence captures the quintessential idyllic French landscape, with fields of vibrant purple lavender, charming hilltop villages and local markets. Base yourself near Gordes to cycle through the spectacular natural beauty of the Luberon mountains and soak up the magical light that inspired Van Gogh. The vibrant town of Aix-en-Provence is also a great spot from which to ride out to scenic villages like Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
For delightful coastal rides, Bordeaux is ideal. Cycle along the Atlantic coastline near Arcachon, stopping for fresh oysters and seafood. Inland, meander through vineyards like Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, sampling wines along the way. The city of Bordeaux itself is perfect for a day ride along the Garonne River and through elegant plazas.
United Kingdom cycling holidays
Cornwall offers some of the UK’s most stunning coastal cycling. Ride along the hilly and scenic South West Coast Path, which hugs the shoreline for over 300 miles, offering amazing sea views. Base yourself in St Ives for rides to spots like Land’s End, England’s most westerly point. For a shorter coastal ride, the Circular Trail around the Isle of Wight provides variety, from dramatic white cliffs to sandy beaches.
In the Lake District, cycle through the rolling hills and tranquil lakes, with charming villages and country pubs to stop for a bite. Ride a section of the C2C (Sea to Sea) route from Whitehaven on the Irish Sea to Tynemouth on the North Sea. The terrain varies from coastal roads to gradual climbs over the peaks. Meanwhile, cycle past castles, stay somewhere fit for royalty and take in the breathtaking scenery that Scotland has to offer.
To the south, on the Isle of Wight, follow the CycleWight routes like the Red Squirrel Trail through the island’s peaceful interior countryside, or coastal rides around scenic towns like Shanklin and Sandown. The annual Isle of Wight Randonnée offers a wonderful way to circumnavigate the island over a few days.
Italy cycling holidays
Tuscany epitomises the Italian countryside with its rolling hills dotted with cypress trees, vineyards and medieval hilltop towns. Base yourself in San Gimignano for scenic rides through the vineyards of Chianti. The breathtaking Tuscan scenery around Siena is also perfect for cycling, with options to ride out to charming towns like Montalcino.
For dazzling coastal scenery, ride along the Amalfi Coast with its rugged cliffs and turquoise waters. The cycling path from Sorrento to Positano and Amalfi is fantastic, with stops at fishing towns and beach clubs to swim. Further up the coast, cycle through the pastel-coloured villages of the Cinque Terre, travelling from village to village on pathways with amazing sea vistas.
In the Italian Alps, Selva di Val Gardena makes a great base to cycle through the awe-inspiring scenery of the Dolomites. Rides range from challenging mountain passes to downhill runs with panoramic views. Cycling the Sellaronda route takes you through the famous peaks on roads with relatively gradual inclines compared to other Alpine climbs.
Spain cycling holidays
The rocky coves, cliffs and beaches of the Costa Brava are perfect for stunning coastal rides. Base yourself in Sant Feliu de Guíxols to cycle to fishing villages like Cadaqués, stopping for fresh seafood along the way. North of Barcelona, ride to the charming Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres.
Inland, the wine region of La Rioja has lovely routes between vineyards and monasteries. Start from Logroño and cycle through the rolling hills to towns like Santo Domingo de la Calzada, known for its 13th-century cathedral. Nearby Haro is also great for winery visits and sampling superb Tempranillo wines.
For flatter coastal rides, Mallorca is a great choice with its network of cycling paths. Port de Pollença makes an excellent base to cycle south to the historic town of Alcúdia or north to the caves and coastline near the Cap de Formentor lighthouse. The roads are well-maintained and traffic is generally light.
Cycling holidays allow you to explore Europe’s incredible diversity of landscapes at a slower pace. There are endless stunning routes to discover and a cycling trip offers the perfect way to really immerse yourself in each destination. With a bit of route planning and taking some sensible precautions, a cycling trip offers the perfect active but relaxed way to experience Europe’s natural beauty, cuisine and culture.
Check out the full portfolio of stays in Europe on Oliver’s Travels and get in touch with our concierge team for any special extras to make your holiday that bit more incredible – you’ll return home feeling refreshed and ready to plan your next memorable cycling adventure.