Whether you’re speeding through hills in Switzerland, touring lakes in Ireland or having a stop-over in the Belgian countryside, there’s lots to be said for seeing Europe by bicycle. With its easily accessible train routes and border crossings, the continent attracts thousands of keen riders each year.
However, choosing the best route to ride in the continent is really down to the individual. Certain routes require a high level of commitment, as well as fitness. Yet some are perfectly proportioned for a general enthusiast, and provide plenty of points to stop off and stay along the way.
Whatever route you choose, prepare to embark on a journey that will allow you to see the finest Europe has to offer first-hand. Here are some of the most unusual cycling routes in Europe:
1. La Loire à Vélo
The perfect place to practice your French, La Loire à Vélo offers you the chance to explore some beautiful countryside and jaw-dropping views. A lot of Europe’s best cycling routes are found in France, and travel operators have been quick to capitalize on the region’s popularity. As well as luxury camping sites and walking holidays, you can even find cycling tours run by companies like Belle France.
This particular route travels some 800-kilometres – that’s just shy of 500 miles by the way – and is unique from any cycling route in the world. However, you don’t have to be the next Bradley Wiggins to conquer this route, as many of the stages stand at roughly 40km long.
Travelling along this famous UNESCO World Heritage site, La Loire à Vélo forms the western end of Eurovelo 6, the famous trans-European route. The route runs from Cuffy to Saint-Brevon-les-Pins, passing along the banks of the River Loire, France’s longest.
Expect long deserted riverbanks, quaint wildlife and plenty of scenes of natural beauty. As for things to keep you occupied along the way, the chateaus, villages and vineyards of the Loire Valley are world-renowned.
2. Paris to Moscow
The full trip is certainly not for the faint of heart, as the Paris-Moscow route travels some 2,736-miles – taking over 45 days. However, it can be broken down into six-or-so less intimidating chunks, taking around a week each.
The adventure roughly follows Napoleon’s 1812 Russian Invasion, so if you’re after a route that draws you alongside some of Europe’s defining history then this is the one for you. Commencing in Paris also allows you to enjoy some of the city’s most famous sights, such as the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe.
Then it’s time to hit the road, travelling through a host of vineyards, gothic villages, enchanted forests and historic cities in Germany Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and (finally!) Russia.
3. Peloponnese: Cycle Greece
If you enjoy ancient architecture and spectacular landscapes, then this Greek Peloponnese adventure is probably the one for you.
The eight day tour travels right through mainland Greece, and can be travelled via a 358-mile option or a shorter 237-mile route. This means it’s ideal for many levels of cyclist.
Aside from its enchanting scenery, the route stops alongside some of Greece’s most famous historic sites. Expect to see the Olympic grounds where the first games where held way back in 796 B.C, as well as everything from beaches to mountains.
And if you’re aching from your two-wheeled endeavours, Epidavros, the most famous healing centre in the classical world, makes a perfect point to stop at along the way.
4. The South Downs
This UK-based route isn’t the most widely talked about in the world, but certainly what it lacks in popularity it makes up for with style. What’s great about the route is it offers almost 100-miles of uninterrupted cycling between Winchester and Eastbourne – meaning its fields and tracks for mile after mile!
The scenery allows you to view some of England’s most breath-taking landscapes. Travelling along the coast, expect to discover a range of natural beauty spots – while open spaces ensure you’ll get plenty of fresh air.
The route also allows for some flexibility, offering steep scarps for the adventure cyclist, and more gentle, rolling hills along the coast if you’re after something a little less scary. Aside from this, there are plenty of villages to stop at along the way, perfect for a pub lunch by the fire.
5. Dalmatian Coast
Can’t decide between a summer holiday or a cycling getaway? Why not do both? This 192-mile route offers all you need for an active, beachbound vacation, whisking you along on a route that travels the enchanting Adriatic Coastline.
Croatia is known for its gorgeous, white sandy beaches, olive groves and lavender fields, and all these are easily accessible from this cycling route. Also of interest is the sheer breadth of architecture available to view, traversing from the French to the Baroque to the Ottoman.
Plus, if all that sightseeing leaves you in the mood to relax, there’s plenty of time for a dip in the ocean along the way.