Cycling in Europe is a little like riding through a cliché. Pedalling your way past Provencal orange groves, cellar-door wine tastings on the Dalmatian coast, tracing the gentle curve of the Danube or climbing switchbacks in the Andalusían hills – it’s easy to feel like you’ve cycled onto some faded postcard from the 50s. What’s next? Croissants? Singing bluebirds? That’s the beauty of a Europe cycling tour: just when you think it can’t get any more ridiculous, we up the Wow Factor by another 15%. Want to ride through Tuscany’s Borgo a Mozzano valley? Visit the clifftop town of Ronda on the edge of El Tajo Gorge? Stuff your face with Croatian olives or French cheesecake? (The calories don’t count if you’re cycling.) We’ve got a tour to suit every daydream. The hard bit is picking your favourite.
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Our Europe cycling Top 5
Ah…Provence, a place that’s always queued with a little wistful sigh. You’ll understand why when you ride through it. There’s the quiet country lanes outside Avignon, the vineyards and cellar doors of Chateauneuf du Pape, old Roman architecture like the Pont de Gard aqueduct, and even optional climbs like the epic Mont Ventoux (prepare your quads, people). But really this cycling tour isn’t so much about Yellow Jerseys or competitive racing. It flows to a more rural rhythm, a classic Provencal tempo: wandering the cobbled lanes of Orange, a spot of market shopping at Tarascon (try the local-grown sheep milk cheese) or strolling through the famous gardens of St Remy. Ah…Provence.
Take a pin and stick it in a map of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, and the chances are pretty good you’ll hit paradise. Of course the Istrian Peninsula is fast gaining a name for itself as a cycling hot-spot, but we prefer the celeb-dotted island of Hvar. We’ll load the bikes on the ferry from nearby Bol, dodge a few super yachts on the crossing, and then touch down in beautiful Jelsa. Hvar is what good screensavers are made of, and its inland lavender fields make a pretty spectacular backdrop for an afternoon’s cycling tour. Pedal your way to old Hvar Town, and watch the sun set over a glass of locally-grown Chardonnay and seafood pinched fresh from the Adriatic. Pure cycling bliss.
The Danube is a river that throws up highlights every 10km or so, but for us it doesn’t get much better than the tiny village of Hédervár, a stone’s throw from the Slovak border. The ride into Hédervár is classic central Europe: sleepy villages hugging the riverbank, lowland forests and lush farmland and quiet meadows. Hédervár itself it way off the traditional tourist track (always a bonus) and its Baroque-style Hedervary Castle is a great example of 13th century Renaissance architecture (and not a queue in sight). From Hédervár we’ll ride through the countryside to an even smaller village – the charming town of Lipot – for a good night’s sleep and a hearty meal of goulash and Lángos (deep-fried flatbread). Good cycling tour fuel.
Our Tuscan cycling tour features some pretty spectacular stretches of road, no mistake, but sometimes it’s the days off the bike that really stick in the memory. And trust us, you’ll remember the little Renaissance town of Lucca for a long, long time. It’s less busy than it’s nearby neighbour Pisa, and what it lacks in leaning towers it more than makes up for in shady promenades, cobbled lanes and photogenic piazzas just waiting to be explored on foot. Our tip? Stretch those sore quads with a little stroll through the Roman amphitheatre off the Via Fillungo, before heading to the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro to stuff your face with fresh pizza and razor-sharp espresso. The next day we’ll hop back on the bikes for a ride along the Serchio River to Pisa. Just another day on an Intrepid cycling tour.
El Torcal Nature Reserve, Spain
Cycling tours in Andalucía are an exercise in surprise. There’s always a little something around the next switchback. Case in point: the strange rock formations of the Sierra del Torcal mountain range. The limestone here has eroded into flat ‘pancake’-like shapes over the millennia, and it was actually part of an ancient ocean floor. We’ll cycle through the reserve before stopping for a picnic lunch at a shady spot we know. After an al fresco bite of fresh jamón and pescaito frito (fried fish) we’ll strap on the hiking boots and head up into the hills to check out the view. Your reward for all this hard work is a lovely 15km downhill ride to Antequera, just in time for a classic Andalusían sunset.
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