As any cyclist will tell you, there’s few better ways to see the world than on two wheels. From Armenia to Vermont, here’s some of our favourite bike trips across the globe. Let us know your own favourite cycling holidays below.
Mountain biking at Coed Llandegla Forest, Wales
Coed Llandegla is a purpose-built mountain-biking centre, 11km from Wrexham, in the heart of a forest that has been certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. There are over 30km of graded mountain-bike trails, from green routes for beginners and families to red and black runs for experienced riders. Mindful of the potential damage mountain biking can cause, the owners carried out an environmental impact assessment before they designed the cycle circuit. In addition to this, the log-cabin visitor centre is powered by solar panels and geothermal energy, and rainwater is used to flush the loos and wash the bikes. So you can pedal for all you’re worth and need only worry about hidden roots or low-hanging branches.
For bike rental costs, opening hours, trail routes and how to get there, see www.coedllandegla.com.
Seeing Germany on two wheels
Cycling in Germany is a national obsession. There are more than 150 long-distance cycle routes throughout the country (as well as numerous mountain-biking trails), while many of the country’s major cities have a well-developed cycling infrastructure. The following three routes are among the best.
1) The 370km Green Metropolis Leisure Route is predominantly flat and mostly away from busy roads, running from Düren in North Rhine-Westphalia via Limburg in the Netherlands to Beringen in Belgium. For a map of the route (including a PDA-downloadable format) see www.gruenmetropole.eu.
2) The Tour de Fries is a 250km trail in Ostfriesland in the far northwest of Germany. It begins at Wilhelmshaven, where you cross by boat over Jadebusen and continue in the saddle to Bockhorn, Friedeburg, Wittmund, Schillig, Horumersiel and Hooksiel before stopping for a well-deserved beer in the brewery town of Jever. For maps and detailed itineraries see www.friesland-touristik.de.
3) If off-road biking is more your thing, head to the Solling Vogler Nature Reserve in northern Germany, where the terrain varies from valleys crisscrossed with streams and forested trails up to exposed wide ridges of the Grosse Blösse peak (528m). There are fifteen different circuits along 600km of trails (varying from easy to challenging) and one 160km trail around the entire park, which includes 2700m of climbing over two to four days. For itineraries and reservations contact the local tourist office: www.hochsolling.de.
A day’s sightseeing in Paris, by bike
Though Paris is packed with iconic sights, it is not a large city. The main attractions – such as the Champs-Elysées, Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Avenue de l’Opera, the Marais, Pompidou Centre and Bastille – are all within walking distance of the principal train hubs: Gare du Nord (for those arriving on Eurostar), Gare de l’Est (for those arriving from the east) and Gare de Montparnasse (for those travelling up from the south).
The metro system can get you across Paris quickly, but the best way to see the sights in a day is from the comfort of a saddle. You can be more spontaneous: stop off en route at the shops and markets, cross one of the many bridges over the River Seine, or follow a dead-end alleyway that leads to that exquisite pavement café. You even begin to feel like a Parisian.
The city’s self-service cycle hire scheme, “Vélib”, which was introduced in the summer of 2007, has been a great success. It allows you to pick up and drop off bicycles throughout the city at over a thousand locations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Cycling along the Göta Canal, Sweden
Spend a gentle day’s cycling in the fresh air and at the same time learn about a proud part of Sweden’s heritage. The Göta Canal was one of the country’s largest civil engineering projects: built between 1810 and 1832 to transport goods for export, it has a whopping 58 locks that link rivers and lakes for 190km, from Mem on the east coast to Sjötorp at Lake Vänern.
There are several long sections of the canal where you can cycle along a renovated towpath. The most popular attractions are the canal museum at Sjötorp (where there are classic boat motors and old naval maps) and the seven locks at Berg, where you can watch boats being lowered over 18m.
If your limbs ache after a day’s cycling, you could opt for a change of scene the next day, and either go kayaking or just relax at the water’s edge and enjoy the calm of the canal.
For more information about the history of the Göta Canal, events and other places to stay en route see www.gotakanal.se.
Riding towards Mount Ararat, Armenia
A horse trek with the Ayrudzi Riding Club is a journey into the distant past. Trips on their thoroughbred horses through the fruit groves and meadows lining the mountain streams of Armenia, which can last anything from a few hours to several days, take in pagan sanctuaries, a ninth-century church carved into a volcanic cave and the mighty Mount Ararat, where Noah is said to have finally found land. At night you either camp under the stars, often beside ruined castles or temples, or stay back at the cottages that adjoin the riding club. At the latter, organic meals are accompanied by Armenian shadow theatre (an ancient form of shadow puppetry) or folk songs to the tune of the Zourna flute – two of the many traditional activities revitalized since Ayrudzi started bringing visitors through these remote areas.
The riding club is in Ashtarak, 20km from Yerevan. All levels are catered for and equipment is provided. For further details of tours see www.ecotourismarmenia.com.
Cycling the Heritage Trail in Bohemia
Many visitors to Vienna and Prague find plenty to keep them entertained in these two historic capitals, but for those who fancy exploring the medieval towns and villages that lie along the rivers and meadows in between, there’s now a five-day bike route through the Bohemian countryside connecting the two.
The route is divided into sections of between 35km and 60km each day, though there’s still ample time to dismount and explore the many World Heritage Sites along the way, such as Český Krumlov, a picturesque medieval settlement with a magnificent castle, the chateaux of Valtice and Lednice, and the Renaissance town of Telč. Nights are spent in either rural or small town-centre guesthouses, and as Heritage Trails was set up by the founder of the European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism, visitors can be assured that bringing the benefits of tourism to rural areas is at the heart of everything it does.
For more on tours and accommodation see www.heritage-trails.cz.
Mountain biking along the Kingdom Trails, Vermont
Whether you get your kicks out of cycling over gentle, rolling slopes or steeper, twisting climbs, there’s something for every level of experience at the Kingdom Trails in the hills of northeast Vermont. Around 160km of trails run across the west and east side of Darling Hill and over Burke Mountain, with the most popular including Dead Moose Alley, Fenceline, Pines, Pastore Point, Pound Cake and Sidewinder.
The trail system is managed by a non-profit conservation organization called Kingdom Trails, which has developed smooth tracks along disused cart paths and scenic country lanes. The tracks are built using a comprehensive drainage system, which works to curb the effect that any build-up of water can inflict in terms of eroding soil and vegetation. The trails are open from mid-May to the end of October (depending on conditions), but the best time to go is in the autumn, when the crisp air keeps you cool and you can admire the glorious autumnal colours of Vermont’s broadleaf trees.
For directions from Southern Vermont, Connecticut, Boston and Québec, as well as a list of bike shops and accommodation, see www.kingdomtrails.org.
Seeing Cambodia by bike
For many visitors to Cambodia, the highlight of their trip is a visit to Angkor Wat. But for those on the annual cycling tour with PEPY (“Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself”) it’s just the beginning – the start of a three-week biking adventure that continues around Tonle Sap Lake, down to Phnom Penh and then south to the coast. On some days you may pedal as far as 100km over dusty roads, through rice paddies and vibrant city streets. There are regular stops for an energizing bite to eat and drink – tasty noodles, fried rice, fresh coconut juice – when you’ll get the chance to meet the locals.
The tour also explores the darker sides of Cambodia’s past, such as the notorious Killing Fields. But this is counterbalanced by visits to the many inspiring projects run or supported by PEPY, such as the development of environmental school clubs in rural classrooms, ride-to-school groups and rainwater-harvesting schemes. And when you finally reach the white sands of the beaches in the south, a celebratory splash in the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand makes for the perfect finale.
See www.pepytours.com for further information.
Paddling and peddling around the Lofoten Islands, Norway
Dotted with pretty fishing villages, rugged landscapes and quiet bays warmed by the Gulf Stream, the Lofoten Islands are Norway’s flagship eco-destination: an adventure playground for walkers, cyclists and kayakers.
Lofoten Kajakk runs courses for kayaking as well as day-trips and multi-day adventures with overnight camping into the Trollfjord (a deep, narrow fjord surrounded by snow-covered mountains) and the Risvær/Svellingan archipelagos – home to white-tailed sea eagles, ptarmigans, seals and porpoises. As well as these, Lofoten Kajakk runs multi-sport trips (including hiking, mountain biking and rowing), taking care not to overuse the few marked trails and travelling instead on harder, more durable terrain so as to protect Lofoten’s fragile ecology.
To get there from Oslo take the train to Bodø then a local bus to Lofoten. For prices, booking and details of activities see www.lofoten-aktiv.no.
Where would you recommend for the ultimate cycling holiday?