On a leisurely cycle route east from Maastricht to Vaals, right on the German border, scenic villages nestle among vineyards and orchards, linked by quiet lanes dotted with shrines. Cycling is a perfect way to appreciate this rolling landscape and its un-Dutch hills. Pick up a Limburg province map from Maastricht tourist office, and allow a day for this seventy-kilometre round trip.
From Maastricht train station, follow the river south to Gronsveld, picking up signs to the eleventh-century village of St Geertruid. The road snakes over hills draped with vineyards before swooping into the villages of Mheer, Noorbeek and Slenaken – all very pretty and popular. At Slenaken, the road develops some hairpin tendencies as it climbs the valley side above. Continue through Eperheide and Epen, with sweeping views across to the rolling valleys of Belgium on the right. Between Epen and Vaals, there’s a gradual eight-kilometre climb on narrow roads, winding between woods of red oaks. From Vaals, you can do an extra six-kilometre round trip to the highest point in the Netherlands (a lofty 321m): follow the signs to the Drielandenpunt, where three flags in a graffiti-covered concrete block mark the meeting of the borders of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Otherwise, follow the main road out of Vaals (there’s a dedicated cycle lane), turning left to Vijlen. Surrounding you is a panoramic view over Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, beautiful on a clear day. From Mechelen and Gulpen, you’re within striking distance of Valkenburg to the north, approached through the old town. Climb the steep but brief Cauberg hill to return to Maastricht, enjoying a speedy descent between orchards and farmland with the city locked in your sights. Once on the outskirts, follow the cycle route signs to bring you back to the station.
An alternative (and shorter) return route is to continue from Gulpen to Maastricht on a straight route via Margraten and Cadier-en-Keer.