Europe's Top Ten Bike Trips
Train travel through Europe may be easy, it may offer a nice glimpse at the countryside as you race across borders and zip from city to city. But the difference between cycling through France's wine valleybreathing fresh air, interacting with friendly locals, cranking the pedals to a satisfying end at a country inn or castle retreatand letting a country's heartland blur by in a rush is as stark as the difference between sipping vinho verde in Portugal or dining on Loire Valley's haute cuisine and choking down yet another months-old meal from the train's passing food cart.
For those who enjoy the rewards of a little hard work, we offer a list of the most fabulous routes to cycle through Europe.
Loire Valley, France
The ultimate trip for sybarites who don't mind getting sweaty. Some places you choose for the scenery or the culture or the challenge; this one you choose because you want to be ridiculously pampered and live like the rich and the royal who've been coming here for centuries. You stay in a different four-star riverside chateau every night. The cuisine is oh, so haute. And did we mention that you're in ther heart of one of France's great winemaking regions? (By the way, the cycling's not bad either.)
Hardanger Mountains, Norway
The famed Oslo-Bergen railway winds through some of Europe's most rugged, beautiful terrain. The dirt service road alongside the tracksno private cars allowedis fat-tire touring Nirvana. Do the whole route in a couple of weeks, or take the train to the top of the pass and coast down to Bergen in three or four days.
D.H. Lawrence called Tuscany "the perfect center of man's universe." Here are art, architecture, history, the divine pleasure of eating and drinkingall set among rolling hills of perfect human scale. (The scale is good for cycling, too; though occasionally steep, Tuscan hills are never very long.) After a week here, you'll curse your bad luck of not being born Italian.
County Kerry, Ireland
Ireland has been called Western Europe's only third-world country, but the upside for cyclists is a dearth of car and truck traffic and a feeling of remoteness from modern ways. Back roads, velvety mountains, fishing villages, pubsand everyone speaks English. There's no place in Europe a cyclist can feel more welcomed by the local populace.
Virtually untouched by foreign tourists, the Minho region is Portugal's leading wine-growing area, and the world's last stronghold of small family-owned vineyards. Farmers still use oxcarts to take their grapes to local wine co-ops, which make tart bubbly vinho verde for the village taverns where you'll stop for lunch.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication