There are a plenty of reasons why exploring a place on two wheels can enhance any trip. Cycling allows you to travel at your own pace, create your own itinerary, venture off the beaten path, and engage with your destination on a deeper level. The options are bountiful, whether you’re looking to cruise along the coast, navigate between city attractions, conquer imposing mountain terrain, or complete an epic long-distance journey. See our picks for the nine best cycling tours around the world.
Famed for its world-class vineyards and charming historic villages, Tuscany’s rolling hills are ideal for cycling as well. The cobblestone streets in Florence, Pisa, and Siena are anything but bike-friendly, but venturing out into the surrounding bucolic countryside offers extensive paved roads and mountain bike trails. Furthermore, local train connections via Trenitalia make it easy to organize shorter rides and access all corners of Tuscany. For starters, the magnificent walled town of San Gimignano can be combined in a 29-mile loop with the hilltop village of Montaione and town of Certaldo. The latter is a mere 50-minute train journey from Florence. The Chianti region between Florence and Siena is another can’t-miss spot. Starting in Castellina in Chianti, head north to medieval San Donato before turning east towards the walled village of Radda in Chianti. The 25-mile circuit takes in olive groves and wineries before returning to Castellina in Chianti, where a well-deserved gelato awaits. Offshore, Isola d’Elba’s coastal roads allow for beach hopping between idyllic fishing villages.
This Mediterranean gem is a top summer getaway, thanks to its stunning beaches and jaw-dropping beauty. Mallorca’s consistently sunny weather and temperate climate allow for cycling trips year-round. The island’s northwest coast and its interior contain the Serra de Tramuntana mountains — a rugged terrain of limestone peaks, pine forests, and wildflower meadows. The settlements and villages here date back many centuries, but fortunately, the roadways are up to modern standards. Another scenic ride awaits at Cap de Formentor, a peninsula with jagged cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. Committed cyclists should consider basing themselves in the nearby historic towns of Alcudia or Port de Pollença on the laid-back stretch of northeastern coastline instead of the bustling, party-oriented southern coast. Mallorca has become a regular training destination for professional cyclists, so local drivers are quite accustomed to sharing the roadway. Plan your visit during spring or fall to avoid the busiest traffic conditions and enjoy more pleasant temperatures. Check out our full travel guide to Mallorca, including when to visit, where to stay, and much more.
Spanning a long, thin stretch of Southeast Asia, Vietnam packs in a wealth of diverse landscapes and cultures. Renting a bicycle is a great way to explore off the beaten path and get a glimpse into Vietnam before its economic boom. It’s wise to leave cycling in buzzing Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to savvy locals and seasoned pros, while Vietnam’s smaller cities and countryside are well-suited for beginner and novice cyclists. Take a leisurely morning ride through Hoi An’s narrow lanes, lined with faded canary yellow homes, before heading east to the coast. The expansive white-sand beaches at An Bang and Coconut Beach are just a four- to five-mile ride away. On Vietnam’s southern end, the Mekong Delta’s web of waterways and bright green rice paddies provide a picturesque backdrop for a cycling trip. This region boasts Vietnam’s most fertile farmland, so development is limited to villages and small settlements interspersed among the Mekong and its many tributaries. It’s advisable to plan your visit during the drier and cooler months of December to February, or else risk flooding and sweltering temperatures.
New Zealand’s natural beauty has elevated it to the top of many travel bucket lists. The country’s South Island encapsulates many of its most striking features: glaciers, turquoise mountain lakes, deep fjords, and boulder-strewn beaches. Whether you’re touring the island via campervan or group tour, there’s something to be said for self-powering yourself by bicycle through New Zealand’s remarkable landscapes. One of the country’s celebrated great walks — the Queen Charlotte Track — is open to mountain bikes as well. From March through November, mountain bikers can navigate the 44-mile coastal trail. For a more intense adrenaline rush, heli-biking (yes, like heli-skiing) above Lake Wanaka should do the trick. The Otago Central Rail Trail is perhaps the South Island’s most accessible cycling trail. The 93-mile trail, which follows a former railway through the island’s south-central interior, is considerably flat, includes numerous stop-offs in towns, and has no car traffic.
The most northerly of the Baltic states, Estonia is a hidden gem for cycling enthusiasts and casual riders. It’s one of the least densely populated countries in Europe, and its highest peak is a mere 1,043 feet above sea level. A variety of trails take in the country’s pine forests, peat bogs, serene lakes, and windswept coastline. The Iron Curtain Trail, officially known as EuroVelo 13, cuts through the middle of Estonia on the way to Latvia, where it continues all the way down to Greece. The Estonia portion of the trail traces the Baltic shoreline, including the scenic and remote islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa before arriving in the capital of Tallinn. The UNESCO-listed Old Town exudes fairy-tale charm with church spires, cobblestoned streets, and medieval structures tightly packed in the city walls. Continuing east, the trail runs along the Gulf of Finland through Lahemaa National Park to the Russian border. This swath of Estonian wilderness boasts a selection of bike trails to some of the country’s finest beaches and secluded forests, making for a perfect day trip from Tallinn.
Unlike many other popular Asian destinations, Japan’s bustling urban centers are cognizant of cyclists in their planning and infrastructure. Yoyogi Park in Tokyo’s central Shibuya neighborhood is an ideal starting point, with low traffic along the pleasant tree-lined paths. From here, the Meiji Jingu shrine and plenty of Shibuya’s trendy cafes and shops are a quick pedal away. The Imperial Palace and Chiyoda district are quite navigable by bike as well. Cycling along the palace’s outer moat leads past rows of cherry trees, as well as a mix of Tokyo’s historic and modern attractions, such as Sakuradamon gate and the National Museum of Modern Art. During the summer, Japan’s northerly island of Hokkaido is a top choice for cyclists, due to its open roads and wild landscapes. Hokkaido has a population of 5.28 million people, a mere fraction of Tokyo’s inhabitants, leaving plenty of room to roam in solitude. Options range from the coastline to the alpine lakes in Akan-Mashu National Park. After conquering Hokkaido’s rugged terrain, treat yourself to a soak in one of the many hot springs at Noboribetsu Onsen.
Peru draws visitors from around the world to trek its ancient ruins in the Andes Mountains and explore the Amazon rainforest. These same landscapes, however, are also conducive to cycling and mountain biking. Peru’s Sacred Valley, carved out by the Urubamba River through snow-capped mountains, offers a variety of trails. Mountain bikers can embark from the Path of the Incas trail, which meanders past many incredible Inca ruins, vistas, and adorable llamas between Cusco and Machu Picchu. The village of Ollantaytambo, which contains its own impressive ruins, is an ideal base for exploring the area. Lima, Peru’s sizable capital, is another bike-friendly destination. Begin in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood, known for its colorful, colonial architecture and bohemian shops and cafes. Continue on to Playa Barranco, which is situated below rocky cliffs (like most Lima beaches). Head north along the coast through ritzy Miraflores to San Isidro, a district with ample parks and bike lanes to explore safely at your own pace.
8. The Azores
The stunning terrain on this far-flung Portuguese archipelago is a paradise for all types of adventure sports, including cycling and mountain biking. Though cycling isn’t usually considered an adventure sport, the mix of towering peaks, lush valleys, gushing waterfalls, and rocky shoreline make it so in the Azores. Sao Miguel’s Lagoa do Fogo includes mountain bike trails along the crater lake’s rim, granting superb views over the lake and Mediterranean Sea. Farther west on Sao Miguel, lakes at Sete Cidades offer a refreshing dip after traversing the island’s hilly interior. On Pico, sixty miles of coastal road circle Mount Pico, a 7,700-foot volcano. There isn’t much in the way of public transportation, so cycling is your best bet to cover a lot of ground without busting your travel budget. The Azores lie nearly 900 miles west of mainland Portugal, but daily flights from Lisbon with TAP Air make it an easy add-on to a Portugal itinerary.
The nation of Kazakhstan remains an enigma for many travelers, which is a plus for intrepid-minded cyclists. With a population of just 18 million and a landmass of 1.05 million square miles, Kazakhstan ranks 62nd and ninth in the world, respectively. This means that the vast areas of steppes, mountains, river valleys, and deserts are largely unspoiled. Heading out from Almaty in southeastern Kazakhstan, the Tien Shan mountains serve as a striking backdrop while cycling throughout the region. The trifecta of Altyn-Emel, Charyn Canyon, and Kolsai Lakes National Parks add additional excursion opportunities. Sticking to just the main cities of Almaty and Astana is rather limiting in terms of geography and cycling options. Instead, step out of your comfort zone and experience Kazakh hospitality in local guesthouses and homestays.
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