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The World’s 10 Best Bike Tours?


A little over a year ago, we wrote about 10 Places To Ride Your Bike Before You Die – a list of the favourite places we’ve been on our bicycles.

Now, we’ve come up with 10 more dream bike tours – our own personal list of the top places we’d like to go next. Some we’ve been to in part, but we’d like to explore more. Others we’ve never seen but we’ve heard so many great reports that they’re on our short list.

Of course, reducing the world to just 10 bike tours could rightly be described as a great injustice to all the potential routes out there. Think of this as a little inspiration to get you dreaming, and share your ideas of the best places to cycle by leaving a comment.

1. North Sea Cycle Route

Route de la mer du Nord, allemagne

 

This 6,000km marked route traces the coastline of the North Sea. It goes through the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway and it’s easy to do just a section if you don’t have time for the whole thing. Much of the route is on dedicated bike paths or small roads, making this a very tranquil bike tour. More info: North Sea Cycle

 

2. Pacific Coast, United States

The Bike Tour

 

The Pacific Coast Highway has always intrigued us. We’re talking spectacular ocean views, massive redwood trees, classic cities like San Francisco and plenty of facilities for cyclists as you cycle through the states of Washington, Oregon and California. Maps are available from the Adventure Cycling Association. More Info: ACA Pacific Coast route

 

3. Danube Cycle Path

Danube Bike Path

 

We’ve already cycled the start of the Danube Bike Path; a perfectly paved trail running through Germany and Austria to the Hungarian capital of Budapest. This stretch is great for families, beginners or anyone who doesn’t want to spend much time figuring out logistics.

Now we want to finish the job. Apparently the path gets less refined as it goes along. We like the idea of that slow progression.

There are tons of guidebooks describing the route from the river’s source to where it empties into the Black Sea. Ride it on your own or pick from the many package tours. More Info: The Danube Bike path is part of EuroVelo6.

 

4. Japan

Japanese Temple

 

We were in Japan many years ago, and we’ve been dying to go back on our bicycles. We want to check out more temples, soak in the hot springs and gorge on sushi. Many people think Japan is expensive but to keep costs low, you can cook your own food and take advantage of the free campsites and local hospitality clubs. More Info: Japan Cycling and Journey of 1000 Li (We wrote this before the terrible 2011 earthquake in Japan. Hopefully the country will recover quickly and be ready to receive tourists again soon.)

 

5. The Silk Road & The Pamir Highway

Andrew in front of a Bukhara Mosque

 

A trip along the ancient Silk Road trade route and the Pamir Highway is a real adventure. First you’ll cross Turkey and Iran, heading for the Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. Then you’ll head for the mountains, where you can still get a wonderful glimpse of nomadic life. Continue on down Tajikistan’s Pamir Highway and you have enough cycling to keep you busy for a good 4-6 months.

We’ve done the first part of this trip, but we missed out on southern Kyrgyzstan and the Pamir Highway. Now that would make a great summer tour one of these days! It’s a pain to get visas (and they’re not cheap) but the rewards are spectacular scenery and a real sense of exploration in this little-touristed region of the world. More Info: Our own pages on bike touring in Central Asia and Tim Barnes’ Totally Knackered tour

 

6. Carretera Austral, Chile

Towards the Cordillera

 

Pack a sturdy bike and your tent for this 1,000km mostly unpaved road. It passes through the region of Patagonia and encompasses some of Chile’s most stunning terrain, including mountains, lakes and glaciers. This is definitely a summer route. In the off-season it can be closed by snow and heavy rain. More Info: A journal of a bike tourist in the Carretera Austral and Patagonia.

 

7. Southeast Asia

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

 

International bike touring doesn’t get much easier than in Southeast Asia, and there’s a lot to explore. We’ve spent 6 months here, and still not seen it all. Next on our list? The east coast of Malaysia and a jaunt into Myanmar / Burma. We also want to return to the Cameron Highlands tea growing area in Malaysia (pictured), where the air is refreshingly cool, for some day rides and hikes, which we didn’t have time for on the last trip.

Throughout the region, costs are affordable (even for the most budget-minded bike tourists), traffic is generally relaxed, hotels are easy to find and the food is great. More Info: Our own pages on bike touring in Southeast Asia and the slightly old but still helpful Mr. Pumpy

 

8. Morocco

 

Cheap flights and ferries from Europe make Morocco very accessible and it’s a great first taste of bike touring outside of the developed world. We’ve been to Morocco several times, and while the country is becoming increasingly touristy, it still offers plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten track.

Classic rides include the coastal route between Agadir and Essaouira and the trip from Marrakech, over the mountains and through the Draa Valley to the Sahara desert near Zagora. We’ve done all of these. Now we want to do a backroads tour of Morocco: no asphalt and lots of camping. More Info: Our own pages on bike touring in Morocco and the video (above) from our friends Blanche & Douwe. They’ve biked Morocco’s paths and tracks several times, so we’ll be picking their brains if we do this trip!

 

9. Great Divide Route

IMG_9573

 

Few places do “pure nature” as well as North America and the Great Divide is at the top of our list of routes to cycle on the continent. This off-pavement mountain bike route traces the Continental Divide from Banff in Canada all the way south to the Mexican border. It takes about 3 months to complete. A mountain bike with front suspension forks is often recommended to help cope with the tough terrain. More Info: ACA’s page on the Great Divide cycling route

 

10. Karakoram Highway

IMG_9573

 

A classic route between China and Pakistan, and one that may change significantly in the coming years (for the worse) as the road improves and becomes more accessible to heavy traffic. Go now, before it’s too late! More Info: Cycling The Karakoram Highway

 

What are the bike tours on your “to ride” list? Tell us. Leave a comment.

Photos: The Bike Tour by Tommy DavisRoute de la mer du Nord (by Vocivelo, flickr)Cycling Along Pakistan’s Gilgit River Valley (by Yodod, flickr)Towards the Cordillera (by Magical World, flickr), Cycling The Great Divide (by rich drogpa, flickr)

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26 Responses to “The World’s 10 Best Bike Tours?”

  1. You forgot New Zealand , and Tasmania :-)

  2. Friedel says:

    The list is really endless, isn’t it?

  3. richie says:

    ah wonderful collection, thanks so much, i plan to do at least 2, or long-term maybe them all! Cheers, love you guys.

  4. Doug W. says:

    Ack! Friedel, you’ve really done it now.

    I’m working on-site near San Francisco this week and here I got up super early to try and get some extra work in and you’ve completely killed my productivity! How am I supposed to work when it’s clear that I have very important daydreaming to do now, thanks to this list. My editors aren’t going to be pleased. ;)

    Thanks for the inspiration and the reminder as to why we work in the first place.

  5. Peter Jordan says:

    Brilliant!
    They look great.

  6. Chris says:

    We’ve done the Danube cycle route and High Atlas/Anti-Atlas/Agadir to Essouira in Morocco. Found the Danube a tad pedestrian to be honest and not that user-friendly in Hungary, but Morocco was stunning and breathtaking.

    Cheers for putting these together, some great pics and lots of inspiration now that Spring’s on its way.

  7. chris says:

    Switzerland!

  8. richNYC says:

    Thanks for using my photo for the great divide;) But no Northern India, the classic Manali-Leh or Leh-Srinagar routes:(

    • friedel says:

      Rich, thanks for making your photos CC :) As for the routes, well, there are so many…. you can never fit them all in a top 10 list. Maybe for the next one ;)

  9. Im hoping to complete as many of the UK’s National Cycle Routes as possible. Most are between 50 and 500 miles long so perfect for a weekend or so. Rode the Devon coast to coast route this Sunday – 100 miles of traffic free lovliness!

  10. chris says:

    David: Can you recommend some links or maps for the UK cycling routes? I’m seriously thinking of touring there this summer. Thanks.

  11. Brenda in the Boro UK says:

    Did the whole North sea Cycle route in 2006 – it took us 9 weeks and we had a fantastic time. Some of the route wasn’t too well signed – Sweden in particular – we learned to recognise a plain white sign because the blue colour had been leeched out by the sun. Unfortunately, the ferries in Norway have been discontinued so you will have to fly to the Sheltland Islands or I understand you can go up to the faroes and then back to Sheland by ferry. Well orth the trip.
    We are off to cycle the Scottish borders at Easter.

  12. Amaya says:

    Northern Argentina around Cafayate and further north into the Atacama Desert and onto Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia has topped my list of dream cycle destinations for years. Finally the time has come.

  13. francie says:

    Already looking into the Danube region, will definitely have to investigate more now!

  14. We did the Danube route last year – the scenery is pretty but not really dramatic and it’s not exactly off the beaten path, but it’s an enjoyable, fairly easy ride with some awesome cities along the way (Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest were our favourites).

    After talking to an American cyclist recently we’re really intrigued by the Transamerica trail. It sounds awesome. The scenery sounds great and there are many free campsites. Will have to investigate that one for later! Here’s a link: http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/transamerica.cfm

  15. Roy Sinclair says:

    Great wish list and enticing images.I recently cycled Switzerland’s Furka Pass, and the North Island East Cape – nearer to home in NZ.
    But my best bike ride to date would have to be Norway’s magnificent Lofoten Islands.

    Ros Sinclair, author Pedal Power, Great bicycle journeys (Random House NZ)

  16. Jeanne Amos says:

    Croatia, island hopping along the Dalmatia Coast….best bike and boat trip to date. Did the Danube (Germany & Austria) last year which was great, but this was truly remarkable from start to finish. Not for the novice biker…need to be in reasonably good physical condition.

  17. Robert says:

    Not to nit-pick, but some of those are countries or regions. Any way, regarding Japan, I would narrow it down to the island of Hokkaido, it’s kind of the wild west of Japan. Because of all the snow in the winter you’ll find wide, perfectly paved roads through the mountains, countryside and along the sea. All of this and very little traffic. Oh, two more things, they have the best seafood anywhere in the world and hot springs everywhere to relax after a day of riding.

  18. Michel Huard says:

    Best trip I have done so far has been from Vancouver through the mountains to Banff, Jasper, and then north to Inuit, Northwest territories.

  19. Sowmya says:

    The list should include Khardungla ,India. the world’s highest motorable road . The cycling stretch starts at 18,000 ft above sea level. The stretch is only 45 kms but between the mountainous pathways and the lack of oxygen at high altitude, it would give cyclists a run for their money. Breathtaking views all along the way.

  20. Scott says:

    The Pacific Coast route through Oregon is an amazingly beautiful route, but it is also the scariest road I can imagine cycling on. In many sections you have no shoulder with a straight drop to the sea on one side of you, and on the other side you have big RVs whose drivers are riveted to the same view that you are. I have had two acquaintances who have had there trips ended with a stay in the hospital after being hit in the back of the head by an RVs mirror.

  21. Rob says:

    Having ridden both the Pacific Coast of the USA and the Karakoram Highway I must say that two obvious missing rides here are:

    New Zealand – probably the most bang for the buck riding in the world once you get over the cost of getting there.

    Alaska, Yukon and Northern British Columbia. The Serenghetti of the western hemisphere. A place where the rivers run wild and clear, wildlife is abundant and virtually no traffic. Our best day was 13 bears in one day, twice as many bears as passing cars!

    Another great ride is southeastern California, the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. Do this in the autumn and there is no traffic, no rain, great wide open wild country. Almost as great riding as the north end of the continent.

    These are all rides that reward you with the feeling you are alone, and definitely not a bicycle highway like the Pacific Coast. Karakoram is awesome too and definitely deserves to be on the list.

  22. Jim Hainen says:

    YOu forgot Russia. I have done four trips in western Russia and it is a real experience.

  23. france says:

    I have cycled the Eurovelo from France to Budapest this summer of 2014. The Hungary section has some nice new sections. But cyclists should be aware that in too many instances, the path is on very busy roads with heavy traffic, deep potholes, bumps and no shoulders, At times, the cycling path is on sidewalks that are not adapted for bike traffic. One of the worse sections with deep mud pits and ridges is totally unsuitable for regular loaded touring bikes. While my Bike Friday pervormed very well under the circumstances, I stronly disagree that the Hungary route would be safe to all levels of ability.

  24. Robin says:

    Try the Iron Curtain Trail( Eurovelo13)- especially the Iron Gates gorge (Derdap National Park) in Serbia or just Eurovelo 6 (Atlantic to Black Sea or vice-versa).
    Both accessible (by train) without too much cost from anywhere in Europe.

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