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10 Places to Ride Your Bike Before You Die


Life is short and the world is big so here is our list of 10 places you simply have to see from the saddle of your bicycle before your knees get too creaky to turn those pedals.

Is it a complete list? Of course not. But it’s a pretty good start. Let us know when you’ve checked all these off and we’ll suggest 10 more…

Have a ride of your own to suggest? Tell us about it by leaving a comment. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

53-Twisty Serra da Estrela roads.jpg

The Serra da Estrela Mountains in Portugal: I’ll take one serving of a long 10% grade, followed by 20km more of steep uphill, a few tunnels carved from rock and a few rounds of local cheese to power me through all of that please. No one said it was going to be easy but the roads that lead through Portugal’s highest mountain range are simply stunning and – assuming you’re not there in peak tourist season – surprisingly uncrowded. The peak stands at 1,933 meters but arguably the best scenery is a bit lower down, where roads run between steep cliffs and valleys carved out by glaciers. How to see it: We started in Covilhã, then rode the N339 to the peak, then backtracked 20km to the road that leads to São Pedro and Manteigas. (GoogleMap)

Song Kol

Lake Song-Kol in Kyrgyzstan: Put on the fat tires and hit the dirt tracks that lead high into the Kyrgyz mountains. Your reward for a vigourous climb over a pass at 3,600 meters is a gorgeous lake, backed by snowy peaks and surrounded by nomadic families, who come here in the summer to graze their animals in the high pastures. The lake is big enough that you can always find a little piece of heaven for yourself. Just don’t forget enough food and cooking fuel for the whole time you plan to stay. Copies of Russian maps are also handy (available in nearby Kochkor) to help you find the old jeep tracks that lead out of the lake and back to the villages below. How to see it: Most nationalities get a visa on arrival when flying into Bishkek. Then cycle or get a taxi to Kochkor. From there you can cycle the main road to Sarybulak, where you turn off on a relatively decent dirt road that rises to the lake. Leaving by a different route is where you need the Russian maps. We descended to the north and the village of Kyzart. (Bikely Map)

Mekong Breakfast

Along the Mekong in Cambodia: Angkor Wat might be Cambodia‘s most famous attraction but when it comes to really seeing how the local people live, you can’t do any better than by riding your bike along the dirt paths that follow the Mekong River, through a string of small villages that rarely see tourists. What will you see? For a start, there will be more chickens and pigs on the road than cars. Lunch might be some sweet rice and coconut, steamed in bamboo over hot coals (the ultimate energy snack for a hungry cyclist) and the whole way you’ll hear the sounds of enthusiastic kids saying Sua s’dei as you pass. The rainy season brings the added bonus of endless local ferries over bits of flooded road. How to see it: About 40km out of Phnom Penh (direction Skun and Siem Riep), you’ll find the turnoff for the scenic route via Kampong Cham, Chulong and Kratie. Read our route notes for more details.

Cycling Tasmania

The Island of Tasmania in Australia: If touring cyclists go to heaven, they’d go to a place where the roads are smooth, the traffic is light, the views are stunning, the pies are always fresh from the oven and the camping is free. We can only conclude that heaven already exists and it’s on a small island south of Melbourne. Welcome to Tasmania or Tassie as it’s more affectionately known. Come here for the endless views of the sea, the numerous well-thought-out free campsites, the plethora of bakeries serving up tasty treats and the amazing wildlife. You’re sure to see a wombat or two, echidnas and maybe – if you’re lucky – a Tasmanian Devil. How to see it: Get the ferry from Melbourne, stop at a tourist bureau to pick up your complimentary bike touring guide and then go. Just pick a road and ride it. It’s all wonderful.

Eastern Oregon

Eastern Oregon in America: Thought Oregon was all about rainforests and coastal views? Think again. The lonely Route 395 cuts through the heart of Oregon’s desert and cowboy country, offering the itinerant cyclist a place to ride along peacefully and reflect on life, all while soaking in the sheer beauty of natural wonders like the Abert Rim – one of the highest fault scarps in the United States – and enjoying a slice of apple pie in lonely one-horse stops along the road like Wagontire. How to see it: Start in Lakeview, on the border with California, and head north. Pack lots of water. It’s hot and desolate out here.

Dolomite Views

The Dolomites in Italy: It’s hard to play favourites with mountain ranges. They’re all stunning in their own special way but if we had to pick just one, the pink, craggy Dolomites in northern Italy would get our vote. Nowhere else compares just for the sheer choice of 2,000+ meter peaks on offer and how better to fuel your climb than with a scoop of gelato or a shot of espresso from the local cafe? We loved all of our rides here but particularly the stunning Seiser Alm, the largest Alpine meadows in all of Italy. How to see it: If you’re feeling flush, base yourself in the posh resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo (camping is an option for those on a budget) and spend every day exploring a new road to the mountains all around. Further west, Bolzano also makes a fine base for climbing the peaks and is right on the magnificent Via Claudia bike path that leads south to Trento.

Esfahan Mosque

Shiraz to Yazd in Iran: Want to feel like a cycling celebrity? Go to Iran. Yes, Iran. This is not the axis of evil but rather a country where passing tourists are regularly hauled into local homes to drink endless cups of tea, then stuffed to the gills with home-cooked delights, put to bed on fine carpets and sent off the next day with panniers filled to bursting with bread and sweets. Friendlier people? You can’t find them anywhere else in the world. Then there are the endless archaeological sites. They’re as glorious as anything you’d see in Rome, only mostly devoid of other tourists because so few people come to Iran these days. Don’t forget the scenery – a mix of mountains and deserts – and some of the world’s most gorgeous architecture. For beauty and tranquility, the tiled mosques of Iran, particularly in Esfahan, are unmatched. How to see it: Start the visa process early and plan to go in the early spring or late autumn, when temperatures are the most tolerable. Even winter cycling is popular in the southern region. Read our Shiraz to Yazd route notes for more details.

Chegaga

Zagora to Tafraoute in Morocco: Take sand dunes towering 300 meters above your head, then mix them with a lush oasis where women wander through the palm trees singing while they work, some challenging climbs and miles of flowering almond trees and you have an idea of what this patch of southern Morocco has to offer. There’s also accommodation for every taste – from wild camping galore to campsites and hotels along the way. Don’t rush this trip. A week is good for the cycling but you’ll also want at least 3-4 days to explore the desert around Zagora (book a guide to take you on a trek) and the magnificent Valley du Draa is nearby too. With 3 weeks you could see it all. How to see it: Come around February when the almond trees are in full bloom and bring your climbing legs for the stretch from Tata to Tafraoute. Read our route notes on Zagora to Tafraoute for more details and check out Caravane Desert et Montagne if you need a desert guide.

Molesworth Road

The Molesworth Road in New Zealand: There’s a lot to choose from in New Zealand where cycling is concerned but if we had to pick just one ride to do again, it would be the Molesworth Road. Don’t kid yourself. This is no easy ride. You’ll have at least 3 days on dirt roads, without any shops, but there are cold streams to wash up in, thoughtfully placed campsites at each end of the road and plenty of views over the rugged and isolated farmland to make your heart sing. Prepare yourself for the road ahead, or celebrate your success, by soaking in the hot springs of Hanmer at the road’s southern tip. How to see it: Come between the end of December and the start of April, the only time of the year when the road is open to the public, and bring your camping gear. Read our route notes on the Molesworth Road for more details.

Turkish Turtle

The Interior of Turkey: Here’s the thing about Turkey. It’s crowded and busy on the coast. Istanbul, while being a fantastic city, is a cyclist’s nightmare. But get yourself and your bike on a bus or a ferry to the Turkey’s inland attractions and you’ll find some two-wheeled adventures that are pretty hard to beat. How about almost deserted archaeological sites (unlike the ones deluged by cruise ships on the coast)? Or tranquil villages where the most excitement is around the fresh bread coming out of the baker’s oven? Or the amusement you find in the turtles that seem to be eternally crossing the road. How to see it: We suggest taking the ferry from Istanbul to Bandirma, then cycling to Bergama, around Izmir and then via any number of inland roads to Antalya.

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31 Responses to “10 Places to Ride Your Bike Before You Die”

  1. It’s kind of a cliché to start with but Salt Lakes are great and just have to mentioned here because they are the only places where you can cycle with your eyes closed for at least ten minutes.

    http://www.old.osmosno.com/HOME.html

  2. Paso San Francisco from Chile to Argentina. Great emptyness

    http://www.old.osmosno.com/A_LIFE_ON_THE_ROAD.html#5

  3. paul says:

    Wakkani to Abashiri, on to Asahikawa then to Furano over the mountains to Sapporo for a short ride in Hokkaido,before hitting the island (mainland) of Honshu.

  4. From Sarajevo to Mostar and on to Sutjeska National Park in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dirt and single tracks galore. Stunning scenery, isolated villages and warm hospitality will make Bosnia a place to ride before you die.

  5. arie says:

    Hwy 163 southern Utah and Goosneck.

    Great site with real content.

  6. Amaya says:

    How about Sani Pass linking Lesotho with South Africa? Corkscrew turns, steep grades, stunning views and rugged unpaved roads make for real adventure.

  7. Mark H says:

    To finish off, maybe the ride should be the downhill track on the World’s Most Dangerous Road outside La Paz. I’ve reviewed it at http://www.travel-wonders.com/2008/05/cycling-death-road-la-paz-bolivia.html but there are photos and stories all over the web.

  8. Fin says:

    Ooooh.. 2 down, 8 to go. Serra de Estrela and the Italian Dolomites were wonderful. If anybody is cycling through the south-east of Tasmania, contact me and I will tell my Dad to feed you and give you a warm bed. Great site guys…

  9. Congratulations !!! Your site is very good, and you are happy because you know a lot of this world, that´s it we have to know the world , before
    we die. Unhappilly the most of the persons don´t know even the nature wonders that they can see every day. You should ride in Brazil, especially in the northeastern shore, some of the most beautiful beachs of the world are there.

  10. yuen says:

    Quebrada de Humahuaca in Argentina! Very little traffic but smooth roads, and STUNNING scenery. When you reach your goal at the top, you´ll want to cruise down and do it all over again!

  11. Thomas Nylen says:

    Wish I read your post before I went to Portugal. Was planning on riding up in the Serra da Estrela Mountains before leaving the US but decided to head a little north to the Rio Duoro when we were on the road. The ride north was great as well. Cannot complain. Oh well, can always ride up in the Serra da Estrela Mountains next time I am in Portugal.

  12. Burton says:

    No need to leave the continent if you’re already in North America. The Blue Ridge Parkway in the USA and the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada have to be some of the absolute best bicycling rides in the world.

    General info on the Blue Ridge parkway can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Ridge_Parkway
    However – the info is pretty impersonal. What can you say about a route thats CLOSED to commercial vehicles, has a speed limit of 45 mph, 120 waterfalls hidden along its 750km length, has lookouts every few kilometers, has trails that literally pass through tunnels of rhododendron in the spring time, and is high enough that the bugs that are a problem at lower altitudes are less of a challenge and a even less when there’s a breeze?? Its not just a great trip – its a great way to spend THE WHOLE SUMMER!!

    And the Cabot Trail isn’t always shrouded in fog. The best time to do it is actually early September when tourist season is over, the bugs are fewer, the weather is cooler the kids are back in school, and vacancies are higher with off-season prices. Nice? I’ve done it five times. Winds are pretty constant and if you pick the right direction for your trip – you’ll have a continuous tailwind to make things easier.

    • I’ve don the Cabot Trail about 25 times. I have had spots of fog on about half the runs. Tourist season continues until the changing leaves season is done in October. It does decrease a bit after Labour Day weekend in September.

      The bugs are down but it is the start of hurricane season and the tail end of systems can reach up to Cape Breton and send heavy rains.

      I have never had tailwinds the whole way on a circular route.. People like both directions. Clockwise may have a small advantage wind-wise but you miss the challenge of Smokey Mountain that direction

      Hundreds of Cabot Trail photos are at http://www.atlanticcanadacycling.com/photo-albums/cabot-trail-bicycle-tour-album/

  13. Thomas Nylen says:

    FYI, A good site for finding great routes is at http://www.bikemap.net/. I planned a lot of my recent trip in Spain and Portugal using this site. I picked both routes entered by others (presumably mostly locals) and added other parts of my route by using the site’s easy mapping tool. If you have favorite routes, please enter them on this site or others, and leave a few comments describing your incredible ride (and any other interesting tidbits).

  14. george baumgardner says:

    The 70 mile paved bike trail from Plummer Idaho to Mullen is something very special, easy rail-grade, riparian environment rich with bird life and zero cars.

  15. Janka says:

    A very nice list, but…
    You haven’t been to Norway, have you? :)

    • sz says:

      Hi Janka, are you the same Janka who hosted the goingslowly guys in Warsaw last summer? If so, where can we read your story? ;)

      • Janka says:

        Hello… sz :)
        Yes, I’m the same Janka, and how did you recognize me? Do you know Tara and Tyler? So nice guys!
        Well, I don’t have any travel blog or a website… But if you want, you can see some of my photos from Norway in my facebook albums here:
        http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.148938281795632.23875.100000383846237&l=ab41acb167
        and here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.149074158448711.23915.100000383846237&l=81d3352c03
        Norway is really a dream place to ride a bike. I would and I will recommend it to everyone :)

      • sz says:

        Well, I don’t know them unfortunately, but I followed their journals, read the post about visiting you, that you were heading to Norway for your first ever solo bicycle tour for a couple of weeks, then spent some time googling in the hope that I can find photos or writings about your trip, found nothing, but the combination of the words “Janka” and “Norway” apparently stuck somewhere in my brain, and now just popped up as I saw your post here ;)

        Thanks for sharing your pictures, I really enjoyed clicking through them. An own island, that’s so cool ;) I’d also like to ride Trollstigen, both upwards and (even more so ;) downwards. Oh, and love the steel mug dangling from the back pannier ;)

      • Janka says:

        Really? I didn’t know I was famous thanks to Tara and Tyler! :) I’m happy you liked the photos. And I’m sure you’d love Norway, as its landscapes seen with your own eyes are just breathtaking.
        Haha, my steel mug was always there:) And usually full of rain water…

    • Wow, your Norway photos are very inspiring! What time of the year did you cycle there?

  16. Blake says:

    I’ve actually had Turkey on my bucket list for a while. I visited Istanbul and Izmir several months ago, and was lucky to get out of the city for a while. My first thought outside of Izmir was that I would love to do this on a bike someday..

  17. Colombia, South America – Cartegena to Ecuador border. Stunning riding with friendly and helpful people. Hotels are cheap, food is good and coffee is off the scale. Colombians treat cycling as a national sport and love cycle travelers. Safety is not that much of a concern anymore. We felt safer there than in some parts of Central America. Climbs are stellar, descents are ecstasy.

  18. Samoa’s Savai’i island is a fantastic place to cycle tour – especially for families.

    We spent about 8 days enjoying the scenery, beaches, friendly people, safe roads, great weather, sleeping in fales (basic huts) on the water’s edge, the food, and the complete disconnection from the stress of western living!

    See our photos here:
    https://picasaweb.google.com/bevanw1/SamoaJuly2011

  19. Christophe Lamour says:

    Hi I really enjoy reading about your different trips, on the sixth of may this I cycled lands end to john o’groats via Wales on my arrival at jog I continued through the Orkney island and up to the Shetland island making my way to Skaw the most northerly point in the UK retracing my steps back to scrabster in north west Scotland i followed the north coast to Ullapool where I caught another ferry to the outer hebredies rejoining the mainland via the isle of Skye I continued to fort William Oban and made my way back to where I left land’s end having cycled 4012 kilometres I would urge any body who wants to see and experience a fantastic trip to not hesitate I did the whole tour in 64 days
    Cheers Christophe

  20. peter says:

    Crossing Tibet, from Kashgar to Zhongdian. The western half (I took the southern route, passing Mt. Kailash) is harder because of remoteness and very bad roads. But for me it was the best part I cycled in the world.

  21. niner air9 says:

    Come on get serious. Now who besides me can afford to go to any of these exotic places to ride their bike? Maybe you should have titled this – 10 places to DREAM about to ride your bike before you die.

  22. Simon says:

    Surprised at no mention of the Himalayas. Both the Leh to Manali highway and the Annapurna circuit are awesome. The most stunning scenery in the world and extreme altitude. Should be on every cyclists bucket list.

  23. teobesta says:

    i hadn’t considered tasmania
    and was just wondering if new zealand should be my next destination (i’ve only cycled malaysia and sri lanka (twice) so far)
    so now
    after reading your list
    i feel like i’m back to square one
    but happy to be directed the way i’d have wished
    thanks

  24. I’m looking towards Patagonia myself
    Has anyone been cycling down there
    The Andes stretch 5,000 miles
    There are desert high plateaus and the last bastion of glacier
    Seems a worthy addition

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