Ready to let go of the brakes and take a break? Want to let off some steam and burn some rubber? Saddle-up, pack your biking gear, and head for one of these cycling routes around the world.
Lofoten Islands, Nordland, Norway
Peaceful fishing villages with typical Norwegian boathouses on stilts, over chilly waters, against dramatic mountain backdrops – the Vestfjord Route across the Lofoten Islands is a picture-perfect breath of fresh (salty) air.
Appreciate the silence of your two wheels and the relative loneliness when cruising along the unspoiled coastline, sprinkled with rustic hamlets and long wooden rods strung with drying fish. For the complete Northern Scandinavian experience, schedule your trip accordingly to soak in the Midnight Sun during the summer months.
Best months: May – July
The Death Road, Yungas, Bolivia
Stare death in the face along the befittingly nicknamed “Camino de la Muerte” (Death Road), considered one of the world’s most dangerous cycle routes. The guides at Gravity Bolivia have developed a safe and successful Death Road bike tour.
Pedal through thick clouds of mist and dust, from La Cumbre summit through Amazonian rainforest backdrops, behind cascades, and only a few metres away from hair-raising drops. Likely encounters include llamas, trucks that force you dangerously to the outskirts of the road, and dare-devil cyclists taking risky selfies – but keep your eyes on the road!
Best months: April – November
Difficulty: Moderate, as long as you’re fearless!
Van Gogh – Roosegaarde Cycle Path, Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Whether you’re already cycling along the Van Gogh cycling route or looking for an activity while visiting Eindhoven, the Van Gogh – Roosegaarde bike path is a sweet stroll for the daydreamer in all of us.
The short 600-metre bike path, situated between the Opwettense Watermill in Nuenen and the Collse Watermill in Eindhoven, both portrayed in works by Vincent Van Gogh, is an open air museum to places that inspired and inhabited the artist. At night, the path under your wheels lights up to become a masterpiece– solar-powered pebbles shine brightly in a swirling form of techno-poetry that imitates Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
Best months: All-year-round
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Get elevated in Whistler at around 2,000 metres, where the two mountains offer hundreds of bike trails and a downhill bike park. While speeding down the mountain, take a break and check out the spectacular views of thick forest, Lost Lake, and Whistler Valley.
Best months: May – October
Difficulty: Easy – Difficult
Rim Trail, Grand Canyon, AZ, USA
The Grand Canyon needs no introduction; explore the area in a new light by riding at dawn to see the colourful canyon change from pink, to yellow, to orange throughout the day. A simple path accessible by foot or bike, enjoy incredible view points along the 20 kilometre Rim Trail. When scheduling your bike trip, watch out for lightning storms in summer, and slippery ice in winter.
At Hopi Point, the northernmost part of the trail, endless unobstructed views will make for a colourful panoramic sunset.
Best months: All-year-round
Carretera Austral, Route 7, Chilé
Riding through northern Chilean Patagonia, the Carretera Austral that leaves from Puerto Montt offers a scenic route nothing short of spectacular, but be warned that the road is anything but – with washboard texture and scattered potholes. Stretch your legs at the General Carrera Lake National Reserve where the Andes seem to crash into the azure lake that flows over the Argentinian border.
Best months: January – March
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
Shimanami Kaido expressway, Honshu Island to Shikoku Island, Japan
Ride across the Seto Inland Sea, crossing six islands, passing by fishing villages and abundant Hassaku citrus trees, connected by epic suspension bridges along the Shimanami Kaido (toll road expressway).
Even if you don’t read Japanese, careful indications mark the path to follow from Imabari to Onomichi for a simple one-day bike ride. “Off-road” cycle routes might entice your adventurous spirit to discover one of the smaller islands to feast on fresh seafood and spend a night in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).
Best months: July – September
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Route des Grandes Alpes, French Alps, France
From the shores of Lac Léman to the sandy beaches of the Côte d’Azur, postcard worthy landscapes of snowy peaks, alpine valleys, and seaside charm punctuate the 684 kilometres of the Route des Grandes Alpes.
The epicurean cyclist can indulge in Savoie cheeses like Reblochon or Beaufort produced in the Alpine heights and rehydrate with local wines, while others may prefer saving their energy to conquer the steep Col de l’Izoard. On a full belly or not, the ever-winding roads are the same feat for everyone!
Best months: June – October
Putney to Weybridge, Greater London, UK
If you happen to be staying in Greater London, escape the smog and take the great ride out west along the Thames and River Wey. The city centre’s double-decker is replaced by the ferry at Hampton, the buildings replaced by wooded glades, and the bustling network of city avenues replaced by the Hampton Court Palace maze.
Give the cycle routes a rest, chain up the bike, and enjoy fresh oysters while relaxing in a lounge chair overlooking the Thames at The Anglers pub in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.
Best months: May – August
The Pamir Highway, Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan/Afghanistan/China
In the shadows of ‘the roof of the world’ – the local name for the Pamir Mountains bordering Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and China – feel invincible cycling in the footsteps of ancient traders on the tricky Pamir Highway, aka M-41.
As your journey starts, leave the modern comfort of Tajikistan capital Dushanbe, follow the flow of the Panj River that borders Afghanistan, and try to spot Marco Polo sheep in the vast Wakhan Corridor, before arriving in Kyrgyz city of Osh. The seemingly endless road continues, revealing rolling green hills dotted with white yurts contrasting the orange-hued shores of the Issyk Kul Lake.
Best months: May – October
Camino de Santiago, Galicia, Spain
Embark on your pilgrimage as a ‘bicigrino’ (pilgrim on wheels) along the French Way, one of several popular cycle routes of the Camino de Santiago. Strap a hollow gourd to your pack and acquire a shell, symbols of the pilgrimage, and make your way from Pamplona, known for its yearly Running of the Bulls, to the city of Santiago de Compostela.
Leave your worries behind at the famous pilgrimage sculpture at Alto del Perdon (Hill of Forgiveness) and ride on through olive groves and vineyards. As per tradition, leave a stone at the steep Cruz de Ferro cross, lightening your spirit to continue across the verdant Galician Mountains. After cycling through farmlands and forest tracks, you’ll appreciate a break and bite of local flavour with a Galician meal (octopus and potatoes) in O Cebreiro. At Monte de Gozo (Mount of joy), see the peaks of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral for the first time – you’ve made it!
Best months: May – June
Otago Central Rail Trail, South Island, New Zealand
In South Island, New Zealand, summer paints the landscape in golden hues, spring sees splashes of wild purple thyme, and autumn and winter bring reddish trees and log fires against blue skies and snow-capped mountains. A historically vital gold-mining artery, the Otago train rail-cum-cycle-route is a biker’s playground rolling through tunnels and over viaducts, opening upon vast terrains and river gorges like the Roxburgh Gorge.
Grab a drink at Chatto Creek Tavern – rest in their hammocks or send your (pre-stamped) postcards at the smallest operating post office in New Zealand. Resume the trail with a belly full of West Coast Whitebait (fish patties) and a heart full of southern hospitality.
Best months: November – March
Let the charm of Northern India seduce you as you explore the secrets of Rajasthan by bike. Compose your cycle routes from Jodhpur to Udaipur based on your desire to see grandiose palaces or rustic villages.
A visit to the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, dominating 120 metres over the blue-painted streets of Jodhpur, is a prequel to the beauty you’ll encounter along your ride – the Rabaris women emerging from the Jojawar countryside, the intricate details etched on the Ranakpur Temples, the luxurious Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur.
Best months: October – March
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
Colorado Trail, CO, USA
From Waterton Canyon to Durango, get ready for a trail that dips and peaks in altitude through lush country landscapes. Don’t miss the deep-green Elk Creek beaver ponds in the foreground of the vertigo inducing Vestal Peak. Consider re-stocking in the quaint town of Leadville or relaxing at Chalk Creek hot springs.
Make sure to grab a trail map and note the sometimes consequent detours to avoid the six Wilderness Areas, prohibited to bikes.
Best months: July – August