For the best way to experience the sights, sounds and scents of a new destination, a bicycle expedition is the way to go
Some of the best ways to explore a new city or countryside is by bicycle. The two-wheeled travel companion of over 120 years is becoming a major mode of transportation in many urban communities so tourists can opt for the convenience of traveling by bike. From the most bike-friendly cities to the most scenic routes, here’s a roundup of must-do bicycle tours for a ‘wheely’ good time.
Stats show that Groningen is “the world’s most bike-friendly city”, and there’s no better place to experience authentic bike culture than navigating the land where 61% of trips are made on bike. The city’s infrastructure favours cyclists, from rain sensors to heated cycle paths, to ensure smooth and safe journeys. The northerly coordinates of Groningen also earned it the famous slogan ‘er gaat niets boven Groningen’, or ‘nothing surpasses Groningen’, which also applies as a reference to Groningen as the most beautiful province in Netherlands. Hold those handlebars tight when you take in the vast fields of the centuries-old countryside, striking panoramic views, historic farms and picturesque places like the terp village and stunning waterworld of colourful houses.
With its famous lavender fields and sunny disposition, this charming south-eastern region of France has inspired scores of writers, painters and travellers alike about the beauty of Provence. It also ranks high as one of the must-do bike tours in the world. September is the best time to experience Provence and its many colours of gold-tinted hillsides, vineyards and sunsets. Be sure your cycling route takes you to the hill town of Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, famous for it postcard-perfect lavender fields. For heart-stopping scenery, ride the path of the Gorge de la Nesque that starts from the charming hill town of Venasque. If you’re a seasoned cyclist up for a challenge, don’t leave without conquering the fabled Mont Ventoux, widely known as the mighty 'Giant of Provence'.
Crete Senesi, Tuscany
In the South of Siena is Crete Senesi, or Siennese Clays, famous for its characteristic scenery of hills, woods and a semi-desert vividly contrasting with the green Tuscan landscape. Besides breathtaking views, picturesque villages such as the historic Asciano and its churches and museums, Monte Oliveto Maggiore Abbey and its tall cypresses, are a feast for the eyes. To unwind, stop by the quaint village of Rapolano Terme that’s famous for its spa waters. For more visual indulgences, cruise through Buonconvento, one of the most beautiful Italian towns where a historical village still preserves its fourteenth century walls, a medieval village and a road paved with ancient arches tunnel.
Sun Moon Lake, Yuchi Township, Taiwan
Dubbed as one of the world’s “10 Breathtaking Cycling Routes” by CNN News, this bike ride around Taiwan’s largest alpine lake is one to consider for any cycling expedition. The route guides you around the lake of glittering turquoise waters buoyed with colourful fishing boats, onto a trail of nature and tradition; a jumble of primeval architecture, small sand beaches, the beautiful Longfeng Temple, street food vendors and even kayaks for rent. This 29-kilometer circuit is a combination of easy to challenging levels, and you can create other paths heading to Xiangshan or further on around the lake.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
With its mix of tropical and mystical charm, the bike tour through the ancient Khmer Kingdom exploring the legendary Angkor Archaeological Park is one that will stay imbued in your memory for a long time. The must-visit temples include Bayon, Banteay Srei and Angkor Wat, home to the finest Angkorian art and architecture. Not to be missed is the countryside views around the Kulen Mountain, which was the Khmer empire’s 9th century capital. You’ll find yourself riding through traditional wood villages, stretches of paddy fields, and rural back-roads of lush jungle terrain.
Berlin Wall, Germany
If you love a combination of history, art and cycling, the Berlin Wall trail is a great way to retrace the steps of Germany’s dramatic past. Traces of Cold War tensions are felt at a glance of memorial sites and remaining watchtowers along the old border of the city. This largely traffic-free trail of mostly flat, asphalt lanes make for a leisurely ride, and easily undertaken by riders of all levels. The Berlin Wall features an East Side Gallery, remainder fragments of the wall and Checkpoint Charlie as just some key attractions of this 160-kilometer journey that encourages tourists to hop-on and hop-off for photo opportunities.
Isle of Wight, England
Known as the bicycle island of England, the Isle of Wight offers 500 miles of cycle trails year-round, from day tours to leisurely expeditions. Cyclists will be appreciative of the added services like cycle ways, bike-accommodating buses, and baggage transfers to ease your cycling holiday. Isle of Wight is also known for the local produce of fine food, and the best way to savour these delicacies are on a taste tour by bike. Enjoy the 66-mile route of natural beauty, and keep an eye out for ‘taste locations’-marked pit stops offering ‘biker only’ specials. Indulge in fine wine, sumptuous meals and afternoon teas that you can easily burn off as you cycle to your next destination.
San Juan Islands, Washington, USA
No bike holiday list is complete without a mention of San Juan Islands. This route features diverse scenery with a backdrop of the glinting ocean, conifer forests, farms and harbours along the way. Breeze past the charming coastal community of La Conner, go on an island-hop ferry headed towards Orcas Island and hike up the highest point in San Juan’s, enclosed in the Moran State Park, where you will be rewarded with a landscape of islands, the snow-capped Mount Baker and the Olympic Peninsula. Finally, go for a laidback ride through the cyclist paradise of Lopez Island and bask in the endless splendour of farms, pastures and greenery.