Bike travel is an environmentally friendly way to see the world, and a good way of maintaining your physical fitness while on the road. It’s also a nice option for really getting the feel of a country, as you can stop wherever and whenever you’d like, interact with locals in small towns you might not stop in otherwise and explore sights that interest you at a whim.
The following are five particularly good countries for bike travel, chosen for their cycling-friendly cities and policies, and landscapes that are ideal for biking.
Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, has 390 kilometers of biking lanes, and has been praised as one of the best cycling cities in the world. There are 12,000 sign-marked bicycle trails throughout the country, and plenty of comfortable guest houses to stay along the way, as well as 1,000 camp sites specifically for bikers, hikers and horseback riders, according to the cycling blog TravellingTwo.com. The Danish government provides plenty of information for cycling tourists and you can map out your route in advance online using resources from the Danish Cycling Federation.
The North Jutland area is ideal for travelers who are reasonably fit, but not seeking a hardcore cycling adventure. The area is not mountainous, so it’s easy going on a bike, with lots of great places to stop for a bite of fresh lobster or a good beer from a local microbrewery, according to Cyclistic, a Danish site dedicated to cycling routes. You can visit the ruins of the Vitskøl Kloster monastery, the Viking fortress of Fyrkat and the Viking burial site Lindholm Høje (the largest in Scandinavia).
Take a ride around the island of Fyn to experience both forest exploration and seaside fun. There are more than 100 castles and manor houses on the island, according to Cyclistic, and “the cultural landscape itself could have been taken unchanged from one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales.” Here you’ll find medieval villages, and a chance to ditch your bike for a few hours and go sailing on a wooden ship.
Like Denmark, The Netherlands has many bikeways throughout the country that are well marked with signs and guideposts. The site Cycling in the Netherlands notes that there are 30,000 kilometers of marked bike trails throughout the country, and can lead you through every province and across the border into Germany or Belgium.
Like Denmark’s capital, Amsterdam is known worldwide for being a bike-friendly urban area. There are plenty of great biking tour trails to explore the city and its surrounding areas, including the Windmill Route, along which you will see some of the country’s 1,200 windmills, according to IAmAmsterdam.com. They also recommend the Architecture Route, which will lead you to some of the innovative, elegant and interesting design concepts that have been tried in the city.
The Rondje Utrecht will take you through Utrecht province, where you can visit the Gothic remains of the Domkerk van Utrecht, or Cathedral of Utrecht, and the St. Willard neo-Gothic church, a national monument. USA Today recommends the 20-mile journey through Holland’s tulip fields, to take in the colors and beauty of the nation’s famed flowers.
The Noord Brabant region is another place you’ll want to visit, especially if you’re an art lover, as it is the birthplace of Vincent van Gogh. There are numerous locations you can bike to in Brabant where you can see where van Gogh studied as a young man, as well as the village of Nuenen, where he created his masterpiece The Potato Eaters. The website Routes in Brabant helps you map out a cycling or mountain biking route based on which sights you want to hit on your journey.
The United States
Given the size of the country, it’s no surprise that there are numerous places that are perfect for touring by bike. USA Today recommends Colorado’s Boulder Creek Path, as a ride along this route will show you the multi-faceted nature of the city and its inhabitants, from the bustling downtown scene to hilly terrain. From there, you can easily head on to the Peak to Peak Highway for some great biking surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, a trip recommended by Huffington Post.
A bike tour of Washington’s San Juan Islands allows you to feast your eyes on the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. You can go it alone or join an organized tour and bike through forests and along coastline, join a wildlife cruise and do some whale watching, and bike up Mount Constitution, according to Backroads Tours.
Vermont is a choice destination for mountain biking enthusiasts. Bicycling Magazine notes the appeal of Millstone Hill, where you can bike through old granite quarries, and the adrenaline-raising Burning Spear trail, a “rollicking, speedy rollercoaster that flies around bermed corners, squeezes between rocky bulges, and sometimes conceals your next challenge until you’re on top of it.”
Many travelers in Southeast Asia opt to rent a motorbike, which is incredibly cheap and easy to do in this part of the world. In Thailand, for example, you can rent a motorbike for about $5 per day, though you’ll often need to leave your passport with the rental company as collateral.
The Mae Hong Son loop through northwestern Thailand near the Burmese border is a particularly popular motor biking route, largely for the views of a spectacular countryside. But it’s also a great way to get a sense of the local lifestyle in the small villages along the way, as you’ll see farmers working the fields and traditional ways of preparing Thai dishes.
The drive between Chiang Mai and Pai is another popular bike trip. This one is a bit demanding, as there are 762 curves on the mountainous road to Pai, but once you arrive, you can relax while tubing down the quiet Pai River or chill out near a waterfall in this hippie-backpacker haven.
You can also rent a regular push bike for about $2 a day, which makes it a nice way of seeing cities like Chiang Mai, where there are many interesting shops, galleries and old temples to visit.
Whether you opt for a push bike or a motorbike in Thailand, remember to wear a helmet and to exercise caution. Traffic patterns and driving habits here can be intimidating at best and terrifying at worst, so don’t be overconfident and take it slow when taking on the mountains.
Chile & Argentina
You’ll want to really prepare yourself physically for a cycling trip in this part of the world, as the terrain is spectacular, but can be quite tough. Red Spokes, a cycling tour company, describes the Patagonian Lakes Region, where the Andes cross the border of Chile and Argentina, as being home to icy fjords, emerald lakes, waterfalls and smoldering volcanoes. The Lakes & Volcanoes district is a particularly popular area for touring by bike, including the Seven Lakes Route once traveled by Che Guevara. You can also do a multi-transportation tour through Patagonia that combines cycling, hiking and driving through the region, and you can visit the famous Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.
Those who are keen to see the natural wonders of Chile and Argentina, but are also looking for something a little less hardcore and more indulgent, might be interested in a bike tour of the countries’ wineries. REI Adventures offers a border-crossing Wine Roads of the Andes Cycling Tour that takes guests from Buenos Aires to Santiago, stopping to sample fine wines and excellent food all along the way.
Whichever way you decide to see the region, you’ll be able to find natural hot springs, thanks to the many volcanoes in the area, to soak your sore muscles before resuming your journey.
If you’re a regular cyclist and have a hankering to travel, combining those two interests is a perfect way to see the world. Biking allows you to get up close and really connect with a country in a way that you miss out on when traveling via bus or train. A bike trip does require careful planning, as you’ll need to know where you will have a place to stop and spend the night, if there are areas that are dangerous to travel by bike or foot, and you’ll have to account for long stretches without convenience shops or restaurants. But if you’re keen to take a bike trip, navigating these challenges is part of the fun and make the journey that much more personal and rewarding.
- Travelling Two Blog
- Cycling the World: Holland
- Routs in Brabant
- Van Gogh Brabant
- I AM Amsterdam
- USA Today
- USA Today
- Huffington Post
- Hike Bike Travel
- Bicycling Magazine
- Great Freedom Adventures
- Southeast Asia Backpacker
- Red Spokes
- REI Adventures
- Ecotours Chile
- Paseos en Bicicletas