There are few better ways to experience the scenery, geography, history, culture, and food of a region than by bicycle. Travel cycling is a fantastic way to get up close and personal with foreign terrain and unleash your inner adventurer on the humble two-wheeled machine, aiming at various cycling destinations around the world.
There are thousands of trails around the world that offer all types of exciting landscapes and environments to explore by bicycle. But which are the best ones?
Well, that’s mostly a matter of opinion, but we’ve rounded up nine of the most highly rated destinations from across the globe that cyclists love for different reasons. From the arid desertscapes of Mexico to the frosted peaks of Norway, there’s a travel trail out there for every cycling enthusiast.
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1. Vancouver, Canada
The North Shore side of Canada has become one of the world’s most legendary places to go mountain biking. Just a brief ride outside the city center, you can cycle steep yet stunning trails that weave through ancient red cedars and rocky mountains.
Vancouver is a great place to explore by bicycle—if you have some experience in the saddle. The trails in this region tend to be on the rough side, which can leave you feeling exhilarated if you’re not too far outside your comfort zone.
Mt Seymour and Mt Fromme are globally renowned for their thrilling, albeit difficult trails. But fortunately for those with less cycling experience, Canada is bursting with beautiful cross-country trails that could suit anyone up to a mild challenge.
2. Stavanger, Norway
Ever wanted to roam the fjords? Stavanger, Norway is a fantastic place to start your bike tour. Its frigid, cascading waterfalls and wild forests will leave you feeling humbled by the sheer scale and magnitude of nature, which makes for stimulating, memorable cycling.
Norway’s windswept, jagged mountains are not ideal for beginner travel cyclists, as both the steepness and often extreme weather conditions can be a major challenge.
Take a ferry to Lysebotn’s 9km elevation switchback climb, or take a 120km trip through the fjords and back into the city. An added bonus to this destination is that Norwegians are known as some of the friendliest people in the world, so you’re likely to make some friends along the way.
3. Chihuahua, Mexico
Feeling up to a real travel adventure in the true wild west? Mexico is calling you. Even though this beautifully arid landscape is mostly filled with cowboys on horseback, there is a steadily growing community of cyclists from around the world—and it’s easy to see why.
With rugged mountains and impressive long-rise climbs (some up to 2000m elevation), the desert of Mexico presents a cycling challenge like no other.
Amongst the dust, scrubby pines, and dense heat, Chihuahua will put your cycling skills to the test. But if you’re looking for something less intense, you can also pay a visit to the spectacular Copper Canyon, which is bigger and deeper than America’s Grand Canyon!
4. Siena, Italy
When most people think of Siena, they think of the Strade Bianche, a seasonal cycling race that takes place in the region’s green, hilly landscapes. If watching previous races in this naturally gorgeous area has drawn you to explore it yourself, you’re on the right track.
Featuring gritty, white gravel trails and curvaceous mountain passes, Siena is home to one of the most scenic travel cycling routes in the world. Just make sure you take a MTB with wide tires so that you can maintain a strong and stable connection with the ground throughout your trip.
Think: vivid green cypress forests, sunbaked grape vineyards, and fragrant olive groves from start to finish. The trails may be tough, but you’ll never grow tired of the views.
5. Tea Trail, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s 90-mile Tea Trail was opened recently as a source of physical reprieve for locals during pandemic lockdowns. However, the trail is so beautiful and challenging that people from all over the world are heading there to try it themselves.
Apart from a particularly rough section called the Devil’s Staircase, the Tea Trail is low in elevation. It traverses over 24 tea estates, nearly 100 villages, and constant wild, natural scenery. This is a great trail for cyclists who want to immerse themselves in the world of Sri Lankan culture.
6. Yorkshire, England
Even though the UK is only recently becoming known for being a cycling destination, people like Lizzie Deignan and Bradley Wiggins are quickly changing its course. In Yorkshire, you’ll find everything from peaceful country lanes to the formidably steep Dales to challenge your cycling game.
At a distance, the Dales in this region look deceptively innocent. But up close, you’ll find their relentless steepness something well worth attempting.
Yorkshire was home to the spa town of Harrogate, which was the destination for the 2019 UCI World Championships. Stopping in this iconic road biking town is doubly worth visiting for those interested in the history of the Road World Championships.
7. Girona, Spain
You can’t discuss the best places to travel for a cycling adventure without mentioning Girona. Gorgeous year-round weather and in the heart of the Mediterranean Coast, there are plenty of reasons why Girona is home to so many of the world’s most avid cyclists.
In terms of adventuring, you’ve got impressive mountain trails such as those belonging to Rocacorba and Els Angels, both of which are known for their stimulating, beautiful rides.
There are also loads of local trails to explore which can take you anywhere from the 51km Volcà de la Crosa loop to the quiet, colorful roads of the Catalan city. A great travel destination for any passionate cyclist who wants to experience both culture and a physical challenge.
8. South Luangwa, Zambia
Zambia is mostly known for its walkthrough safari tours and wild hiking trails, but it’s also becoming known as a great place to explore by bicycle. The series of treks pertaining to various degrees of difficulty are best tackled in groups, but there are plenty of milder trails safe to explore on your own.
In the wild landscapes of South Luangwa, you can expect to see open grasslands, ebony groves, and ancient riverbeds. If you’re lucky, you might even get to witness a traditional dance performance by the Seka group at one of the local camps.
9. Bhutan, Himalayas
The Trans-Bhutan trail in the Himalayas is a pilgrimage of note. Running 250 miles long through the Buddhist Kingdom, this trail is designed to reach “ubertrek” status—the Camino of the Himalayas.
With over 10,000 stairs, 18 bridges, and bounding valleys, this trail connects remote districts like Bumthang with the better-known region of Paro for an adventure unlike any other. You can also choose the length and difficulty level that suits your capabilities, and a bicycle suitable for tackling the challenge. A MTB with wide tires is essential, and you’ll need a bike rack to carry extra kit, food, and water.
It takes roughly a month for experienced travel cyclists to complete the full trail, but it’s well worth the long haul. You might even catch a glimpse of “the King”, who’s one of the most enthusiastic cyclists in the region!
See The World From Your Saddle
These nine destinations all hold something special, which makes exploring them a uniquely exhilarating experience. Whether you like to cycle through lush, green forestry or rocky mountain passes, the world is filled to the brim with exciting travel cycling opportunities for you to enjoy.
Check some travel books about adventurous cycling:
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.