European cycling is like riding through an old movie: the warm Provencal sun on your face, pedalling down old country lanes and sun-dappled roads, stopping only for a boutique wine tasting or a spot of French cheese.
Southern France, Spain and Italy in particular are renowned for their picturesque tracks and sleepy rural hamlets, but there are a number of new destinations that are quickly catching the peloton on the European cycling scene.
The Istrian Peninsula
Croatia is a burgeoning tourist destination with some serious scenery credentials: seaside terracotta towns, ancient roman settlements, bleached white stone beaches and sparkling azure waters just begging you to go buy your own yacht. But it’s the cycling along the Istrian peninsula, the northerly section of Croatia’s Adriatic coastline that is raising a few eyebrows in the international community. And with rolling cliff top roads, challenging switchback climbs, tranquil seaside meadows and the endless Adriatic Sea, it’s easy to see why. Cyclists can easily hire bikes in popular towns like Pula, and there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than pedalling along the picturesque coast, stopping occasionally for a roadside buzara (shellfish scampi) and spaghetti.
Why is it that any mention of Provence is always accompanied with a little sigh? It’s always, “Ah…Provence”. Perhaps it’s those those swaying lavender fields, isolated medieval monasteries and world famous French produce, or it could be the cycling. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with hiring an old Peugeot and cruising from market town to market town, the best way to see Provence is real from the saddle. Feeling that trademark French sun on your face, the smell of roadside flowers, and the fresh Provencal wind in your hair, it’s easy to get swept away in the romance of it all. And if pedal power takes its toll, there’s nothing stopping you from pulling up for an afternoon’s cheese tasting in Vaison la Romaine or antiquing in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
The Loir Valley
The traditional summer getaway for the French aristocracy, the vistas and vintages of the Loir Valley are now open to all. Cycling from gorgeous chateaux to stunning medieval estate can be a bit of a drag, we admit, but the fine wines of the region more than make up for the drab real estate. The route from Saint-Nazaire on the coastto Orleans near Chambord is probably the most famous and prestigious cycle tourist route in France. Two thirds of it runs through a UNESCO World Heritage zone, and the mirror-flat lakes and gently rolling countryside make it an ideal route for the eager novice. For something a little special, head to the winelands around Chinon – you’ll thank us when you’re sipping one of their Cabernet Breton varieties after a long day in the saddle.
Not that you need an added excuse to visit a stunning Mediterranean island famous for it’s idyllic beaches and fresh caught seafood, but we’re happy to add one more: world class cycling. In recent years the tiny island of Majorca off the coast of Spain has become known as a bit of a cycling mecca, with road riders drawn to its dramatic coastal roads, winding switchback climbs and the gorgeous rolling farmlands of the interior. Start your journey in the fields between Santa Maria del Cami and Pollenca, then brave the mountain passes of the Coll de sa Batalla. You’ll have to climb to 418m above sea level, but your reward is the hidden gem of in Sóller: a tiny village set in a valley of orange groves overlooking the sea.
Explore Europe the right way, with expert guides on a Peregrine small group tour.
Feature image c/o Will_Cyclist, Flickr