The popularity of cycling has seen a big surge in recent years, due in part to the new ambassadors Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy, who have paved the way for many more aspirational cyclists since the London 2012 Olympics and annual Tour de France.The mountainous alpine regions, sprawling vineyards and sun-drenched coastal paths of Europe offer varied routes and spectacular scenery to scratch your cycling itch, but if you want to avoid the typical tourist paths, and tailor the experience to your own interests, consider some of Victor’s recommendations for summer cycling across Europe.
FranceWith France being home to the world’s most popular cycling event, it is little surprise that keen amateur cyclists flock there in their droves every year. Many choose a stage of the Tour de France for their cycling experience, but if it’s variety you are after, Provence has it all; fantastic vistas, exquisite food and a balmy year-round climate.
Fly in privately to Carpentras Airport, situated only a 10-minute drive from the quaint town of Carpentras, and join the easy cycle route through the wine country with the canal as your guide. The area is known for its black truffles, which are sold in Friday markets during the winter months. Slips of paper with prices scribbled on them are passed between sellers and buyers to keep negotiations private and, once purchased, the truffles are often tucked into pillowcases and secreted away. Be sure to take plenty of euros in cash, as many of these are cash-only markets.
You can head north to the sleepy village of Loriol-du-Comtat and pass through the undulating vineyards that produce the famous Côtes du Rhône wine. From here, continuing North, you’ll pass classic Provence patchwork fields before reaching Beaumes de Venise, a small town well known for its naturally sweet Muscat wine. For those who love a challenge the steep ascent of Mont Ventoux, a legendary climb in the Tour de France, lies further East and is one of the most famous landmarks in the region.
GermanyFor a tranquil cycle in the scenic German countryside, the Lahn to Rhine trail runs along the picturesque Lahn River and offers a perfect escape from the stresses of daily life. Reduce travel time by chartering a jet directly into Siegerland Airport, situated just 25-minutes’ drive from Lahn. You can be in the heart of the German countryside before you know it, enjoying the mix of open meadows, winding river paths and rolling hills that this trail boasts.
SwitzerlandThe picture-postcard towns and cycling paths of Switzerland are quieter than neighbouring France and Italy, yet just as jaw-droppingly beautiful. The easiest way to access the alpine trail is to take a private jet to Samedan Airport, a short car ride away from Scuol. From here, travel West through the Alps, cycling through the Swiss National Park (the only national park in Switzerland), exploring the spellbinding alpine forests and enjoying the magical mountain views.
Switzerland is exceptionally well designed for cyclists so everywhere you go you can spot the red cycling signs giving route and distance information.
The luxury Hotel Paradies Hideaway Resort lies just 5km from Scuol and is the perfect mountain bolthole where you can start or end your holiday in style. The chic resort boasts fantastic views of snow-covered peaks of the Dolomites and is home to one of the top restaurants in the region, Cucagna. The restaurant focuses on local seasonal produce and the interior is decorated with works of art, and antiques by reputed Engadine valley artists.
SpainEvery year Spain plays host to the La Vuelta race, the third most prestigious cycling race in the world covering 3,100km over a three-week period.
A new haven for budding cyclists, the beauty of Spain is found in the variety of cycling routes on offer, from trail and cross country paths in Sierra Nevada to leisurely road treks with far-reaching views to the Mediterranean Sea.
For recreational riders, Andalucia is the perfect mix of culture, cuisine and commanding views. Traditional white-washed Andalucian towns dot the hillsides above the Costas and are linked by quiet roads that wind their way through the olive groves.
The villages are famed for their colourful street festivals and these fiestas are some of the best places to sample local cuisine including braised calamari and salt-encrusted sardines.
The breathtaking Natural Park of Grazelema is also hugely popular with nature-lovers and the unique town of Setenil de las Bodegas is not to be missed, with its unique dwellings built into the rocky overhangs above the Rio Trejo.
For varied terrain and challenging trails, the incredible Sierra Nevada National Park may be more to your liking. Fly into Federico Garcia Lorca Airport and you are only an hour from the white-washed village of Jaen.
For gourmands, the ‘Olive Route’ takes you from Jaen through the olive grove orchids towards Alcaudete, and is probably one of the best places in Europe to purchase virgin olive oil; you can even visit the mills and see the oil being made.
For those in search of spectacular architecture and mouth-watering tapas, travel West to historic Granada, where almost every bar has its own signature tapas plate and it is customary to move from bar to bar, sampling a new dish in every establishment.
Time your visit well and you can enjoy one of the top music festivals in Spain with the ornate Alhambra palace as your backdrop; The Granada International Festival of Music hosts world renowned orchestral, ballet and flamenco performers along with acclaimed musicians and singers from 19 June to 10 July
PortugalChanging landscapes, flat terrain and quiet trails make Portugal a magnet for cyclists.
While many visitors choose the coastal paths near touristy Faro, a cycle through the Natural Park of Sintra-Cascais allows you to escape from the crowds and enjoy tranquil low cliff trails and verdant parkland.
For a hassle-free start to your holiday, fly private into Cascais Airport, 20 minutes away from the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage town of Sintra, on the border of the Natural Park. There are varied routes through the park towards the dramatic Atlantic coastline and the clifftop enclave of Azenhas do Mar, which offers amazing panoramic sea views.
For those cycling south, the beautiful port of Cascais awaits with its plethora of restaurants, museums and golden sandy beaches. With the town situated right on the coast, it’s little surprise the region’s gastronomic traditions are rooted in mouth-watering seafood and fresh fish. Try the Striped Bass, Sargo, or the Cascais Sole to experience the best of the local dishes.
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