Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe’s Most Breathtaking Bike Routes
Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Scenic Seaside Rides Along the Amalfi Coast
With its rugged cliffs plunging into an impossibly blue sea, pastel-hued villages clinging to steep hillsides, and endlessly winding roads that offer jaw-dropping vistas around every bend, the Amalfi Coast is quintessential Italy. Cycling this stretch of craggy Mediterranean coastline serves up a nonstop feast for the senses.
The cycling on the Amalfi Coast isn’t for the faint of heart, with lung-busting climbs and hairpin downhill turns, but the payoff comes in the form of breathtaking sea views and getting an up-close look at cliffside towns like Positano and Amalfi. While some opt for guided tours, self-guided cyclists can take advantage of the 379km Cycle the Amalfi Coast route. Developed by the Italian Cycling Federation, it includes detailed maps and turn-by-turn directions.
One of the most popular sections is the 15km ride between Positano and Amalfi. It packs in incredible scenery as you climb up from the pebbly beaches of Positano and ride the “balcony road” chiselled into the cliffs 1,000 feet above the sea. The road winds through citrus and olive groves before descending down to the largest town on the coast. Take time to explore Amalfi’s cobbled backstreets and admire its Arab-Norman cathedral.
Further west, the town of Praiano makes another good cycling base. Ride out early to beat the heat and crowds. Head east to circumvent the coastline’s highest point at Cape Furore, stopping to take in the fjord-like inlets that cut into the cliffs. Go west to see ancient watchtowers built to defend against Saracen raids, as well as tiny fishing villages only accessible on foot or by boat.
Capri is another jewel. Reachable via a ferry from Naples or Sorrento, it offers some tough uphill cycling as you ascend from the port to Anacapri with its hilltop villas. Compact Capri town rewards with chichi shops and cafes to refuel after your ride. Cool off with a dip in the Blue Grotto sea cave or admire the soaring cliffs of the island’s less-visited western coast.
While the coastline steals the show, inland routes also beg to be explored. Trade sea vistas for verdant valleys and meandering rivers on peaceful roads between hill towns like Ravello and Scala. Challenge yourself on the switchbacks climbing up to hilltop Tramonti or to the ruins of the Moorish castle in Lettere.
What else is in this post?
- Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Scenic Seaside Rides Along the Amalfi Coast
- Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Through Vineyards and Rolling Hills in Tuscany
- Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Coastal Cruising on Corsica's GR20 Trail
- Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Cycling Through History in Normandy, France
- Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Two Wheels Through Bavaria's Fairytale Castles
- Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Pedal Power to Explore the Swiss Alps
- Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Rugged Routes in Iceland's Stunning Landscapes
- Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Biking Budapest Along the Iconic Danube
Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Through Vineyards and Rolling Hills in Tuscany
With its endless expanses of vines heavy with purple grapes, fields of sunflowers towering over poppy-speckled grasses, ancient hill towns perched high above the valleys, and farmhouses and castles that look unchanged since the Middle Ages, Tuscany epitomizes the rustic charm of rural Italy. Getting out in this spectacular landscape on two wheels serves up vistas and experiences that simply can’t be matched by Four wheels.
While the flatlands of the Val d'Orcia south of Siena or the Chianti region between Florence and Siena make for more leisurely cycling, don’t overlook the opportunity to challenge yourself on tougher but rewarding uphill routes in central Tuscany. Set your sights on conquering the steep switchbacks ascending nearly 1,000 meters from the city of Lucca up to the historic walled hilltop hamlet of Montecarlo. You’ll earn breathtaking 360-degree views over olive groves and vineyards. The route passes through little cobblestoned villages along the way where you can stop for a coffee or picnic provisions.
Another lung-buster heads uphill from Pontremoli near the Cinque Terre to the village of Cerignano perched high in the Apennines. You’ll be immersed in chestnut forests before the landscape opens up to reveal stunning vistas over the Magra River valley and all the way to the Ligurian Sea. For an easier but equally scenic pedal, base yourself in Pontremoli and ride the peaceful roads following the Magra through old stone villages like Filattiera.
In southern Tuscany, check out routes radiating from Montalcino into the Val d’Orcia or take gentle backroads from Pienza south towards San Quirico d’Orcia. Stop at small vineyards for tastings of Brunello wine and at family-run farms where pecorino cheese is still produced from the milk of sheep that graze the hillsides. Fuel up on just-baked focaccia in one of the stone bakeries found in nearly every village.
Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Coastal Cruising on Corsica's GR20 Trail
Dotted with Genoese watchtowers, scented by flowering maquis bushes, and rimmed by startlingly blue seas, Corsica’s coastal trails showcase the Mediterranean island’s unique blend of gritty wildness and laidback charm. While the mountainous interior beckons hardy trekkers to tackle the GR20, the coastal paths offer a gentler opportunity to soak up Corsica’s natural splendor – with plenty of villages, beaches and historic sites to explore along the way.
One of the most popular coastal treks is the Mare e Monti Nord from Calvi to Galeria. This 100km route typically takes about five days, with options to camp or overnight in seaside villages. Setting out from the lively citadel town of Calvi, the trail winds through fragrant scrubland scented by wild basil and juniper, passing the Roman ruins at Sant’Antonino and the prehistoric Filitosa menhirs. Rockhop across small coves to reach the Genoese watchtower perched on the spit of land at la Revellata before ending the first day in the beach resort of Calenzana.
The next days ramble through coastal oak forests and across boulder-strewn beaches, with the opportunity for a refreshing swim at the picturesque coves of Lozari and Bodri. You’ll get a front-row view of the stunning red porphyry sea cliffs, where the fiery stone glows at sunset. Overnight in mansions-turned-hotels in seaside villages like Girolata, only accessible on foot or by boat. From here you can take a boat trip out to the nature reserve surrounding the Scandola massif to admire its bizarre rock formations sculpted by the elements.
The homestretch leads past prehistoric sites like the archeological remains at Curacchiaghiu and the standing stones flanking the beach at Aregno. The final leg rambles across maquis-clad hills before descending down to the marina in Galeria. With regular ferry service available, trekkers can create custom routes along Corsica’s wild and rugged coastline.
Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Cycling Through History in Normandy, France
With its quiet country lanes, historic villages, and poignant WWII sites, Normandy offers a memorable backdrop for cycling. Pedaling through the storied landscapes where momentous events of the 20th century played out makes history come alive. As Seattle-based cyclist John S. shared, "Riding through Normandy brought World War II history to life for me in a way that reading books and seeing movies never could. When we cycled past Omaha Beach, I could vividly imagine the chaos and carnage that took place there on D-Day as Allied troops stormed the shore. It was an emotional experience."
Many opt to cycle theNormandy coastline where beaches like Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword witnessed the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. Depart from the lively port town of Ouistreham to pedal north, with stops at Pegasus Bridge where British gliders made a stealth attack to take control of a crucial canal crossing in the first hours of D-Day. See the artillery bunkers that still line the coast and visit the Normandy American Cemetery's reflective pool and rows of white crosses memorializing the fallen.
Farther along, Arromanches-les-Bains makes an ideal base to visit the remains of the artificial Mulberry harbour constructed to land men and vehicles on the coast post-invasion. Head inland to pay respects at the German cemetery in La Cambe before riding quiet backroads through the lush countryside to Bayeux. This charming medieval town escaped wartime damage, including its magnificent 11th-century tapestry depicting the conquest of England in 1066.
Inland cycling routes lead to battle sites and memorials including Hill 112 where some of the bloodiest fighting occurred during the Battle of Normandy and the Falaise Pocket where the German Army was encircled by the Allies. Ride through quaint villages like Beuvron-en-Auge, known for its half-timbered houses, stopping for a tart Normandy cider and buttery croissant to fuel up.
Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Two Wheels Through Bavaria's Fairytale Castles
Dotting the foothills of the Alps, Bavaria's storybook castles invite two-wheeled exploration on peaceful backroads that wind through green forests and past crystal clear lakes. As John W. from Michigan shared, "Cycling from castle to castle was like being transported back to Medieval times, but with the wind in my hair and beautiful mountain scenery all around."
Topping travelers' lists is the famous Neuschwanstein Castle near Füssen. Built by King Ludwig II in the late 1800s, this showpiece Romanesque Revival castle with soaring turrets was the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle. After an uphill pedal from Füssen, leave your bikes to walk up to Marienbrücke bridge for classic photos overlooking Neuschwanstein's white towers.
Nearby Hohenschwangau Castle offers a more intimate experience, with ornate rooms decorated by King Ludwig II's father open to visitors. Pedal around Alpsee lake enjoying regal views of its mustard-yellow façade backed by the Alps before cycling onward to visit Linderhof Palace, the King's smaller but exquisite Rococo-style retreat.
In central Bavaria, the castle that inspired Walt Disney himself is Schloss Neuschwanstein. Its soaring spires and turrets rising from a green hillside scream fairy tale. After touring its lavish halls, set off on bike paths leading through meadows dotted with flowers that wind their way to nearby lakes like Forggensee.
Not to be missed is the grand Residenz Palace in Würzburg with over 300 rooms. Get your fill of royally-commissioned frescoes and chandeliers before taking to two wheels again, following the scenic Main River through vineyards and neat villages bound for Medieval Rothenburg. Immaculately preserved with cobblestoned lanes and historic buildings, its Plönlein square is considered one of Germany's most photographed spots.
Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Pedal Power to Explore the Swiss Alps
With its towering snow-capped peaks, Alpine lakes that shimmer every hue of blue and green, flower-filled meadows, and quaint villages of chalets and onion-domed churches, Switzerland serves up some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery. Riding through this landscape on two wheels provides an incredibly rewarding way to experience the majestic Bernese Oberland and central Swiss Alps regions. The Swiss have developed extensive cycling infrastructure, with designated bike paths integrating seamlessly with an extensive public transport network of trains, buses, trams and ferries. This makes it feasible to ride point-to-point, admiring stunning alpine vistas under your own power while avoiding having to double back and retrace your route.
One of the most popular areas to cycle is around Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland, conveniently situated between the lakes of Thun and Brienz. Setting out early in the day from Interlaken to avoid the hordes arriving on midday trains allows you to soak up the peaceful atmosphere along Lake Brienz. Take the enjoyable climb through meadows dotted with darling traditional Swiss chalets up to the idyllic mountain village of Iseltwald on the lake’s far shore. Reward yourself with a coffee on the terrace of the grand historic Hotel Belvédère, overlooking the impossibly turquoise waters.
From Iseltwald, the route leads gently uphill past the turquoise Giessbach Falls and onwards into the rugged Grosse Scheidegg Pass. Traversing this low mountain pass rewards you with outstanding vistas over the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains as you coast down towards Grindelwald. Spend the night in this resort town in the Jungfrau region and check out the local hiking trails or save your legs for the next epic ride.
One classic Diamant radweg route leads from Grindelwald up past mountain lakes and through rolling green foothills towards Lauterbrunnen. Stop here to bask in the spectacle of the cascading Staubbach and Trümmelbach Falls that plunge over sheer cliffs. Continue on to the car-free village of Mürren, nestled on a dramatic ridge high above the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Accessible only by cable car or your own leg power, the vantage point here provides closeup views of the commanding Eiger North Face and you’ll feel like you can almost reach out and touch the peaks across the valley. Reward your efforts soaking in the scenic views over a hearty Swiss raclette or fondue before heading back down the valley to Interlaken.
Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Rugged Routes in Iceland's Stunning Landscapes
With its ever-changing vistas of volcanoes, glaciers, geothermal fields, and thundering waterfalls carved into stark black cliffs, Iceland promises some of Europe's most dramatic and rugged cycling. Avid Minnesota-based cyclist Erica W. recounts her favorite memories riding around Iceland’s iconic Ring Road. “The extremely variable terrain challenged my fitness like never before. One day I'd be grinding uphill towards a new landscape of surreal lava fields and steaming fumaroles. The next I'd be screaming downhill with the wind and road spray in my face, completely awestruck by the raw beauty all around.”
Erica recommends the Snaefellsnes Peninsula west of Reykjavik for cyclists new to Iceland’s rugged conditions. With less traffic than the south, it packs in a diversity of landscapes including rocky beaches, fishing villages like Stykkishólmur, the convoluted lava geography of the Budir black desert, and the Snaefellsjokull glacier volcano that inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Erica says her favorite ride was the Grabrok crater trail. “I could see the trail snaking up the volcano cone in the distance. Grinding my way up to the rim on my bike felt incredibly rewarding. At the top, the views over the lava fields were just jaw-dropping.”
The famous Golden Circle near Reykjavik serves up Iceland’s iconic highlights from Pingvellir’s rift valley and waterfalls like Gulfoss and Bruarfoss to spurting Geysir geothermal area. While busier with tourists, Erica said the riding was fantastic. “Cresting the hill after a tough uphill and seeing Geysir’s billowing geysers right there was breathtaking. Riding back to Reykjavik along the Hvítá river with views of the mossy lava fields across the water was the perfect finish.”
Pedal Through Paradise: Cycling Pros Reveal Europe's Most Breathtaking Bike Routes - Biking Budapest Along the Iconic Danube
Spanning both sides of the Danube River, with medieval castles, soaring spires, and elegant 19th century buildings lining its banks, Budapest invites exploration on two wheels. Cycling along the Danube takes you past the city’s most magnificent sights, with plenty of opportunities to hop off your bike and dive deeper into Budapest’s eventful history.
The sights start immediately at Chain Bridge, Budapest's most iconic landmark. Built in 1849, this graceful suspension bridge linked Buda and Pest for the first time. After admiring the towering stone columns and lion statues guarding the entrance, cross over to continue downstream along the Pest embankment.
Pass stately buildings like the Hungarian Parliament, the magnificent neo-Gothic seat of the National Assembly, and imposing Castle Hill on the opposite bank with its labyrinth of cobbled streets. Stop for a photo opp at the historic iron-framed Liberty Bridge before carrying on towards lively Central Market Hall to browse Hungarian delicacies like paprika and Tokaji wine.
Continuing south, you'll bike past intimate leafy Kossuth Lajos Square before the eye-catching art nouveau spectacle of the Great Market Hall appears. This cavernous building is still full of local purveyors selling meat, produce, baked goods and souvenirs. Grab a langos savory fried dough snack or some paprika-rubbed Mangalica sausages for a tasty picnic alongside the river.
Venturing further south leads you to the trendy restaurant and nightlife district centered around the ruins of the 13th century Dominican church at Margaret Island. Cross over to Margaret Bridge to reach the island itself, a peaceful green oasis in the middle of the city.
After enjoying the river views along the island's running track or ducking into the historic baths, return back across Margaret Bridge and take the bike path north towards lively Szimpla Kert, Budapest's first ruin pub housed in an abandoned building. The gritty decor is an experience — sip local fruit brandy and draft beer surrounded by ironic communist era decor and a Trabant car once used to smuggle people to the west.