Karoo to Croatia: 15 awesome cycling holidays around the globe
A cycling trip is a great way to really feel a destination's heartbeat - as well as your own. Adam Ruck highlights some of the world's best bike adventures to book now
Cycling is green, cycling is healthy, cycling is good. Cyclists have come out of the gutter and refuse to give up their space on the road. The wheel has come full circle.
Cycling holidays are specialised now, and precisely targeted. The holidays selected here are all guided and aimed at the leisure end of the spectrum - which is not to say the rides will all be flat and slow-moving - along with a few entry-level mountain-bike breaks.
1. GO SLOW IN ENGLAND'S VERDANT LAKE COUNTRY
The uncertain or curious can sample the guided cycling experience as an appetiser - or just for the pleasure of an energetic weekend in the Lake District. After 145km and almost 2,000m of ascent in two days, your body will know it's done some work. There are road- and mountain-bike versions of this taster, and introductory weekends in the Chiltern Hills in southeast England.• A three-day Introductory Weekend costs from £315, including accommodation and some meals. Visit skedaddle.co.uk.4. ISLAND HOPPING IN CROATIA
With its myriad islands and pretty Venetian ports, Croatia is prime boat and bike territory. Trogir and the islands of Hvar and Korcula are memorable highlights, as well as the hill climbs, which are quite strenuous (unless you opt for an e-bike).
• An eight-day South Dalmatia plus cycling cruise costs from £872, including accommodation. Visit freedomtreks.co.uk.
5. GREAT KAROO DELIGHTS
The Cape Midlands area of the Karoo offers many delights to the curious biker. Excellent dirt roads lead to vast horizons. There are sheep and meerkats, blue cranes in fields and windpumps creaking in the breeze. The silence is profound and the air is like champagne. Add the fact that you will have the place almost to yourself and you will wonder why South Africa isn't overrun with back-road bikers.
• There are six different trails to various towns with daily distances of 45-60km. From R8,500 per person (six to eight cyclists) for five days. Visit gkcycle.co.za.6. GOING DUTCH
Relax on a luxury barge and do as much or as little leisurely cycling as you want, guided with the group or on your own. The tour starts from Amsterdam or Bruges and finishes at Bruges or Amsterdam, via stops at Antwerp and Ghent, with plenty of sightseeing time in all four places.
• An eight-day Dutch Craft, Flemish Art tour costs from £1,220 including accommodation, all meals and bike hire. Departures between May and July. Visitthe-carter-company.com.7. MADAGASCAN HIGHLANDS
This two-week tour of a fascinatingly different and biodiverse island includes 548km of cycling out of Antananarivo, in the centre of the island, over nine days - more downhill than up, as the title suggests - plus hiking in the national parks, a visit to a lemur reserve and two days of relaxation at a beach hotel on the Indian Ocean.
• A 17-day cycling tour costs from $3,460, including flights from the UK and accommodation. Visit keadventure.com.8. CAMBODIA ON TWO WHEELS
Experience Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam on this two-week tour, which involves 828km of cycling over 14 days, mostly on road, and includes the Siem Reap and Angkor temples, floating villages on the Mekong and Phnom Penh's "killing fields", with much interaction and cultural exchange in villages along the way.
• A 14-day Bangkok to Saigon tour costs £1,486 including accommodation and all meals, but not flights or bike hire. Departures monthly through the year. Visit cambodiacycling.com.9. FAT BIKING IN FINLAND
While the bears sleep, the Martinselkonen Wilds Centre, a converted border post on the Finnish side of the Russian frontier, opens for dog-sledding, snowshoeing, Northern Lights gazing, and now fat biking on snow and frozen lakes.
Munch on reindeer sausages and moose soup in a forest cabin and feel the call of the wild - but take a good book for the long nights.
• A seven-day Fat Biking in the Bear Kingdom tour costs about £1,100, including accommodation, all meals and bike hire. Visit freedomtreks.co.uk.10. CULTURE IN THE DELTA
This would be a holiday of special interest to naturalists, who know the Danube delta as a uniquely rich biosphere. The tour has a wildlife guide and includes monasteries, archaeology, forts and folklore. Five nights on board a "hotel boat" plus five days cycling the delta (26km a day).
• An eight-day Danube Delta tour costs from £1,059, including accommodation (boat and guesthouse), all meals and bike hire but not flights. Departures between April and October. Visit wheel2wheelholidays.com.11. FRENCH CONNECTION
A Dutch barge plies the Rhône delta between Avignon and the walled crusader port of Aigues-Mortes. Cycle to see flamingos and wild horses in the Camargue, Roman remains and a starry Van Gogh night in Arles, the papal palace, and Châteauneuf du Pape winemaking commune. Consider Eurostar's direct London/Avignon service.
• An eight-day Provence to Camargue boat and bike tour costs from £928, including accommodation and all meals, but not bike hire. Visit freedomtreks.co.uk.12. WHALES AND WINELANDS
Combine sightseeing in and around Cape Town - including Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope and its penguin colony - with six days of cycling along the coast and through fruit farms and vineyards, with tasting visits and fine dining in some of the best restaurants to punctuate the ride.
• An eight-day Whale Coast and Winelands tour costs from £1,195, including accommodation, breakfast, four lunches and dinners, but no flights or bike hire. Visit cycleactive.com.13. CLASSIC CUBA
Eight days of cycling on this two-week island tour leaves plenty of time to get under the skin of Havana, ride through the forests of Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve and along the Caribbean coast to Trinidad, stopping to swim in tropical pools and see the infamous Bay of Pigs. A Che Guevara museum also features on the itinerary and there are optional extra rides for more committed cyclists.
• A 15-day tour costs from £2,625, including flights from the UK. It's from £1,819 excluding flights, including accommodation in privately run Casas Particulares, breakfast and bike hire. Visit explore.co.uk.14. JORDAN JAUNT
For a desert bike tour with a difference, how about cycling from the Crusader Castle of Shobak to Petra, a Unesco World Heritage Site? As well as visiting the rose-red city, this tour includes the Dead and Red Seas, a night under the stars in a Bedouin tent in a Wadi Rum desert camp and cycling in the footsteps of Moses on Mount Nebo. It's five days of cycling on a mixture of road, cycle paths and hard-packed off-piste.
• An eight-day tour costs from £1,499, including accommodation (one night camping), breakfast, four lunches, two dinners and bike hire but not flights. Departures until April 2018. Visit explore.co.uk.15. MARRAKECH EXPRESS
Combine the colourful tumult of Marrakech with rides in the Atlas Mountains and the spectacular Dades Valley, going as far as Zagora on the edge of the Sahara. The seven-day trip includes five days of cycling (average 60km a day), on tarmac and dirt, and requires fitness and some mountain-bike experience.
• A seven-day Ride the Kasbah tour costs $1,095, including accommodation and all meals but not bike hire. Visit keadventure.com. - The Sunday Telegraph, additional reporting by Paul Ash