Just imagine the feeling of the fresh breeze running across your face, the absence of almost any cars whizzing past and the awe-inspiring views of some of the most beautiful destinations in the whole of Europe being taken in while you travel the roads by bike. Sounds like heaven right? Well, the good news is, you can experience all these sensations yourself with a little bit of guidance from us – then you can hit the ground pedalling. To make sure you don’t miss out on any opportunities to discover the best road biking destinations in Europe, we’ve put together a list of our Top 10 must-visit locations for budding road cyclists.
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A training ground for world-renowned road cycling champions like Team Ineos, it’s no wonder Spain's Balearic Island, Mallorca, is such a hot spot for road cyclists wanting to get a taste of some of the best routes in Europe. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump to fly to this highly sought destination, and with around 300 days of sunshine to make the most of, it’s truly a road cyclist’s dream. With plenty of guided tours available for those wanting to take on the roads a little more leisurely, it’s also got everything you need if you’re looking for a bit of a challenge. Smooth surfaces, consistent gradients, varying inclines for all skill levels, and long flat rides make it one of the most diverse terrains in all of Europe. And if you’re a bit of a super fan, you can even ride the exact routes that the professionals take during those training seasons. Suitable for all types of riders, it’s definitely one to add to the to-do list.
A Tour de France destination that has been home to some of the globe’s most talented athletes, Provence is a little slice of paradise for road cyclists wanting to experience some of the most impressive routes on the map. You’ll feel far from an amateur when you're gliding your way along seamless roads through landscapes that are second to none, no matter what your skill level on the bike is. With a fantastic network of quiet roads via money-can’t-buy views of the Dentelles de Montmirail and below the heights of the towering Mont Ventoux, it’s a bucket-list item you just have to tick off. One of the best parts about road cycling in Provence is all the little backroads you can take through vineyards and villages that give you a real sense of the culture, history, and the region’s people, all while doing what you love out in nature. With plenty of routes to choose from, you can cycle for days until your heart's content!
Costa Brava, Spain
Just slightly north of Mallorca, making it a well-worth stop off on your tour of the best road biking destinations in Europe, Costa Brava is where many of the athletes you’ll find training in Mallorca actually live. No matter what your cycling ability, there is a generous mix of terrain to choose from – you could start with the smaller inclines like Els Àngels, or test your limits and take on the roads of Mare de Déu del Mont and the famous Rocacorba. If you’re really looking for a challenge, travelling to the northwest a short distance away will bring you to the front ranges of the Pyrenees where the climbs are much more strenuous and not for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, they’re frequented by many who are keen to push themselves and keep up with some of the best cyclists in the industry. If you’re not sure where to start, there are a whole host of companies that can recommend routes and get you all set to go.
The Dolomites, Italy
A UNESCO world heritage, making it one of the most treasured places in the world to visit and protect for generations to come, The Dolomites is a truly unique place to visit for any and all road cycling adventures. Here you can ride through valleys nestled in between towering steeples of rock and limestone peaks as you make your way through easily one of the most unique and magical places on earth. With only a few narrow routes to choose from, we have to warn you, it’s not the most relaxing of rides. The majority of roads are on a steep incline which means lots of climbing and a consistent increase in heart rate – so having significant road cycling experience is definitely recommended. If you’re new to road cycling, this might be one to miss, but if you’re not shy when it comes to a bit of a challenge, we couldn’t rate it more highly. Some of the most famous routes are on the Sella Ronda, including the Gardena, Sella, Campolongo, and Pordoi, but there’s a handful of other highly frequented rides to tackle if you’re wanting to see it all.
Slowly but surely making its way to the top of the list, The Algarve has continued to grow in popularity for road cyclists thanks to several recent visits from World Tour and UCI teams for their pre-season training camps. Depending on how you handle the heat, the temperatures are pretty consistently warm but the summers can get incredibly hot – even if you’re up early to avoid riding in the scorching heat. Spring is probably the best time to head to Algarve and explore its various road cycling routes, and with a combination of big climbs and gentle flat runs, there’s no shortage of options to choose from. Ride along the coastline lined with picturesque sandy beaches, explore old country trails, or take on the mountains and valleys, the scenery is really something else. Divided into four levels of difficulty, you’ll have all the freedom you need to pick the best routes for your ability, all while getting to experience this special corner of the world by bike.
Julian Alps, Slovenia
A popular ecotourism destination, Slovenia is another one of many places that act as a magnet for road biking fanatics, largely due to its reputation as a training ground for champion athletes. While small in size, there’s no lack of diversity when it comes to its geographical and topological makeup. The luxury of this is that you can ride through an eclectic mix of scenery all in a matter of hours or days, rather than having to travel particularly long distances to get a feel for what makes this beautiful country what it is. Incredibly welcoming to cyclists, there are several flat routes through the valleys at the foot of the Alps and Mediterranean region, but if you’re looking to take on an uphill battle and experience some outstanding views from the top, heading to the Julian Alps is a no-brainer.
With road biking routes designed by cyclists, for cyclists, it would be a hard push to find experiences like those on offer in the Flemish region of Belgium. With 32 routes and challenges carefully curated for the keenest of riders, there is an array of varying inclines and surfaces to traverse that seem to be endless. One of the most unique parts about the routes in Flanders is the challenges that have been set out for its visitors. Here is where you can actually follow the exact cycle path of some of the most historically significant events in the world – from reliving the 1950s UCI World Championships in Moorslede to travelling the Eddy Merckx cycling route in Tielt-Winge, there are some truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences to be had.
Want to find out if you’ve got what it takes to be a true Flandrien? If you’re game enough to take on the 59 iconic berg and cobble segments in less than 72 hours, you’ll even earn yourself a personalised stone on the wall of fame of the Centre Ronde van Vlaanderen in Oudenaarde.
C2C (Sea to Sea), United Kingdom
A coast-to-coast route starting in the Lake District and then making its way to Sunderland and Newcastle, the famous C2C route, also known as the Sea to Sea route, is a challenging and memorable ride like no other. With a length of 136 miles and a time frame of around 3-5 days to complete, this journey is not for the faint-hearted. Full of steep and unforgiving climbs, you can expect to be pushed to your limits between bursts of smooth terrain along the region’s railway paths. Choose from two starting points, Whitehaven or Workington, and two endpoints, Sunderland and Newcastle – both of which follow a very similar trend in terms of layout.
This trip is already broken down into different stages to allow time for proper rest and rejuvenation, as well as an opportunity to soak up all the sights of this cycle-friendly spot. With several renowned cafes, shops and accommodation sites along the way, you’ll feel right at home in this welcoming road cycling hub.
Regarded as one of the best cycling holidays in the world and located in the heart of northern Italy, Bormio is a whole world of its own. Well known for its fantastic downhill skiing routes, it’s no wonder it turns into such a bustling metropolis for cyclists once spring and summer roll around. When cyclists rave about Bormio’s options when it comes to road routes, they’re without a doubt going to be talking about sites like the famous Passo dello Stelvio on the edge of the town and the north eastern ascent of the mountain from the village of Prato. And just a short cycling distance from Bormio, you can also find some strenuous climbs at Passo Gavia and Passo del Mortirolo – both of which have deep roots in the history of Giro d’Italia.
The French Alps
There’s always been a buzzing sense of excitement around the Tour de France, but thanks to hobbyist cyclists who have been increasingly keen on taking on the same routes as the pros, The French Alps has continued to grow in popularity amongst road cyclists across the globe. With developments to routes being constantly made, the latest has been dubbed Via 3 Vallées – the linking of three major ski resorts via asphalt mountain roads for cyclists to exclusively take advantage of. All south of Moûtiers, Courchevel, Méribel and Val Thorens will become home to cyclists of all abilities and showcase some of the most exquisite views Mother Nature has to offer. Plus, more cyclist-only roads are currently in the works, so it’s definitely one not to miss out on visiting.
There’s no question about it, Europe has remained at the top of the list for the best road biking destinations in the world, and for good reason. From cities where the sun is almost always shining on those smooth, traffic-free road routes, to coastline rides that allow you to absorb the breathtaking views of the sea while inhaling that salty ocean breeze, there are so many places to choose from. Like nowhere else you’ve travelled before and all uniquely beautiful in their landscapes and layouts, there’s so much of this part of the world to explore by bike.
No excuses – with road biking routes that cover a whole range of cycling abilities and fitness levels, travelling Europe by bike is made easier than ever and so incredibly worthwhile. Now armed with all the knowledge you need to decide where you want to go, it’s time to start planning your next road biking adventure and take yourself to places that very few will have the opportunity to see in the same way.