In the saddle: six of the best EuroVelo routes to explore by bike this summer
Fhe smooth, tarred paths that run along the edge of vineyards and the shadow of medieval castles, with epic routes through mountain ranges, cultures and continents, the Eurovélo system of long-distance cycle routes are among the best in the world. The 16 routes of the Eurovelo network wind through 38 countries and stretch from the Atlantic coast in Ireland to the shores of the Black Sea.
I started a world tour by bike on a Eurovelo cycle route, at a crossroads near the port of Holland’s Hook, and left only its network of more than 90,000 km of paths, many of which entirely off-road and marked out, near Turkey, three months and six countries later.
Conceived in 1995 as a way to bring together the continent’s disparate cycle routes, following a Eurovelo route involved, until recently, signposts, maps and guides. But an official app, launched in 2019, now makes tracking Eurovelo trails easier than ever, providing interactive maps, waypoints and advice on accommodation and supplies. Currently available for five of the main routes (3, 5, 8 10 and 13), the plan is to roll it out to all trails in the network.
Here are six of the best routes to explore.
Eurovelo 15: The Rhine Cycle Route
A long-distance cycle route perfect for beginners, the Eurovélo du Rhin begins on the shores of the English Channel and ends in the alpine landscapes of Switzerland. Almost all of its 1,233 km are on separate, beautifully maintained cycle paths, and pass through some of the most spectacular gorges and vineyards in the Rhine region. Resting and resupplying is really easy on this route: in Germany, the trails pass between half-timbered inns and pass through spectacular cities like Cologne and Bonn. If you don’t want to camp, you can easily find hotels and hostels to stay along the route. But you are missing out: campsites, especially in the Upper Middle Rhine, near Bingen, are a great way to taste the sweetness of life on the river.
The best: The Rhine Gorge, between Koblenz and Bingen, is a pretty 65km stretch of riverside path, passing fairytale castles that overlook the Rhine at its most majestic and vineyards that produce some of the best Riesling in the world.
More information: en.eurovelo.com/ev15
Eurovelo 6: From the Atlantic to the Black Sea
A breathtaking ride along the Danube passing through some of Europe’s great capitals, such as Vienna and Budapest, before winding its way to Serbia through Tolkien’s unforgettable Iron Gates, then on quiet roads through Romania to shore of the Black Sea. Sections of this hike are some of the most beautiful and accessible of any Eurovelo route – especially on separate trail days through Austria’s Wachau Valley – and other sections are really challenging. The route travels on quiet roads in Hungary and on busier roads in Serbia. For the later stages, you’ll have to camp – and perhaps wild camp – in remote areas, although the sections in France, Germany and Austria are all easily accessible from good hotels.
The best: The Iron Gates, where the Eurovelo runs along wooded gorges cut by the Danube through the Carpathian Mountains.
More information: en.eurovelo.com/ev6
Eurovelo 8: The Mediterranean Route
Connecting some of the most well-known cities in the Mediterranean – including Venice and Dubrovnik – with some of the most beautiful and lesser-known coastlines in Europe, this route will eventually reach Montenegro and Albania. Because it’s coastal, it’s extremely hilly, and because it’s in southern Europe, it can get very hot in the summer. But don’t let all that put you off: when you’re not pedaling along cliffs that offer spectacular sea views, you’re riding along pristine and sometimes empty white-sand beaches, or climbing stunning hilltop towns. . Hotels and campsites are easy to find in the western stretch, but once you’ve passed through southern Croatia, and if you continue south into Albania and Montenegro, it’s best to plan some wild camping.
The best: Istria, a forested coastal peninsula in northern Croatia between Slovenia and Dubrovnik, is a foodie’s paradise, renowned for its truffles, pasta, olive oil and wild asparagus.
More information: en.eurovelo.com/ev8
Eurovelo 3: The Pilgrims Route
This ride through Northern Europe takes in some of the oldest hiking trails on the continent, following ancient pilgrimage routes to reach the famous Camino Francés, part of the Camino de Santiago, ending in Santiago. -de-Compostelle in Galicia, Spain. But some of the most dramatic and wild scenery presents itself at the start of the walk in Trondheim in Norway, when it follows an 11th-century pilgrimage route dedicated to St Olaf, a hero of the early Norse sagas. One of the most popular pilgrimage routes of the Middle Ages, it winds through barley fields and along fjords, passing spruce forests and wooden churches. This northern stretch can be remote in stages, so bring camping gear, though the guesthouses along the way are wonderfully hospitable.
The best: For a less rugged ride, try the stages in Belgium and eastern France, which are decidedly flatter and pass through some of the best beer-producing areas in the region, including Trappist and Monastic beers (for another kind of pilgrimage).
More information: en.eurovelo.com/ev3
Eurovelo 1: The Atlantic Coast Route
A ride in two halves, the Atlantic Coast route begins in the Land of the Midnight Sun – in northern Norway – before delving deep into Celtic culture and heritage as it winds through Scotland to Ireland. But then it hits the west coast of France, temptingly drifting past Bordeaux, and through Spain to its sunny southern coast and into Portugal. This southern stretch is a ride for foodies: in addition to Andalucia, it encompasses Lisbon and the country’s gastronomic Atlantic coast, famous for its seafood and green (young) wine.
The best: The section of Eurovelo 1 that crosses Scotland is known as Route 1 in the UK and encompasses the beautiful Shetland Islands, lochs and moorland in abundance.
More information: en.eurovelo.com/ev1
Eurovelo 5: Via Romea
Another ancient pilgrimage route, this time tracing the history of modern Christianity, starts in Canterbury, then weaves between other popular Eurovelo routes like the Rhine route, before crossing the Alps and descending through Italy to Rome. Crossing the Alps is challenging but beautiful, and cycling enthusiasts will love spotting some of the race’s most famous cols, and the feeling of gliding through Rome, through vineyards and olive groves, on the city’s longest cycle path up the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, is unforgettable.
The best: Rolling over the Tuscan hills, the last leg before the bend to Rome, is every bit as difficult as it sounds, but also rewarding: think hilltop towns, incredible food and wine and endless sunshine.
More information: en.eurovelo.com/ev5