02 July 2019
This week sees the world’s cycling elite line up for the 106th Tour de France (Sat 6th July) and there’s plenty reason to be excited as British reigning champion Geraint Thomas sets out to defend his title and retain the ultimate prize in cycling.
Cyclists will clock up around 2,150 miles over 21 stages, passing through gorgeous scenery from dramatic mountain climbs to serene sunflower pastures, and the iconic finish down Paris’ Champs-Élysées.
Ahead of 2019’s competition, we’re running down our favourite cycling destinations that combine breathtaking scenery with a rewarding physical challenge.
The central Italian region of Tuscany is widely regarded as the heartland of Italian cycling. Its natural diversity makes for an everchanging landscape through which to cycle with the rugged Apennine Mountains, the beaches on the island of Elba and Chianti’s olive groves and vineyards all providing settings to your ride.
The regional capital of Florence offers an excellent base with a multitude of museums and monuments including Michelangelo’s David. Here even leisurely cyclists, keen to take to two wheels to see the sights, will have no trouble hiring a bike and traversing the city’s medieval lanes.
Cycling is in the local DNA in Tuscany. Many of the older men out cycling on the roads look as fit as professional racers, and probably have the bike to match. But fear not, there’s no judgement here and getting on two wheels is all part of the true Tuscan experience.
Cape Town is amongst one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, hosting many high-profile cycling events through the year, such as the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
First held back in 1978, the race began as a protest to encourage the city council to consider bicycles as part of its urban planning and look after cyclists on its increasingly busy roads. The race has since grown to now be considered the biggest timed bicycle race on the planet, comprising a 109km (68 mile) route. The race coincides with Lifecycle Week in early March and with the MTB Challenge, held out in the Cape Winelands.
Cycling is a year-round sport in Cape Town with the 7km Sea Point Promenade, Chapman’s Peak Drive and the 18,000-acre Cape Point Nature Reserve all presenting an opportunity to get on your bike.
Almost any serious Tour de France contender will be familiar with the cycle routes of Tenerife and in particular those around Mount Teide. With the longest continuous road climb in Europe, reaching a peak height of 3,718 metres above sea level, this volcano dominates the island’s landscape and offers cyclists an unparalleled opportunity to test themselves against the toughest conditions nature has to offer.
For casual cyclists, less challenging routes along Tenerife’s coastal roads provide views of dramatic volcanic scenery and ocean horizons to enjoy as you cruise through the island’s perennial sunshine.
Hawaii’s reputation as a laid-back island paradise doesn’t quite fit with the cycling experience in Maui. With almost 11,000ft of climbing spread over a challenging 105-mile loop route, this isn’t the destination for the casual cocktail sipper.
Most visitors to Hawaii probably have intensions of surfing and eating hog roast as they watch the sun set, so it’s understandable why few people come here to tackle wind-swept coastal rides with 16% gradients. That’s not to say it isn’t worth it though. Conquer the climb and you’re rewarded with unforgettable panoramic views across the azure waters of the Pacific.
For incline junkies, there’s Haleakalā. Also known as the East Maui Volcano, this goliath makes up 75% of the island of Maui and offers 35 miles of straight climbing up to the 3,000-metre peak.
“Maui offers the tropical island feel. Think green landscapes, white sandy beaches and palm trees swaying over blue sea. A must see is either sunrise or sunset at Haleakala National park at its 10,000-foot summit”
Emma, Travel Counsellor
This may appear to be an odd inclusion with the array of risks and challenges presented by the prospect of cycling through a vast urban metropolis like Bangkok, but despite the unappealing nature, some would say that cycling is the only way to see the real Bangkok.
Avoiding the traffic queues, and the stuffy taxis, cycling gives you the freedom to explore the small alley ways that are otherwise off limits to those on four wheels.
As such, there are many enlightening guided bike tours, ranging from a gentle three-hour ride through the heart of Bangkok’s business districts to the 4.5-hour sunset ride through Bangkok’s Thonburi side, showcasing the Thai capital’s culinary and cultural strengths by night.
With a diverse landscape, stunning Moorish architecture, delicious cuisine and faultless weather, Morocco is an idyllic destination even without your bicycle. The markets of Marrakech, mosques of Casablanca and Sahara desert to the south are only a few of the many attractions to fill your trip to Morocco. Throw in well-maintained roads and a vast network of dirt tracks and it’s easy to see why Morocco is a haven for mountain bikers from across the world.
Biking tours in Morocco can cover many different landscapes from the spectacular Qati Gorges, to the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, and the legendary Draa Valley. This type of diversity is hard to find elsewhere and with the promise of a tasty tagine at the end of it all, it’s clear to see why Morocco is high on many cyclist’s lists.
“Home to a huge medina, incredible architecture and beautiful Riads, Marrakech is certainly an eye opener and one not to be missed off the bucket list.”
Jade, Travel Counsellor
Take your cycling adventures overseas and contact your Travel Counsellor to take advantage of exclusive benefits including full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and after your trip.