Cataloging the top seven cycling holidays in the world is a tough ask, but we’ve given it a go, though we may (out of necessity) have to forgo some of the other great cycling destinations. If you’re trying to convince your other half of the exhilaration of a cycling holiday abroad, then let us do the legwork (no pun intended!):
7. Cambodia, Southeast Asia – If you’re the type of adventurer who wants to get off the paved roads and see a country from the inside, then a cycle holiday in Cambodia is perfect. Roadside shacks sell snacks and water along the way, but stay away from the fried bread rolls—these have longer shelf lives than a Twinkie! Phnom Penh is a cultural highlight, as hundreds of locals ride beside you. Heading south to Sihanoukville provides some great cooling off at the beach. A biking tour through Angkor Wat will be the highlight of any global cycle journey. The Wats were simply made to tour on a bicycle, the best way to get out and see temples that seldom get visitors.
6. Cuba, Caribbean – Unbeknownst to most non-Canadian and non-European travelers (Americans), Cuba makes a great cycling destination. As long as you (Americans) don’t get on the Channel 88 Nightly News and shout, “I’m going to Cuba!” then you’re likely to have no issues. If you do get on the news, say you’re going to Cuva to avoid arrest. At any rate, central to everything good in life and a holiday—broad beaches, flavorful foods, pleasant people and lofty landscapes—Cuba is a biker’s dream. If a holiday to Cuba (or Cuva) is in you or your family’s plans for escape, head out of Havana for car-free roads and carefree locals.
5. Nepal, Asia – If you’re wanting off-road action with the chance to flip over your handlebars, then a cycle holiday in Nepal is your best bet. When we say off-road here, we mean on-trail riding, over thousand-year-old tracks. Taking in the tropical plains, the subtropical valleys and the terai (marshy lowlands) and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley, a cycle tour here is both off-trail, off-road and over-the-top. With uphill battles to make you wish you had an engine, to downhill rides that can take all day, the Himalayan gods created the perfect out-of-saddle playground in Nepal. Be sure to throw a body-size ice pack in your luggage before you arrive. Morphine injections are a nightly ritual. “You want me to inject you where Hal?!”
4. Morocco, North Africa – Morocco provides cycle escapes with back roads and trail rides, both usually undertaken down south of the High Atlas Mountains. If you really want to give your groin a pummel, then cycle to Merzouga where you can jump on the hump of a camel. An overnight stay in desert Bedouin tents are optional. Moreover, the roads around the Sahara Desert are calm with only a few cars. Off-road cycling doesn’t get more technically challenging than the Atlas mountains, where the single track and most challenging rides occur around Imilchil to Toubkal. It’s possible to take it a bit easier on the foothills of the Atlas, but the above route will have you bunny hopping your ATB over what seems a testing cyclocross race for hours—not for the weak of heart or of wishbone.
3. South Africa, Southern Africa – If you just don’t think you’re ready for Zambia, Namibia or Botswana, then why not take it a little easier and cycle through South Africa. If you’ve got your family in tow, then the riding doesn’t really get any better than this. Many tour operators stick to the paved back roads and scenic routes near the cape. If a rough ride is what you seek, however, then it’s possible to get off-road near the Cape too. Rides around Cape Town, Worcester, through Franschhoek and Gordons Bay and back are often quite challenging. There are plenty of vineyards to help ease the tension out of your throbbing legs along the way to boot.
2. Tanzania, East Africa – A cycle holiday with the family or for the loner is exceptional in Tanzania for two reasons—the car-free dirt roads and Zanzibar. The latter has a newly paved road, which circumnavigates the coast of this island, while the former offers escapes into the countryside where kids run amok and locals wave in awe. If you want to communicate with residents, it’s best to pick up some Kiswahili words. Jambo—hello and Ninaitwa Mary—My name is Mary. You just never know what circumstances will pop up when cycling through a foreign country. PS – If you have to run to the toilet, yell, Choo! (toilet!), while holding your hands wildly above your head.
1. Russia, Southern Siberia – If you think Russia is only known for a good bottle of Vodka and never-ending snowfall, you’d only be 75% right. Believe it or not, Russia has some great cycling routes (south of Siberia). Just northeast of Moscow, sometimes referred to as the Golden Ring of Russia, the routes are paved and scenic, taking in charming villages, the majestic Volga River, monasteries, churches and other old-school architecture. With towns like Vladimir, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Uglich and Suzdal, it’s no surprise the towns are as charming as their name. Not to worry, as the Russian mafia does not ride bikes, so you can always escape. Trains to St. Petersburg and Mongolia always add an adventure for a day or two. Hint: It’s OK to mix a shot of Vodka with juice in your water bottle. You don’t want your drink to freeze do you?!