Shimanami Kaito Bikeway. Image by redlegsfan21 via wikimedia.
International bike travel sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? It’s hard enough to get your passport renewed and pack everything for a regular trip abroad. Add to that the hassle of packing a bicycle and navigating a city you don’t know (where you don’t speak the language)… it’s enough to make a beginner cancel their flight.
But let’s say the idea still calls to you. You’re enticed by the notion of landscapes with rolling hills and foaming waters, dotted with ruins and small villages and new ways of life. You imagine sailing with the wind in your face and no windshield to obstruct your view, communing directly with the world! In that case, we’ve got some bike-friendly spots abroad in mind just for you.
We’ve rounded up our top five bike-friendly destinations for international bike travel. These places are great for those contemplating their first bike tour abroad or want to attempt international bike travel with their kids. The following locales are laid-back enough that you’ll be able to explore on two wheels and unwind on your vacation.
Danube Bike Path in Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary
Camp site at Passau, Germany. Image by Chris Bainbridge via wikimedia.
Perfect for families, this pleasantly paved biking trail snakes through Germany and Austria and lands in Budapest, Hungary. The well-trodden route is part of EuroVelo6, the famous French cycling route. It follows the Danube River from its source all the way to the Black Sea, but there’s no need to take the entire route. Tackle the stretch that seems appropriate for you and your cycling pack. You might choose just the secluded German section or the popular Austrian trail. In Austria, cyclists soak in the urban sophistication of Vienna and pedal alongside clear water. Then, between observing green valleys in the countryside, they snack on Austria’s delectable dumplings and sample wines in taverns.
The Shimanami Kaido in Japan
Shimanami Kaido bike route in Japan. Images via wikimedia here and here.
Clocking in at only 40 miles, this serene trail is set off from the main road and connects Hiroshima’s islands, giving riders vistas onto the Seto Inland Sea. Some travelers complete the trip in a day, but it also accommodates tranquil wandering with campsites and hotels. There are 14 bike rental shops, which means you can skip the cumbersome bike luggage and rent your two wheels.
Otago Peninsula in New Zealand
Start from the Victorian and Edwardian college town of Dunedin and venture into the countryside. The second half of this trail is grueling—so you can skip it! Just stick with the easygoing first half. The trail swirls around the coastline, and you can stop at the acute right turn that signals the start of the steep hill. Go during the drier months, from September to May.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy
Smooth pedaling alongside vineyards and benign hills make this Italian route a family pleaser. In northeast Italy, you can rest in piazzas and drink its famed varietals of white wine. The last leg rewards your hard work with a view of the Istrian coast.
Galway City to Spiddal in Ireland
Lovely route in Galway. Image by C O’Flanagan.
A total of 25 miles—from the harbor city of Galway to the charming village of Spiddal—this trek presents one big climb in the beginning. After this, writes local cyclist Pat O’Donnell, “it’s plain sailing.” If you’re blessed with a clear day, you’ll see the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. In Spiddal village, take a breather with a snack in the crafts center, and then turn back to Galway.