Some spots draw scores of bicycle tourists: Chile’s Carreterra Austral, New Zealand’s South Island, the Pamir Highway, America’s west coast, the Danube River Cycle trail.
Other lovely spots around the globe attract relatively few two-wheeled travelers. Here are 8 bike touring destinations that, in my humble opinion, deserve more attention.
#1 The Balkans
Castles, quaint villages, winding country roads, and a spectacular coastline and much less painful on your pocketbook than Western Europe.
Biking through the ex-Yugoslavia in spring 2009, here are some thoughts we recorded:
Mountainous Macedonia was quite simply beautiful. A place of calm cool nature peppered with well-preserved churches and orthodox monasteries.
But it was really Montenegro (black mountain) that we fell in love with. This tiny country has mounted a full-scale advertising campaign on CNN and BBC World to get the word out about all it's got to offer. The images on TV (and our photos) don't do justice to the stunning landscape. We tortured ourselves climbing up an impossibly steep track where the only traffic was a sweet old lady out herding her sheep and then wound around the shores of Lake Shkodra, the largest in the Balkans.
Most cyclists who make it to Australia shoot straight through the outback. I’m afraid some people get the impression that biking OZ requires supreme fitness and a penchant for suffering.
One of our favorite parts of Australia is the Southwest, known for its towering Karri forests, wineries and pristine beaches.
The Hunter Valley and the New England Tablelands, a place famous for its fall foliage, is our absolute favorite part of Australia. You can find excellent route info on the cycleaustralia.info website.
Australia has something for everyone and can be biked for those not blessed with super-human strength and endurance.
This tiny country hasn’t yet registered on most bike tourist’s radars. It’s a shame, because the Taiwanese are crazy about cycling and have been investing heavily in a country-wide network of bike paths.
The island may be small, stretching to about 390km in length and 140km wide at its broadest point, but there’s an amazing variety of scenery and even climate zones.
Beautiful temples tucked away on steep mountainsides beg to be explored and cool tropical forests blanket the interior.
One of the best parts of Taiwan is the cheap, delicious and ubiquitous food—the selection is mind-boggling.
You can check out our Practical Guide to Cycling Taiwan for more tour information.
Sadly, Africa suffers from an image problem and few cyclists ever experience the joy of cycling past a herd of elephants, waking up to sunrise in the Sahara or being a superstar in some far-fetched village. Sure, there are pockets of instability in Africa, but that doesn’t mean you should write off the entire continent.
Morocco has long been a favorite with cyclists. Its varied landscape (desert, mountains and a spectacular coast) combined with bustling markets, a plethora of historical sites and a delicious cuisine means there’s something to suit any cyclist’s tastes.
Malawi is another good starter country for those wanting to explore sub-Saharan Africa. It’s small enough not to be overwhelming and has enough of a tourist scene so that finicky cyclists can have their comforts.
Namibia is our absolute favorite country in Africa. It’s got a wild coast, the world’s best sand dunes and is also known as one of the safest spots in Africa. Plus English is widely spoken.
#5 North Island NZ
Surprisingly few cycle tourists make it to the North Island. That’s a pity because the North Island boasts rugged coastline, quiet country roads and incredibly cool cycle paths. You can explore typical Maori settlements on the East Cape, totter across suspension bridges on the Timber Trail or take a trip back in time on the Forgotten World Highway.
Check out our New Zealand Ride Guide for route suggestions and the excellent NZ Cycle Trails official website.
If tropical islands appeal to you, Indonesia ought to top your list of must-do cycling destinations. It’ll be all hills from dawn to dusk, but as you pedal past tiny fishing villages, gorge yourself on fresh seafood and watch the sun slip into the sea, the pain will soon be forgotten. Indonesians are warm and hospitable and easy to communicate with. Our favorite islands are Flores and Sumbawa.
I think Harriet and Neil Pike sum it up best:
Argentina is a fantastic place for a cycle tour. We planned on staying a couple of months, but only managed to drag ourselves away after 10 months and over 10,000km in this wonderful land. The variety of landscape this huge country has to offer is simply astounding.
We, too, loved bicycle touring in Argentina. Rugged terrain, good food, few safety concerns, reasonable prices and friendly locals make this our top destination in South America,
Check out Andes by Bike for more information on planning your tour.
Just a few years back, hardly anyone cycled in Korea. Then the government invested millions in a comprehensive network of long –distance cycle trails and a bike touring craze exploded. Foreign cycle tourists are just starting to catch on. You can traverse the entire country following riverside trails and hardly ever have to cross paths with a car.
Koreans are a warm and welcoming people who go out of their way to make foreign visitors feel at home. The food is hot and spicy and you’ll find tiny restaurants dotting the country. Safety is no issue and wild camping quite accepted. The best time to visit is autumn when the leaves turn golden and crimson. Summers are hot and humid and winter downright cold.
Check out our KOREA RIDE GUIDE for more information on bicycle touring in Korea.
4 thoughts on “Eight Underappreciated Bike Touring Destinations”
Ah, Argentina…love that place. So much so that we’re going back next month! Only know the Balkans of your other 7 – really enjoyed it there too. Albania was a highlight of a ride across Europe.
At the moment we can’t see past Peru as our favourite cycling destination – hope you’ve scheduled it in for whenever you return to South America!
Wow, you’ve mentioned Taiwan! A great cycling destination, and my home for the past 20 years. A circuit around the island is a great trail for starters.
Love Taiwan…people are incredibly friendly and helpful and the food is FANTASTIC! Pretty easy to communicate, too.
I would suggest Albania! (Perhaps it counts as the Balkans?). It’s beautiful, cheap and the people are so friendly.
Great post and great website – I’m now wondering if we can alter our route to include Korea.