In this article we share our pick of the best cycling holidays in Europe that you can drive to from the UK (with a train/ferry for the wet bit!).
At the best of times, a holiday you can drive to can make a lot of sense if you’ve got bikes and/or children to transport. With the uncertainty over air travel and travel advice we’ve experienced over the last few years, a cycling holiday that doesn’t involve flying might be even more attractive.
To help you plan, we’ve selected ten of the best no-fly road cycling holiday destinations in Europe. They’re (roughly) ordered by journey time.
Limiting ourselves to 11 was tough… Let us know what you think of our choices in the comments below. Where would have been on your list?!
Journey times listed below are estimated and assume normal travel time, without delays. Looking for inspiration for the best cycling routes in Europe to try out? Read this.
Journey times listed below are estimated and assume normal travel time, without delays.
Looking for inspiration for the best cycling routes in Europe to try out? Read this.
Cycling holidays in Belgium
|Great for:||Easy cycling holidays in Belgium on the Eurostar or Eurotunnel.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkestone to Calais) or Eurostar (London to Lille).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35-minute crossing followed by a 2 hour drive to Oudenaarde. The Eurostar takes 2.5 hours to Lille, which is an hour’s drive away from Oudenaarde.|
They say legends are born and careers are made in the flatlands of this area of Belgium. Cycling is woven into the very fabric of Flandrien life. It seems as if almost everyone has a bike and, fortunately for visitors to the area, the authorities have invested in a wonderful cycling infrastructure making Belgium a brilliant place for cycle holidays in Europe.
Cycling here really is a way of life, and it makes Belgium cycling holidays a delight not just for the tough cobbled climbs, but for the bike friendly atmosphere.
There are cycle routes a plenty and even the motorists seem to be deferential to anyone on two wheels. In the town of Oudenaarde there is even a cycling museum dedicated to the biggest race in the country, the annual Tour of Flanders or the Ronde van Vlaanderen as it’s better known.
The races in Flanders are all focused around short but incredibly steep cobbled bergs (hills). These usually separate the wheat from the chaff in the big events! Bergs such as the Koppenberg, Paterberg and the Oude Kwaremont are now talked about in the same breath as some of the most iconic sporting arenas in the world.
If you like cycling, its history and don’t mind the delights of the changeable Flandrien weather, then give Belgium a try. You might even develop a taste for the famed local beers and frites!
Cycling holidays in Ireland
|Great for:||An easy journey and a warm welcome.|
|Get there from UK:||By ferry (Holyhead to Dublin).|
|Journey time:||3.5 hour ferry crossing followed by a 1 hour drive to Laragh.|
Ireland is known for its hospitality, its misty green rolling hills, colourful towns and coastal panoramas.
You’ll find all of this within the Wicklow Mountains. They’re one of the most easily accessible areas of Ireland, due to their close proximity to Dublin. They’re also home to Ireland’s largest national park and some wonderful road cycling.
If you base yourself in the small town of Laragh, you’ll find quiet roads that lead west to the Wicklow Gap, north to Glencree and Enniskerry and south to Rathdrum, Woodenbridge and Aughrim.
Just don’t expect sunshine.
Check out our in-depth guide to cycling in the Wicklow Mountains.
Cycling holidays in France
|Great for:||Historical sites and secure, safe cycle routes.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkestone to Calais), Ferry (Dover to Calais) or Brittany Ferries (Portsmouth to Caen).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35 minute crossing (ferry is 1.5 hours) followed by a 4 hour drive to Caen. Alternatively, the Portsmouth to Caen ferry takes 5 hours and 45 minutes.|
This peaceful and most north western region of France is the perfect destination for a cycling holiday in Europe. It is accessible by both ferry and road via the A16 / A28 autoroute from Calais.
The area has become very popular with Parisians over the years for both weekend breaks and the purchase of second homes. Honfleur and Deauville are perennial favourite getaways with the Parisian set, which generally means you’ll find particularly excellent hotels and restaurants here…
The city of Caen (which is helpfully also a ferry port) was founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century and is a popular visitor attraction. You can make a trip to the nearby town of Bayeux to marvel at the world-famous tapestry or pay homage to those that fell fighting in the Second World War and ultimately lost their lives on the Normandy beaches.
Further south you can enjoy safe and well signposted cycling on purpose built paths running some 433 kilometres from Versailles near Paris to the west coastline at Mont Saint Michel.
The area is full of history, traffic-free greenways and picturesque little villages with traditional cafes, boulangeries and restaurants. It makes for a perfect family cycling holiday in France.
|Great for:||Safe and secure cycle paths & golden beaches.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkestone to Calais), ferry (Dover to Calais) or Brittany Ferries (Portsmouth to St Malo and Plymouth to Roscoff).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35-minute crossing (1.5 hours by ferry) followed by a 5 hour drive to St Malo. Alternatively, the Portsmouth to St Malo ferry takes 8 hours and 50 minutes with the Plymouth to Roscoff crossing taking a similar time.|
Brittany sits just a short distance across the English Channel from the UK. It has a 700 mile coastline adorned with fine beaches and breathtaking countryside together with historic towns and quaint old villages. As a result, Brittany is one of the most popular holiday regions in France and is ideal if you are looking for a European cycling holiday.
You can get to it by sailing by ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth or taking the A16 / A28 by road from Calais.
Brittany is famed for its fabulous seafood and famous Breton hospitality. You can enjoy the seafaring history of Saint Malo, the elegance of the neighbouring resort of Dinard or the vibrant capital city of Rennes.
The region is not densely populated, meaning a lot less cars than you would imagine and resulting in an area ideal for cycling. Cycling holidays in Brittany are popular for the miles of scenic coastal routes and innumerable inland canal paths and greenways.
For endurance cyclists after a self-guided cycling holiday in France, you could try the 365 kilometres along the Nantes to Brest canal and enjoy pedalling for mile after mile along the river’s edge with no vehicular traffic.
|Great for:||Challenge yourself on some of the best cycling climbs in France with jaw-dropping scenery.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkewstone to Calais) or ferry (Dover to Calais). Eurostar (London to the Alps).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35-minute crossing (ferry is 1.5 hours) followed by a 9 hour drive to Bourg d’Oisans. The Eurostar takes 20 hours and will take you as far as the Alpine towns of Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne or Bourg St Maurice.|
The Alps are synonymous with cycling holidays in France and for many they represent the ultimate challenge of testing themselves on the same mountains that host the Tour de France each year. The area is packed with skiers in the winter but does a swift about turn every spring. Throughout the late spring and summer, it sees cyclists from all over the world converge on the fabled slopes.
You can drive to the Alps from the UK in a day, but if you fancy a stop over, beautiful Reims or Troyes are ideally situated. A more hassle-free journey can be found on the Eurostar, which will deliver you right into the Alps. However, it takes 20 hours from London and you will then need to find transport to your preferred destination.
The most famous (but not necessarily the most picturesque or difficult) climb in the Alps is Alpe d’Huez, which lies just outside the small village of Bourg d’Oisans at the entrance to the Ecrins National Park.
If you are in the Alps you have to climb the Alpe and negotiate all of its 21 hairpin bends – each having been named after the winning rider when a stage in the Tour de France finished at the top of the mountain.
If you are travelling to or from Italy then make sure you drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel. It is an amazing engineering masterpiece and runs for 11.5 kilometres cutting straight through the giant mountain. You enter the tunnel in Chamonix in France and arrive in Courmayeur in Italy.
|Great for:||Mont Ventoux and traditional French culture.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkestone to Calais) or ferry (Dover to Calais). Eurostar (London to Avignon).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35-minute crossing (ferry is 1.5 hours) followed by a 9.5 hour drive to the foothills of Mont Ventoux. The Eurostar takes 11 hours to Avignon, which is less than an hours’ drive from Ventoux.|
Mention Provence to a cyclist and they will very quickly tell you about Mont Ventoux or, as the locals refer to it, Le Géant de Provence. The mountain stands alone in the Vaucluse region of southern France and, at just under 2,000 metres above sea level, it can be seen from miles around.
Ventoux is a Tour de France classic and is very unusual in appearance due to its lunar style landscape that has earned it the nickname of the ‘bald mountain’. Amongst road cyclists, it’s certainly a large part of what has made cycling holidays in Provence so popular.
Provence feels like old-fashioned France, with untouched quaint villages, local cuisine and mile after mile of fertile vineyards. The hills are adorned with lavender and olive trees and are the perfect backdrop to tantalisingly perched villages and pavement cafés with the locals playing pétanque in the village square.
It is a quiet part of the country so, in the main, you should find quiet roads and endless cycling opportunities for day rides and longer excursions. The Gorges de la Nesque is situated in the Ventoux area and is an absolute must ride as part of a cycling holiday in the south of France.
You can certainly make the trip by car within a day, by taking the very good autoroutes that bypass Paris and head due south via Reims, Troyes and Lyon. The Eurostar runs a service from London to Avignon which takes just over 11 hours.
Check out our in-depth guide to cycling Ventoux and Provence.
|Great for:||Some of the best cycling routes in Europe with stunning vistas.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkestone to Calais), ferry (Dover to Calais) or Brittany Ferries (Plymouth to Santander).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35-minute crossing (ferry is 1.5 hours) followed by a 11 hour drive to Bagneres de Luchon. The Plymouth to Santander ferry takes 23 hours followed by a 5 hour drive to Bagneres de Luchon.|
Cycling holidays in the Pyrenees are always a popular choice. The Pyrenees are one of the world’s most natural frontiers, stretching some 430 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean right across to the Mediterranean Sea. At their centre point they reach some 120 kilometres in width.
It’s quite a lengthy journey to get to the Pyrenees by land, as the ferry crossing to Santander (in Spain) takes a day and the route by road from Calais effectively runs the length of the France. The towns of Tours and Limoges make good stop over points if you don’t want to rush.
Tourists flood to the Pyrenees National Park all year around for skiing, hiking, and cycling tours. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the village of nearby Lourdes to see where Saint Bernadette received her visions of the Virgin Mary and to sample the sacred water.
In cycling terms, the area is a climber’s paradise. It has some short and very steep ascents mixed with the famed high mountains of the Tour de France. Where to stay will depend on which climbs you most want to tackle.
We suggest a French cycling holiday based out of the small town of Argèles-Gazost if you want to tackle climbs like the Hautacam, Col d’Aubisque and Col de Aspin. Alternatively, the old spa town of Bagnères de Luchon (twinned with Harrogate in Yorkshire) is on the doorstep of the smaller but no less challenging peaks of the Col du Peyresourde and the Col d’Aspin. Both towns can be used to tackle the mighty Col du Tourmalet, that lies in between Argèles-Gazost and Bagnères de Luchon.
Check out our in-depth guide to cycling in the Pyrenees (from Argèles-Gazost and Bagnères de Luchon). Our overview of the Pyrenees and guide on where to stay in the Pyrenees for cyclists, are also worth a read.
|Great for:||Culture, cuisine and famous climbs make it a superb choice for a European cycling holiday.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkestone to Calais) or ferry (Dover to Calais). Eurostar (London to Marseille).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35-minute crossing (ferry is 1.5 hours) followed by a 12 hour drive to Nice. On Eurostar, London St Pancras to Marseille takes 6.5 hours and Nice is a further 2.5 hours’ drive.|
If you are considering a cycling holiday in Europe and want somewhere renowned for its culture, cuisine and superb coastline, then look no further than Nice. Throw in a strong Tour de France history, challenging climbs and a very temperate climate and you can see why a lot of the leading professional cyclists now make the Cote d’Azur their home.
The area was initially made famous by the notorious Lance Armstrong as he lived in the city for a couple of years in the 1990s whilst competing in Europe. The surrounding French Riviera has now become very popular with pro cyclists, with the likes of Chris Froome having a permanent base on this coastline.
When off the bike, there’s lots to do. Not far to the west of Nice is the beautiful coastal city of Antibes, while Cannes is of course famous for its harbour and annual film festival.
You have the option of a lengthy drive from Calais with a potential stop over in either Dijon or Lyon, or you can take the Eurostar to Marseille and hire a car for the onward journey.
Check out our in-depth guide to cycling in Nice.
French Basque Country
|Great for:||Variety in your riding routes. From coastal vistas to lush landscapes.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkestone to calais) or by ferry (Portsmouth to Bilbao).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35-minute crossing followed by an 11 hour drive to french basque country. The Portsmouth to Bilbao ferry takes 33 hours followed by a 2 hour drive over the border to french basque country.|
Although not the most well-known part of Basque Country, southwestern France, on the border with Spain, has a strong Basque heritage. It’s an area well worth considering for a new adventure in Europe on your bike. It may take a little while to get there, but the riding makes the travel worth it.
You can expect a variety of riding in this area, from coastal rides with stunning vistas, to long challenging climbs underneath leafy forest coverings. Although the climate is generally warm and the road quality is good, there is a reason it’s so green and leafy…
As it’s not as popular as other parts of France for riding, it can be quite serene and you can ride through many traditional villages without seeing many other people. It’s a great location for a week-long getaway, with plenty of cuisine for you to try at the end of your long rides.
You can choose to travel there either by the usual Eurotunnel destinations of Folkestone to Calais, and face a long drive, or hop on the ferry (although this takes even longer)! Maybe not the most recognisable destination on this list, but we think it will become a popular place for Europe cycling holidays.
Check out our essential guide to cycling in this region.
Cycling holidays in Spain
|Great for:||Food, Vuelta climbs and some of the most challenging cycling in Europe.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkestone to Calais), ferry (Dover to Calais) or Brittany ferries (Plymouth to Santander).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35-minute crossing (ferry is 1.5 hours) followed by an 11 hour drive to San Sebastián. The Plymouth to Santander ferry takes 23 hours followed by a 2.5 hour drive to San Sebastián.|
The northern coastline of Spain is completely different to the costas of the south. Its verdant rolling landscape, rugged coastline and prevailing winds blowing off the Bay of Biscay mean you could be forgiven for thinking that you are much further north!
This is a unique part of Spain with a different culture, its own language and, for some in the Basque region, its own country. The coastline runs from the stunning architectural magnificence of San Sebastián at the foothills of the Pyrenees in the east, via the city of Bilbao, towards the world famous religious site in Santiago de Compostela in the west.
Cycling is incredibly popular in this part of the world and you will find some of the best cycling in Spain here. The Vuelta a España visits the region each year as the professional peloton takes on some of the most fearsome climbs in world cycling. As an example, the Alto de l’Angliru in the Asturias region is a savage 12 kilometre climb with sections at well over 20% gradient.
You will need some energy and fortitude to cycle in these parts, but fortunately the area has an excellent reputation for food and the local fish and chicken stews are regarded as being the best in Spain! There are apparently more Michelin star restaurants in San Sebastián per square metre than anywhere else in Europe!
|Great for:||Catalan chic. Ride where the professionals train.|
|Get there from UK:||By Eurotunnel (Folkestone to Calais), ferry (Dover to Calais) or Brittany Ferries (Plymouth to Santander).|
|Journey time:||Eurotunnel is a 35-minute crossing (ferry is 1.5 hours) followed by a 13 hour drive to Girona. The Plymouth to Santander ferry takes 23 hours followed by an 8 hour drive to Girona.|
When professional cyclists flock to a city to live and to train, it’s time to take note. Situated in the north east of the country, the province of Girona doesn’t have the wall to wall sunshine that prevails in the south of Spain, but it more than makes up for it in terms of style, panache and cycling opportunity.
Girona cycling holidays have now become very popular and both the city, and the countryside around it, have lots of cycling-friendly businesses ready to help those that arrive ready to ride. One such example is Girona Cycling SL, the eco-friendly cycling training camp that’s located near Lake Banyoles is popular with pro teams (interview with them here).
If you choose to stay in Girona itself, the old town is made up of a labyrinth of narrow, cobbled streets that seem to have been untouched for centuries. It’s packed with medieval palaces, art nouveau buildings and a magnificent cathedral. The old town is separated from the newer part by the River Onyar and the famous pastel-coloured buildings that lie on the river’s edge.
The Girona Pyrenees and the Garrotxa National Park lie to the north, and provide the perfect training ground for professional and leisure cyclists alike.
You would be hard-pushed to find a better location for a cycling holiday in Spain – and hopefully this thought will fortify you for the journey!
Check out our in-depth guide to cycling in Girona.
We hope this article has inspired you to consider a no-fly cycling holiday in Europe this year. There are lots of destinations that are close at hand and will provide a fantastic change of scenery.
Let us know where you’re planning to visit in the comments below!
Keen to go on some Europe bike tours? Don’t miss our cycling destinations page which has links to all our in-depth guides on cycling destinations in Europe and around the world.
Want to check travel advice before you go? If you live in the UK, a good place to start is the government’s travel website.
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