Bucket-List Bike Tours


You needn’t be a hardened road warrior or a Lycra-clad racer to consider making your next vacation a two-wheeled adventure. Nor do you have to give up the creature comforts of modern, luxury travel. In fact, many tour operators can accommodate your desire to ride the Silk Road and sleep in silk sheets.

Bike touring — sometimes called bike travel or, if off-road, bikepacking — offers myriad advantages for active travelers. Cyclists can cover considerably more distance than someone on a walking tour, thus affording themselves richer interactions with a country’s terrain and the hospitality of locals, which you’ll no doubt call upon at some point during a multiday journey.

And while the types of bike travel vary immensely, high-end operator-led tours can offer private or group itineraries, top-of-the-line bikes and lavish food and accommodations along the way.

What follows are bucket-list bike tours — the trips that lifelong cyclists dream about taking, from tour companies with sterling reputations. Offering a range of styles, skill levels and locations around the world, they all share a commitment to luxury. So whether your focus is on comfort or mileage, these tours prove you can incorporate a lot of pampering into your pedaling.

North America

The Coast of Maine

Biking through Acadia National Park with the VBT Maine Coast: Purely Acadia bike tour
Biking through Acadia National Park with the VBT Maine Coast: Purely Acadia bike tour - VBT

In the entirety of the U.S. national parks system, there is no more perfect cycling spot than Maine’s Acadia National Park. The 45 miles of carriage roads built by John D. Rockefeller are off-limits to cars, making them ideal for serene, stress-free cycling along the rocky coast. With a pair of historic inns as your base, you can mix and match loop rides across multiple islands and elevations — the park’s Mount Desert Island is 1,528 feet high — and plan your day around being one of the first in America to watch the sun rise. The locally caught lobster, tranquil nearby gardens and some of the best car-free cycling on the planet — really! — make Acadia worth the trip for any rider. The uncrowded carriage roads are a good match for hybrid comfort bikes designed for enjoying the view instead of hammering out miles.
More information: VBT
Mileage: 15 per day; 94 total
Skill level: Beginner

The Smoky Mountains

Biking near the Smoky Mountains and Blackberry properties on the Trek Travel Blackberry Farm bike tour
Biking near the Smoky Mountains and Blackberry properties on the Trek Travel Blackberry Farm bike tour - Bob Joy

Tennessee may not jump to mind as a bike travel destination, but if you’re looking to dip a toe in the cycling world from a single luxurious base instead of moving each night, Trek Travel’s trips from Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain, near Knoxville, can’t be beat. Serious cyclists have long gravitated to the area for its mix of low-traffic roads, rolling terrain and ferocious climbs. But Trek Travel guests have it easier with high-end e-assist hybrid bikes (or top-end performance road bikes), which carry you along twisting backroads and trails that always return you to your world-renowned hotel. Optional activities like hiking, horseback riding, clay shooting and fly-fishing are available for non-riders or simply not-today riders.
More information: Trek Travel
Mileage: 35-52 per day; 100-156 total (depending on the tour)
Skill level: Beginner to beginner-plus

California Wine Country

Aerial view of the coast of Bodega Bay, California
Aerial view of the coast of Bodega Bay, California - Yuval Helfman/ Getty Images/EyeEm

With its rugged coastline, redwood forests and expanses of open country, California offers some of the best cycling on earth. And while Highway 1 may be the coastal classic, the wineries of Napa and Sonoma are just as enticing. You’ll take quiet backroads and car-free paths from Yountville to Healdsburg over six days through the spectrum of Northern California landscapes — rolling hills, eucalyptus groves and manicured vineyards. The mileage is modest, and the days are capped with wine tastings, spa visits and fine dining. Routes vary to accommodate those looking for Pinot Noirs or personal bests. High-end titanium bikes or electric bikes are available for those wanting for a boost.
More information: Backroads
Mileage: 23-60 per day; 140-350 total
Skill level: Beginner to intermediate (multiple options available)


Danube River Cruise

Aerial view of the town of Durnstein in the Wachau Valley, Austria
Aerial view of the town of Durnstein in the Wachau Valley, Austria - rusm/ GettyImages

This style of riding — with your luggage and lodging drifting downriver alongside you — is unique to central Europe, thanks to a robust network of car-free paths bordering some of the continent’s great rivers. Butterfield & Robinson’s “bike and barge” tour, in partnership with UniWorld, provides a floating home for the week so you can settle in at night and ride during the day, with plenty of time to explore the castles, towns and abbeys between Passau and the “Paris of the East,” Budapest. If tired legs or temperamental skies keep you from riding, there’s always the option to stay aboard the 75-stateroom S.S. Maria Theresa and enjoy the view as the vineyards of the Wachau Valley and vistas of the surrounding bluffs slide by. For riding days, dropbar road and more-upright hybrid bike options offer a choice between speed and style.
More information: Butterfield & Robinson
Mileage: 20 per day; 140 total
Skill level: Beginner

Epic Italy

Street in the city of Ferrara, Italy
Street in the city of Ferrara, Italy - tverkhovinets/Getty Images

Two weeks of cycling down the spine of Italy offers a perfect mix of riding and eating. You’ll leave Ferrara, a UNESCO World Heritage site brimming with Renaissance architecture, and arrive 14 days later in Gaeta, a small sun-soaked coastal city between Rome and Naples. In between, you’ll pedal along the canals of the Po River Delta to the rugged Apennine Mountains and through the golden hills of Tuscany. Inspiration will come from the changing landscapes, culture and food as you tour through six distinct regions of the country. You’ll be riding high-end carbon bikes, but training is necessary for this tour, which includes challenging days with longer miles and significant climbs.

More information: Ciclismo Classico
Mileage: 50 per day; 715 total
Skill level: Intermediate-plus

Dalmation Islands, Croatia

The Sućuraj lighthouse on the island of Hvar in Croatia
The Sućuraj lighthouse on the island of Hvar in Croatia - Daria Andraczko / Unsplash

On the brilliant blue waters of the Adriatic, this unique bike-and-boat-style tour is made up of loops within a loop — both in the saddle and on a 125-foot yacht. You’ll board the Stella Maris in the medieval city of Split and set sail for a quartet of islands, where you’ll cycle on quiet roads through quaint villages and thousands of years of history. Expect to meet a family of stonecutters amid the marble on Brač Island; dine in “Little Dubrovnik,” as the town of Korčula is known; sample Grk wine in what was once a Greek colony; and ride through the Stari Grad Plain, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the island of Hvar that uses an agricultural system largely unchanged in 24 centuries. Mileage on rolling hills is modest, and performance road, hybrid and e-assist hybrid bikes are available for a range of abilities. Each night, the Stella Maris’ polished-teak decks will be waiting for post-ride relaxation, and comfortable cabins are the perfect place to recover as the Adriatic rocks you to sleep.
More information: DuVine
Mileage: 26 per day; 180 total
Skill level: Beginner-plus

Africa and Asia


Riding through the plains on the Namibia H+I Adventures bike tour
Riding through the plains on the Namibia H+I Adventures bike tour - Courtesy of H+I Adventures

Mountain bike tour specialists H+I explore plenty of exotic locales that demand big-time bike skills, but this trip is more about a safari than shredding singletrack. Still, you’ll need a bit of time on a mountain bike to make sure you’re ready to ride on Africa’s uneven dirt roads for up to three hours each day, sometimes at moderate elevations (you start at 6,500 feet). Once in Windhoek, you’ll set out on a loop that includes Etosha National Park and the Skeleton Coast, with daily opportunities to spot giraffe, zebra and oryx from your bike. You’ll sleep in family-owned and -operated farmhouses, guest lodges and luxury camps and eat organic, traditional Namibian food (heavy on meat with few if any vegetables). Some accommodations lack Wi-Fi, and one relies on paraffin lamps and bamboo torches for light, but if you’re willing to embrace an adventure ride at the edge of the earth, an unforgettable tour awaits.
More information: H+I Adventures
Mileage: 18 per day; 175 total
Skill level: Beginner-plus

Cambodia and Vietnam

Biking through the North Gate of Angkor Thom on a Butterfield & Robinson bike tour
Biking through the North Gate of Angkor Thom on a Butterfield & Robinson bike tour - Butterfield & Robinson / Cambodia and Vietnam

Butterfield & Robinson’s ride through Cambodia and Vietnam starts at the Angkor Wat temple complex in the Cambodian jungle before ending 11 days (and two short flights) later in the city of Hue, Vietnam. Along the way, adventures in Ho Chi Minh City, a cooking class, cultural discussions, incredible food and even a bit of cycling await! Southeast Asia is popular with bike travelers, thanks to the stellar cuisine, nearly year-round riding climate and famous hospitality. Lodging is in premium regional hotels instead of international chains, and dining ranges from home-cooked meals with trusted hosts to sit-down feasts at local markets and restaurants. Hybrid bikes are provided, and short, mostly flat days of 20 miles or less are perfect for casual cyclists.

More information: Butterfield & Robinson
Mileage: 14 per day; 140 total
Skill level: Beginner

Finally, if a week or two in the saddle just isn’t enough, consider a truly epic — and advanced — adventure on the Silk Road. TDA Global Cycling is planning the next edition of its five-month supported ride from Beijing to Istanbul in 2021, covering 7,700 miles through the heart of Asia. From the sparse beauty of the Gobi Desert to nights under the stars on some of the most remote terrain on earth, this is a trip you’ll never forget.

By Alex Strickland Guest Contributor Alex Strickland is a former small-town newspaper editor who is now the editor-in-chief of Adventure Cyclist magazine. He can usually be found on a trail in the wilds of Montana.