International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
There is no better way to explore a place than by bike. Here are 10 trips that should be on every cyclist’s wish list.
Isle of Wight, England
The Isle of Wight is a cycling paradise that is home to some of the UK's most varied terrain: lush velvet hills rolling into the sea, narrow lanes through tidy hedgerows, deep and mysterious green gullies, and the island's most striking feature, the ridge of white chalk cliffs stretching across its breadth. Although cyclists have been enjoying its outdoor pleasures for decades now, it has only been in recent years that Wight has started to attract young and trendy Londoners looking for a romantic weekend by the sea with a buzz - which gastro pubs, slick hotels and a calendar full of festivals now provide.
Wightlink passenger ferries sail from Portsmouth to Ryde pier throughout the day; fares vary for the 18-minute crossing but bikes are free.
West Coast, Tasmania, Australia
By rights, Tasmania should be too small to have huge pockets of wilderness, but untouched and untamed lands stretch along its fierce west coast. Cycling land this wild should not come easily and it does not, with the hill climbs queuing one after the other. You will notice them, but not as much as the scenery, which includes Tasmania's most famous mountain (Cradle Mountain), its cutest coastal town (Strahan), its highest waterfall (Montezuma Falls) and its most beautiful lake (Lake St Clair), all on highways that feel at times like back roads.
Tasmania is covered in detail in an excellent series of four maps produced by the state government's Information and Land Services Division.
The Luberon and Mont Ventoux, Provence, France
Tackling hilly Luberon with a touring load might seem crazy, but several hundred kilometres of well-signed bike paths render it very enjoyable, as do ancient Roman ruins, medieval chateaux and ambrosial wines. This sun-drenched corner of Provence is a mix of manicured vineyards and ancient villages tumbling haphazardly down rocky slopes. Cool pine forests and blue fields of lavender stretch away on either side of the road. But the real goal here is legendary Mont Ventoux, scene of several Tour de France dramas, dominating the landscape and silently luring cyclist pilgrims to its summit.
Mont Ventoux is usually snow-covered above 1,300m from December until May. The summit road is accessible only during the summer months.
San Juan Islands, Washington, US
The ferry conveying you and your trusty steed from Seattle or Anacortes weaves its way calmly, the perfect introduction to the slow, peaceful character of these islands. Awaiting you are forested shorelines, secluded coves, bucolic vistas and quiet roads. The three largest islands, Lopez, Orcas and San Juan, each have their own distinctive charm, with historic sites and art galleries. The terrain is hilly, but each can be cycled in a day, including plenty of time to watch for seals, otters, sea lions and the odd orca, or black-tailed deer and eagles farther inland.
Washington State Ferries provides the main transport link between Anacortes and the islands. The Victoria Clipper runs from Seattle to Friday Harbor.
County Clare, Ireland
Beginning in fertile lowlands flanking the Shannon estuary, this route rolls past golden-sand beaches to the dramatic Cliffs of Moher facing the Atlantic. Next come the music hotbed towns of Milltown Malbay and Doolin, where you enter a pub only if you are in for the long haul - leaving before the last song is sung seems a monstrous breach of etiquette. From here, progress to the relentlessly grey, yet captivating limestone expanse of the Burren, reminiscent of a lunar landscape. Then take a sojourn into Yeats' country before sauntering back in a loop through County Clare's gentle patchwork countryside.
May and June are best for wildflowers in the Burren, while some accommodation opens only from June to August. Book well ahead during July and August.