Many baby boomers have bucket lists — some of which include extraordinary bicycle trips through Europe (I know I do).
A company I’ve come across called Tripsite.com makes it easy to check off what they call your “Bike-It” list — which sounds preferable to “bucket list” anyway — with bike trips in more than 30 European countries as well as several in Asia and other parts of the world (including the U.S. and Canada).
And when I say easy, I mean easy.
You can search by type of tour (guided, self-guided, E-bikes — those are the bikes that give you an electric power boost when needed — and whether or not boat trips are included along with the biking portions).
You can also search by country, month of the year, degree of difficulty (six levels, ranging from easy to very difficult), and price range — or any combination of the above.
For instance, I chose “Portugal” and “moderate” (difficulty) and I came up with this intriguing possibility:
Castles and Wine – This eight-day guided or self-guided bike tour through Alentejo in northern Portugal – Alvito to Estemoz — takes you to castles, churches, artisans, wine producers, and family-owned cafes. (Your pousada accommodations may include a castle, palace, convent or a farm, or 3 or 4 star hotels.) The changing landscape varies from olive groves and vineyards to granite and marble.
Highlights include the medieval city of Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Monsaraz, a white castled village with a panoramic view of Europe’s largest artificial lake. You’ll have plenty of chances to sample excellent Portuguese cuisine along with Alentejo wines.
The average daily cycling distances vary between 22 and 35 miles. Guided tours run from mid-May to late October, but you may want to avoid the July and August heat. (Self-guided tours are possible year-round.) Guided tours include most meals, while self-guided tours include breakfast only; all include lodging.
Next I simply chose “easy” (degree of difficulty) and found – among many other possibilities — this bike tour between two of my favorite cities in northern Europe:
Bruges to Amsterdam Bike Tour — This eight-day, self-guided, 200-mile-long bike tour will take you along one of the world’s most well developed cycling path systems; the Netherlands, where bikes outnumber people, is probably the world capital of cycling. Most of the route is flat and rural, passing through a number of nature reserves.
After an arrival day in the medieval city of Bruges, you’ll cycle anywhere from 24 to 44 miles per day for six days, entering the Netherlands on the first day of biking, when you’ll also board ferry boats to cross island-dotted Zeeland. The next several days will take you to historic villages with ancient houses and cobbled streets in addition to pastoral countryside and water views.
You’ll be spending the night in three- or four-star hotels in towns like Willemstad and Gouda before reaching Amsterdam. Lodging, breakfasts, luggage transfers, route maps, and 24-speed bikes are included. You can also go from Amsterdam to Bruges if you prefer.
I love Greece, so I chose “Greece, Guided, Moderate” and up popped this gem:
Halkidiki Peninsula — This guided eight-day bike tour is a bit more challenging, with a few steep ascents in inland mountains, so you should be in good physical shape. Daily mileage ranges from 19 to 43. A support van will accompany the tour.
The Halkidiki region actually encompasses three peninsulas — Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos — and pristine beaches star in the itinerary, along with both mountain and coastal fishing villages.
Athos, where the tour concludes, is known for its dramatically situated cliff-top monasteries, most notably on Mt. Athos, the “Holy Mountain.”
Accommodations in family-run hotels and guest houses, breakfasts, packed lunches, hybrid bikes, luggage transfers, and support vehicles are included.
Tripsite, based in Pennsylvania, is run by a family (the van den Hengels) who are originally from the Netherlands, so they know their bicycling.
Whether you’re interested in the history, culture, or cuisine of different European countries — or just like to pedal for the exercise and views — seeing Europe by bike can take you places that you won’t experience by car, train or plane. It’s an intimate way to get to know some of the world’s most beautiful and alluring destinations.
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