If watching the Tour de France inspires some of you to polish your bicycle bell and go pedalling around Europe, here are some excellent ideas for cycling holidays in France.
I’m not suggesting anything like the 21 gruelling stages of the famous Tour de France but rather a cycling holiday through gently rolling French countryside and with plenty of stops for good food and drink.
France really is a natural choice for a cycle touring holiday. After all, the annual “Tour” has been a highlight of the French sporting calendar for over a century and cyclists receive much greater respect (and reverence) from passing motorists.
Away from the main roads, there’s a well developed cycle network consisting of “veloroutes” (long-distance cycle routes, linking towns and regions) and ”voies vertes” (traffic-free lanes following the paths of former railways, canal towpaths and river valleys).
Here’s a rundown of the best cycling holidays in France, there’s something here for everyone, even mountain bikers.
Cycling holidays in the vineyards of Alsace
Alsace is a particularly cycle-friendly region of France, with 430km of cycle tracks in the capital, Strasbourg, alone and plentiful cycle hire available. Cycle touring the famous vineyards of Alsace is an experience not to be missed.
The 170km Route des Vins D’Alsace route winds its way from north-west of Strasbourg to Thann, south of Colmar, through the Alsace plain and the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. There are stop-offs for tastings at wineries all along the route, which passes through pretty villages and past medieval castles.
Well-marked trails lead off the main route, up through the vineyards, providing ideal opportunities for a break from the saddle and a leisurely stroll. Most of the villages along the way have small family run hotels offering a warm welcome and fine food.
Loire Valley cycle holidays
With mile upon mile of uncrowded open road, a warmer climate and great “après-bike” opportunities, the Loire region is the natural choice for a cycle touring holiday and home to possibly the most popular long distance cycle route in France.
The valleys of the Loire, Indre and Cher rivers are one of the best cycling holiday destinations in Europe. Pedalling along leafy, riverside roads; through exquisite medieval towns and villages; and delicious food and wine – definitely worth the effort!
Canalside cycle holidays in France
Canals are not just for boating holidays and a more gentle cycle holiday option is canalside cycling. France has several fantastic options for multi-day cycle holidays on canal paths.
There is the impressive Canal du Midi, a classic cycle route, which passes historic towns and welcoming villages, with miles of unspoilt scenery in between. Travel from Toulouse to Sete with the stunning towns of Carcassonne, Béziers, and Agde en route.
Shorter French canal cycle holiday options include the Canal de Bourgogne, which the French think of as their most beautiful canal, from charming Dijon to Migennes. You can expect some seriously quality wine during your week of cycling as the route passes through some of the world’s most famous vineyards. Nearby is the Canal du Nivernais, also extremely pretty and slightly shorter.
Mountain biking holidays in France
For those who like a different type of cycling holiday adventure – on a mountain bike – the Alsace region of France has two outstanding nature parks (Parc Ballon des Vosges and the Unesco-listed Parc Vosges Nord) offering exciting mountain bike tracks through the breathtaking countryside around the Vosges mountains.
The Vosges also provide visitors with well-earned sustenance in the shape of meals served in many traditional old farm buildings that have now been converted to welcoming inns.
So what are you waiting for? Book your bike onto a train or ferry and plan your cycling holiday in France today!
By Natasha von Geldern