CYCLING HOLIDAYS IN BURGUNDY

Bruno Toutain from our leading supplier of cycling holidays in France, Cyclomundo:
“Some of the world's greatest vintages originate from Burgundy; it’s a wine lovers’ paradise, and easily accessible from Paris. The region also offers a mix of pastoral villages along sleepy canals and mind-staggering architecture such as the Cathedrale St Etienne in Auxerre, and the Basilique Ste-Madeleine in Vezelay as well as two prominent and extremely pretty cities, Dijon and Beaune.“

Burgundy bows to bikes like a burgeoning bunch of velvet skinned grapes cascading over a knotted vine, with practically 1,000km of cycle-friendly routes providing pure and simple pedalling delectation. Voies vertes (greenway routes), especially, are perfect for exploring on two wheels and you’ll find numerous signposted trails following the course of the Saône and Loire rivers as well as along disused railway tracks and tow paths adjacent to the Canal de Bourgogne and Canal du Nivernais. Leafy woodland paths leading to hedgerow-lined rural roads, also offer an abundance of countryside trails as well as access to the historic towns of Dijon and Beaune where gothic spires, food markets and seasonal fêtes tempt cyclists from the saddle. It’s impossible to cycle in Burgundy without winding through a vineyard or two with the Voie des Vignes (path of vines) stretching for just over 20km from Beaune to Santenay. If you’re hoping for a steeper gradient, Morvan Natural Park provides a wilder, wooded approach. Here, cliffs and peaks rise to the fore as a 60km-route from Vezelay to Auxerre via the Canal du Nivernais provides a flatter, but nonetheless beautiful, alternative. The food in Burgundy is just la crème sur le tarte tatin with hearty, meaty fare, such as bœuf bourguignon, coq au vin and andouillette (regional pork sausages), helping to turn an autumnal cycling tour of Burgundy into an absolute treat for all the senses.
Bruno Toutain from our leading supplier of cycling holidays in France, Cyclomundo:
"I’d recommend visiting some of the world famous wine villages such as Pommard, Meursault, Gevrey Chambertin, Nuits-St-Georges, and Montrachet. Also, as we like going from point to point, our favourite route is Dijon to Macon which offers diversity in sites and terrain. One final thing, although Burgundy is relatively flat, stray from the Route des Vins and the Canal de Bourgogne and the terrain will certainly involve some climbing."

Route one

Auxerre, Chablis & Vezelay (self guided)

This suggested nine day route, including free days, takes cyclists around the vineyards and medieval towns of Burgundy via approximately 180kms of cycle paths, riversides and country lanes.

Auxerre to Chablis – 43km

Start in the medieval town of Auxerre where the gothic spires of Cathédrale Saint-Étienne and the Abbey of St-Germain add to the picturesque port side ambience. Next follow the River Yonne towards Moneteau and Gurgy before continuing along the banks of the river Serein to Chablis.

Chablis to Nitry – 35km

Wine tasting and sightseeing in Chablis always makes for an enjoyable free day before embarking on 35km cycle to Nitry via the beautiful Burgundy villages of Chemilly-sur-Serein, Poilly-sur-Serein and Sainte Vertu. Rest and relax in Nitry or pedal out to the medieval cobbled streets and castle ramparts of Noyers-sur-Serein – an approx 18kms round-trip.

Nitry to Vezelay – 44km

Undulating farm lands and wooded hillsides form the backdrop to the 44km ride from Nitry to Vezelay. We recommend rest stops at Joux-la-Ville and Lucy-le-Bois followed by a downhill ride into the Cure River Valley to help you prepare for the ascent to the hilltop town of Vezelay, famed for its UNESCO listed 11th century Basilica of St Magdalene.

Vezelay to Auxerre – 60km

Roman baths or a rural ramble to the nearby village of St-Pere-sous-Vezelay make a free day in Vezelay all the more rewarding prior to pedalling 60km back to Auxerre via the Canal du Nivernais within the wooded northern region of Morvan Natural Park.

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Route two

Beaune, Buxy & Nolay (self guided)

Taking your time over eight days allows this suggested 210km route to unfold via the vineyards, greenways and canal paths leading from one historic town or wine making village to the next.

The Beaune Loop – 60km

Notre-Dame Basilica and the multi-coloured tiled roof of the Hôtel-Dieu offer just a couple of highlights in Beaune although it's often the numerous wine cellar doors that receive most attention in Burgundy's self-professed wine capital. The 60km loop from Beaune via the Abbey of Citeaux in Saint-Nicolas-lès-Cîteaux and the vineyards of Chambolle-Musigny and Nuits-Saint-Georges, famed for their Pinot Noir grapes, provides an excellent warm up for the week ahead.

Beaune to Rully – 36km

Bid Beaune adieu and pedal off into Chardonnay country as you cycle just over 35km from Beaune to Rully by way of lunch and a rest within the villages of Pommard, Meursault and Santenay.

Rully to Buxy – 47km

Vineyard scenes continue southwards following a 47km route to the medieval village of Buxy where some lovely, not too steep, hillsides lead to timeless rural towns surrounded by river creeks and shaded woodlands.

Buxy to Nolay – 45km

Take it easy and go sightseeing in Buxy or, perhaps, undertake a 40km loop by way of Cluny and its famous Romanesque abbey that was once considered the largest church in the world. From Buxy we suggest heading northwest and over the Canal du Centre for lunch in Couches before continuing past remote farmsteads and ancient oak woodland en-route to the traditional market town of Nolay.

Nolay to Beaune – 23km

Relax on a 23km route back to Beaune or plump for a longer 40km trail. Highlights include Bligny-sur-Ouche and the Burgundy Canal as well as a lovely 15km downward gradient through forests and Alex Corton vineyards which finally brings you back to Beaune for a celebratory last night in Burgundy.

Route three

Liveaboard barge from Dijon to Beaune (small group)

Wind your way along the Burgundy Canal for a week of pedalling approximately 235km whilst spending each and every night on-board a beautiful custom-built barge complete with cycle guide and crew.

Els van Veelen, from our cycling tour operators UTracks:
"The barge has been renovated to fit French canal ways and features nine cosy cabins with split level beds and a small bathroom with toilet, shower & basin. We spend most of the time on our bicycles, relaxing on the sun deck or enjoying the meals in the salon. Basically, we only sleep in the cabins."

Dijon – 25km

The cycling pace is as gentle as the flow of the water and starts with a 25km 'there and back' route from the Burgundy Canal to Dijon, the region's historic capital city, where the Notre-Dame Cathedral and numerous mustard stockists make for relaxed sightseeing out of the saddle.

Saint-Nicolas-lès-Cîteaux – 35km

Follow the course of the canal as it meanders in a southeasterly direction, away from Dijon, before embarking on a 35km cycle ride to Saint-Nicolas-lès-Cîteaux and the impressive Cîteaux Abbey.

Auxonne – 35km

Another relaxing 35km round-trip leads cyclists to the historic town of Auxonne where the 17th century Chateau of Auxonne, the Port Royale and the surrounding medieval ramparts join reflections over the Saône River.

Beaune – 50km

Pedal out to the walled town and wine capital of Beaune which is surrounded by vineyards and villages, renowned for producing some of the Burgundy’s finest Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.

Gergy to Chalon sur Saône – 35km

A shaded forest trail, incorporated into a 35km route, makes the cycling all the more manageable with a peaceful pootle en-route from Gergy to Chalon sur Saône.

Winery tour to Tournus – 55km

Enjoy a final day of cycling through the vineyards surrounding the market town of Tournus on the banks of the Saône which features four Michelin-starred restaurants, just in case you fancy celebrating.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Christopher Michel] [Intro: Brian Burger] [Route One - Auxerre: Pline] [Route Two - Hôtel-Dieu: Elliott Brown] [Route Three - Dijon: Miwok]
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