Cycling & walking holidays in Europe

When the Covid-19 pandemic reared its ugly head in 2020, several items shot off UK shop floors in a flurry of panic-buying: loo rolls, flour, anti-bacterial everything… and bicycles. The UK’s Department for Transport reported that cycling at weekends increased by 200 percent between March and December 2020.

“I was talking to retailers in April where they were just literally selling ‘bikes’,” says a head of bike sales in an interview with Cycling Weekly. “It wasn’t a question of ‘have you got a mountain bike’, it was ‘have you got a bike’.”

When it comes to walking, it’s a similar story. More of us have taken to exploring our local patch, creating a new appreciation for the outdoors on our doorstep – whether that’s a national park, canal path or city park. The mental and physical health benefits of walking and cycling have never been more clear – and it’s what the guides and tour operators who run our cycling and walking holidays in Europe have known all along.

Travelling light

A downside to lockdowns across the globe was the amount of erosion, litter, road congestion and even mountain rescues that came with many more inexperienced explorers suddenly turning to their local, and often fragile, landscapes. Luckily, that’s not something you have to worry about on a walking and cycling holiday in Europe.

Tomi Coric is the founder of Epic Croatia, and runs our most popular walking and cycling holidays in the Balkans. He is well-versed in minimising the impact of visitors on well-worn parts of Croatia like Dubrovnik. “People don’t have privacy there anymore,” he says. “They can’t go from one part of the town to another part of the town during high season days.”

Holidays designed by responsible companies like Tomi’s are the antidote. He says: “With cycling, you spend a day or two in Dubrovnik and then you spend time exploring towns around and places such as the countryside. You spend enough time to get a sense of Dubrovnik, but you explore some smaller areas which need to be shown because they’re beautiful and less busy.”
His favourite circuit? “The route through the peninsula vineyards is a great... But I also very much like the countryside between Dubrovnik and the Montenegro border – it’s nice and green with cypress trees, small villages, small farms, vineyards. It’s a bit demanding for some people, but in the valley they can also find somewhere they could easily go for light cycling.”
Your guides – or your expertly compiled welcome pack, if you’re on a self guided trip – will clue you in on the codes of conduct in the region you’re exploring, reminding you how to navigate puddles without eroding footpaths and recommending which restaurants serve the freshest gambas al ajillo.
As well as stepping and cycling lightly, you’ll pack lightly. Accommodation and transfers are included in your holiday. You might stay in a mill house in France and set off from your doorstep each day, or walk and cycle from hotel to hotel, with your luggage transferred ahead of you.
Melanie McAnaw, from our cycling and walking holiday specialists Headwater, has a wise recommendation: “Make good use of the wine service. Over the years, many of our customers have told us stories of beautiful vineyards in lush valleys which produce exquisite wines. Having sampled the wines on offer they are then faced with the problem of how to get their favourite bottles (or cases) to the next hotel if they’re cycling! We provide a free wine pick-up service in many of our regions. You simply order as much wine as you want.”

Low season’s greetings

Summer in Europe – especially Southern Europe – can be hot and busy with tourists, even on cycling and walking paths away from the cities. While tours will avoid the hottest parts of the day and explore lesser-trod trails, there are some good reasons to visit off season instead.

“It’s good to stretch the season,” says Tomi. “It’s especially good for the islands in Croatia because they are not as busy outside June and August… They have a huge number of visitors during the day and then during the night just a few visitors stay there. We do the tours where people are spending a night or two on the islands, and we mostly use local food, local B&Bs, and they have their breakfast with them, and very often dinners… It keeps them busy.”
Lots of festivals spring up between September and May, too, so you might find yourself wandering through autumnal vineyards at harvest-time in Italy or witnessing a village transform as it celebrates the fiesta of an obscure village saint in Portugal.
“I love the sense of the wind in your hair and the feeling of freedom,” says Melanie. “And being able to stop and start on impulse surrounded by fields, the sea and sunshine.”

Our top Europe walking Holiday

Algarve walking holiday, west to east

Algarve walking holiday, west to east

Twin-centre walking trip through Portugal's Algarve

From £1175 to £1235 8 days inc UK flights
Tailor made:
This trip can depart on Saturdays through Feb - June, please enquire for details.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Europe walking or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Tips for walking & cycling holidays in Europe

“If you are looking for a holiday where you can do different physical activities during the day, relax and have good meals with pleasant people in the evening, this is the place to go. I was a solo traveller and I felt very welcome.” – Eivind Thorp travelled on our France self guided cycling and walking holiday

“We used the initial itinerary as a base and requested some alternative activities which they included for us, no hassle. So let them know what interests you and they will try to work it into the itinerary… it is your holiday. Be prepared to get away from the bus loads of tourists and get to know Greece and its people. Book now.” – Karen Humphreys travelled on our Delphi and Meteora walking and biking holiday in Greece

“Be prepared to put on weight as the food and wine is abundant and hard to resist! The surrounding area is very quiet, so this holiday is best suited to people who are happy making their own entertainment be it cycling, walking, relaxing by the pool or just enjoying the tranquillity of somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The breakfasts and dinners are all communal with a different seating plan every night, so you need to be ready to be sociable. This wouldn’t suit couples who just want to shut out the rest of the world.” – Carol Grey travelled on our France self guided cycling and walking holiday

Melania McAnaw, from our partner Headwater, adds her tips for walking and cycling in Europe:
Do try to put in some practice before doing a cycling and hiking holiday or be prepared to be sore the day after Cycling shorts are a must; you can get good padded under shorts now that fit under normal clothing and play down the nappy effect Take comfortable clothing – you’re on a relaxed holiday, not the Tour de France, so Lycra is not an essential! Pack lightweight waterproofs that can be pulled out if needed. (Hopefully not!) For the keen cyclist, go for wider cycling sunglasses; they offer complete protection from ‘fly in the eye’ Make sure you pack swimming costumes and towels so that you can stop off and enjoy a paddle along the way
Photo credits: [Page banner: Helio Dilolwa] [Travelling light: Dejan Simic] [Low season: Jose Goncalves] [Tips: Coen van de Broek]
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