Europe’s Mediterranean coastline is a paradise for cyclists. With the perfect combination of tough climbs, long descents, stunning scenery, and ideal cycling weather, there really is nowhere quite like it for a vacation on two wheels.
It isn’t hard to see why some of the greatest cycling races in the world, such as the Tour de France and the Giro D’Italia have stages that overlook the azure-blue waters of the Mediterranean. From leisurely seaside routes to strenuous mountain ascents, there’s something for every type of cyclist.
With so many great cycling routes, it can be hard to know where to start. So if you plan to sail the Mediterranean next summer, this guide offers six of the best cities to set off from for a cycling adventure like no other.
Girona is arguably one of the best road cycling cities in Europe. Boasting smooth, traffic-free roads within a stone’s throw of the Pyrenees, it’s a stunning spot with so much variety when it comes to cycling. Rolling around the charming historic streets of the historic old town is a treat, while more adventurous cyclists will want to head out and take on the ups and downs of the nearby mountain landscape. Girona is home to many of Spain’s best and most famous road cyclists and offers everything from gentle ascents like Els Angels to seriously crunchy climbs like Rocacorba.
No discussion of Europe’s best cycling destinations would be complete without a mention for Nice. This is the quintessential European cycling city, the heart of the Cote D’Azur’s cycling community, and a mainstay of the Tour de France since its fourth edition in 1906. The gorgeous Rivieira coastline is magnificent for road cycling, with a fantastic bicycle path that hugs the shore along beaches and up and over sheer cliffs. With plenty of hills in between Nice and Antibes there are some excellent if challenging ascents, as well as the Col de Vence, the Col de la Madone, and the Col de Braus for even more adventurous cyclists.
Bormio is famous for its downhill skiing, but the same terrain that makes its slopes so exciting means that it is crammed full of awesome cycling routes. Tucked away in the Italian Alps on the border of Switzerland, Bormio is in touching distance of some of the most famous and adrenaline-fuelled stages of the Giro D’Italia, like the Passo Gavia and the Passo del Mortirolo. Equally worth a look is the Passo dello Stelvio, one of the most amazing climbs in world cycling, described by La Gazetta dello Sport as “a serpent of asphalt, five tunnels, 21.5 kilometres and 1541 metres of climbing”. With views galore and plenty of great food and drink, Bormio makes for an exceptional cycling vacation destination.
For a slightly more off-the-beaten-track cycling experience, Slovenia’s Istrian coast is well worth exploring. Beginning in the charming capital of Ljubliana, routes take you through the Julian Alps, along the shores of picturesque Lake Bled, and even down along Croatia’s equally gorgeous Adriatic coastline. While the mountain routes offer plenty of tough climbs and perilous descents, most of the cycling here is gentle and manageable, making it a great option for less hardcore riders.
The mountainous island of Cyprus is rapidly gaining popularity as a winter cycling destination, and it isn’t hard to understand why! Warm weather with little to no wind makes Nicosia a wonderful starting point, and the landscape takes in mountains, rolling hills, and easy flat plains, perfect for whatever level of exertion you want!