The best cycling routes in Europe are those that show off the diversity, vibrancy and beauty of the landscapes around the continent. Of course, it’s pretty tricky to lower all of the cycling routes in Europe down to just the 20 best. Let's face it. Europe is a big place, with 44 countries and an abundance of cycling routes within each of those. And it’s not like each of the routes is competing against each other, and there's one out in front conveniently wearing a yellow or a polka dot jersey.
So, rather than look at this article as a conclusive list of Europe's best cycle routes, we'd recommend you instead look at it as a resource; as a list of 20 examples of fantastic long-distance cycle routes around Europe - each of which takes you through beautiful scenery, and in many cases, more than one country, too.
Our aim here is to give you a starting point from which to answer that big question: what are the best cycling routes in Europe? Most of our picks are challenging, multi-day adventures, but remember, in any long-distance cycling route, there’s always a shorter stage you can ride within it if you don’t fancy the full thing. So, without further ado...
1. Cycle the Backroads of Albania
There are bound to be many wonderful places that you've never considered visiting; places that you never knew had fjords, mountains, stunning lakes or even capital cities surrounded by all of the above.
Due to the fact that it’s not exactly on the tourist trail, there’s a good chance that Albania is one of the places, and one of the best ways to remedy that is to explore the country on bike. Explore the foothills of the Albanian Alps and journey through the fjords of Komani Lake.
Starting from Skanderbeg Square in the centre of Tirana, the capital of Albania, and then head into the mountains on local back roads and continue to Lake Shkodra, a huge body of water between Montenegro and Albania. Ride up into the Accursed Mountains, which look as dramatic as their name suggests and explore the Valbona National Park. Descend to the tiny village of Lekbibaj and then ride onto Dardha and enjoy views of the Fierza and Komani Lakes. Next you’ll ride to the city of Puka, famous for craft beer and porcini mushrooms. Finally, roll your way to Kozmac, and then make the journey back round to Tirana.
Didn’t know how beautiful Albania was before? Well, you do now.
2. The Danube Cycle Path
Countries: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia
This is one of the most beautiful and undoubtedly one of the best cycling routes in Europe - especially for those that don't love a climb. The Danube Cycle Path does what you'd expect it to do - running along the Danube river for over 1200km.
Starting from Donaueschingen in southern Germany (at the source of the Danube), the trail runs east along the river, and enters into northern Austria for several hundred kilometres. You’ll then cross briefly into Slovakia, and then ride to Budapest staying close to the Slovakia-Hungary border for the remainder of the trip. You'll pass forests, fortresses, monasteries, cathedrals, gastronomical wonders and vineyards as well as major cities like Vienna, Bratislava, Linz and Passau - and the infrastructure for the route is fantastic throughout.
Plus, when you do reach Budapest, you know the spas are waiting.
3. The Iron Curtain Gravel Trail
A route from round-the-world cyclist Markus Stitz and Bikepacking Germany, the Iron Curtain Gravel Trail is another one which does what it says on the tin. The route spans almost 700km along the former site of the Iron Curtain, running from Drei-Länder-Stein in the Harz Mountains to the Dreiländereck on the German-Czech Republic border and passing through the states of Thuringia, Lower Saxony, Hesse, Bavaria and Saxony on the way.
The ICGT route takes you through lesser explored Germany, and past a whole host of remarkable forest landscapes and historical spots. It follows parts of the European Green Belt, a nature conservation route along the full distance of the former Iron Curtain and was designed to be ridden in 8-14 days.
4. The North Sea Cycle Route
Countries: Scotland, England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway
Do you like to cycle? Okay. But do you really like to cycle? The EuroVelo12 route, aka the North Sea Cycle Route is officially the world's longest cycle route. It had to make our list of the best cycling routes in Europe. This route can be started from any point, but if we're randomly taking the Shetland Islands as a hypothetical starting point, you'd head south on the British National Cycle Route 1, running from Thurso to the English border (after a ferry across to Orkney, and then from Orkney to the port of Scrabster).
Once you're in England, it's all the way down to get the boat to Calais, and then you’ll cycle up on the French coast, passing into Belgium, and then into the Netherlands from there, staying on the water the whole time. Eventually you’ll ride into Germany and head to Hamburg, from where you head north up through Denmark, riding the coast of the country, and then taking the boat over to Halmstad in Sweden.
After a huge effort up the Swedish coast, you'll cross into Norway a little before Oslo, and follow the coast south, and round to Bergen - the gateway to the fjords. Easy, right?
5. Fat Biking Through the Arctic Circle
Not all of the best cycling routes in Europe are thousand-kilometre epics which span eight countries. Some of them aren’t even on tarmac or dirt. Explore the stunning plateaus and forests of the snowy Arctic Circle, and your best bet for getting around is a fat bike. Kick off from the Suossjavri Fjellstue and cross the Finnmarksvidda Plateau.
You'll then proceed across the frozen Lake Lesjavri, the largest lake in Finnmark, and pedal through land where the indigenous Sami people (often credited with inventing skiing!) raise their herds of reindeer. Proceed through the otherworldly nature, with trees weighed down with snow and bent by the Arctic winds, and of course - treat yourself to an abundance of locally-sourced foods and a whole lot of saunas.
6. The Green Divide, Netherlands
Countries: The Netherlands
A route plotted by gravel rider Erwin Sikkens in 2021, the Green Divide bikepacking route runs 585km through the Netherlands, making it the country’s longest nature traverse.
The route is split into two different sections. The opening part of the route is called the Heuvelrug Divide. It will guide you through the heartland areas of the country, on mostly gravel paths, with camping spots in the incredibly scenic vicinity of Ede. The second half of the route, the Veluwe Divide, runs from Sonsbeekpark, north through the city parks into the Veluwe, where you'll ride mostly forest paths with occasional sandy stretches. There are few better ways to see the Netherlands.
7. The Iceland Divide
Look at that photo. Look at the name of this route. Remember all the other epic photos you've seen of Iceland. Yeah, this is a good 'un.
A route documented brilliantly by rider Natt. E Will on Komoot (and on film by Montanus), this epic of a bikepacking route crosses Iceland, taking you all the way from the north coast to the south along the mid-ocean ridge fault line. You'll leave from the base of Iceland's longest fjord, Akureyri, and ride mainly gravel roads to Vík í Mýrdal at the finish.
Like all of the best cycling routes in Europe though, the best part of the journey is the good stuff in between - in all that Iceland beauty that has made the country so famous. You’ll cross lava fields, glaciers, beautiful valleys and ride by mountains, all the while staying in mountain huts or camping when night comes around and the stars brighten up. Hey, if a volcano erupts when you're finished, like Eyjafjallajökull back in 2010, you might just get to stay a bit longer too (like it or not).
8. Bikepacking in the Peak District
The concept of bikepacking is awesome. Get a bike. Get a tent. Go. But it can also be a bit scary taking on your first trip. If you'd prefer an introduction to bikepacking before you head off self-supported, look no further than the stunning Peak District in England, where you’ll find not only far-stretching scenery and rolling hills, but also beautiful gravel paths. Leaving from Sheffield, you'll ride 60km out on gravel tracks and quiet lanes and explore the moorlands, reservoirs, quarries, farms and villages of the area (as well as some famous climbs).
When nightfall comes, it’s time to set up camp, and you can do so in the Dark Peak area, renowned for the quality of its stargazing. Grab breakfast at a campsite, then head through Castleton, down the Mam Nick road and past Windy Knoll and an ancient hill fort. Head back to Sheffield on the best trails in the Peak District. This is perfect for a quick, weekend cycle route.
9. The Camino Francés (Camino de Santiago)
Countries: France, Spain
The route that most people think of as the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) is actually called the Camino Francés (translating as The French Way). So there's a good pub quiz fact to start you off.
See, there are actually several Camino de Santiago routes, all of which terminate at the tomb of St. James in the beautiful Santiago de Compostela. But this is the most popular route for good reason.
Starting at St. Jean Pied-du-Port in France, you'll cross the Pyrenees and then cross the whole of Spain. Being a world famous hiking route, the Camino is well signposted, and bikes are welcome. After all, back in the day some pilgrims used to use a horse, and a bike is basically just a horse that eats and poops less, and requires (a little) less love.
That said, some sections of the Camino route can get too bumpy for a road bike, too. In these cases you can follow the EuroVelo3 and then reconnect with the trail soon after, or... choose a touring bike instead! Expect forests, golden fields, mountains, stunning cathedrals - and best of all, to meet a whole lot of other pilgrims on the way. Also, make sure you try the 'pulpo' when you get to Santiago de Compostela.
10. The Parenzana
Countries: Croatia, Slovenia, Italy
The Parenzena is a beautiful cycle route that runs between Trieste in Italy and Poreč in Croatia. It packs a whole lot of scenery, and a trip through three countries, into an incredibly manageable distance - running just a couple kilometres short of 125km.
The route follows that of a narrow-gauge railway line which operated between 1902 and 1935. Highlights include the stunning vineyards and hill towns along the way, the beautiful coastlines (you’re never far away from an ocean view), including the 47km in Slovenia, and plenty of history which will take you back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This is a great tour for those who love good food, good wine and good weather. Due to the length and the favourable terrain and temperatures too, this is one of the best cycling routes in Europe for kids and families.
11. Bike Touring in Georgia
If you don’t like mountains, then it's best just to skip over this option. Approximately 85% of the entire country of Georgia is mountainous, so that means the cycling can be demanding, but it also means that the scenery in the country is absolutely remarkable. And yes, we know that Georgia is at the intersection of Europe and Asia, and no, this isn't the Georgia where Justin Bieber gets his peaches - that's the state in America. This Georgia is beautiful, rugged, mountainous and real fun.
Cycle the ancient trading route that once connected East and West. Leaving Manglisi, cycle to the remarkable Dashbashi Canyon and ride open track to the Javakhti Plateau. This is known as Georgian Siberia due to the sheer immensity. Ride to Lake Saghamo and Vardzia - a city carved into the mountains - explore the caves and rest up for the day.
Cycle village to village and pass the Fortress of Rabati, as well as countless golden fields, green forests and booming, grey mountains in the distance. The climax of this route is the climb up into the Adjara Mountains and to the Goderdzi Pass at 2043m. Spend your final day swimming in the Black Sea before bringing your Georgian cycling adventure to a close.
12. The Heckmair Transalp
Countries: Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy
To be honest, we could have our own separate list of 20 or more of the best cycling routes through the beautiful European Alps alone, but if we were going to select only a couple, this classic had to be one.
This route dates back to 1990 when the eponymous Andi Heckmair crossed the Alps on a mountain bike for the first time. The route was widely reported on, and became hugely popular with riders. The crossing runs from Oberstdorf to Lake Garda, with remarkable landscapes, tough downhills and demanding climbs. There are some great modern takes on the route on Komoot, but the entire thing really is beautiful - with four countries, and unlimited big alpine views.
13. The Kungsleden
One of the most famous hiking trails in Europe, the Kungsleden in Sweden, translating as the “King’s Trail” is also one of the best cycling routes in Europe. Particularly if you like singletrail and endless, stunning forest views. This route starts in the Abisko National Park in the far north of Sweden, from there,you make your way south to complete the 216km to Kvikkjokk. The middle section of the trail runs 179km from Kvikkjokk to Ammarnas, and then you finish heading the 79km south to Hermavan. You'll pass through four national parks - Abisko, Stora Sjöfallet, Sarek and Pieljekaise - see countless reindeer and look out on vast wildlands, mountains and forests.
This is a really popular hiking route, but it’s great on a gravel or mountain bike too, and don't worry, it's unlikely you'll be asked to spell any of those place names while you're on the route.
14. The Catalunya Trail
Countries: Catalonia, Spain
Most people hear Catalonia and think Barcelona. It's a beautiful city, no doubt, but there's a whole lot more beauty in the mountains behind.
This is a beauty of a trail that starts in Girona and heads up into the Pyrenees. The Catalunya Trail is as scenic as it is punishing. Expect steep climbs, rocky terrain and the odd bit of hiking. You'll ride through mountain passes and see snow peaks which bely the heat you'll feel at other times. The trails are mostly dirt, and while camping is an option, there are also mountain refuges along the way where you can break up the ride - should it be three days, four days or more.
15. The Tuscany Trail
The Tuscany Trail is the world’s largest bikepacking event, but it’s also a trail of over 500km that is a remarkable ride any time of year. The route takes you from Massa in the north, south past Pisa, through Florence, Sienna, and eventually to the finish line in Orbetello. If you’ve seen photographs of Tuscany, and we’re sure you have, then you’ll know what to expect along the way - beautiful fortified hilltop towns, medieval villages, rolling hills, brilliant food, coffee and wine, stunning treelines and a mixture of gravel trails and asphalt.
This is the ultimate Tuscan adventure, and certainly one of the best cycling routes in Europe, and possibly beyond. Just remember though - those hills come often.
16. Trans-Slovenia Alp Crossing
We’ve already looked at a route that explores the Slovenian coast, but the Trans-Slovenia Alp Crossing really captures the best part of this amazing country - the mountains. The Julian Alps that run through Slovenia are as beautiful as anything you'll find in the more famous Alps of other countries - but with fewer crowds.
From Villach in Austria, head over the Karawanken Mountains to reach Slovenia and the mountain biking stronghold of Kranjska Gora. From here, it's into the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, home to the mighty Mount Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia at 2,864m. From here it's on to Kobarid and then Postojna, as you head to the Slovenian coast and the Adriatic Sea.
17. The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
If it’s a long-distance route through Ireland you’re after, then look no further. The Wild Atlantic Way runs a full 2,500km down the west coast of Ireland, from the most northerly point on the island, County Donegal, and through another seven counties before reaching County Cork in the south. Fanan Head in Donegal has miles of golden beaches, and Sliabh Liag are the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe.
County Galway is famed for the oysters and gorgeous ocean views, while County Clare is where you'll find the Cliffs of Moher and is known as the garden of Ireland for good reason. County Kerry is where you’ll find the biggest mountains and the best hikes in Ireland - the highest mountain being Carrantuohill at 1,038m - and the rugged beauty of County Cork is the perfect place to finish. Ride the whole thing, or bite off a segment over a weekend.
18. The Atlantic Coast of Portugal
The 2,500km of Wild Atlantic Way through Ireland still not enough Atlantic for you? Well, take on the Atlantic Coast of Portugal to add another 594km. Riding south from Lisbon to Santo Antonio, this route takes you on gravel paths and on EuroVelo 1 cycle path down the beautiful coast of Portugal. You'll pass the Alentejo coastline where the surf crews hang loose, and the Algarve, including one of Europe's extremities - the most southwestern point on the continent - before finishing up with a ride along the natural park of the Ria Formosa lagoon.
19. Grand Traversee du Massif Central
Commonly abbreviated to the GTMC, the Grand Traversée du Massif Central is a route running from Clermont Ferrand south to Sète, near Montpellier in France. The Massif Central is home to the largest concentration of extinct volcanoes in the world. It's also a route that holds a special place in the heart of many mountain bikers in France, as the first long-distance mountain bike routes to be completed in the country.
You'll climb around 12,000m over the duration on all sorts of terrain, and pass sites of WW2 historical importance, ride through the Cevennes National Park, see the Tarn Valley, climb the Col de Perjuret and Mont Aigoual and experience the remote feel of the Massif Central.
20. The European Divide Trail
Countries: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal
We’re finishing with an absolute beast. This is a trail made up of many other trails, and which was only stitched together in June 2021. The European Divide Trail is the longest predominantly off-road bikepacking trail in the world. It runs 7,600km from Grensse Jakobselv in Norway all the way to Cabo St Vincent in Portugal, and was created by route-setter Andy Cox. You'll pass through dirt roads in Scandinavia, grasslands in Central Europe and dirt and coastal beauty, eventually reaching the Iberian Peninsula.
This is surely one of the best cycling routes in Europe - not least because it shows you over 7,600km of the continent, and all the diversity of terrain that includes.
Inspired? Check out our full range of cycling holidays around the world.