|Photo by Freeimages.com/Arto Myllys|
by Simon Mottram, The Daily Telegraph, June 2, 2016
For me, the best cycling holiday is an escape from everyday life: the chance to ride my bike in destinations filled with cycling history, remarkable scenery, challenging terrain and delicious regional food and drink.
Riding up a famous col, you begin to appreciate the glory days of road cycling and what it must have been like for the racers who found themselves battling each other on the roads you have the luxury of enjoying. The sense of freedom when focusing solely on riding is relaxing in itself, but add to that the comfort of having beautiful routes planned for you, mechanical support should you need it, and tasty meals waiting when you arrive for lunch or dinner, and a cycling holiday becomes the ultimate way to unwind. For stylish cycling holidays, there are a few places which truly deliver on scenery, food and culture. Here, I've selected my favourite cycling trips around the world - with Telegraph Travel's pick of the perfect short breaks to complement them
1. Mont Ventoux, France
Perhaps the most stylish cycling getaway possible, Provence offers beautiful farmers markets, perfect for stuffing your jersey pockets with delicious local food ahead of long days in the saddle. Conquering Mont Ventoux, the Giant of Provence will mean you’ve ticked off one of cycling’s most famous climbs. The 90-minute journey upwards gives you plenty of time to pay homage to cycling greats who have carved their names into history on this iconic road of the Tour de France. Stay in Hôtel Crillon Le Brave for ultimate relaxation and comfort.
Headwater (01606 828468; headwater.com ) offers a seven-day Côtes du Ventoux Cycling trip with departures between June and October, from £969 including flights and most meals.
Conquering Mont Ventoux will mean you’ve ticked off one of cycling’s most famous climbsCredit: Chris Hellier
- See also Ultimate Itinerary: Provence
2. Santa Barbara, US
With weather and landscape reminiscent of southern France, roads that cut into hillsides with views of the ocean and fascinating Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, Santa Barbara is perfect for cycling. Many pro teams come to nearby Solvang to train each spring, and the narrow, almost-Alpine Figueroa Mountain Road, which rises more than 3,000 feet is a big draw. Today’s golden hills and 19th century stagecoach roads present countless photo opportunities, and the view of Santa Barbara and the ocean from East Camino Cielo is a fine reward for all your hard work. Stay in Hotel Belmond el Canto for hillside luxury or The Four Seasons for quintessential Santa Barbara beachside.
Trek Travel (00 1 608 255 8735; trektravel.com ) runs a four-day Santa Barbara Mountains, Sea and Wine Country itinerary with departures between October 2016 and November 2017, from $2,299 (£1,573) including most meals and bicycle hire. Excludes flights.
The view from the Passo di Gardena in the DolomitesCredit: Alamy 3. The Dolomites, Italy
Featuring some of the most dramatic scenery in the world and also the home of some of the most epic battles of cycling history, the Dolomites are a must-do for serious road cyclists. If you’ve never ridden a bike through the high mountains of northern Italy, first hauling yourself up and over a passo (start with Valparola and make your way over Fedaia and Gardena for outstanding views) and then enjoying the sweet reward of a sweeping descent through the forest, you’re missing a big section in your cycling palmares. Stay at La Perla in Corvara and enjoy the excellent Austrian-Italian food as a reward for your hard work.
An eight-day Dolomites and the Alps from Saddle Skedaddle (0191 2651110; skedaddle.co.uk ) departs July 9, from £1,310 including most meals and bicycle hire. Excludes flights.
Secret Italy4. Marin County (Marin Headlands, Mount Tam and beyond), US
Riding over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco towards the Marin Headlands – with views of Alcatraz and Angel Island to the right and the Pacific to the left – you’d think it was impossible for half an hour’s climbing to take you into wild open hills. Once you head up Conzelman Road to Headlands Lookout, though, the city becomes a distant memory and Marin County reveals itself to be some of the best cycling in the world. Try a ride over the marshlands to Tiburon for classic Americana. Stay at Cavallo Point hotel in Sausalito – simply the best in the area.
Viator (020 3318 0421; viator.com ) offers a three-hour guided San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge Bike tour with daily departures, from £38.28 including bicycle hire with time to explore Marin Headlands on your own.
Marin Headlands Credit: Ian Dagnall 5. Girona, Spain
A throng of World Tour pros have made the Catalan town of Girona their home, lured by the mild weather, the nearby Pyrenees and the rolling roads down to the Costa Brava. For those who don’t turn pedals for a living, the experience is just as special. Disconnect from the worries of everyday life for a few days at Rapha’s newest Retreat. It’s designed to showcase the best of the region’s riding, the incredible mountains and coastal views, as well as the cuisine that Catalonia is famous for, and special luxury accommodation.
A six-day Retreat Girona from Rapha Travel (0207 482 9175; rapha.cc ) departs September 4, from £2,500 full-board including bicycle hire and transfers but excluding flights.
Credit: © Chad Ehlers / Alamy Stock Photo/Chad Ehlers / Alamy Stock Photo 6. Adelaide Hills, Australia
Adelaide in South Australia is a haven for cycling, with Eucalyptus forests providing cover and the hills of the area rolling through vineyards and up some lovely climbs. Mount Lofty and Norton Summit are must-dos. The annual opening to the Professional racing calendar and the Tour Down Under bring these hills to life each January with raucous colour. Stay at Mount Lofty House to make it a truly stylish break.
Red Balloon (00 61 1300 875 500; redballoon.com.au ) offers a full-day Adelaide Hills, Vines and Wines Mountain Bike tour which departs regularly every Friday and Sunday, from $139. It includes bicycle hire and tastings.
Glorious landscapes in the French PyreneesCredit: © Miguel Lopez Sanchez / Alamy Stock Photo/Miguel Lopez Sanchez / Alamy Stock Photo 7. The eastern Pyrenees, France
The roads of the eastern Pyrenees are wilder, less discovered and not as engineered as the Alps, but offer incredible views and challenges. The Mediterranean terrain feels more human and is perfectly suited to cycling. Staying near Ax-les-Thermes, a day’s cycling could take you to Col de Port – the favourite climb of Graeme Fife, author of Rapha’s Great Road Climbs series, or the tougher Col de Pailhères, with beautiful switchbacks lifting you upwards over 2,000m to what feels like the roof of the Pyrenees. Stay at hotel Le Grand Duc, hidden away up a ravine in Gincla.
A seven-day guided Pyrenean Classic Cols itinerary from Marmot Tours (01373 830409; marmot-tours.co.uk ) has departures between July 2016 and September 2017, from £920 half-board including maps and route notes. Excludes flights and bicycle hire.
Secret France8. Massif Central, Gorges de la Jonte and Mont Aigoual, France
Featured in the seminal work The Rider by Tim Krabbe, Mont Aigoual is a physical high point in a region often described as having “inverted scenery”. Riding through deeply cut gorges (Tarn, de la Jonte) and the extinct volcanoes to the North and the Cevennes to the south, this is remote but truly inspirational riding. The Massif Central is riding for the connoisseur, where even the most experienced legs can find a new challenge. For an inspirational place to stay, the mid-point of the Rapha Randonnee Massif Central is the Chateau de la Caze on the banks of the river Tarn.
Correze Cycling Holidays (00 33 (0)5 55 27 13 01; correzecycling.com ) offers an eight-day cycling holiday from £549 half-board including guided and self-guided days out. Excludes flights.
Bird's Eye View of California Bike RacePlay!03:529. Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto served as Japan’s capital and the Emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868, giving it a beautiful, authentic feel with characterful traditional wooden buildings. From Kyoto you can venture north by bike to Miyama, a remote rural area in the mountains. The area is famous for its traditional kayabuki (thatched roof) farmhouses, over 200 of which are scattered across the local countryside and survive as dwellings where people still live and work. Riding through the countryside, you feel transported by your surroundings. Stop in a village for traditional lunch of handmade soba. Stay at the Kyoto Ryokan Hotel Sugicho for an authentic experience.
Urban Adventures (0808 274 5111; urbanadventures.com ) has a three-and-a-half-hour Kyoto Cycling tour which departs regularly, from £49 including bicycle hire.
Japanese pagoda and old house in Kyoto at twilightCredit: AP 10. Western Norway
Away from the heartlands of European cycling, civil engineers continue to build spectacular roads for cyclists. Western Norway is one such opportunity where incredible scenery abounds with fjords and waterfalls. The Trollstygen is a road climb, where a glaciated valley is sliced in two by a waterfall. The Juvet is a “landscape hotel” that puts you right in the heart of nature in Valldal, near Geiranger. It comprises seven glass-and-wood modernist cubes by a river, among boulders, aspen and pine trees. It's stunning and totally cleansing.
Original Travel (020 7978 7333; originaltravel.co.uk ) offers a six-day trip to Norway from £1,150 per person including three nights half-board at the Juvet Landscape Hotel, with two days of guided mountain biking. The price includes flights and car hire.
Juvet Landscape Hotel in Norway
This article was written by Simon Mottram from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.