As John F. Kennedy once said, “nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike” and thankfully you don’t have to be a professional (or a president) to enjoy riding one. In fact, cycling is one of the most cost effective and eco-friendly forms of transportation humans have ever designed. Cycling is extremely popular across Europe, particularly in countries like Spain, Germany, France and of course, the Netherlands (which has almost as many bikes as people).

Cycling holidays are a fantastic way to take in the sites, sounds and swells of fresh air, all whilst doing something that’s super healthy (just one hour of cycling can help you burn over 500 calories). Apart from some obvious health benefits, you’ll also get a lot more freedom and flexibility whilst on holiday. You can customise almost every aspect of your journey and choose when to stay on the tourist routes and when to venture off the beaten path. You can also decide whether you want a gentle cycle through the Andalucian Mountains, an intense thigh burn in the Alps or a calm ride along the coast.

If you need any convincing just scroll through this master class in cycling photography by Jered Gruber or read up on first hand experiences from top travel bloggers Ordinary Cycling Girl (voted Best Cycling Blog 2015) and Raz (who cycled an impressive 2,400 km from Turkey to Azerbaijan) and Diane from Biking Expert.

We’ve chosen 5 of the best guided and self-guided tours which have a combination of great cycling, amazing locations and a variety of difficulty levels. So here are our top picks for cycling holidays in Europe:

5. Germany and Austria – Self-Guided Cycling along the Danube

Difficulty: Easy

Journey length: 335 km

This tour allows you to take in some of the best sites in Austria and Germany including the City of Three Rivers (Passau), Persenbeug Castle, the medieval tower at Enns and beautiful Vienna. The route is downhill all the way, so makes for a very comfortable ride and a great option for beginners. The tour is run by Skedaddle and lasts 10 days. You can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 per person for overnight accommodation with breakfast (flights are not included).

4. Sicily, Greece – A Self-Guided Tour through the Ancient Cultures

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Journey length: 365 km

This is the perfect tour for balancing a good cycle with amazing cultural and historic locations. You’ll pass through ancient Arab, Byzantine, Norman and Romanesque ruins, architectural master-pieces and take in the impressive hills, coasts and villages of Sicily. This tour will cost you between $1000-$1500 per person and includes accommodation (bed and breakfast), bike rental, transfers and a route/map. You’ll need to pay for additional meals and flights to and from the island. For more information on the tour visit Hooked on Cycling.

3. Croatia – Guided Cycling Holiday in South Dalmatia

Difficulty: Medium

Journey length: 197 km

We absolutely love this tour for its quirky mix of land and sea. You’ll get to hop from island to island and spend time enjoying the views from both boat and bike. The main highlights include visiting several UNESCO World Heritage protected sites Trogir, Hvar, Stari Grad and the medieval town of Korcula – which claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo. The great thing about this tour is that you get to spend 7 nights on a yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean whilst also getting some quality cycling time in too! Prices for this guided tour start from $1,000 per person with most meals and all accommodation included. To book this tour visit Hooked on Cycling.

2. Andalucia, Spain – Guided Mountain Biking

Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Journey length: Depends on route

For the more experienced, adventurous or competitive bikers, the mountainous region of Sierra Nevada in Spain provides ample opportunities to try free riding, single track trails, technical down hills and cross-country routes. The weather is also extremely favourable all year round with 300+ days of sun a year and temperatures averaging a pleasant 15ºC (59ºF). Andalucian Cycling Dreams offer flexible options for holidays and can tailor your cycling route to your experience/level. It costs upwards of $700 for their fully guided mountain biking tours with self-catering or B&B accommodation.

1. The Alps, France – Guided Alps Tour

Difficulty: Hard

Journey length: 740 km

The French Alps annually host the final stages of the Tour de France and are renowned worldwide for first class cycling routes. Whilst you won’t be expected to ride 3,500km, you will be tested to the limits, so this tour is not for the faint of heart. You’ll begin on the banks of Lake Geneva and pass through the jaw dropping gorges, cliff faces and dizzying heights of the mountainous Alps. You will also pass through the world famous Ski town, Val d’Isere for some down time and a quick bite to eat. The final stop on this 740 km route is the relaxing Cote d’Azur (you’ll definitely need a few days to relax after this tour). This once in a lifetime experience will cost you close to $2,000 per person and includes accommodation, meals, full professional guidance and digital photo album of your entire experience. For more information on the tour check out Le Domestique Tours.

If you’re travelling to Europe from abroad you should consider getting travel and health insurance before you depart (and make sure cycling is included in your package). You may also find this guide with packing tips and advice useful before you book your cycling holiday. We also highly recommend taking your own portable wifi device with you on your travels so that you can capture and share all your hard earned memories! Tep’s portable device is perfect for travelers on the go, it connects seamlessly between over 80 countries and fits in your pocket/bag. For a fixed daily cost of just $9.95 per day, you get unlimited internet usage for up to 5 devices so you’re guaranteed to save you a lot of money on roaming charges. Plus, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to find a wi-fi zone when you’re biking through mountains or remote islands. For more info or to buy/rent a Tep wireless device visit our site here.