1) The Alsace in France
The formerly German area of the Alsace feels more German than Germany itself, but it is French. The area lies between the hill range of the Vosges and the River Rhine and is full of beautiful, flower-laden villages and little towns between the vineyards.
2) The Jura in France and Switzerland
The Jura is a series of hill ranges in Eastern France and Northern Switzerland. With loads of rain annually, this is a very green region with vast forests and grassy plains. The area is geologically composed of limestone, which shows itself through rocky cliffs and through karst landscape features and caves. The area is also interesting because of its quirky, beautiful villages and little towns.
3) Puy Mary and the volcano region of the Massif Central in France
The Cantal is a beautiful region with old weathered volcanoes. The standout peak of the Puy Mary is accessible from four directions and all these roads are highly attractive. Unlike the big cols of the French Alps, the surprisingly varied landscapes of this thinly populated area are devoid of mass tourism. Apart from the extraordinary landscapes and beautiful lavastone villages like Salers the region's tranquil flow of life is like a step back in time in the heart of Western Europe.
4) The Cévennes in France
The Cévennes is one of only two French National parks without high mountains. Having said that, cycling in this landscapes of scenic Causses (high plains) and gorges is not going to be easy. From the bottom of the splendid Gorges du Tarn to the peak of the Mont Aigoual is more than thousand meter climbing.
5) The limestone cliffs of the Vercors in France
The Vercors is a forested mountainous area with dazzling limestone cliffs not far from the higher ranges of the Alps further east. Lots of small roads pass through this area under and above the cliffs. The most spectacular part might be the Combe Laval, where the road actually clings to the mountain cliff. Not for the faint-hearted...
6) Cycling around the Mont Blanc
There are some very nice climbs in the French part and the Italian side of the Mont Blanc, including some dead-end roads like the beautiful road up to Pont in the Gran Paradiso National Park
7) Col d'Izoard
The Col d'Izoard is my personal favourite paved col of the Alps. The col is south of the main ranges of the Alps and there is a mediterranean flavour over the area. Both the north and the south sides have varied landscapes. There is a series of gorges, there are beautiful mountain valleys and there are great mountains sceneries. And there is the Casse Déserte, a moon-like boulder strewn mountainside with stange rock structures.
8) Going back in time on the big unpaved roads of the Alps
The whole World is turning into pavement but there are still great unpaved roads, even in the European Union; maybe the most beautiful of those unpaved cols is the challenging Parpaillon in France.
9) The Alpes Maritimes in France
The Alpes Maritimes is an area of high hills or small mountains. The vegetation is mediterranean and the landscape is mostly green but there are barren landscapes as well. Other than the much higher Alps further north this is a region of surprises. There are virtually no tourists but there are many highlights that could potentially draw tourists. Because of the mountains and gorges a lot of villages are isolated and that may be the most characteristic aspect of this strange and interesting region.
10) The Mont Ventoux in France
The Mont Ventoux is the most legendary climb of the world. And that legendary status is exactly what the Ventoux makes so special. A whole cycling subculture has evolved around the slopes of the Giant of the Provence. A world of stories and myth, rather than reason and facts. An old man kept talking to me that he was the pharmacist of Joe Simpson. The mountain itself is straightforward: first the long, steeper section in the woods and then the rock-strewn moonscape of the upper parts. The area around the Ventoux is very beautiful with its lavender fields and a string of very beautiful villages.
11) Corsica in France
Corsica simply is a beautiful island. The central part offers great mountain sceneries but the most special might be the western side where the mountains meet the sea.
12) The Raid Pyrenéen - Cycling in the French Pyrenees
The Raid Pyrenéen is a route of ten days across all the big cols of the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
13) Cycling in the Spanish Pyrenees
It is difficult to find a convenient route without tunnels and without exceptionally wide roads through the Spanish Pyrenees from east to west, as many roads have been 'improved' since Spain is part of the European Union. There are some roads that have been forgotten in the process and those are major highlights still for their diverse landscapes and for the interesting and pretty villages and towns.
14) On pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain
Every year a caravan of thousands of pilgrims goes to Santiago de Compostela by foot or on a bike: a living connection to European history and to old spiritual traditions.
15) Cycling to the highest road of Europe. Sierra Nevada, Spain
From Granada there is a rideable road to the 3.402 meter high Pico Veleta. Very difficult descent possible (big stones) to the Alpujerras.
16) The backroads of Portugal
Portugal is great cycling country with loads of small, quiet and often demanding roads that connect the beautiful towns and villages through diverse and surprisingly green landscapes.
17) The Aletschgletscher in Switzerland
The Aletschgletscher is the biggest glacier of the Alps. The whole area around the glacier is a national park and is forbidden for cars. There is a road up to Riederalp though, accessible by bike. From there the glacier can easily be reached on foot and there are enough footpaths and semi-climbing routes to explore the region further.
18) The Donauradweg in Austria
The Donauradweg is the famous bike path along the River Danube. Culture meets nature with a lot of cyclists.
19) The Stelvio and Gávia in Italy
The Mont Ventoux may be the most famous col of Europe and of the whole world, but the Stelvio deserves it. The Stelvio is one of very few cols in Europe that is actually situated in the middle of high alpine landscapes of the Ortler. From Prato the road climbs nearly two thousand meter in endless zigzags and ends at an elevation of 2.757 meter. The Gávia climb is equally beautiful for the same reasons. Nearby is the Mortirolo, a third classic climb because of its very steep percentages.
20) The steepest road of the World: the Scanuppia in Italy
The Scanuppia climbs 1.300 altimeters in a little more than six kilometres with maximum grades of 45 %.
21) The Dolomites in Italy
The Dolomites is magnificent cycling country. A lot of fine small roads lead to passes between the famous rock cliffs of the Dolomites.
22) The Cinque Terre in Italy
The Cinque Terre is the most mountainous part of the Ligurian coast. The green slopes rise steeply out of the sea. A small road clings to the mountainside far above the sea. And far above the five beautiful, isolated villages which can be reached by bike over sometimes extremely steep roads.
23) The big old cities of Italy
There are a lot of beautiful cities in the World that can easily be travelled on a bike journey, for example in Italy.
24) Tuscany in Italy
The Tuscany landscape has a worldwide fame for its rolling hills with cypresses and lonely farm houses with the occasional historical village on top of a hill. And of course for its famous renaissance cities like Firenze, Siena, Pisa and Lucca. And for the great food. With so many highlights cycling can be a disappointment though, because many roads are busy. Still there enough tranquil roads to make Tuscany a prime cyling destination.
25) The Monti Sibillini in Italy
One of the biggest surprises of my bike journeys was the first time I entered the highlands of the Gran Piano, flanked by the Monti Sibillini mountain range in Italy. The Gran piano is a wide, flat and treeless valley without river but with a pyramidlike hill in the middle with the fascinating village Castelluccio on top with incredible views on the mounatin range of the Monti Sibillini.
26) Inland Sicily in Italy
The inland of Sicily is an undulating landscape at 1.000 to 1.500 meter elevation. Looming over the yellow plains is the huge volcanic Etna Massif. Villages lie like eagle nests on the peaks of the hills and reveal a world far away from mainland Europe and seemingly even far away of the busy coastal areas of Sicily.
27) Inland Sardegna in Italy
The landscape of inland Sardegna is old and weathered. Lots of stones, few bread, like an old man summarized. The geography coincides with its people. The young people have gone many years ago and only the very old have remained. And just that is what makes inland Sardegna so special. A world of old stories and imagination.
28) The fjords of Norway
If we think about Norway, we think about fjords. Although there is so much more to Norway. Going north it is possible to take in all the major fjords by taking a route in the western part of Southern Norway. Highlights include the Lysefjord, the famous Geirangerfjord and the fjords around the unknown but spectacular Sunnmøre Alps.
29) The Rallarvegen from Geilo to Flåm in Norway
The road map of Norway shows a percentage of nearly 100 % paved roads. But there is a classic unpaved road too. The Rallarvegen was used for constructing the railway between Geilo and Flåm. The road climbs up to high tundra plains flanked by deserted mountain ranges, icy lakes and an icecap. The road suddenly drops down in a series of zigzags as it descend to Flåm, the dead end point of the beautiful Aurlandsfjord.
30) Jotunheimen in Norway
The most alpine part of Norway, the icy fairytale landscape of Jotunheimen National Park is filled with rock peaks and big glaciers.
31) The Lofoten and Vesterålen islands in Norway
In the arctic part of Norway there are the archipelagos of Lofoten and Vesterålen. The islands seem to rise up from the ocean like giant jaw teeth. The granite cliffs rise up to a thousand meter altitude. Tiny fishermen villages cling between the cliffs and the ocean.
32) Cycling to the Nordkapp in the arctic far north of Norway
Cycling to the Nordkapp means accepting bad weather, although I was lucky with only one rainy day in a month.
33) Landmannalaugar in Iceland
Three rough unpaved roads lead to Landmannalaugar, where nearly all Icelandic landscapes come together: volcanoes, mountains and wild rivers.
34) The Northwestern fjords of Iceland
The northwestern fjords have got the roughest and most arctic landscapes of Europe. The last wilderness of Europe.
35) Cycling the Slovenian Alps
Slovenia is a remarkably pretty little country, largely filled with the Julian Alps. The mountains are characterized by wild peaks of limestone rock and beautiful valleys. The peaceful Soča Valley is just gorgeous.
36) Visiting the beautiful city Girokastër in Albania
Girokastër is the center stage of the novel Chronique de la ville from Ismail Kadarë and is a gorgeous little town in the mountains of Albania, compeletely built of silver coloured stones
37) Sensory overload in Rajasthan, India
India is the land of contrasts and that surely applies for Rajasthan. Desert in the west versus jungles in the east, the hectic big cities like Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur versus the slow pace of life of the agricultural communities, the immense wealth of the vast palaces versus the poor living conditions of the normal people. There are holy cities like Pushkar and mediaevil citadels like Jaisalmer and there are the colourful people. Rajasthan is a world on its own.
38) The prehimalayan ranges of India
Very different from the high Himalaya ranges further north, The hill ranges of Shimla, Manali and Dharamsala are exuberantly green. There are a few roads passing through the tropical forests and rice terraces of these hills (well we might call them mountains as well) and they are all extreme fun to do. There are enough villages and small towns so it is possible to stay in hotels every day and to dine in Indian restaurants along the way.
39) The Manali - Leh road in the Himalayas of India
The Manali - Leh road is one of a few classic bike rides in the world. Every mile of the way offers magnificent high altitude landscapes, from soaring mountain ranges to desertlike high altitude plains. Four or five very high passes must be climbed to reach the fertile Indus Valley and the city of Leh.
40) The monasteries of Ladakh in India
Ladakh means literally Land of high passes. The river of the Indus flows in between the mountain ranges and the Ladakhi people live on the banks of its valley for centuries. Ladakh was a buddhist kingdom with lovely Leh as its capital and with dozens of buddhist monasteries where you enter a transcendent and peaceful world far away from everything.
41) The Khardung La - the highest road of the world?
Today we know that it is not true but at the time Jeroen, Willem and I thought to be on the highest road of the World: the 5.356 meter high Khardung La.
42) The valleys of Lahaul and Spiti
Ladakh is not the only 'Tibetan' valley in the Indian Himalayas. There are also the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti. The landscape is even more mountainous than Ladakh. A very rough road is connecting the two valleys and passes through these high-alpine landscapes as it winds its way up to the Kunzum La. Spiti might have the most beautiful monasteries that can be reached by a bike.
43) The Kathmandu Valley in Nepal
The Kathmandu Valley has no less than three beautiful cities: Patan, Bhaktapur and of course Kathmandu itself. Kathmandu is a major destination for cyclists, although the valley itself is no so good for cycling because of the traffic. But there are nice destinations in the surrounding hills like mediaevil Bandipur on top of a hill range with free vistas over the 8.000 meter high Himalaya chain.
44) The Siddharta Highway in Nepal
The Siddharta Highway is called after Siddharta Gautama, better known as the Buddha. From Siddhartanagar to Pokhara the road winds through the hills of Nepal. Hills? Isn't Nepal about mountains? Well, the Nepalis themselves call the 4.000 meter high peaks hills, but non-Nepalis will feel themselves surrounded by proper mountains, although there is no snow and ice. The Siddharta Highway, and other roads in the prehimalayan hill ranges are beautiful for its exuberantly green landscapes of jungles and rice terraces. The mediaevil little town of Tansen is a friendly, nice place to stay.
45) Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
The Lonely Cyclist loves cycling but loves trekking as well like here in Nepal the trekking around Annapurna. The Annapurna Circuit is a two week trekking around the eigh thousand meter high Annapurna and gives a perfect summary van everything that the Himalayas region has to offer: the jungle, thee towering rock and ice cliffs, thee glaciers, the gorges, the villages and the people and animals that live in this area.
46) The Atlas mountains in Morocco
The Atlas is a fascinating area with bare mountain ranges, fairytale oases and picturesque villages. The mountains are pretty accessible with a few paved and much more unpaved roads and are good for weeks of exploring.