Start your unforgettable European cycling Odyssey at dawn from the stunning hilltop surroundings of Athens’ ancient Acropolis. After spinning through the streets of one of Western civilization’s founding cities, riders will head northwest through the hilly Greek countryside passing through historic Delphi & Metoria, perhaps pausing for some olives, figs and a sip of retsina along the way.
Soon the tour will cross into Albania, an enigmatic land dotted with undiscovered archaeological ruins and blessed with sun-soaked beaches. Next up is 2 days in tiny Montenegro through rugged mountains populated with bears and wolves.
Riders can recover from the climbs in historic Sarajevo; site of some of the worst events of the 1990 Balkan wars and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered World War I. The route in Bosnia then passes the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge) in Mostar before turning northward into Croatia along the spectacular Adriatic, bound for a rest day in Split’s historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Odyssey continues north, island-hopping along the gorgeous coastline before washing ashore in Italy and the city of Trieste, a hotbed of Cold War intrigue. The Alps now beckon on the horizon and the cyclists will put on their climbing shoes as they slowly spin up the mountains past a trio of Winter Olympic cities – Cortina, Innsbruck & Garmisch – before descending into Munich, host of the world’s largest Oktoberfest celebration.
After quenching their thirst with a few Bavarian brewskies, the cyclists will head through Germany’s charming countryside towards the university town of Heidelberg and the start of the Rhine River bike path. Three beautiful days of cycling along one of the world’s great rivers will lead the riders into Cologne and its Gothic masterpiece, the incredible twin-spired Cathedral.
It is now the home stretch as the tour heads north past the Dutch town of Arnhem, the sight of a historic World War 2 battle brought to life in the book and film ‘A Bridge Too Far’. Amsterdam soon glides into view and the cyclists will enjoy spinning into the city on some of its 400kms of bike paths. Coming to a final halt in front of the world famous Rijksmuseum, home to many of Rembrandt’s most famous works, the riders can reflect on their incredible Odyssey and raise a toast to their adventures and memories.
The Acropolis at dawn is the perfect spot to begin the ‘Biking the Balkans’ section of The Odyssey. Here riders can gaze out over the city of Athens and contemplate their next 19 days on the road to Sarajevo. After cycling through the city’s awakening streets, the tour will head northwest towards the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delphi and their first rest day. Here they can explore the 4th Century Temple of Apollo and prepare for the hilly days ahead.
Two days of moderate climbing will bring the cyclists to another rest day in the small town of Kastraki, the jumping off point for visiting the incredible monasteries of Meteora. Seemingly suspended in mid-air atop sheer rock faces, these religious buildings are certainly worth a visit. You may recognize them from the James Bond film, ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Over the next 3 days riders will now pass through the Pindhos Mountains on aspectacular road with numerous switchbacks surrounded by towering peaks.
The tour then enters little-known Albania and enjoys a rest day in Sarande, a town on what is known locally as the Albanian Riviera. Refreshed, the riders will pedal north along the scenic coast to Vlora, one of the country’s oldest cities and the site of Albania’s 1912 Declaration of Independence. The route then turns inland and follows some little-used rural roads to Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, beautifully situated on the banks of the Osum River with the imposing Tomorr Mountains in the background.
Another day of spinning through the Albanian countryside brings the riders to the nation’s capital Tirana and a well-deserved rest day. After exploring the city’s colourful Soviet-era architecture, the riders continue their Odyssey, pedalling northwards through the historic city of Shkodër and onto the border with Montenegro. Two days later the tour crosses into Bosnia. After some challenging climbs, the section then comes to an end in Sarajevo, host city of the 1984 Winter Olympics.
The second section of The Odyssey begins in Sarajevo, a city situated beautifully on the Miljacka River and surrounded by the Dinaric Alps. Devastated during the 1990s Balkan war, it has almost completely recovered and is often referred to as the ‘Jerusalem’ of Europe for its cultural and religious variety. Cyclists will head toward the Adriatic coast, passing through Mostar and its famous old bridge, destroyed in the Balkan conflict but recently meticulously rebuilt. Turning northwards riders will pedal along the water’s edge bound for a rest day in Split, a beautiful seaside town of bustling bars, fashionable shops, intimate cafes and ancient churches.
The next few days will be spent spinning up Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, island-hopping on some of the numerous ferries, passing by abandoned fortresses and cruising through charming red-roofed villages, perhaps stopping for one of the region’s renown herbal grappas on a waterfront patio. Eventually, the cyclists will turn inland and race 30 km across Slovenia to reach the shipbuilding city of Trieste.
After a day of exploring Trieste’s medieval old city, riders will tackletwo days of climbing through stunning Dolomite alpine scenery that delivers them toCortina, a favourite ski resort for the European jet set and the host of the 1956 Winter Olympics. The route then snakes through the Italian Alps and into Austria over impossibly beautiful passes and through deep river valleys.
A rest day in another Olympic host city, Innsbruck 1976, will allow the riders to catch their breath and ride the futuristic, Zaha Hadid-designed Hungerburgbahn funicular which climbs 2,256m from the city center up to the Nordpark resort. If they are still energetic, there are numerous hiking trails to try out. Another day of biking brings another Winter Olympic city, this time the village of Garmisch-Partenkirchen which hosted the event way back in 1936. From there a short downhill ride takes the riders into Munich, its famous beer halls where they can raise a glass to the end of this amazing section.
The German city of Munich, with its famed Hofbräuhaus, which was established in 1589, is the start for the third and last section of The Odyssey. The route will take the riders through Bavaria’s numerous bucolic towns, past grazing cows, cool green forests and across quaint village squares. You may see farmers working the fields while wearing the region’s distinctive Lederhosen – a sight you will not soon forget.
The first rest day is in Heidelberg, a university town whose renowned academic institution dates from the 14th century. Riders will also enjoy exploring the imposing Heidelberg castle that overlooks the city and the Neckar River from atop Königstuhl hill. From there, a short journey will bring the riders into Mannheim.er. Here the cyclists will be pleased to discover the Rhine River bike path – a perfect way to ride alongside one of the world’s great rivers. A vital transportation route in the Middle Ages, the ‘Romantic Rhine’ is now more known for its sightseeing riverboats, historic cities and the many castles and fortresses perched along its waters.
Pedalling north past vineyards and the legendary Lorelei headland, the cyclists will be well-advised to stop in one of the many village Stubbes for a taste of some of the world’s best Rieslings. A little further along, the ancient city of Koblenz, some 2000 years old, marks the beginning of the Rhine Gorge and the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Its attractive triangular-shaped old city is situated below the imposing Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. One day later the tour arrives in the bustling city Cologne, perhaps best known for its incredible twin-spired Cathedral.
Savoring their last rest day, the cyclists can climb up Cathedral’s South Tower’s 533 steps for a sweeping view over the Rhine River, looking back from whence they came and then forward towards the Dutch border and the end of their journey. First, however, they will head north through the industrial city of Dusseldorf before leaving the Rhine just before crossing into the Netherlands. The home stretch takes them through Arnhem, the site of a decisive World War 2 battle in 1944, past windmills dotting the pretty Dutch countryside and into the cycling mecca that is Amsterdam where they will celebrate the completion of their own personal Odysseys