You are the main character of this epic cycling odyssey. But unlike Odysseus in Homer’s epic poem, your journey will not be ten years, but seven spectacular weeks that will take you all the way to Amsterdam.
Start your unforgettable European cycling Odyssey at dawn from the stunning hilltop surroundings of Athens’ ancient Acropolis. Spinning down 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 cyclists will cross into Albania, an enigmatic land dotted with undiscovered archaeological ruins and blessed with sun-soaked beaches. Next up is tiny Montenegro where our 2 days of riding take us 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 now winds down past the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge) in Mostar before turning northward along the spectacular Adriatic, into Croatia and a rest day in Split’s historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Odyssey continues north with some island-hopping along the gorgeous coastline before the riders wash up in Italy and the city of Trieste, a hotbed of Cold War intrigue after World War 2. The Alps now dominate the skyline 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 & Garmish – before descending into Munich, host of the world’s largest Oktoberfest celebration.
After quenching their thirst with a few brewskies, the cyclists will head through the charming Bavarian 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 riders spin 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 riding 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 look back 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 back down through the city’s awakening streets, the cyclists will head northwest for a couple of days before spinning into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Delphi for 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 one of Greece’s most spectacular roads – numerous switchbacks surrounded by towering peaks.
On the other side, cyclists will now enter little-known Albania and enjoy 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 now 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 Shkodëro and then onto the border with Montenegro. Before the riders’ know it, they have crossed another border, this time into Bosnia and, after a couple days of challenging climbs, the section 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 northward along the coast, riders will pedal along the water’s edge before stopping 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 the city’s medieval old city, riders will begin their long, challenging ascent up into the Alps. Two days of climbing through stunning alpine scenery will deliver the cyclists to the Cortina, a favourite ski resort for the European jet set and the host of the 1956 Winter Olympics. The route continues through the Italian Alps over impossibly beautiful passes and snaking 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 cycling brings another Winter Olympic city, this time the village of Garmisch-Partenkirchen who hosted the event way back in 1936. A short downhill ride takes the riders into Munich, its famous beer halls & the end of this amazing section.
The German city of Munich, with its famed Hoofbräuhaus, which was established in 1589, is the start for the third and last section of The Odyssey. The route will take the riders out across Bavaria’s numerous bucolic towns, past grazing cows, through cool green forests and into 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 Heidelburg, a famed university town whose academic institution dates from the 14th century. Riders will also enjoy exploring the imposing Heidelburg castle that overlooks the city and the Neckar River from atop Königstuhl hill. A short ride will take the riders into Mannheim and the shores of the Rhine River. 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 the cyclists will be well-advised to stop in Mainz for a taste of some of the world’s best Riesling wines. 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. Another day’s ride brings the riders to Cologne and its incredible twin-spired Cologne Cathedral.
On 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 spin back to the Rhine River and head north through the industrial city of Dusseldorf before leaving the river just before they enter the Netherlands. The last stretch takes them through Arnhem, the site of a decisive World War 2 battle in 1944, before heading across the pretty Dutch countryside and into Amsterdam and the end of this romantic section.