Cycling is good for the body and the soul: not only can it help with weight loss, improve heart and lung health and develop navigational skills, it’s also low impact and aids sleep.
Even more reason to jump on a bicycle or treat yourself to a new one this year, Freedom Treks, specialising in guided and self-guided bike tours for all cycling abilities, has expanded its offering in Europe with 14 new tours.
The new tours take in a wide selection of spectacular sights, including some recognised by UNESCO, follow dedicated cycle paths or quiet roads and are designed to suit all fitness levels.
Catherine Gray, Head of Freedom Treks, says: “We’ve listened hard to what our customers wanted us to add and tried to ensure there is something for everyone. From easy cycling along valley floors in Austria, where it’s the scenery that takes your breath away, to the changing landscapes of Slovenia’s lakes and mountains and Italy’s beaches and lagoons. There are also harder tours discovering Albania and Cyprus plus an exclusive e-bike tour in Croatia, perfect for anyone who has been put off by the sometimes challenging terrain of its beautiful coast and islands.”
Here are five brand-new trips to inspire keen leisure cyclists, or those new to the pastime, along the road for 2018.
Dalmatia Highlights – Zadar to Dubrovnik – Deluxe
Having seen a continual rise in e-bike popularity, with circa 75,000 purchased in Great Britain last year*, Freedom Treks has added its first e-bike only tour. Perfect for those who might have previously considered the coastal terrain of Dalmatia a little too hilly to manage, imagine cycling with ease through picture-postcard villages, enjoying excellent service and marvelling at unforgettable after-dinner sunsets. Guests will be torn between staying on board the gorgeous new motor yacht and exploring the idyllic islands. Beginning in the romantic seaside city of Zadar, ‘Croatia’s new capital of cool’ according to Condé Nast Traveller (due to its seaside location, mysterious old town, paved marble streets and romantic Balkan heart), discover the secrets of Southern Dalmatia, from its bustling cities and beach resorts to its protected national parks. Sail to the spice island of Dugi Otok and pedal along the scenic ‘highway in the sky’ to reach the historic fishing town of Sali, float through the clear waters of Kornati National Park looking out for marine life, and spend an evening in Trogir, a UNESCO-listed old town. Marvel at the waterfalls and green wilderness of Krka National Park and breathe in the sweet-smelling lavender on Hvar Island. The tour ends in the vibrant city of Dubrovnik, home to grand palaces, baroque buildings and ancient walls.
Level: Easy to Moderate
A seven-night Dalmatia Highlights – Zadar to Dubrovnik – Deluxe tour costs from £1,527 pp (two sharing on the lower deck) and includes full-board accommodation aboard the brand-new Newstar boat, e-bike hire with pannier, English-speaking tour guide on board and on e-bike, overview maps for the daily tours, welcome meeting, guided tour of Zadar, Korcula, Trogir and Dubrovnik and entrance fees to the National Parks. Return flights, transfers and cycle helmets extra.
Departures: April to October, every Sunday
Lake Bled to Venice
Beginning in Bled, a lakeside town nestled in the foothills of the magnificent Julian Alps, pedal south through winding valleys, medieval villages and past tranquil fishing lagoons towards the floating city of Venice, before finishing in Lido di Jesolo. The leisurely tour takes in Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s first biosphere reserve and only national park and pauses at the smallest military museum in the world that was a former Yugoslav border outpost. Throughout the journey, keep an eye out for spectacular waterfalls, sweeping vineyards and meandering rivers. Tuck in to delicious regional cuisine, from Cremeschnitte, a Chantilly and custard cream-cake popular in Central European countries, to fresh fish brought in by the fishermen from the Adriatic Sea. The tour finishes with the chance to relax in the famous Lido di Jesolo beach area in Italy.
Level: Easy to Moderate
A seven-night Lake Bled to Venice tour costs from £737 pp (two sharing) and includes B&B accommodation in 3* and 4* hotels, plus one 5* hotel, luggage transportation, maps and route information, welcome meeting and a transfer to the Pokljuka high plateau. Return flights, transfers, bike hire and cycle helmets extra.
Departures: Any day from 17 March 2018
Highlights of Albania
Comprising three UNESCO-listed sites, this circular itinerary takes in picturesque mountains, sparkling rivers, wild countryside, thermal springs and historic towns, all in the compact country of Albania, on Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. Starting and finishing in the capital Tirana, enjoy a guided tour of the energetic centre before setting off on the cycle adventure. Cross into Macedonia to reach the picturesque city of Ohrid, one of only 28 sites that are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage that are Cultural as well as Natural. Ohrid is notable for having had 365 churches and has been referred to as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans”. Continue the trip, passing mountain cols, pedalling down sweeping valleys and powering up rocky peaks before reaching Gjirokastër. Based in southern Albania, Gjirokastër’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most attractive tourist areas of the country. Known as the “city of a thousand steps”, explore the narrow-cobbled streets and admire the architecture typical of the Ottoman period. Ride to the third UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint, that has been inhabited since prehistoric times; its ancient Greek and Roman ruins are famed for their size, beauty and tranquility. Although the cycling can be challenging at times, a support van will always be with the group, and can take seven riders at a time.
Level: Moderate to Challenging
A nine-night Highlights of Albania tour costs from £933 pp (two sharing) and includes full-board accommodation in 3* and 4* hotels, English-speaking tour guide, support van, bike rental, luggage transportation, all transfers described in the itinerary and the departure transfer to Tirana airport. Return flights, transfer to the first hotel, drinks, entrance fees to attractions and cycle helmets extra.
Departures: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6 April 2018
Innsbruck to Salzburg
Pedal between two world-renowned Austrian cities, from the alpine surroundings of Innsbruck to the elegant streets of Salzburg on this easy tour. Dedicated bike paths twist along valley floors and along riverside paths, with snow-capped mountains acting as a mesmerising back drop; all of which will leave riders breathless from the scenery, not the cycling. Take a break from the saddle and visit the sparkling Swarovski Crystal World, marvel at Krimml waterfall, Europe’s biggest at 380 m high and admire the impressive 600 m Seisenberg gorge, carved in the Ice Age. On arriving in Salzburg, look out for the castle and lake where part of the filming for The Sound of Music took place. Admire the beautiful Baroque architecture, explore the Old Town, which looks much as it did when Mozart lived there 250 years ago, and sip a well-earned beer in one of the many breweries.
A six-night Innsbruck to Salzburg tour costs from £589 pp (two sharing) and includes B&B accommodation in 3* and 4* hotels, luggage transportation, maps and route information, welcome meeting and transfer by bus from Zell am Ziller to Krimml (including bikes). Return flights, transfers, bike hire, cycle helmets and local taxes extra.
Departures: Every Sunday from 29 April 2018
Ideal for regular cyclists, discover the Karpas Peninsula, a captivating corner of Cyprus with its rugged coastlines, intriguing ruins and charming villages. Beginning in the historic centre of Famagusta, home to Ottoman mosques, Venetian fortification and Gothic churches, cycle along the north coast to Dipkarpaz, the last village on the peninsula, before turning inland and heading towards Kumyali. Pause at the Roman ruins of Salamis, explore the Royal Tombs and Saint Barnabas monastery and take a break at the Apostolos Andreas monasteries, which form a famous Greek pilgrimage site. As well as the numerous monuments, the natural scenery is also mesmerising; cyclists will pass almond, carob and sweet-smelling orange groves, sweeping golden beaches and might even be able to spot endangered loggerhead and green turtles. To see the region’s fabulous flowers at their best, visit during the spring months, when the bright blooms will cover the gently undulating hills and line the quiet roads that the route follows. At the end of the itinerary, relax in a pretty hotel and cool off in the outdoor pool, before enjoying a selection of Northern Cypriot specialties.
A seven-night Northern Cyprus tour costs from £547 pp (two sharing) and includes B&B accommodation in 3* hotels, bed and breakfasts and assorted farmhouses, luggage transportation and maps and route information. Return flights, transfers, bike hire and cycle helmets extra.
Departures: Any day throughout the year, apart from in July and August
To find out more about any of these new tours visit www.freedomtreks.co.uk, call 01273 224 066 or follow Freedom Treks on Facebook (Freedom Treks).
* An annual report produced by the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (CONEBI) gathers reports from EU countries, including the UK. Largely based on HMRC figures, Bicycle Association findings and informal estimates for Great Britain.