Want to get away with your bike, but struggling to narrow down the list of bikepacking destinations?
Who doesn’t? But, it can be quite hard to land on the ideal location to suit your needs for your cycling holiday.
Maybe you’re looking for somewhere with incredibly unique landscapes, not found anywhere else in the world, that you can admire from two wheels.
Or are you just crazy enough to want to attempt the epic climbs that we regularly see professional cyclists break on?
We’re here to give you a rundown of the greatest bikepacking destinations you’ll find on Earth, no matter what you want from your trip. We’ll be covering:
- Bikepacking Destinations For Epic Climbs
- Bikepacking Destinations To Escape Winter
- Bikepacking Destinations For Unique Landscapes
Let’s dive in!
Bikepacking Destinations For Epic Climbs
Do you want to have a crack at some of the most infamous climbs in the cycling world?
For many of us, this means going abroad. There’s nothing like conquering some of the climbs you see yearly in the Grand Tours to make you feel like a pro!
The French Alps
If you’re looking to ride the most famous professional routes, look no further than cycling holidays in France.
The Tour de France is the biggest cycling event in the world, and inspires many to enjoy the beautiful sceneries of France by bike – and nowhere more so than the French Alps.
Home to some of the most infamous climbs in the world, including Mont Ventoux and Alpe D’Huez, cycling fans have seen some of the most exciting Tour stages in history take place on these roads.
Let it be known that these climbs really are brutal.
If you’ve never done one before, then you’ll quickly realize that the long, relentless nature of Alpine climbs is far more challenging for most people than the short, sharp climbs many are used to.
Not only are the climbs epic in the Alps, but the scenery is too. So, at least you’ll be rewarded during the euphoric struggle up these legendary climbs with increasingly astounding views over snow-capped mountains, green valleys, and pine forests.
The Italian Dolomites
The Italian Dolomites are some of the most beautiful mountains in Europe.
With perfectly paved asphalt mountain passes traversing sharp, jagged peaks, the Dolomites provide an excellent place to go and test out your climbing legs.
The Giro d’Italia frequents the region, with many legendary climbs renowned for splitting pelotons and producing incredibly exciting cycling.
The Hors Catégorie (HC) climb, Passo Giau, is one of the most infamous of them all, and it alone attracts a huge amount of cyclists ready to tackle it’s brutally steep slopes.
It’s not the only HC climb in the region: the Passo dello Stelvio is one of the most iconic roads in Europe, and riders have to tackle the 48 hairpin bends to struggle to the summit at an elevation of 2700 m.
Like most of Europe’s mountains, it’s best to visit the Dolomites in the summertime. The temperature during the day will still be rideable and it’s not unbearably cold at night.
The Pyrenees, another mountain range frequented by the Tour de France, is also regularly featured in the Vuelta a España.
However, the majority of the most legendary climbs sit on the French side of the border.
The absolute mecca for any would-be grimpeur is the Col du Tourmalet. One of the toughest climbs in Europe, the Tourmalet stretches for nearly 20 km, on a bizarrely straight, very exposed road that just slowly gets steeper and steeper.
Although many are attracted to the region to give it a go, some feel that the Tourmalet isn’t the most enjoyable of climbs. The relentless gradient, straightness, and fully exposed nature of the road make for quite a tough mental challenge.
However, other famous climbs such as the Col d’Aubisque, a climb that will be very familiar to fans of le Tour, and the “easier” Col d’Aspin provide the classic Pyrenean climb experience, mostly covered with pine forest and then breaking out with fantastic views near the summit.
The Hautacam is another legendary Pyrenean climb, playing a decisive role in Jonas Vingegaard‘s 2022 Tour de France victory.
Regardless of which you go for, the Pyrenees has some fantastic climbs to give yourself a physical and mental challenge.
Cycling Holidays To Escape Winter
For many of us in the northern hemisphere, it can be very difficult to get out on the bike in winter.
Days are shorter, there’s more rain, and there might even be snow and ice on the road.
These factors can make motivating yourself to get out on the bike difficult at the best of times and sometimes just unsafe or impossible, depending on your working schedule and weather conditions.
Going away to somewhere warmer in winter can be a great way to get back on your bike and enjoy cycling again, and potentially even motivate yourself to get back out on the bike at home.
Mallorca, the largest of Spain’s Balearic islands, is known as a paradise for cyclists.
There’s a huge variety of landscapes on the island: long, rolling, clifftop roads and steep, winding climbs are connected by straight-as-an-arrow roads through agricultural lands and little villages.
Mallorca bolstered its reputation as a legendary cycling destination when Team Sky (now Ineos Grenadiers) set up a yearly training camp on the island. It has now become renowned for the sport by pros and amateurs alike.
The island is home to many famously challenging climbs, such as Sa Calobra and Puig Major, another reason that swarms of cyclists turn up at the island year-on-year.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the popularity of cycling holidays in Mallorca is the temperate climate. The island’s average high never drops below 15 °C, and never rises above 30 °C, every month of the year.
This makes it the ideal location to escape the northern hemisphere’s winter, swapping the thermal tights for bib shorts, and the winter gloves for sun cream.
Andalucía is the southernmost region of mainland Spain.
It was one of the key regions of control for the Moorish empire for nearly 800 years, and the area retains the rich culture and beautiful architecture left by the Moors.
The region is littered with the so-called Pueblos Blancos (“White Villages”) – beautiful little towns perched in the hills, uniformly painted white, with a characteristic blend of Moorish and Spanish architecture.
The gaps between these unique villages are filled with stunning mountains, forests, rivers and lakes.
One of the things that makes the region so ideal for cycle touring is that the villages are spread roughly evenly, with merely 20-30 km of well-maintained roads separating them.
The standout pueblos in the region are Grazalema, Zahara de la Sierra, El Gastor, and Montejaque. However, Ronda should not be missed, as it is the most unique and arguably beautiful of these, with excellent cycling in the surrounding hills.
Depending on fitness, a rider can visit 2-3 villages each day and enjoy the beautiful landscapes in between. Though, it must be said that the region is incredibly hilly, and it’s likely that even a 50 km ride will have over 1200 m of elevation gain. Prepare yourself!
It’s also an ideal place to go cycling on a budget, where high-quality accommodation can frequently be found for under €25 per night, and large meals rarely exceed €15.
Again, it is a fantastic area to visit during winter, with temperatures consistently remaining mild. However, it wouldn’t be recommended to cycle there in the depth of summer since days can often surpass 40 °C.
Southern California is blessed with one of the most temperate climates in the world. The area’s average temperature is restricted to a range of 19-26 °C across the entire year.
This makes it ideal to go cycling at any time of year, but it’s a particularly ideal place to escape the frozen winter of the northern hemisphere (or the southern hemisphere, for that matter).
Additionally, Southern California has swathes of stunning coastlines with diverse biological ecosystems. Winter (October-March) is actually the ideal time to spot whales in the region and could make for an excellent coastal adventure during this time.
The area is also full of astounding natural beauty inland, a unique desert-type landscape separated by mountains of orange-red hues.
Some of the best National Parks in the area include Joshua Tree and Death Valley, both of which can be explored with either on- or off-road machines.
Cycling Holidays For Unique Landscapes
There are lots of reasons to love cycling.
It improves your physical and mental health, it provides an environmentally-friendly form of transport, and it’s fun to push your physical limits, but for many, the biggest reason to cycle is to witness beautiful landscapes while being fully immersed in them.
Here are some of the places to jet off to with your bike to experience landscapes that you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.
Iceland has some of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere on Earth.
Active volcanoes covered in snow, ice caves, colorful mountains, and huge waterfalls make this country extremely unique.
The coastal road is extremely well-maintained asphalt and passes through some astounding parts of the country.
However, to really take advantage of the stunning landscape in Iceland, it might be best to bring (or hire) an off-road capable bike.
The huge open lava fields throughout the southeastern highlands are zig-zagged by fine gravel roads, winding their way through volcanic valleys and across rivers. Iceland is an excellent place to explore by gravel or mountain bike for this reason.
Unfortunately, Iceland is remarkably expensive, and accommodation options in this region are very limited.
However, you might be able to both save some money and make it more of an adventure by bikepacking with complete camping gear.
This provides the ultimate freedom to explore this one-of-a-kind scenery on your terms.
Another thing to consider with Iceland is that the winters are very harsh, so going in summer is a must, and even then, the weather is very volatile. Make sure you pack for a varied climate!
A place that isn’t often talked about in reference to cycling, Namibia offers some exceedingly unique bikepacking, traversing through some of the most underrated landscapes in the world.
This includes the oldest desert in the world, the Namib desert, which stretches along the entire coastline of the country for nearly 2000 km.
The Namib is often likened to another planet due to the expanse of nothingness and the orange and red hues.
Where the dunes meet the sea is astonishing: deep red, perfectly formed dunes cascading into the stormy Atlantic paint an alluring picture.
Further inland, little sandstone oasis villages are ubiquitous with the Namib, and exploring these and learning about the Namib culture is an essential experience while bikepacking this strangely beautiful place.
Patagonia – “the end of the world” – is home to an extremely diverse range of dramatic scenery.
It is the southernmost region of the Andes, shared between Chile and Argentina, and the region is known for its pine forests, glaciers, dramatic mountain formations, and volcanoes.
Not only does it have incredible landscapes, but it is also well-known as an ideal bikepacking location. With a healthy mix of well-paved asphalt roads and incredibly remote off-road trails, there are plenty of different ways you can travel Patagonia by bike.
One of the best parts about the region is the number of different places to see. Classic highlights, from south to north, include Tierra del Fuego, Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares, Cerro Castillo, Queulat, Puyuhuapi, and the Lake District.
Many of these offer an excellent opportunity for hiking, too, and so if you have a long time, you can combine cycling a small amount of Patagonia with hiking in the national parks.
One of the most popular routes is the Carretera Austral, running from Villa O’Higgins to Puerto Varas or vice versa. You’ll see some of Patagonia’s best highlights while traveling along one of the most beautiful roads in the world.
The route is half paved, half gravel, so like many of the best routes in Patagonia, you’ll need a gravel or mountain bike. The best time to cycle in Patagonia is during the summer there, between November and March.