Watopia In Review: Beginner’s Guide To Zwift’s Virtual World

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Since its release in 2014, Zwift has revolutionized indoor training on your bike during the off-season with its virtual world.

Zwift is an online cycling app or platform that enables cyclists to ride, train, and race in a virtual cycling world known in the Zwift universe as Watopia.

Particularly if you have a smart trainer, you can transform rather boring, seemingly endless indoor rides into dynamic, goal-oriented training rides and even compete against other cyclists around the world in Zwift races.

But what is Zwift’s main virtual world, Watopia, actually like?

To give you the lowdown on Watopia in review, as well as the basics on Zwift for newbies, we’ll be covering: 

  • What Is Zwift? 
  • What Do You Need to Ride With Zwift?
  • How Much Does Zwift Cost?
  • Watopia In Review: What Is Zwift’s Watopia Like?
  • Does Zwift Offer Any Other Worlds Besides Watopia?

Let’s dive in! 

Watopia In Review: Title Image
Credit: Zwift (edited from the original).

What Is Zwift?

Zwift is a cycling app or online cycling platform that offers cycling and running courses through a virtual world known as Watopia.

Users can run or cycle all sorts of different virtual courses with a video game-like interface using a computer-generated avatar. There are also group rides and runs as well as races to compete with other Zwift users from around the world.

A cyclist rides a blue bike connected to a smart trainer while using Zwift.
Credit: Zwift

What Do You Need to Ride With Zwift?

To use Zwift, you will either need a smart trainer with your bike or a smart bike that is capable of supporting the Zwift platform. 

Zwift actually manufactures their own branded smart trainer released last year, called Zwift Hub.

It is also possible to use Zwift with a regular indoor bike trainer, or “dumb trainer,” but you will need a power meter in order to participate in Zwift racing events. 

The other downside of using Zwift without a smart trainer or a Zwift-compatible smart bike is that the trainer will not automatically adjust the resistance to simulate various gradients along the bike route, as is the case when using a smart trainer or smart bike. 

This is ultimately one of the top benefits of Zwift and what makes riding through Watopia on Zwift such a fun, immersive experience.

The app will communicate with your smart trainer to automatically shift the resistance on your bike to simulate the course that you are riding.

Additionally, if you’re riding a dumb trainer, you won’t be eligible for Zwift Premier League Racing.

How Much Does Zwift Cost?

If you register for a Zwift account online, you can get started with a free 14-day trial. After the trial, the monthly subscription fees for Zwift are $14.99 or £12.99.

CGI photo of Watopia on Zwift.
Credit: Zwift

Watopia In Review: What Is Zwift’s Watopia Like?

Watopia In Review: Graphics

The Zwift platform doesn’t feature photorealism in terms of graphics in the way that cycling apps like Rouvy do, so if you’re expecting real-life video footage of road courses, you’ll likely be disappointed.

However, most Zwift users have grown to love the high-quality, computer-animated visual style and the unique experience of cycling through an HD cartoon make-believe universe. 

What Is Watopia?

Watopia is Zwift’s original virtual reality cycling “world”.

Watopia features about 35 predefined routes, as well as additional courses that are set up for specific events or for running.

The benefit of having these pre-planned routes is that you don’t have to navigate anything and once you select your course, you can jump right into your workout. Your smart trainer will automatically adjust according to the gradient of the course that you are riding.

The scenery through Watopia varied to help keep things interesting and take you on a virtual, immersive expedition around the fantastical world.

Some of the routes are even underwater or through other magical worlds.

The distances for Zwift routes range from just a few miles to 72 kilometers with the Über Pretzel course. There are also Zwift courses in Watopia that range in difficulty in terms of terrain.

What Are The Biggest Climbs In Watopia?

There are tons of challenging Zwift climbs and hilly courses, such as the epic climb up Alpe du Zwift or the difficult Road to Sky route.

Although pretty much all of the Zwift courses through Watopia are pure fantasy, the Alpe du Zwift perfectly replicates the 3,400-foot climb up Alpe d’Huez including all 21 hairpin turns up the switchbacks and a grueling average 8.5% grade.

This climb can take the average rider nearly an hour to summit, though some of the elite cyclists can tackle the iconic climb in under 40 minutes.

The second-largest climb in Watopia after the Alpe du Zwift is the Epic KOM. This beast ascends 1361 feet in just 5.8 miles. 

To help immerse you into the indoor experience, this Watopian route displays all sorts of scenery changes as the altitude increases, such as ski lifts complete with cables showing the gondola route. You even get to enjoy a snowfall as you ascend the epic climb. 

There is a unique soundtrack of the make-believe German village. Plus, the Radio Tower climb gives you an amazing view of the Alpe du Zwift. There are even Paris-Roubaix-style cobbles to cycle over when you enter the Italian village after your descent back to Watopian Island.

What Areas Does Watopia Offer For Gentler Terrain?

When you want to train at a steady effort or work on fast intervals on the flats, you can ride Watopia Flat, which has an iconic underwater ocean tube.

There is also a great flat route called Tempus Fugit in the Fuego Flats desert, and the Volcano Flat, which has intriguing smoking lava pools.

When you are looking for more mixed terrain, including flats, shorter climbs, and some rolling hills, Watopia has you covered with courses Titans Grove and the Sand and Sequoias route.

The scenery is particularly stunning in this part of Zwift’s virtual world of Watopia, as you get to ride through sky-high redwoods.

When you aren’t chasing a personal best time and are there to enjoy the scenery, there are all sorts of fun little details to distract you, such as Titans Grove’s resident Jarvis the Bear, who is always in pursuit of honey, or the Mayan Jungle sloth who waves to you as you ride underneath.

The Mayan Jungle was Watopia’s fourth expansion, and it debuted in 2017. There are even fireflies that float around in the dark areas.

For intrepid Zwifters, there is the Tour of Watopia, which takes riders through the most popular parts of Watopia.

You’ll get to ride the fantastical routes like over an active volcano and through a see-through underwater tunnel.  

Does Zwift Offer Any Other Worlds Besides Watopia?


In addition to Zwift’s original virtual world of Watopia, there are nine other “Guest Worlds” you can ride:

  • France
  • Paris
  • New York
  • Richmond
  • Innsbruck
  • Makuri Islands
  • London
  • Yorkshire
  • Scotland (released March 2023)

Watopia is always available, but the other worlds rotate daily, with two available at a time. You can check out the calendar here!

Outside of the world of Watopia, you can also take on some serious climbs in Zwift’s France world. The biggest climb in all of Zwift, Ven-Top, is found here.

Ven-Top is a virtual GPS-matched copy of the iconic Mont Ventoux. As such, the infamous Ven-Top is roughly 13 miles and features 5,033 feet of climbing at an average 7.5-percent gradient.

Zwift riders need to push for 93 minutes on average to summit the Ven-Top climb!

A hairpin bend with graffiti on the road in Zwift's Watopia.
Credit: Zwift

Now You’ve Seen Watopia In Review…

Thanks to the vast world of Watopia, plus the rotating schedule of guest worlds, there are plenty of routes to explore on the Zwift platform – even if you’re logging miles and miles on your indoor trainer.

Ready to give Watopia a go for yourself?

You can sign up for Zwift here, or check out more videos of Watopia on YouTube here!

Found this Watopia in Review guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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With over a decade of experience as a certified personal trainer, two Masters degrees (Exercise Science and Prosthetics and Orthotics), and as a UESCA-certified endurance nutrition and triathlon coach, Amber is as well-qualified as they come when it comes to handling sports science topics for BikeTips. Amber's experience as a triathlon coach demonstrates her broad and deep knowledge of performance cycling.

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