Monday, 1 June 2020

From Taiwan to Spain, scenic bicycle trails around the world

Sun Moon Lake cycling bicycle trails
A woman cycling across a bridge at the tranquil Sun Moon Lake. Photo credit: that83/

1. Sun Moon Lake Bicycle Trail, Taiwan

Surrounded by towering mountains, this route around Sun Moon Lake – Taiwan’s largest body of water, located around four hours by car from Taipei – is deemed one of the very best in the world, thanks to its special blend of cultural sites and spectacular scenery. Misty cool mornings, spectacular sunrise and sunset views over emerald waters and gorgeous forests and streams are just part of the appeal. The 30km route (which takes about 3.5 hours) also passes by the Ci En Pagoda, Wenwu Temple, Shuishe Dam and Xuanzang Temple. If the full route sounds a little challenging, you can try shorter segments, such as the 3.4km leg from the quaint town of Shuishe to the contemporary architecture and great views on offer at the Xiangshan Visitor Centre.

Shimanami Kaido cycling bicycle trails
Shimanami Kaido is a path of scenic beauty that takes you across the Seto Inland Sea. Photo credit: tagu/

2. Shimanami Kaido Cycling Course, Japan

This is an epic 70km route that starts from Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture and runs through six islands and over the seven bridges that span the scenic Seto Inland Sea before ending at Imabari City on Shikoku. The dedicated cycle path is clearly marked with signs and marked off from road traffic, so it’s suitable for intermediate riders. Besides the stunning sea views, highlights include the Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge; Mount Shirataki, famed for its 700 Buddhist statues; and Kosanji, an extravagant temple build by a rich businessman turned monk, as an act of devotion to his mother. Take it slow and explore the many small towns, museums and temples that make this such an intriguing region of Japan.

Penang Bridge cycling bicycle trails
You’d pass by Penang Bridge (background) if you cover Phase One of the ongoing Penang Bicycle Route Masterplan. Photo credit: Hafizzuddin/

3. Round-island-route, Penang, Malaysia

Measuring 82km and taking in plenty of the island’s hills and peaks, this route is not for novices. But if you’re up to the challenge, it’s an enjoyable ride with a good mix of urban and rural sights. Start from George Town’s Pengkalan Weld and cycle south, hitting the suburb of Jelutong and then the town of Bayan Lepas, where the viaducts present a magnificent view. You then curl around the southeastern foothills to reach Balik Pulau, climb the hills to Teluk Bahang Dam, down to the beaches of Batu Ferringhi, before heading back to George Town. For something a little shorter, you could try covering Phase One of the ongoing Penang Bicycle Route Masterplan, a 12km dedicated bicycle lane on the east coast of the island that begins at the Prangin Road–Carnarvon Street intersection in George Town and ends at the Queensbay Roundabout.

Ayutthaya Thailand cycling bicycle trails
You can explore Ayutthaya’s ancient ruins on two wheels. Photo credit: Soloviova Liudmyla/

4. Ayutthaya, Thailand

Just 90 minutes away from Bangkok by car, this former capital is littered with ancient temples and ruins – remnants of its once-mighty past – and is compact enough to explore on two wheels. You could sign up for a biking tour or rent a bike from the many kiosks. Your trip will take you through several historic sites, along rice paddies and past idyllic villages. Some definite pit stops in this Unesco World Heritage site include Wat Mahathat, an expansive temple well known for the haunting sight of a Buddha head entwined in the roots of a banyan tree, and the Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the holiest temple on the site of the old Royal Palace, particularly notable for its three main chedis, bell-shaped structures housing the remains of former Thai kings.

Amstel river Amsterdam cycling bicycle trails
A view of the Amstel river in the small village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. Photo credit: Martin Bergsma/

5. Amstel cycling route, Amsterdam

The charming capital of the Netherlands is known for its extensive bike networks and ingrained cycling culture, and riding around the city while exploring its meandering canals, quirky architecture and green gardens is a joy in itself. But if you’re looking to get out of Amsterdam for a few hours, plenty of easy rides take you out into the pretty and wonderfully flat countryside. One popular option is along the Amstel river, from which Amsterdam got its name. Start the 27km route from Stadhouderskade, near the Heineken Experience (probably a good idea to forego the brewery tour before getting on the bike), and head south, snaking along the river. You’ll pass beautiful bridges, artisanal cheese farms and hit the idyllic village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel in around 40 minutes, where you’ll be greeted by iconic windmills and waterfront homes. Loop back and finish off at Mauritskade, a short distance from where you first began. There are other equally beautiful routes, all easily discovered through these downloadable maps here.

Montjuïc Castle Barcelona cycling bicycle trails
The view from Montjuïc Castle on Montjuïc hill. Photo credit: valleyboi63/

6. Montjuïc Route, Barcelona

Taking you right through the heart of the city, this 11km loop, beginning from the iconic square of Plaça d’Espanya and involving a demanding climb to the top of the Montjuïc, a prominent hill overlooking Barcelona harbour. Montjuïc is home to plenty of landmarks, such as the Olympic Stadium, the setting for the 1992 Olympics, and Montjuïc Castle, an old military fortress that dates back to the 17th century. The view is worth the effort – the crystal-clear blue waters of the Mediterranean, the expansive Barcelona skyline and the jagged peaks of the mountains of Montserrat beyond.

SEE ALSO: Joy ride: The bike trail encouraging two-wheeled exploration in Seattle

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