Cycle your way from the canals of Amsterdam to the ‘City of Lights’, Paris, on this relaxed and diverse self guided cycling trip traversing three countries. Pedalling on a combination of dedicated cycle ways along canals and rivers, sleepy country lanes and urban cycle friendly roads, this is a relaxed ride where you can focus entirely on the changing scenery, flavours and languages as you make your way from Holland, through Belgium and finally to France. The trip is ideal for those who revel in city experiences, but also enjoy activity. Combine time at the museums and world famous buildings of Amsterdam and Paris with visits to Gouda, famous for its cheese, Antwerp, and the medieval architecture of Ghent. Your time in the saddle will be well rewarded in each country as you ride through changing landscapes and lifestyles, from Holland’s iconic Kinderdijk windmills to Belgium’s beer and chocolate and of course beautiful French villages, with their local food and wine. Electric bikes will lower the grading and are an option to consider on this epic two wheeled journey.
- Cycling through three countries
- Discovering a mix of cities and quiet country towns
- Delighting in the flavours of France, Belgium and Holland
- Enjoying the everchanging scenery
- Staying in small, family-run hotels
Day 1 Arrive Amsterdam
Make your own arrival to Amsterdam and check into the first hotel. Amsterdam is one of the crown jewels of Europe and there is so much to do and see here. If you arrive early make sure you go for a walk to marvel at the 17th century townhouses in the World Heritage listed canal district. The Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Vondelpark or a canal cruise are just some of the things you can do and see in Amsterdam.
Day 2 Cycle through the Green Heart of Holland to Gouda (80km)
The first leg of the route takes you through the Green Heart of Holland, which is a true cycling paradise, with characteristic peat and polder landscapes, small farming communities and picturesque historical towns such as Oudewater. Oudewater is famous for it’s Heksenwaag (or Witches Weighhouse) where women accused of witchcraft were weighed to prove their innocence. Your cycle for today will end in medieval Gouda. Here you can stroll through the beautifully preserved town centre and visit the old town hall and St. John’s church. Don’t forget to stop off at a bakery to buy fresh syrup waffles (Gouda is the hometown of syrup waffles) and some Gouda cheese – perhaps the world’s most famous type of cheese. (B)
Day 3 Continue past Kinderdijk windmills to Breda (85km)
Today you will visit one of the highlights of any trip to the Netherlands: Kinderdijk, a world-famous complex of windmills. Here nineteen historical windmills reach to the skies in the epitome of classical Dutch countryside. You can visit an authentic workshop and find out how these mills were built and how they work. Continue on to Dordrecht, one of the Netherlands’ oldest towns, where you can visit the scenic harbour quarter with its wonderful historical buildings. The route will then take you right past one of the few remaining fresh-water tidal areas in Europe, the Biesbosch National Park. Upon crossing a one-kilometre long bridge high above Hollands Diep river, you will find yourself in the south of the Netherlands. In village after village, Brabant hospitality will entice you to stop for a cup of coffee and big slice of fruit tart. Today’s destination is Breda, where you will overnight. Breda is the main city of Nassau in Holland, boasting many imposing monuments and richly decorated buildings. (B)
Day 4 Cycle into Belgium and the heart of Antwerp (73km)
The landscape along today’s cycling route is predominantly woody. On the border between the Netherlands and Belgium, you can stop to catch your breath in De Zoom – Kalmthoutse Heide, a lovely cross-border nature reserve. The route then takes you right into the historical and touristic heart of Antwerp. Antwerp is the largest town in Flanders and Belgium’s most important port city. After viewing the historical town centre you might like to venture to the hip and trendy parts of the city: ‘t Zuid and Het Eilandje. If today’s cycle worked up your thirst for Belgian beer you can pay a visit to De Koninck beer brewery. This brewery has been going strong since 1833 and has a new visitors centre to welcome guests who wish to look around and enjoy a tasting. This brewery is best known for its ‘Bollekes’. (B) Overnight Antwerp.
Day 5 Follow the river Scheldt then continue to charming Ghent (90km)
Today you cycle south along the banks of the river Scheldt and the LF2 Cities Cycle Path. The wide Scheldt river is both a natural and tourist attraction. You then change to the LF5 cycle route and start heading towards Dendermonde and Ghent. Enjoy the wild and natural landscapes from handlebar level as you make your way to your final destination of Ghent. The Belgians call Ghent their most beautiful city and the city will undoubtedly charm you. (B)
Day 6 Cycle through the open fields of Flanders and on to Tournai (79km)
The river Scheldt is still your guide as you cycle to the old town of Oudenaarde (AD 974). Oudenaarde is also known for being the centre of the famous classic cycle race “Ronde van Vlaanderen”. The former towing paths along the banks have been transformed to smooth cycle paths, which takes you through a mix of shaded areas and the open fields of Flanders. En route be sure to stop and try one of the most famous Belgian local products “Geraardsbergse mattentaart”, a pie with a long history. As you pass the town of Kluisbergen you leave the Flanders region and you will enter the province of Wallonia with just 20km/12.5mi to go to Tournai. (B)
Day 7 Cross into France and cycle through forests and villages to Cambrai (74km)
This morning you will leave the 5 bell-towers of Tournai behind you, and cycle on the last section of Belgian cycle path before crossing into France. Today offers a pleasant ride through to the Parc Naturel Régional Scarpe-Escaut, the first French regional park. Here, you will cycle through forests, marshes and ponds populated by many various species. As you continue you will discover the mining villages classified by UNESCO, farming landscapes, and also the beautiful city of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux. Passing through typical villages and hamlets, you finally reach the town of Cambrai, a peaceful city rich in art and history. This afternoon you can discover its streets, where half-timbered houses, rich private mansions, and Flemish mansions mingle with pleasure. And don’t leave without having tasted the famous “Bétises de Cambrai” or other local specialties! (B)
Day 8 Visit Vaucelles Abbey & the Great War memorials en route to Saint-Quentin (50km)
Today you will follow the Canal de Saint-Quentin (inaugurated in 1810 by the Emperor Napoleon 1st) and discover the Haute Vallée de l’Escaut. En route you can visit the Abbey of Vaucelles (XII century) which is a beautiful and historic jewel of the area. Later on you follow the famous l’Escaut river, which flows into the North Sea in the Netherlands. Continue on towards the Touage Museum. This route takes you through small hilly roads between villages that are devoted to agriculture, as well as past memorial sites of the Great War, including cemeteries, memorials and vestiges of the Hindenburg line. Continue along the canal and its cycle path to finally reach Saint-Quentin. Here you can discover its streets and its Art Deco houses. Art Deco was the style adopted during the rebuilding of the city following the Great War. (B)
Day 9 Cycle through the Oise valley to Compiègne (77km)
As you make your way to Compiegne, you will cycle through the fertile valley of the Oise. The route today again follows the canal cycle paths, and you will cross vast natural areas that are home to more than 200 species of birds. Then continue towards Noyon along the canal. Noyon is listed as a city of Art and History, and the town centre has a great medieval atmosphere. After taking a break here you then return to the shared tracks where a stop at the abbey of Ourscamp is recommended. Continue on to Compiègne, a city with charming streets, with lots of shops and varied museums. (B)
Day 10 Cycle to Chantilly, famous for its cream and the medieval town of Senlis (66km)
Today’s itinerary includes a prestigious castle, medieval towns and a large forested area! Your journey starts in the forest of Compiègne and then goes up the Automne river which gave its name to this valley. You pass close to Béthisy-Saint-Pierre, which is worth a detour if you have time. You then finally cross the “plateau” of Nery and cycle through the forest of Halatte before reaching the charming medieval town of Senlis. Senlis is an ancient foundation, and was a royal residence during the Middle Ages. The city has preserved its rich history and has several museums. Then finally, you reach Chantilly, world renown for its castle (sometimes compared to the castles of the Loire), with its Great Stables, its porcelain, its lace and its gastronomy (including the famous cream of Chantilly. (B)
Day 11 Cycle along the Canal de l’Ourcq and Canal Saint-Martin into Paris (72km)
The last cycle of the tour brings you to Paris, the City of Lights and the culmination of your journey! The scenery today is full of changes, from forest and great pines, to sandy soil. You will pass through many small villages and then follow the Canal de l’Ourcq cycle track, which passes through a rural setting for the last 30km and your entry into Paris. You then cross through the capital along the Canal de l’Ourcq and rge Canal Saint-Martin which really allows you to dive into the history of the region. (B)
Day 12 Trip concludes
The trip concludes this morning in Paris. It is possible to extend your stay in Paris and we are happy to assist with booking extra nights so you have time to visit the beautiful city of Paris. (B)
- 11 breakfasts
- 11 nights in 3 to 4 star hotels on a twin share basis with ensuite facilities
- Information pack including route notes, maps, tourist information per room booked (GPS tracks available on request)
- Emergency hotline
- Luggage transfer between hotels – limited to 1 piece of luggage per person weighing a max 20kg – excess charge for extra luggage items to be booked and paid before departure. Please note that small bags cannot be attached to the main luggage. They will be charged as separate pieces of luggage.
- 24 speed rental bike with pannier, helmet, repair kit and lock (e-bikes, road bikes available – supplement applies). GPS device rental is included (one per room).
Images courtesy of Utracks