Biking Across Eastern Europe

February 8, 2010 by

Bike Tours, Europe, Suggested Itineraries, Things to Do

When you envision a biking tour, the former Iron Curtain countries of eastern Europe may not be the first places that come to mind. Yet eastern Europe has some of the most scenic and peaceful routes on the continent. And thanks to hard work from some forward-looking leaders (and cooperation from private and public groups), bike trails literally go for hundreds of miles.

Bicycles are happier in the Czech Republic

Bicycles are happier in the Czech Republic

If you have the time, you can ride a bike from Prague to Vienna on mostly off-highway trails. The really fit can take a 254-mile trip across the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, or from Budapest all the way to Krakow, Poland, and beyond. Those who want a shorter trip have plenty of choices too – like a city bicycle tour in Prague or Budapest.

Eastern Europe by bike, minus the crowds

When most people think of a bicycle trip through Europe, they picture bucolic rides through southern France, or perhaps the green fields of Ireland or Wales. These eastern European routes are far less crowded, however, and cost far less. In many cases the trails are better marked as well, so you can easily do them on your own or with an independent group.

This surprisingly well-developed network of trails covers the most scenic parts of these countries. They often go right through vineyards and farms, past towering Czech castles, and across national parks. Inns along the way are affordable (usually $75 or less per double) and are well-equipped for cyclists, with secure bike areas and places to wash your sweaty clothes.

Here are some of the highlights. You can do any of these independently, through a rental and pick-up service, or through an organized tour.

Czech Republic by bike

Biking in the Czech Republic is no secret to nearby Europeans, but it’s seldom a crowded affair on any of the greenways. The flattest part to explore is the Moravia region, in the southern part of the country near Austria.

Not as confusing as it looks

Bike trails aplenty in the eastern Europe

Here you can find a loop to fit your ability, with wine tastings along the way and grand castles built by the Lichtensteins. Nearly every town has wineries to visit and the National Wine Salon in the village of Valtice, is a real treasure. There you can sample a range of the 100 best wines in the country, judged annually by a panel of experts. Other routes traverse the Cesky Krumlov area or the Prague area, with trails in place that connect all of them for longer trips.

Slovakia by bike

Few cyclist travelers have discovered the Czech Republic’s once-joined neighbor Slovakia. Excellent greenway systems are in place here as well though and you can have them mostly to yourself much of the year. The shortest is a 4-day Danube Trail from Bratislava to Sturovo, with an easy 103 miles along mostly flat trails. Others can take nine days—for the truly dedicated cyclists with well-toned leg muscles!

Hungary by bike

The best-known biking route in Hungary is an approximately 125-mile route around Lake Balaton, the center for many of Hungary’s mineral-rich, quality white wines and a big European Spa destination. Many vacationers choose to just do a round-trip journey of a day or two rather than circumventing the whole lake.

There are less organized routes in the Villany wine region in the south and around the historic town of Eger. Or you can explore the capital on two wheels with a Budapest bike tour.

Poland

The Greenways Program of Poland started establishing trails in 2001 and linking them up with others in the region. The granddaddy of all options is the 10-day, 226-mile “Amber Trail” journey from Krakow to Budapest, which crosses mountains of 3,600 feet (1,100 meters). It retraces the ancient amber transportation route from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea.

The “Necklace of the North” trail is flatter and longer, covering a 540-mile loop around the lakes and villages of northern Poland. Viator also offers a scenic half-day sightseeing bike tour of Krakow that’s easy and flat.

Biking Resources

Top Bicycle can set up local rentals or full-blown tours with accommodation arranged in any of the greenway regions. Prices start at $30 a day for a well-maintained hybrid bike with all necessary equipment and are $80 to $200 a day for a tour with meals and hotels. Tandem, kids’ bikes, and child pull-along trailers are available. For Hungary tours check with Hooked on Cycling or Velo-Touring. Set up city sightseeing bike tours in Europe with Viator.

For more information on greenway routes see the following websites: Friends of Czech Greenways, The Czech Environmental Partnership and The Amber Trail Greenways.

-Tim Leffel

Planning a trip? Browse more Viator’s tours and things to do in Prague, Budapest, Krakow.

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3 Responses to “Biking Across Eastern Europe”

  1. Linda Says:

    Wow, this was a lot of great info. I never realized there were so many long trails there. I’m not so sure about Czech wine, but I know the beer is great there, so this way I could drink and work it off each day! The prices look quite cheap for doing this.

  2. Tim L Says:

    Linda, I found the wine in the Czech Republic to be surprisingly good. It’s just not exported: most of it is drunk within the country. This area is very close to Austria though, so most of what you get from there is available in a Czech form as well. Hungary is even better…

  3. Clinton Says:

    So what are the roads and trails like in Eastern Europe? Is this road-bike territory or will skinny tyres get destroyed?

    Do/does any/many people buy a bike once arriving in Europe, then have it shipped back to the USA afterwards? I really don’t like the idea of rental bikes for a host of reasons.

    Thanks!