Is there anything better than heading out on your own and going for an epic bike ride? Probably not. Whether it is just a quick loop around the park or a long multi-day bikepacking trip across the wilderness, biking is a great way to not only combine exercise and sightseeing - but to travel at a pace that allows you to take in all of the surroundings, from the mundane to the amazing.
Luckily, biking can be done almost anywhere. While hiking and/or running might be a bit easier to take on no matter your location, biking is not far behind. In actuality, all you really need is a bike (though a helmet is always a good idea too).
While there are some amazing biking spots all over the world, here are nine that we have quickly added to our own adventure bucket list. Located in places such as the backcountry of the Yukon Territory of Canada, the highlands of Scotland, and the rolling steppe of Mongolia, these rides combine beauty, excitement, and of course, off-the-beaten-path adventure.
9 Most Off the Beaten Path Bike Rides Around the World
| Tour de Afrique
One of the longest bicycle expeditions in the world, the Tour de Afrique was originally created in the early 2000s as a race across Africa - starting in Cairo, Egypt, and ending in Cape Town, South Africa. The ride crosses 10 countries on its 11,000+ kilometer route down the whole length of Africa. Many people do it on a tour through TDA Global Cycling, the organization that actually first created the route. They state that it should take riders just under 4 months to complete, with 86 of those days being actual “riding” days, the rest are for rest and travel. Some of the highlights you cycle past include ancient Egyptian pyramids, the Nile, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, and the beautiful Simien Mountains.
Learn about one woman’s ride on the Tour de Afrique.
| Lycian Way, Turkey
Originally created as a long-distance walking trail, the Lycian Way stretches 500+ kilometers (~310 miles) along the southwestern coast of Turkey. The name comes from the ancient civilization that once ruled the area and even today you can still see some historical sites created by them. Since the trail is meant more for walking (the trail was created by the Lycian people as a footpath and mule trail), the cycling trail sometimes deviates and follows backroads. Note: this trail is not for the beginner rider - it can be steep and rocky in places. But it is also very well-marked with red and white striped signs.
If you are looking to explore a beautiful, hidden gem of Turkey - and learn about some ancient civilizations, then the Lycian Trail is a great idea. Just remember to bring a helmet, and plenty of water.
| Cuba’s Southern Rollercoaster
Also known as the Vinales to Cueva de Los Portales ride, this route takes you through some of the most jaw-dropping scenery Cuba has to offer. Including, cycling through Vinales, located in the lush green Garden Province of Pinar del Río, where you will see the famous mogotes, limestone pincushion hills, and tobacco farms. Further along, you will also get to check out the historic Cueva de los Portales, which was used by Che Guevara to hide out during the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And all of that is done in just the first couple of days! For the full cycling itinerary, check this out.
Want to learn more about cycling in Cuba, a truly beautiful and off-the-beaten-path adventure destination? Then read this.
| Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
A surprisingly popular bike route in South America, taking on the Salar de Uyuni salt flats seems like a quasi-rite of passage for any long-distance cyclist (or bikepacker). While there isn’t a set “route” per se when out on the salt flats - it is really just head straight for miles and miles - many people go the way of Sabaya to Uyuni due to the winds. The route should take between 5-9 days, depending on how fast you want to go, or how much you want to take in the scenery. A couple important things to note: it is easy to get disoriented in the salt flats so bring a GPS and a good old fashion compass and also it can get cold at night (and windy), so pack extra warm clothes and a hardy tent.
Read about a family’s ride along the route here.
| Whitehorse Mountain Bike Trails, Yukon
If you are looking for some insanely beautiful, exciting (and epic) wilderness rides, you will find them in Whitehorse, the capital city of Canada’s northern Yukon Territory. Today, Whitehorse is one of the world’s fastest growing mountain biking hotspots, thanks to it being surrounded by a massive network of trails, many of which are singletrack. There are three main areas to ride around: Grey Mountain, Mount McIntyre, and the Yukon River Trail. All three are close to the city - making it the perfect basecamp for days (or weeks) of biking adventures.
Learn more about the history of the trails and their importance to the Whitehorse area here.
| Alice Springs, Australia
Alice Springs, and the Red Center (Centre) as a whole, give those who love tackling rough terrain on a bike a truly massive playground, made up of open hills, wide vistas, and of course, sublime singletrack. Thanks to its location in the heart of The Outback, Alice Springs has quickly been deemed the “Moab of Australia.” Which, while we believe the town should be able to stand on its own, does make our mouths water a bit at the thought of not only getting to ride out in some beautiful red rock landscapes, but to also explore the wilds of central Australia under our own manpower.
| Mai Chu, Vietnam
Known as one of the top places to ride in Vietnam, a country quickly rising to the top of many cyclists’ bucket lists, Mai Chau is a stunning landscape full of green rice fields, high limestone karsts, rich culture, and plenty of backroads to get a little lost on. Spend a couple of days lazily riding around the valleys, exploring the natural scenery, and getting an idea of the cultures that make up the area. Some can’t miss spots include: Thung Khe Pass (for the best views of the valley below), Lac Village (a village 700+ years old), and Mo Luong Cave, a large cave system located in Pu Kha Mountain.
Curious about other adventurous cycling routes in Vietnam? Then check this out.
| Mongolia (Tsetserleg - Tariat)
Mongolia has a road system stretching 12,660 kilometers, which sounds like a lot - but even more interesting is the fact that 6,900 kilometers of that are earth tracks. Which might just make Mongolia the absolute BEST place to go mountain biking. According to Spice Roads Cycling, which puts on tours around the country, “Vast and wild, the Mongolian steppe is the perfect setting for a rugged, off-road adventure.” We couldn’t agree more.
While there are really no wrong places to ride, one of the more popular routes (if there is such a thing) is from Tsetserleg to Tariat, which covers 483 kilometers (300 miles) in the Khangai Mountains. The ride takes around 6 days and is 95% doubletrack. If you are looking to get away (far away) from tourists, and other people in general, this is a great adventure to take on. Learn more about the ride at bikepacking.com.
| Fort William, Scotland
Known as the adventure capital of Scotland, Fort William is a great spot to spend a couple of days getting your heart rate up in the Highlands of Scotland. While mountain biking is big in the area, the town and surroundings are also popular destinations for hillwalking (hiking) and climbing due to its proximity to Ben Nevis and many other Munro mountains.
Two of the most popular mountain bike routes are the West Highland Way (measuring 154 km or 96 miles) and the Great Glen Way, which runs from Fort William in the southwest to Inverness in the northeast and covers 125 kilometers or 78 mi. There are many other cycling trails in and around Fort William to check out if you are not feeling like biking for more than a day. Either way, be prepared for rougher terrain but beautiful landscapes.
Cycling is possibly the best way to explore the world. While trains, cars, motorcycles, and even planes give you an interesting perspective of a location, if you really want to feel it (smell it, taste it, hear it) then riding a bike is the way to go. While this is a shortlist of some of the most adventurous bike rides around the world, there are many, many more places and routes to explore. So next time you are planning a trip, consider doing it on two wheels.
If you are curious about other epic, off the beaten path bike rides around the world, then we suggest picking up the book, “Epic Bike Rides of the World” by Lonely Planet.