May 11, 2012 / 1:45 PM / 7 years ago

Travel Picks: Top 10 cycling destinations

May 11 (Reuters) - While most travelers know that Copenhagen
and Amsterdam are ideal for exploring by bicycle, the rise of
bike-sharing and bike tours in other cities is making
discovering other destinations by bicycle easier than ever.
That's why the members and editors of travel website
VirtualTourist.com (www.virtualtourist.com) have compiled a list
of the "Top 10 Spots to Explore by Bicycle." Reuters has not
endorsed this list:	
1.  Montréal, Québec, Canada	
    While Montréal's most famous paths may lie underground, it's
most intriguing routes in the upcoming warmer months lie amongst
its 2,400 miles of bike trails and paths. The first North
American city to adopt a bicycle-sharing program, Montréal has a
few popular rides, including along the Lachine Canal, the quays
of the Old Port, and Rue McGill. In addition to paths within the
city, Montréal lies in the center of the Route Verte, a series
of bikeways throughout Quebec modeled after Denmark's national
cycle routes and the Danube and Rhine bikeways. The route, which
starts further west at Fort-Coulogne, also connects Montréal
with Québec City to the north.	
2.  Paris, France	
    Though the first bike-sharing program in France originated
in Lyon, it is Paris which gets most of the credit for spurring
the bike-sharing craze around Europe. Paris' bike-sharing
program, called Vélib', is now as synonymous with a Parisian
experience as the Louvre and steak frites. Over the past few
years, Vélib' has grown to over 20,000 bikes with sharing
stations every 300 meters. The initial benefits were aimed at
commuters and residents, but it's become a popular tourist
activity as well. Easy routes to explore include the quais and
ponts along the Seine River, particularly Quai Branly and Quai
d'Orsay, which provide ample landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower
and multiple museums. Another neighborhood with much to see by
bicycle is Le Marais, with the Place des Vosges, Maison de
Victor Hugo, and Musée Carnavalet all nearby. For those
interested in discovering a spot slightly outside of Paris, the
grounds at Versailles are perfect for exploring by bicycle.	
3.  Portland, Oregon	
    Two parks line the Willamette River, Waterfront Park to the
West and Eastbank Esplanade to the East, giving visitors the
opportunity to take in both the city view and the river's
scenery while cycling. A two block detour from Waterfront Park
at the Burnside Bridge will take travelers to the Portland
Saturday Market (which is open on all weekend), a city tradition
since 1974. For a great example of Oregon's infamous
conservation efforts, travelers can head slightly further south
to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Located on the east side of
the Willamette River, the refuge is a floodplain wetland and
well-known for its bird population.	
4.  Seville, Spain	
    While it has always contained the world's largest gothic
cathedral, Seville, the jewel of Andalucia, had little to no
bicycle culture to speak of until the new millennium. In the
last few years, the city has gained both 120 km (75 miles) of
bicycle routes throughout the city, as well as started a
bicycle-sharing program. These updates make it much easier to
travel from the Plaza de Espana to the Cathedral in one day. 
Visitors should not forget to explore the Santa Cruz
neighborhood, which lies along the Alcazar, though with its
narrow streets, it may be better seen on foot.	
5.  Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya	
    Located about 58 miles (93 km) northwest of Nairobi, Hell's
Gate National Park is small by African standards, but still
includes a variety of animal species rarely seen anywhere else
in the world, including lions, leopards, and cheetahs. In
addition to being able to explore the park by bicycle, guests
are also allowed to camp in the park, and it's one of only two
Kenyan national parks where this is allowed. Though there is
much to explore in this savannah, it is often used as a
stop-over when en route to the Masai Mara Reserve or nearby Lake
Naivasha National Park.	
6.  Prague, Czech Republic	
    Though the hilly topography of the Czech Republic's capital
might scare off some participants, multiple VirtualTourist
members suggested exploring Prague by bicycle. Many tours
originate in the Old Town, giving riders the opportunity to
cruise along the Vltava River and see both the Charles Bridge
and Frank Gehry's Dancing House. The opposite side of the river,
the Malá Strana, has more legitimately marked bicycle paths,
particularly near Prague Castle and Letna Park. For the more
ambitious rider, one can cycle the Prague Vienna Greenways from
Prague to Austria, with the opportunity of detouring and seeing
the UNESCO site of Cesky Krumlov. If both of these plans sound
too difficult, another Virtual Tourist member had a great
experience with renting an electric bike, since the motor helped
make the hills of Prague much less intimidating.	
7.  Vietnam and Thailand	
    An increasingly popular area to explore by bicycle is
Southeast Asia. Virtual Tourist members have recommended
Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand as all great destinations
to discover by bike. In Vietnam, Visitors can take Route 1 from
the capital city of Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon),
traveling along the coast and exploring smaller, scenic villages
along the way. Another suggested ideal spot is Bangkok and its
UNESCO neighbor, Ayutthaya. Members suggest taking a train from
Bangkok to Ayutthaya, the former Thai capital, and then renting
a bike upon arrival so riders can explore at their own pace. In
addition to the ancient temples and ruins, the Summer Palace is
also located here, as well as some notable local markets.	
8.  Austin, Texas	
    Austin is famous for its music scene and breakfast tacos,
though not so well-known for its bike scene. Since one of
cycling's greatest celebrities, seven-time Tour de France winner
Lance Armstrong, calls Austin home, it's understandable that
more people are exploring the area by bike. One scenic route to
try includes the paths along Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin,
after which sightseers can ride up to the Barton Creek
Greenbelt. For a little more of the flavor that makes Austin
famous, start your ride in the SoCo (South of Congress)
neighborhood, biking up Congress Avenue and over the Congress
Street Bridge (with its bats), towards 6th Street, where many of
the country's most legendary music venues line the avenue.	
9.  Bruges, Belgium	
    Though the most obvious mode of exploring Bruges may be a
canal tour, the city is also easily traveled by bike. By
starting at the belfry in the Market or City Hall on the Burg,
visitors can easily bike to other sights, such as the Basilica
of Holy Blood and the Church of Our Lady, which features
Michelangelo's Mother and Child sculpture. For a longer ride,
the Vlaanderen Fietsroute (Flemish Cycle Route) makes it
possible to cycle from Bruges to other Belgian cities, including
Gent, Antwerp, or Brussels.	
10. Kyoto, Japan	
    Japan may be well-known for its high speed trains, but many
residents and visitors of its cultural capital, Kyoto, prefer to
travel within the city by bicycle. Exploring by bicycle in Kyoto
allows tourists to circumvent the congested traffic, but also
sneak onto back streets they wouldn't normally find when driving
from site to site. Also, the city is quite spread out and much
of the public transportation doesn't stop very close to all
attractions, so it may actually be quicker to rent a bicycle.
Many hotels rent bicycles to guests, but they are also readily
available near Kyoto Station.	
	
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