We’re all for yachts and private jets, but the best way to see the world is up close and personal.
To know a country is to breathe its air, to exchange greetings with its people, to ask for directions in a poorly approximated version of its native tongue.
And those are three things best accomplished on two wheels.
Bicycle tours today are in abundance and an increasingly popular way to spend all or part of a vacation. They come in all shapes and sizes: luxury or budget-friendly, casual or — as is the case below — life-affirmingly epic. We tapped Henry Gold, Founder and President of TDA Global Cycling, to bring you seven impressive bike tours on seven continents. Each has a shorter route available if you don’t have four months to spare. Ride on.
North American Epic
Anchorage to Mexico City - 6,347 miles - 95 riding days
From forest to desert and across a multitude of National Parks, the North American Epic heads through Yukon Territory before plunging down the Alaskan Highway and into Montana — mind the moose and buffalo crossings — along legendary highways towards Old Faithful. A welcome change of scenery begins as riders head into Arizona and down Baja. A quick ferry to Mazatlan brings on the last leg of the tour — the aptly named Conquistador — which ends in the Distrito Federal.
By the end of this journey you will have Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa under your belt — er, uh, saddle. The route runs along the Nile, past ancient temples, through the Sudanese desert, over and around the Simian Mountains, crosses the Equator, circumvents Mount Kilimanjaro and pays a visit to the Pyramids.
Darwin to Queenstown - 4,680 miles - 65 riding days
The journey begins with a leisurely pedal across the Outback and into Australia’s stunning wine country. Cruising the coast will prepare you for the climb up the Australian Alps ahead. You’ll stop in Sydney, wave “hello” to the Opera House and then catch a ferry to New Zealand’s south island to finish alongside crashing waves and picturesque mountains in Lord of the Rings country.
Shanghai to Singapore - 4,549 miles - 64 riding days
Many have made stops in urban Asia — whether for business or pleasure — but it’s the routes out of the city that reveal the East like you’ve never seen it. Riders take a spin through mountains, along stunning Pacific coastline and through valleys peppered with ancient temples and heritage sites. This expedition for the books hits China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.
South American Epic
Cartagena to Ushuaia - 8,476 miles - 131 riding days
Novices best step aside for this one. This challenging and lengthy expedition spans six countries: you’ll scale the Andes and Ecuadorian volcanoes, traverse the Bolivian Salt Flats and amble through Chilean vineyards before beholding the vast and austere majesty of Patagonia over the trip’s final weeks.
St. Petersburg to Lisbon - 3,948 miles - 62 riding days
A 12-country joyride that hits most of western Europe’s great cities, the Trans-Europa starts by snaking through the Baltic region and into historic Venice. A jaunt through Italy and the French Riviera comes next, finishing with a passage through the foothills of Spain and into Portugal. You’ll follow the amber trade route used by the Romans, and the adventure includes gondola rides, pasta and of course, Chianti.
The Last Degree
Punta to Punta - 690 miles - 18 days
Got $75,000, a can-do attitude and some good long-johns? This is for you. You’ll first participate in a mandatory pre-ride training camp in Winnipeg. The journey proper starts in Punta, Chile, from whence you’ll fly into the Antarctic base camp (given name: the Last Degree). With Polar experts as your guide, you’ll perched yourself atop a custom fat-tire bike and don a Canada Goose down jacket to do your best Shackleton impersonation. All meals, tents, stoves and fuel are included, in addition to the very necessary 24-hour emergency-response services. You’ll need to bring a -40 degree sleeping bag of your own, though — along with an iron constitution.