Cycle Touring in Greece Bruce Robertson Greece, the cradle of western civilisation, with a sun-drenched Mediterranean climate, is a perennially popular destination. 18 UNESCO sites, a wealth of historical landmarks and amazing landscapes with one of the longest coastlines in the world, mean the travel options here are abundant. The tavernas are welcoming and you can sip ouzo over ice with the locals. Greek food is fresh and uncomplicated and well suited to energy-hungry cyclists. Greece is not particularly well known as a cycling destination though, with over 80% of the country being mountainous - though not at Alpine heights. However unsurprisingly mountain biking and on-road climbing routes are plentiful. With a population of only 11 million and relatively few cycle tourists, it isn’t hard to get to quiet or remote countryside. Northern Greece This region is mostly mountainous with a more extreme climate than the rest of the country. Hot dry summers and cold wet winters, particularly on the western side, mean the tourism season is shorter than elsewhere. It can make for great cycling, albeit more challenging due to a less developed tourist infrastructure - perhaps better though for experiencing the ‘real’ Greece. A highlight is the descent to the sea from the home of the gods at Mt Olympus - at the end of which is Greece's second city, Thessaloniki. Nearby is the popular and easily accessible Halkidiki region with its beautiful three-peninsula trident and the world-renowned Greek Orthodox site at Mt. Athos. More off the beaten trail but in a very imposing landscape, is another amazing and famous monastery complex, UNESCO heritage listed Meteora. Central Greece Also quite mountainous, Central Greece has plenty of mountain bike and climbing tours as it is generally more accessible and a higher population means more infrastructure. Getting closer to Athens has the bonus of more historical monuments and sites - like the fields of Marathon and Thermopylae. And although not particularly bike friendly the city of Athens more than compensates with it's vast history and culture - particularly, but not totally, of the ancient variety. The surrounding Attica region and the Saronic Gulf and islands make for much better cycling. Peleponesse The Peloponnese to the south has arguably the best cycling in the country. It shares the rugged terrain of the north but with a better network of roads and trails, and without the traffic congestion or air pollution of the areas around Athens. Consequently you will find more organised tours. The region also has some of the greatest historical sites like Olympia (home of the ancient Olympic Games) Epidaurus, Mycenae and Sparta as well as countless Byzantine churches, castles and settlements. Also to be found in abundance are vineyards, olive groves and stunning scenery including mountains, valleys, forests, beaches and amazing Mediterranean views over aquamarine and turquoise water. Regional towns such as Nafplio and Kalamata make excellent bases for bike tours. The Islands However it is the islands that are the best-known and most visited parts of the country. There are 227 inhabited islands with many times that number uninhabited. By and large these are microcosms of the mainland with hilly terrain away from the coast. One of the best ways to bike these is on a bike and boat tour where several islands, or even island groups, can be visited. The Ionian, Cyclades and Dodecanese (or South Aegean) groups are perhaps the most popular although the North Aegean is equally of interest. Combining the islands with some of the Greek or Turkish mainland can provide even more variety of both sights and cycling. Being by far the largest island, Crete is a destination in itself with a host of tours available in a range of degrees of difficulty. The Minoan civilisation, the earliest in Europe, was centred here and left a wealth of archaeological sites and remains. Relaxing on board your accommodation while crossing the dazzling Aegean or Ionian Seas, together with making the most of your time on land, has to be one of the best holidays around. Or an easy bike ride in the almost year-round warm sunshine, a challenging mountain climb or taking in some of the extraordinary history and culture at cycling pace, you can’t really go wrong with Greece. Check out some of the awesome tours available from the best operators at cycletoursglobal.com/Greece. For more information on cycle touring we recommend the cycling page of the Visit Greece website.