Food Fridays: Bike Tours for Foodies
What better way to sample the culinary delights of a region than by peddling along its backroads, enjoying the scenery and working up an appetite for the next meal?
Here are ten great itineraries for all you food- and wine-loving cyclists out there:
1. Blue Ridge, Virginia
Tucked away in Virginia’s vineyard-dotted farmland awaits a land of gastronomic pleasure. After a gourmet breakfast, head out to the region’s wineries, and return to a sumptuous dinner in the evening. Some tours include an evening at The Inn at Little Washington, which invented such signature dishes as veal Shenandoah and timbale of Maryland crabmeat.
Planning: Base yourself at the Foster Harris House bed and breakfast.
2. Sonoma and Napa Valleys, California
Vine-covered hills, redwood groves, and sprawling farmlands provide perfect cycling country. Follow Sonoma’s backroads in the Dry Creek, Alexander, and Knights Valleys, stopping to taste the wines and the best of California’s farm-t0-table cuisine. Then move on to Napa Valley’s winery-lined Silverado Trail and stay in St. Helena, sampling locally raised lamb, cheeses, and seafood.
Planning: Some tours start from San Francisco; or stay in the area and book tours by the day.
3. Salta Province, Argentina
Beginning in colonial Salta, visit ancient Cachi, remote Estancia Colome — featuring a private tasting of its high-altitude wines — and picturesque Cafayate, the hub of Salta’s wine-making business. Gaucho barbecues and a regional cuisine of corn-based Locro stew, tamales, and lots of desserts, are complemented by the Malbecs and Torrontes of the province’s vineyards.
Planning:The route involves some hard cycling at high altitudes.
4. The Golden Triangle, Thailand
Sample the cuisine of northern Thailand, with its liberal use of spices, curries, and noodles prepared with fresh local ingredients, on a tour that starts in Chiang Mai and visits hill-tribe communities en route to the ancient Burmese kingdom of Chiang Saen. Peddle past jungle valleys and boat-dotted rivers, eating in local restaurants, and taking in markets and an optional cooking class.
Planning: The route goes along rural roads with some climbing.
5. Rajasthan, India
Rajasthan‘s royal kitchens turned the preparation of food into an art form, cooking scarce meats with elaborate curries, dried fruits, and yogurt. Sleep in palaces and feast on some of India’s finest cuisine in towns such as Umaid Bhawan, Jodhpur, and Udaipur, sharing lonely roads with camel trains and shepherds en route.
Planning: This is an easy route. Bikes can be rented in most towns if you want to devise your own tour.
6. Mediterranean Turkey
For centuries Ottoman chefs crafted dishes for sultans, creating a rich culinary tradition in the process. On this tour of epicurean discovery, you will cycle through the citrus-perfumed countryside and along the Mediterranean coast, exploring the seaside towns of Bodrum and Datca, and ending with a three-day cruise on some of the world’s most dazzling blue waters.
Planning: A challenging route for intermediate and advanced cyclists.
7. Piedmont, Italy
With robust wines (Barolo, Barbaresco) and singular gastronomy, Piedmont is a gourmet’s paradise — a typical meal consists of at least six courses, accented with some of the world’s finest truffles. Peddle along quiet but hilly country roads, visiting red-roofed villages, such as Alba, and the five towns of Barolo.
Planning: Moderately difficult.
8. Burgundy, France
With lazy lanes, picturesque canals, farmland, and vineyards galore, Burgundy is a biker’s delight. Discover the abbeys at Cluny and Vezelay and the historic cities of Dijon, Macon, Tournus, and Beaune, with architecture funded by wealthy wine merchants. Taste the likes of Vosne-Romanee, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Puligny-Montrachet along the way.
Planning: A network of linked cycle routes covers the region, providing services and facilities for cyclists.
9. Basque Country, Spain
The region’s cornucopia of ingredients combine to create some of the best cuisine in Spain: including aged beef grilled over hot coals, and bacalao (salted cod) — washed down with Basque cider or Rioja wine. Cycling tours take in fishing villages along the area’s rugged coast, the cultural delights of Bilbao, and Haro and the Spanish plateau, where Rioja wines are produced in all their glory.
Planning: Tours are available tailored to your interests and fitness level.
10. The Cape & Winelands, South Africa
Beginning in Cape Town, explore the Cape Peninsula coast before heading inland to the Franschhoek Valley, with its French roots and magnificent vineyards, and the Shamwari Game Reserve. On the way, taste a medley of Cape Malay, Indian, Afrikaner, and European culinary delights, such as springbok loin in balsamic broth.
Planning: Spring and fall are the best times.
This list originally appeared in National Geographic’s Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe.