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My top 10 bicycle vacations

My top 10 bicycle vacations was quite hard to create. Why? There have been many places I wanted to add but there's only ten places to fill up. My top 10 is based on my own experiences since the late 1980's when I started cycling for holidays. So here we go, from 10 to 1:

#10 Netherlands: Utrecht

It was in my original home country where I had my first few bicycle vacations. I wasn't sure if I should add it here or not but there are reasons why Holland is a great cycling country. I started my bicycle holidays in Holland and have been to almost every corner of my little home country. And I tell you, it's worth to take a bike and explore it this way.

Landgoed Den Treek in between Amersfoort and Woudenberg

For most travelers Amsterdam is the Netherlands but that is far from the truth. North and South Holland provinces offer plenty of history but to me it will always be Utrecht where I grew up with a bicycle in the forests.

These forests stretch more or less out to other eastern provinces as Gelderland and Overijssel. With special bike routes available at the VVV (Dutch Tourist Organization), cycling lanes and traffic lights, and plenty of bicycle shops if you need them, the Netherlands and especially Utrecht is a really good place to cycle.

#9 Cambodia: Angkor

The place to visit in Cambodia, especially on bicycle, is Angkor. In my opinion, you can't even visit Asia without visiting Angkor, the prime city of the Khmer civilization which started to evolve half way the first millennium and would stand until the mid second millennium.

Angkor WatCambodia is a very pleasant to bicycle vacation country with enough adventure but also pleasant enough for the less adventurous travelers. It's an ideal country on bicycle for a couple of weeks holiday but it can be a great target to spend more time than that too.

If there is one area in Asia you have to cycle, it's Angkor. Sure, you can take other transport, but it's on bicycle when you start realizing what an amazing achievement it was for the ancient Khmer civilization to build Angkor Wat and the city of Angkor Thom right here.

#8 Indonesia: Flores/Sumba

The amount of sights to visit in Indonesia is amazing. It doesn't matter if you are interested in Indonesia's glorious past, nature, religion, art or modern cities, Indonesia has it all. Take Java with Borobudur, Dieng Plateau, Prambanan and the art of Solo and Yogyakarta and you have a huge chunk of the glorious past of the country.

My personal favorite in Indonesia are the islands Flores and Sumba. Here you find still some amazing natural beauty and spectacular beaches, a more simple life in the countryside where people have preserved a lot of their culture. Flores and Sumba have given me some of the best travel experiences ever, a real gem in my bicycle vacations.

Beaches at Sumba are of unimaginable beauty

#7 Thailand

I've cycled Thailand a lot in the last 20 years. It doesn't matter where you cycle in the country, you always find good accommodation, food and friendly helpful people. If you are considering a bicycle vacation, Thailand is probably the best place to start in Asia.

Wat Mahathat Sukhothai

There's bicycle shops in case you need them, plenty to see, great food, always good weather, beaches and mountains, big cities with nightclubs and local hill tribes not far away. It's an ideal country for short term cyclists and long term cyclists alike.

My favorite place to visit could be everywhere but I like Sukhothai a lot. This is one of the several UNESCO Heritage sights in Thailand and it's a very spectacular one.

Get a bicycle and do not only explore the Sukhothai park but cycle around the old city walls, find many more archaeological remains and temples far less visited but nonetheless beautiful. Sukhothai is (much like Angkor) an ultimate place for cycling!

#6 Pakistan: the Karakoram Highway

3 months in Pakistan was not enough to satisfy my need to sort out the country. It didn't matter where I cycled, either the Lahore-Islamabad-Karakoram Highway or the road to Peshawar and south along the Afghani border to Quetta, Baluchistan or central Pakistan, it was a wonderful journey. Some areas have more to show than others, but the people have always been very curious and very nice to me.

Karakoram Highway, near Passu in December

Some of the best memories of my cycling I keep from Pakistan, especially the Karakoram Highway which I cycled twice and backpacked another time. I've cycled it once in summer, once in late december with a Christmas celebration in Karimabad Hunza valley. This is probably not the best time of the year to cycle the KKH but it was nevertheless an amazing experience.

#5 Italy: Naples and Pompeii

Italy is one of those countries you have to love. With pleasant weather all year around (with the exception of the north where it can be really cold in winter),. Italy is a cycling paradise. The people are used to bicycles, bicycle shops are everywhere and there is an amazing piece of history to find at almost every corner. As I usually say: cycling in Italy is like cycling in an open air museum, a living open air museum. The only set back is that it is expensive. Camping is essential if you don't want to run quickly out of money.

Paestrum Greek ruines

Temple of Hera, Paestum

Although Tuscany is an obvious choice, it was not my favorite area. That privilege is for the area with Naples and Pompeii including Paestum with the spectacular Temple Of Hera. This lesser known piece of Greek culture on the Italian west coast was one of the surprises I found on the way south to Cozensa. Naples had a very Asian feel and the once buried city of Pompeii was another amazing opportunity to see some of the local Roman life of 2000 years ago.

#4 Iran

The most beautiful and hospitable country I cycled was without a doubt Iran. I can hear you thinking but trust me, you won't find more hospitality than in Iran, even in the big cities.

Cycling in Iran

Although I didn't visit Tehran, I spend over 6 weeks in this amazing country. There's a lot to see, especially on bicycle. Obvious choices are Esfahan, Shiraz, Bam and Yazd but what really makes the difference is the way people do for you.

Entering a town at lunch time almost always ends up with someone coming up and asking if you have had lunch. The result is you to have lunch (and often dinner and a night sleep too) with him and his family. Iran was the ultimate eye opener.

I still find it hard to give you the best place to visit in this amazing country, therefore I recommend the whole country!

#3 Malaysia

Teluk Ketapang Pangkor beaches all for yourselfMalaysia is a much underrated country for cycling. And yet, it's an excellent bicycle vacation country! Much in Malaysia is unknown to the mass tourists. And unknown makes unwanted. Dig a little deeper in Malaysia and you find some amazing gems.

You might visit Penang, and cycle from there to Kuala Lumpur. Why not cross an extra 2-3 days through Perak? Maybe it is because I have lived 8 years in Perak state and found many beautiful and hardly known spots and roads. But it makes it all the more interesting.

Take a little town like Bruas with an beautiful park entry with falls and wildwater, excellent for camping. Or take Pangkor island, Teluk Intan and the roads to Kampar, Ipoh and Taiping. There is an amazing amount of things to see and experience in this part of Malaysia.

Unfortunately most travelers only visit the so called essential parts of west coast Malaysia: Langkawi, Cameron Highlands, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca and that is a bit sad because other parts of the west are just as interesting!

#2 South China: Yangshuo

After 3 years in China I can safely say, there's more to travel/cycle than possible in a lifetime. My favorite area in China is still Yangshuo. The reason I enjoy this so much is that this is a reasonable unspoiled part of China, very rural, especially when you leave the town area.

The main thing in this part of China is the scenery. The limestone karst mountains are exceptional beautiful and although you will find in the area west of Yangshuo as far as the Yunnan borders and as far south as south of Hanoi in Vietnam such limestone mountains, there is no place like Yangshuo where you find them in such beauty.

Scenery in Xingping

Yangshuo is a great cycling experience for an ultimate cycling experience for young and old. And in that sense it belongs in the row of ultimate bicycle vacations.

#1 Laos

Girls in Pak Beng at the Mekong riverThe country I can keep coming back on the bicycle is definitely Laos. The reason why I choose Laos as my favorite cycling country is simple: it has everything you can possibly want from a country to cycle.

The people are incredible, the countryside is varied, the north with mountains and hill tribes, rough roads and rougher terrain while in the south you will find more flatlands and leftovers of the Khmer culture from hundreds of years ago.

Although Vientiane might be more modern that the rest of the country, the Lao people have kept a lot of their traditions which makes the visit to Laos only more attractive.

The heritage of Luang Prabang and the limestone mountains of Vang Vieng are obvious choices but cycle down south from Vientiane to Pakse and find some beautiful little towns like Thakhek and dusty roads and you know what I mean.

It's literally impossible not to love Laos and therefore deserves the #1 position on my personal list of bicycle vacations.

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