Five ultimate bucket list rides
If you are looking for awe-inspiring landscapes or you're in the market for some serious soul searching, you've come to the right place.
Touring, backpacking, roadtrip, adventure - the names may be different but the experience is the same. Take a trip around Patagonia, ride across Scottish highlands, experience the great Fjord's of Norway and feed your curosity, inspire your senses, give your instagram followers a break from burnt food, cat selfies and make them jealous by riding one of the routes on our list.
An under-populated island marooned near the top of the globe, Iceland is literally a country in the making. It's a vast volcanic laboratory where mighty forces shape the earth: geysers gush, mudpots gloop, ice-covered volcanoes rumble and glaciers grind great pathways through the mountains. Thanks to Iceland's friendly approach to cycling, navigating its epic landscapes is easy. There is a dedicated cycle network with easy to use maps showing different types of terrain, plenty of cycle-friendly hotels and public transport connections that carry bikes.
This 800 kilometre loop around the south west of the island takes 10-14 days to complete. The network of country roads provides an excellent framework placing few demands on navigation. Beginning from the world's most northerly capital Reykjavík, travel south east towards the coastal town of Skogar, this gives you access to some of the most impressive places in the south of the island including the infamous Eyafjallajokull Volcano and the thundering Skogarfoss Waterfall. At Vik, you'll swing north and climb into Fjallbak Nature Reserve, home to the colourful mountains of Landmannalaugar.
After circumnavigating the reserve, head north west to the Snæfellsnes peninsula and little Grundarfjörður. Set on a dramatic bay, the town is backed by waterfalls and ice-capped peaks. The Puffin Tour from Grundarfjörður goes to wonderful basalt island, Melrakkaey where you'll see colonies of puffins, kittiwakes, the odd whale and super views of Kirkjufell mountain.
Iceland boasts an unbelievably wide variety of fresh fish and menus offering everything including shark. Try Harðfiskur, a sort of Icelandic fish jerky, which is dried out in the cold air. There are lots of hot dog shacks along the roads, order a plysa hot dog, they contain lamb and are served with an unusual sauce giving it a unique flavour.
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Mountains of Landmannalaugar
In Chile, adventure is what happens on the way to having an adventure. Pedal the chunky gravel of the Carretera Austral and end up sharing ferries with SUVs and oxcarts, wrong turns along the way reveal heaven in anonymous orchards.
The Carretera Austral, Chile's Southern Highway stretches a total of 1200 kilometers from Puerto Montt to Villa O'Higgins passing through forests, rivers, and waterfalls in the depths of rural Patagonia.
When you hear the term 'Southern Highway', you might imagine an orderly, well-paved route through the wilderness. You'd be wrong. This is one of the most challenging trips by bike, not for its length but for the potholes, gravel and dirt that throw you about and rattle your teeth.
The challenge makes the route all the more endearing, with chances to recuperate mid trip in the hot springs of Ventisquero Sound and take a break from the bike in the mist-shrouded Parque Nacional Queulat. Wedged between craggy mountains, a short distance off the road, there is a lookout that takes in the Ventisquero Colgante, the park's hanging glacier.
The cute mountain town of Futalenfu, offers world class white-water rafting sites and in the regional capital of Coyhaique, you can take your pick of several decent restaurants and get lost in the spiderweb of streets that radiate from the pentagonal main plaza.
The approach to Villa O'Higgins is nothing short of spectacular; narrow, hairpin bends, bumpy washboard road that's the bane of hard-core Carretera Austral cyclists, and a sheer drop to one side that promises an untimely demise for any driver showing less than constant vigilance, coupled with glimpses of untamed rivers and virgin forest-clad mountains.
Carretera Austral can be completed easily enough in two weeks or two months depending on how many times you want to stop and explore, either way the route unveils the wonders of South America and sets the stage for incredible adventures.
What to eat
Try Patagonian lamb spread-eagled on the barbecue at Entre Patagones. Wash it down with a Chilean pisco sour – a local version of the famous South American cocktail.
When to go
Between October and April, where longer days and warmer temperatures are the norm.
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The Trans-Siberian highway, Russia's ribbon road, winds from the very east of the vast country to the west. Mention Siberia and there are immediate thoughts of unrelenting cold and an unforgiving landscape. This ride is rich in beautiful contradiction to the stereotype. You can ride the full length of the highway; our route mixes the famous Tans-Siberian railway and its newly asphalted highway.
Vladivostok is Russia's San Francisco – a real stunner, with pointed mountains springing up above a network of bays, most strikingly the crooked dock-lined Golden Horn Bay (named for its likeness to Istanbul's).
Located 600 kilometres from Vladivostok and bordering with China is Khabarovsk. Join the railway and cover 1,250 miles to Chita via the Shilka and Amur rivers. From Chita disembark and join the highway again to Irkutsk. The next leg of the journey is through breathtaking scenic landscape including the 100 kilometre section beside Lake Baikal. The Banana-shaped lake is 640 kilometres from north to south and is one of the oldest and largest in the world, its clear water populated by hundreds of species found nowhere else.
Upon arriving in Irkutsk, known as the "Paris of Siberia", take a look at the neo-classical wooden buildings, some of them decorated with fantastically ornate fretwork. Use the town as a stopover then join the railway to cover the next 1000 miles to the modern Soviet city of Novosibirsk, or stay on board to Yekaterinburg. Marking the border between Europe and Asia, Yekaterinburg is a good base camp for exploring the Ural Mountains, it is also home of a church built on the site of the murder of Tsar Nicholas II, the last head of the Russian royal family.
The final 1000 miles from Yekaterinburg to Moscow is a stint best done by bike. The landscape has changed from remote fastnesses to bustling Russian cities. Break the journey with a stopover in the picturesque city of Kazan. Here you can walk around the only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia – the Kazan Kremlin, which has been designated a World Heritage Site on account of the many historic buildings erected between the 16th and the 19th century within its 2km-long white walls.
What to eat
Lake Baikal's smoked Omul, is a whitefish found only to inhabit the lake.
Eat at café Sholle, part of a chain across Russia, Sholle specialises in savoury and sweet pierogi and delicious leavened pastry filled with fruits.
When to go
Anytime from June to mid-September
Take a chance to soothe your sore muscles in the Lake Baikal hot springs.
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The world's largest salt flat sits at a lofty 3653m (11,985ft) above sea level and blankets an amazing 12,000 sq km (4633 sq mi). It was part of a prehistoric salt lake. Lago Minchín covers most of south-west Bolivia. When it dried up, it left a couple of seasonal puddles and several salt pans, including the Salar de Uyuni. The savage beauty of this vast salt desert makes it one of South America's most awe-inspiring spectacles.
There is no specific road across the desert, you can reach the salt flat from any direction. We recommend starting from the town of Uyuni in Boliva or San Pedro de Atacama across the border in Chile. Travelling from Uyuni keep the Volan Thunupa, a huge dormant volano, on your right and point your bike towards the centre of the flats. After 80km, Isla Incahuasi will appear like a mirage, the old coral island is an ideal overnight spot. After a night on the salt flats ride south to the village of Chuvica and experience the accommodation of a salt hotel.
From strange islands in a sea of blindingly bright salt to delicately coloured mineral lakes in the Andean mountains, this is an unforgettable Bolivian landscape.
What to eat
Mongo's café on the coral island of Isla Incashuasi serves vegetarian burgers and meals to quench your hunger.
Try a salteñas - juicy, spicy and oh-so-tasty, these savory pastries are served between 7am and noon in most food eateries in Bolivia
When to go
September – November
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Despite its small size, Scotland has many treasures crammed into its compact territory – big skies, lonely landscapes, spectacular wildlife, superb seafood and hospitable, down-to-earth people.
Our ride begins in enchanting Arran. The island is a jewel in Scotland's scenic crown. A visual feast, it boasts culinary delights, its own brewery and distillery and stacks of accommodation options. The variations in Scotland's dramatic landscape can all be experienced on this one island, best explored by pulling on the hiking boots or jumping on a bicycle. After a lap of the island, hop across the water and join the cycle paths of the Kintyre peninsula. The route travels north through peninsula's narrow isthmus at Tarbet and providing spectacular views of Jura Island.
Continuing north, into the heartland of Argyll, the magical glen of Kilmartin offers the biggest concentration of prehistoric sites in Scotland including standing stones, hill forts, stone markings and is an ideal place for an overnight stay. There are no shortages of Loch's en-route to the town of Oban; the gateway to many of the Hebridean islands. This is a peaceful waterfront town on a delightful bay with sweeping views to Kerrera and Mull. The final destination of this 200 kilometre Scottish adventure is the 30 kilometre leg to Fort William. Basking on the shores of Loch Linnhe, the town wraps itself around the southern flanks of Ben Nevis – Britain's highest mountain and if you fancy a hike to end the trip, you've finished in the right place.
What to eat
Oban's brilliant seafood restaurants are marvellous places to be as the sun sets over the bay.
Try accompanying your meal with one of the local single-malt whiskies; there's enough variety that you'll be able to match any flavour.
When to go
June - September; the British summer is unpredictable but should be warmer than the other seasons
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The view from the Island of Arran
Deer graze by the road
The view from Loch Linnhe