Bike Tour: Switzerland - Italy - Greece - Turkey

Fahrrad Tour Griechenland 

Bike Tour Switzerland and Italy
Lake of Poschiavo - Alps Graubünden - Switzerland
Bike Tour Greece
Corinth Canal - Peloponnese - Greece
Bike Tour Turkey
Limestone Terraces of Pamukkale - Turkey

Intro :: Touring Map :: Southeastern Europe Bike Tour

Bike Tour across the high towering Swiss Alps to Venice, one of the world's most beautiful and certainly one of the most romantic cities. Further along the Adriatic Coast of Italy, passing the microstate of San Marino. After crossing the Adriatic Sea by ferry, the bicycle tour continued around Corfu and then to the mainland of Greece. Fascinating island hopping by ferry and bike to Crete, Santorini, Naxos and Samos. And finally following Aegean Coast of Turkey to Antalya.

Southeastern Europe Bike Tour Map Switzerland Italy Greece Turkey

Switzerland Italy Greece Turkey

1. Swiss Alps and Italy :: 410 km / 6'000 m

Albula Pass
Bernina Pass
Passo dell'Aprica
Passo di Croce Domini
Passo d'Ampola
Lago di Garda
Passo S. Giovanni
Passo Pian di Fugazze

To get from Switzerland to Venice, seven alpine passes with a difference of altitude of about 6000 meters have to be crossed. I already had quite some experience hiking across the Swiss Alps but never crossed them by bike. So I started off over the Albula and Bernina Mountain Pass to Italy. Then across the Passo dell'Aprica, Croce Domini and Passo d'Ampola to the stunningly pretty area around Lake Garda. After Passo San Giovanni and Passo Pian di Fugazze followed the last part now along flat roads to Venice. Although the first few days led through well-known territory, the Alps are definitely one of the most beautiful areas for mountain biking.

Engadin Valley - Switzerland
The bike tour led over the Albula Mountain Pass (2312 m) to the famous Engadin Valley and over the Bernina Mountain Pass
(2328 m) to Italy
Passo Croce Domini - Italy
The road winds its way up the Passo di Croce Domini to an altitude of about 1890 m

2. Italy :: 405 km / 500 m

San Marino

Even though I tried to avoid the main southern thoroughfare, traffic along the Italian Adriatic Coast is simply too dense to enjoy biking. The many big and small beach resorts are deserted during winter time and looked like ghost towns. In addition the strongest rainfall for decades raged all over northern Italy causing flooding and evacuations and made biking not easier either. Definitely worthwhile was the detour to the mini-republic of San Marino which kept its medieval flair with the cobblestone alleys and three fortresses perched on an impressive mountain top.

Bike route - Italy
After the Italien Alps the tour continued in the flatlands of Veneto
Canal Grande - Venice - Italy
The fascinating Canal Grande in the heart of Venice

3. Northern Greece :: 783 km / 9'200 m


Vikos National Park
Katara Pass

The island of Corfu lies in the very north of Greece and is a beautiful biking territory, at least in the quiet winter months. There are almost more donkeys than cars on the mainly very steep roads. The mountainous west coast is dotted with lovely villages and you're rewarded with stunning views of lonely, sandy beaches and rugged coastline with immense cliffs.

From the port of Igoumenitsa I headed inland towards the Katara Pass (1700 m) which cuts through the Pindos mountain range. Despite the snow-covered and icy road, the freezing snowstorm and a limited visibility of a few meters I was able to cross over, thanks to the mountain bike and the snowman on it. However, the northern Greek region of Epiros offered such highlights as the Vikos National Park with the fascinating gorge of the same name and the vast Perama caves. On the other side of the pass I visited Meteora, the monasteries atop massive pinnacles of rock which gained fame again when they featured in the James Bond movie "For Your Eyes Only".

After three more days on the bike saddle fighting the cold and more mountainous passages and exactly for Christmas I reached the sanctuary of Delphi, dedicated to Apollo, the god of light and music. Its location on a precipitous cliff edge high above the Gulf of Corinth is more spectacular than the actual ruins of which only the theatre is well-preserved.

Ioannina Lake - Northern Greece
Ioannina is a perfect base to explore the surrounding area with such highlights as the Vikos Gorge, Perama Caves and the ancient theater of Dodoni
Katara Pass - Pindos Mountain Range - Northern Greece
Snowed in Bike on the Katara Pass in the Pindos Mountain Range
Meteora Monastery - Northern Greece
On the eastern side of the Katara Pass in the region of Kalambaka there are the famous Meteora monasteries built on natural sandstone rock pillars.
Delphi Oracle - Northern Greece
The theater of the ancient pilgrimage site and oracle of Delphi

4. Greece: Peloponnese :: 780 km / 6'000 m


The Peloponnese, separated only by the Canal of Corinth from the mainland, is a region of outstanding natural beauty and good for cycling if you don't mind the many gradients. There is hardly any traffic on the smaller country roads although that requires a good map and quite a bit of navigational skills which is further complicated by the street signs in Greek alphabet only.

I basically went all around the peninsula of the Peloponnese, letting mostly the archaeological sites of ancient Greek cultures such as Olympia, Mystras, Mycenae and Corinth form the exact itinerary. Furthermore I spent some time harvesting olives on the south coast over New Year's which gave me a welcome break from cycling even though it's hard work.

My favourite part was the peninsula of Mani with its wild, barren landscape and deep gorges, excellent for hiking too with well-marked trails which is not all that common in Greece. In Athens, respectively in Piraeus I caught a ferry to Grete, the biggest of about 1400 Greek islands. Ready for the island hopping!

Olympia - Peloponnese - Greece
Olympia on the Peloponnese peninsula was the sacred site of Zeus and the former venue of the Olympic Games
Mystras - Peloponnese - Greece
Mystras was a fortified byzantine town on Mount Taygetos, close to ancient Sparte on the Peloponnese pensinsula
Nafplio - Peloponnese - Greece
The impressive fortress of Palamidi castle towers over Nafplio town on the Argolic Gulf
Epidavros Theater - Peloponnese - Greece
The ancient Epidavros Theater is an UNESCO world heritage site
Ancient Corinth - Peloponnese - Greece
Nowadays Corinth is well known for its Corinth Canal that cuts through the Isthmus and connects the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf
Hephaestus Temple - Athens - Greece
The Temple of Hephaestus in Athens is one of the best preserved Greek temples

5. Greece: Crete Island :: 338 km / 3'600 m

Imbros Pass
Hora Sfakion

Here we are, at the southernmost place of Greece. All the big cities and most large scale beach resorts of the island lie on the north coast thus making the southern part more attractive for cycling. Half the fun was getting there over the Imbros Pass and later along the impressive Imbros Gorge. The next few days I cruised mainly along the coast through yet many more gorges and over countless smaller and bigger hills.

All in all absolutely spectacular landscapes and definitely a place I'd take my bike for a vacation again. It might be a good idea to find a base in one of the lovely villages to get rid of the heavy luggage and undertake day trips from there by mountain bike in order to get even deeper into the gorges and higher up the mountains. Well, I was simply too excited to explore other islands too and opted to return to the capital Iraklio to see where the ferry was going to take me next.

Rainbow Crete Island Greece
Rainbow over Crete Island, enchanting the crossing of Imbross Pass
Biking Crete Island Greece
Imbross Pass leads from Crete's northern coast through mountainous landscapes to the south coast at Hora Sfakion
Beach Hora Sfakion Crete
Wonderful bay and beach of Hora Sfakion
Coastline Crete
Biking route along the southern coastline on Crete Island

6. Greece: Greek Islands :: 209 km / 1500 m

Santorini Island
Naxos Island
Samos Island
Lesbos Island

There were so many islands to choose from thus it was a mix of recommendations from guide books and other travellers and coincidence due to ferry routes that formed my itinerary. All of them had one thing in common though; all suffered from intense storms, up to 10 points on the beaufort scale (48-55 knots), which made biking often impossible. Furthermore ferries were cancelled on a regular basis and consequently each and every stay on an island was prolonged by a few days, until Poseidon, the deity of the seas, got into a better mood and let the ships cruise again. On Samos for instance I only intended to have the suspension of the bike fixed and finally got stuck there for a whole week. As an alternative and welcome change I did a lot of trekking and hiking. Each island had its own attractions: The volcanic past of Santorini Island, the contrast of fertile valleys and rugged mountainous landscapes of Naxos Island, the very scenic loop around Samos Island and the thickly forested hills of Lesbos Island.

Santorini - Greek Islands
Whitewashed villages tower on the cliffs of Santorini Island
Samos Town Greek Islands
Bay and port of Samos Town

7. Turkey: Aegean Coast :: 711 km / 5400 m


In a boat full of suspicious young women from eastern European countries I crossed from the Greek Islands over the Adriatic Sea to spend some bike holidays in Turkey. The arrival was overshadowed by a dramatic drop of temperature below 0 degrees and consequently I caught a terrible cold. Instead of being idle I decided to take a side trip to Turkey's (and one of the world's) most stunning cities: Istanbul.

Although the situation hadn't changed much, the temperatures were freezing cold and I still felt sick, I finally set off south from Izmir by bike again, towards hopefully warmer conditions. The main route along the Aegean and Mediterranean Coast wasn't actually following the coast but kept mostly inland. Nevertheless it was absolutely beautiful to bike through attractive mountain scenery, vast forests and sleepy villages. The people cheered and waved when I passed by and whenever I took a break they would gather around the bike and shoot all kind of questions at me.

After the village of Gocek the road kept more and more to the coastline, finally following attractively its contours until the resort town of Antalya. The route was dotted with the legacy of ancient civilizations, the most famous sites probably being Ephesus and the mysterious eternal flames of Chimaera.

Funnily enough a lokal Turkish journalist got wind of my bike tour and he made me meet the mayor of the provincial capital of Söke and arranged the TV station and newspapers to have me interviewed and filmed!

Hagia Sophia Mosque Istanbul Turkey
Hagia Sophia served first as the cathedral of Constantinople until it was converted into a mosque
Celsus Library Ephesus Turkey
Antique library of Celsus at Ephesus historical site
Aegean Coast Turkey
The coastal roads on the Aegean are perfect for a bike tour during off season
Pamukkale Hot Springs Turkey
Hot springs flow over terraces of carbonate minerals at Pamukkale Worl Heritage Site
Cirali Mosque Turkey
Ciral Mosque in the remote bay of Cirali
Cappadocia Turkey
Rock spires near Göreme form this exceptional natural wonder of Cappadocia

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