One type of active holiday people can’t seem to get enough of is bike-and-barging (“You can do that?” we hear all the time). Essentially it combines and the activity of a cycling holiday with the convenience of a floating hotel.
The word “barge” sounds a little industrial, but believe us, some of these vessels are very comfortable, complete with crew including on-board chef. Most were never working cargo vehicles, but were purpose built as passenger vessels. In some ways it’s like a river cruise, except in this style you get more of a range of ship styles from quite basic (with a price to match) to very comfortable.
You cycle during the day – the terrain usually being very gentle, as you are near a river or canal (or you can even take the day off and spend it on board the boat). Then at night you rejoin the boat in time for a convivial dinner with your fellow travellers.
The five top destinations for biking-and-barging are, in our experience:
Amsterdam to Bruges in Belgium
The Danube from Passau in Germany to Budapest, Hungary
Provence in France
Veneto – the countryside west of Venice
Croatia, where you can do a similar style holiday except it’s on a sailboat
Small group specialist UTracks has become one of the experts in this special way to travel. Their Champagne & Paris by Bike and Barge tour is a weeklong feast of cheese and bubbly, including visits to small-scale champagne producers. Add a few chateaux and the legendary charms of Paris, the convenience of an expert guide and like-minded fellow travellers (likely from several English-speaking countries – Utracks is UK based), and you have the recipe for an amazing holiday.
UTracks offers almost 30 bike-and-barge itineraries throughout Europe including Italy and the Czech Republic. They even have a Holland Family Barge & Bike tour, geared for families with kids 7 to 11 years of age. Holland is famously flat, and with its picture-perfect windmills and delicious Gouda cheese its sure to be a hit with every member of the family!
If this all sounds too energetic for you, remember that most companies now offer the opportunity to upgrade for a modest amount to an e-bike (electric bike). All the benefits of the fresh air and scenery, with less effort on your part!