It’s one thing to bike in three European countries, and it’s another to do it in a single morning!
My husband Dean and I love to bike and signed up for VBT’s 7-day guided bike tour through Slovenia, Austria, and Italy. The carefully planned itinerary took us in and out of three countries, but on one unique morning, we started biking in Slovenia, pedaled through a corner of northeast Italy, and headed into Austria for lunch!
Now, that’s a good morning! This bike tour was good for several amazing experiences, including the exhilaration of biking in the rain. Let’s take a closer look at this VBT bike trip, then at that unique morning itinerary.
Slovenia, Austria, And Italy: Alpine Valleys Bike Tour
Who could resist the prospect of biking the valleys in the Julian Alps? Surely, not us. We’ve taken three biking tours with VBT, a leader and award winner in the travel industry for 50 years. About 98 percent of their travelers say they would travel with them again, and we’re among them.
The VBT website highlights this trip by saying, “The scenic and savory best of three countries is revealed on one VBT bike tour to Austria, Italy, and Slovenia! On easy bike routes — including the famous Alpe Adria cycle path — you’ll absorb sweeping views of snow-capped peaks, pristine pasturelands, medieval settlements, deeply wooded slopes, emerald lakes, and sunny cornfields. Take a spin around Wörthersee Lake and picture-perfect Lake Bled and roll through tunnels opening onto spectacular vistas. Hop off the bike to savor tasty, included meals and local wines, visit a farm, explore a cherished ski resort, and more. End each exhilarating day in luxurious resorts and boutique hotels, including “a celebrated lakeside hotel that has hosted royalty, celebrities, dignitaries, and writers for more than a century.” Where do I sign?
Pro Tip: VBT offers minimally supported pre-trip and post-trip options to extend the experience. We always do the pre-trip at European destinations to ease jet lag before the biking begins.
True to form, we took the pre-trip in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and then traveled by private motorcoach with fellow cyclists about two hours to Malborghetto Valbruna, Italy. We were greeted with views of the snowcapped Julian Alps and the rugged peaks of the Carnic Alps as our backdrop. Our biking routes wove in and out of the three countries, including parts of the incredible 250-plus mile Alpe Adria bike path, and ended in the ultra-impressive town of Velden, Austria.
Our group of 20 enjoyed six days of biking, with 88 to 166 miles in total (most days, you can choose options for longer or shorter routes). Of course, our delightful guides Aija and Matija (who are local to the area and love the area), were equally happy to supply a ride in the support van, or conversely, provide routes for even more biking for the ambitious among us.
Each day started with Aija or Matija giving the route briefing. They distributed a paper copy of the route (that supplemented the phone app) and covered details, tricky turns, and scenic highlights for that day. When we’d head outside, we’d see our bikes lined up and ready to go, with water bottles filled. Alpine elves? Our “do everything, be everywhere” guides? So much of what they did was “behind the scenes” to make sure our vacation and ride were enjoyable.
While the route is established, we don’t bike along in a row like little ducks. We’re free to stop and take photos (I’m big on that), ride faster or slower, or linger at a destination. I’m not the fastest biker (too much beautiful scenery, too many mountain views, waterfalls, little lakes, and streams), but it all seems to work just fine. There are some timed events like lunch, and we always wanted to do right by our guides and the other riders. This brings me to another benefit of this trip: the comradery among the group. These cycling buddies of ours somehow became fast friends.
Now, let’s look at the morning ride that took us to three countries.
1. The Ride Begins
Three countries in one morning. Was this done for practical purposes, or to give us bragging rights? Maybe a little of both! Matija did suggest we draft a text on our phones to boast about it when we hit the Austrian border! However, the practical reason we biked this way is that VBT combs the region and comes up with the best, breathtaking biking routes. Note that we started our route in Podkoren, Slovenia. They now start in neighboring Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
On this day, we started biking on a Slovenian converted railroad trail that led to the more than 100-year-old Tarvisian Forest in the Italian countryside. These wooden and stone markers were the only indication that we were moving from one country to the next.
2. Nick The Northeastern Corner
Along the way, we biked past lovely little alpine homes with flower boxes under each window and floral designs, like rosemaling, on balconies and doorways. Completely charming. In spots, I noticed wild crocuses and tiny pinkish-purple slips of flowers. This is a spring flower in Minnesota, yet they were growing here in early September, and it was a delight to see.
When you see the familiar VBT shuttle waiting to provide a “snack stop,” you stop. Active cyclists need refueling, and VBT’s got that covered. We took our pick from grapes, bananas, apples, nuts, trail mix, sliced pears, cookies, creamy Milka chocolates (to my delight), and a variety of chips, pretzels, and other salty snacks (to Dean’s delight).
This snack stop was unique for its display of flags of the three countries (hung vertically), in order from left to right: Italy, Austria, and Slovenia. The blue flag with the circle of stars, far right, represents the European Union.
Before we crossed from Italy into the Austrian border, our bike path left the converted railroad trail, and we continued riding on a historic Roman road.
3. Lunch In The Carinthia Region
In Austria, we biked into the Gail River valley in the Carinthia region, known for its crystal rivers and small jeweled lakes with the majestic Noric and Carnic Alps as a backdrop.
Here, we enjoyed a traditional alpine lunch at the Almwirschaft Hut, located between the River Gail and the Naturpark (nature park) Dobratsch. We ate outside and Matija dished up some soup as a starter. Then, we filled our plates from a picnic table brimming with salads, pasta, bread, and a pork dish. Everything was delicious, as usual!
Bonus: Ultimate Luxury In Velden
How can I write about this unique morning without at least mentioning Velden, Austria, and the “over-the-top” lodging at the end of this day’s biking?
Velden is nicknamed the little “Monte Carlo of Carinthia” for its elegant boardwalk, trendy cafés, restaurants, and the scenic beauty of Wörthersee Lake. Home to a long line of wealthy families, it is a town of stately mansions, manicured gardens, and lovely lakeside restaurants.
Falkensteiner Schlosshotel Velden
Remember the VBT trip description: “…a celebrated lakeside hotel that has hosted royalty, celebrities, dignitaries, and writers for more than a century”? You’re looking at it!
Our lodging was the Falkensteiner Schlosshotel Velden, a magnificent castle-turned-hotel that is as elegant and luxurious as it looks. VBT says a magazine called Condé Nast Traveler has featured it as a “hot hotel” and its spa center as the “hot spa” of Austria — making it one of the most luxurious and innovative hotels and resorts in the world.
Frankly, we didn’t bike hard enough to deserve this, but we were more than happy to enjoy the spa, the pool, and the expansive, fit-for-royalty rooms!
The experience of biking in alpine valleys with towering mountains all around is irresistible. Imagine gazing upon the landscape of three countries in a single morning!
Dean and I are always grateful for the time, health, and money to take vacations like this. What if we had only time and health, but not money? What if we had health and money, but no time? Two out of three of those factors won’t cut it. We need all three and we don’t take it for granted.
This incredible European bike tour took us through three countries in a single morning, and we joyfully added it to our list of wonderful “bucket list” vacations that allowed us to enjoy nature and each other, meet wonderful people, share an activity that we love (cycling), and hone our appreciation for yet another beautiful part of the world.
For more information on cycling throughout Europe, check out these articles: