It’s one thing to cycle through three European countries, and quite another to do it in a single morning!
My husband Dean and I love to ride bikes and we signed up for VBT’s 7 day guided bike tour through Slovenia, Austria and Italy. The carefully planned route took us in and out of three countries, but on one unique morning we started cycling in Slovenia, cycled through a corner of northeastern Italy and headed into Austria for the lunch !
Well, it’s a good morning! This bike tour was good for several amazing experiences including the exhilaration of riding a bike in the rain. Let’s take a closer look at this MTB bike trip and then this unique morning route.
Slovenia, Austria and Italy: Alpine Valleys Bike Tour
Who could resist the idea of cycling through the valleys of the Julian Alps? Certainly not us. We did three bike tours with VBT, a leader and award winner in the travel industry for 50 years. Around 98% of their travelers say they would travel with them again, and we’re one of them.
VBT’s website highlights this trip by saying, “The best of three scenic and tasty countries is revealed on a VBT bike tour of Austria, Italy and Slovenia!” On easy cycle paths, including the famous Alpe Adria cycle path, you will enjoy breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks, pristine pastures, medieval settlements, deeply forested slopes, emerald lakes and sunny cornfields. Take a tour around Lake Wörthersee and the picture-perfect Lake Bled and ride through tunnels opening up to spectacular views. Hop off the bike to enjoy delicious included meals and local wines, tour a farm, explore a popular ski resort, and more. End each exhilarating day at luxury resorts and boutique hotels, including “a famous lakeside hotel that has hosted royalty, celebrities, dignitaries and writers for over a century.” Where do I sign?
Pro Tip: VBT offers pre-trip and post-trip options with minimal support to extend the experience. We always do the pre-trip to European destinations to alleviate jet lag before the bike starts.
True to form, we made the pre-trip to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, then traveled by private coach with other cyclists for about two hours to Malborghetto Valbruna, Italy. We were greeted with a view of the snow capped Julian Alps and the rugged peaks of the Carnic Alps as a backdrop. Our cycle routes weaved in and out of all three countries, including parts of the incredible 250+ mile Alpe Adria Cycle Route, and ended in the ultra-impressive town of Velden, Austria.
Our group of 20 enjoyed six days of cycling, with a total of 88-166 miles (most days you can choose options for longer or shorter routes). Of course our lovely guides Aija and Matija (who are local to the area and love the area), were also happy to provide a ride in the support van, or conversely provide routes for even more cycling for the ambitious among us.
Each day started with Aija or Matija giving the route briefing. They handed out a hard copy of the route (which complemented the phone app) and covered the details, tricky turns and scenic highlights for that day. When we got out, we saw our bikes lined up and ready to go, with filled water bottles. Alpine Elves? Our “do everything, be everywhere” guides? Much of what they did was ‘behind the scenes’ to make sure our vacation and ride was enjoyable.
As long as the route is mapped out, you don’t ride a bike like little ducks. We are free to stop and take pictures (love it), ride faster or slower, or linger at a destination. I’m not the fastest biker (too many beautiful landscapes, too many mountain views, waterfalls, small lakes and streams) but everything seems to be working fine. There are timed events like lunch, and we always wanted to do good with our guides and fellow runners. This brings me to another benefit of this trip: the camaraderie within the group. These cycling buddies of ours kind of became fast friends.
Now let’s look at the morning commute that took us to three countries.
1. The journey begins
Three countries in one morning. Was it for convenience or to give us bragging rights? Maybe a bit of both! Matija suggested that we write a text on our phones to brag about it when we reach the Austrian border! However, the practical reason we cycled this way is that VBT travels around the area and offers the best breathtaking cycling routes. Note that we started our route in Podkoren, Slovenia. They are now starting in the nearby town of Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
That day we started cycling on a converted Slovenian railway trail that led to the over 100 year old Tarvisian Forest in the Italian countryside. These wooden and stone markers were the only indication that we were going from one country to another.
2. Nick The Northeast Corner
Along the way, we passed pretty little alpine houses with flower boxes under each window and floral designs, like rosemary, on the balconies and doors. Completely charming. In places I noticed wild crocuses and tiny pink-purple flower tips. It’s a spring flower in Minnesota, but 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 riders need to fuel up, and VBT has that covered. We took our pick of grapes, bananas, apples, nuts, trail mixes, sliced pears, cookies, creamy Milka chocolates (much to my delight) and a variety of crisps, pretzels and cookies. other salty snacks (much to Dean’s delight).
This snack stop was unique for its display of the 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 on the far right represents the European Union.
Before crossing from Italy to the Austrian border, our cycle path left the converted railway line and we continued to ride on a historic Roman road.
3. Lunch in the Carinthia region
In Austria, we cycled through the Gail River Valley in the Carinthia region, known for its crystal clear rivers and small jewel 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 Gail river and the Naturpark (nature park) Dobratsch. We ate out and Matija served soup as a starter. Then we filled our plates from a picnic table overflowing 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 “overdone” accommodation at the end of this day’s ride?
Velden is nicknamed the little “Monte Carlo of Carinthia” for its elegant promenade, trendy cafes, restaurants and the scenic beauty of Lake Wörthersee. Home to a long line of wealthy families, it’s a city of stately mansions, manicured gardens and charming lakeside restaurants.
Falkensteiner Schlosshotel Velden
Do you remember the description of the VBT trip: “…a famous lakeside hotel that has hosted royalty, celebrities, dignitaries and writers for over a century”? You look at it!
Our accommodation was the Falkensteiner Schlosshotel Velden, a magnificent castle converted into a hotel as elegant and luxurious as it looks. VBT says a magazine called Condé Nast Traveler featured it as a “hot hotel” and its spa center as Austria’s “hot spa”, making it one of the most luxurious and luxurious hotels and resorts innovations in the world.
Frankly, we didn’t cycle enough to deserve this, but we were more than happy to take advantage of the spa, pool, and expansive rooms fit for royalty!
The experience of biking through alpine valleys with towering mountains all around is irresistible. Imagine contemplating the landscape of three countries in a single morning!
Dean and I are always grateful for the time, health and money to take a vacation like this. What if we only had time and health, but no money? What if we had the health and the money, but no time? Two out of three of these factors will not be enough. We need all three and we don’t take that for granted.
This amazing European bike tour took us through three countries in a single morning, and we happily added it to our list of wonderful “bucket list” vacations that allowed us to enjoy nature and other people, meet great people, share an activity that we love. (cycling) and sharpen our appreciation for another beautiful part of the world.
For more information on cycling across Europe, check out these articles: