There’s no better vacation than a good ol’ cycling trip. With the sun on your face, the wind behind you (ideally) and minimal gear on your back – you’re the boss. Stop when and where you want; have a snack, have a drink; take in the view or simply lie on a beach or in some long, cool grass for a while. It’s the best vacation for keeping you fit, seeing a load of places and giving you that ‘feel good’ factor that we all crave.

So, ‘pack up your troubles in an old kit bag and smile, smile, smile’ as we take you through our recommended cycle trips in Europe, home of the cycling culture.

The Loire Valley in France has got to be a good place to start. With its gentle topography and many and varied sites along the route, the Loire region has much to offer the cyclist. Allow between 4 to 6 days to fully explore the delights of this area, which will take you through sleepy villages, past flourishing vineyards and alongside lazy, rolling rivers.

Other highlights include magnificent limestone cliffs, forests and extensive farmland. The routes are mainly on the flat, so take the time to stop and explore the many old chateaux and even the odd cave that you’ll find along the way. Also, be sure to sample the local cuisine and wines.

Croatia’s Beautiful Dalmatian Coast should be high on your list of European cycles. We recommend a 5 or 6-day tour starting in Split, home to the Roman Emperor’s Diocletian Palace. From there, cycle south to Dubrovnik via the picturesque islands of Brac, Hvar, and Korcula. En route, you’ll enjoy stunning scenery, rugged limestone cliffs, olive groves, rosemary and lavender fields and cute little villages.

Be sure to take time out to enjoy the local freshly-caught seafood and sample some of the home wine. Croatia boasts 245 days of sunshine a year, so you’d be a fool not to take full advantage of the gorgeous, immaculate beaches and the little-hidden coves that you’ll discover on your trip.

Land’s End to John O’Groats is a famous cycle route in the UK which starts at the most south west tip of England and ends, nearly 1,000 miles away, in the north east of Scotland. Allow 14 days for this tough but rewarding cycle, which will take you through ever-changing vistas and countryside. The route generally avoids main roads and instead takes you on country lanes and secret back-roads; initially through pretty and historic villages and farmlands in the south of England.

You’ll then experience the alluring views of the Lake District and southern Scotland, surrounded by mountains and sparkling lakes, before entering the barren moorlands of northern Scotland. Be prepared for changing weather throughout the 2 weeks. Northern Scotland in particular can be pretty damn chilly – at any time of the year!

The Ring of Kerry Peninsula in Ireland is another famous cycle. For 34 years, the Ring of Kerry has been the route for a charity cycle that takes place on the first Saturday in July.  More than 10,000 cyclists take to the road and complete the 179-kilometer tour in one day. You don’t have to do it all one day though! Take 2 or 3 days to really get the best out of this stunning peninsula with its beautiful villages, fabulous restaurants, hotels and guest houses, as well as spectacular scenery, accompanying you the whole way round.

It doesn’t matter where you start your cycle from or whether you go in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Either way, there are a couple of tough hills, but the rest is pretty doable. Remember in Ireland you can often get 4 seasons of weather in one day, so be sure to pack some rainwear and some Factor 50.

The Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece would perhaps not be one of your first thoughts when it comes to a cycling tour in Europe, but if you’re interested in Greek archaeology and history, together with guaranteed good weather and lovely views – then this is the one for you. We advise you to start in Tripoli – a little village in the very heart of the Peninsula – and ending in the seaside town of Nafplio. Allow 6 or 7 days for the whole trip.

Tripoli is at a fairly high altitude, so you’re gradually going downhill, which has got to be good news – although there are a few hills to climb along the way. The whole area is very sparsely populated – heaven for cyclists. Along the route you’ll be able to view many archaeological sites, remains of castles and even of an amphitheater. There are caves, an ancient fortress,  ruins of the Temple of Athena and the world famous Lion Gate, which dates back to the 13th century.

Stunning coastlines and beaches are also par for the course. With the weather as reliable as it is in Greece, you can head off for this cycle in March or April, September or October and be guaranteed mild temperatures for comfortable cycling.

This is just a taste of the many and varied cycle trips available in Europe – the birthplace of the bicycle. So, get the map out and start deciding where you’d like to go. And while you’re at it, check out The Best Cycling Trips in the World on BUCKiTDREAM. Why stop at Europe when the whole world is your oyster!