When I first visited Porto on a backpacking trip nearly 20 years ago, my primary interest was to explore the charming neighborhood bars of the Ribeira quarter, enjoy some fado music and savor Porto’s namesake wine. Over the years, my returns to this captivating city have matured and each visit has allowed me to uncover another surprising layer of this World Heritage city situated on both the Atlantic and the Douro River. While I originally regarded the Douro as just an ordinary river, I’ve since come to appreciate its significance for the soul of Porto and as a transport conduit for an entire region. Instrumental in moving goods and people up and down the river were the rabelo boats, a type of cargo boat unique to this river.
We know how to say eyjafjallajökull! This action-packed Iceland Multisport Adventure – which begins with a private charter flight to get you quickly to the trailhead – is backed by our deep local knowledge and the strong relationships we’ve built with the country’s best hotels and restaurants. In the land of fire and ice, experience the full diversity of Iceland’s wild landscape while Backroads takes care of the rest.
This captivating region offers much more than canals and windmills… not that you won’t see plenty of both as you bike flat, quiet roads through landscapes straight out of masterpieces by Cuyp or van Ruisdael. After riding in Holland and Belgium for more than 20 years, we know both countries intimately and can share our insiders’ take on everything from the best places to try a great beer or a chunk of Gouda (or both) to contemporary cultural attractions that provide an interesting counterpoint to the classic must-see sights.
The routes and scenery on our Czech Republic and Austria bike tour are magnificent, but what truly sets this Backroads trip apart are our local connections. At the farm of Dagmar Havlova, enjoy a private farm-to-table dinner that’s more authentic than any on the tourist track. Dive into the country’s fascinating history with Helena, our local guide and longtime friend. In the fortress city of Český Krumlov (which our Trip Expert calls home), our friend Alois welcomes you to U Dobraka, a traditional restaurant that was a retreat for free-thinkers during the Communist era and remains a well-kept secret. Then top it off with a private wine estate tour and tasting of famous rieslings and grüner veltliners.
The North Atlantic waters off the coast of Iceland are frigid, rough and can turn on a dime, yet within them live some of the region’s most precious resources: fish and crustaceans. Each year more and more visitors are being exposed to the region’s marine cuisine, from pickled herring to dried fish. Eating Icelandic seafood can take a bit of an open mind and an adventurous palate, but when you find your preferred taste it’s pure glory.
On our Dalmatian Coast Family Multisport Tour, you’re are invited to walk the plank! After a day of biking by the sparkling waters of the Adriatic, at some point you and your family will likely want to plunge in. We recommend waiting until you’re back on board our private trabakul, the double-masted sailing coaster unique to this region, as the crew will drop anchor and suggest that you walk the plank – in a good way. And once you’ve enjoyed a refreshing swim in the sea, it’s time to relax on deck with a cold drink and watch the coastline slip by.
There’s a place in Turkey where I descended into the bowels of the earth, terrified I’d never resurface, then flew to the highest reaches of the heavens, afraid I’d plummet to my doom. I laughed and made jokes, yet I was also silent, pondering the sacred. I felt corporeal and ethereal, often at the same time. Where was I? Cappadocia, of course…
There’s nothing quite like hiking in the Swiss Alps. Over the years, I’ve thought about what makes hiking in Switzerland unique and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not merely the perfect signage. Here are a few of the elements that make the land of cheese and chocolate an exceptional place to hike.
Waffles in Belgium have a distinct connection to the city or town in which they were developed, and many families and regions guard their recipes as precious secrets. When my Belgian grandma made waffles, drafts of warm air would billow out of the kitchen, filling the house with a delicious smell.
Like many first-time travelers to Ireland, I had a vision of what lay ahead as my flight cruised towards the Emerald Isle. Lush hills and the rugged coastline, sheep and their shepherds, whiskey and Guinness, the melodic Irish lilt. What I didn’t yet realize was that, while the landscape and natural beauty of Ireland are majestic, it’s the Irish people who make the country truly captivating. It’s the Irish spirit–a magnetic, almost irresistible pull–that drives visitors to return again and again.
Though the Dutch may claim the title for Amsterdam, Copenhagen is considered by many to be the biking capital of the world. In fact, half of all Danes commute to work by bicycle. While bicycle commuting is gaining momentum in many major cities in the United States, touted as a mode of transportation that is friendly to the environment and the waistline, it hasn’t quite infiltrated American culture in the same way. If one looks closely at Danish society, you’ll see that the impact of bicycles on the physical and cultural landscape of its cities runs deep.
In late December, my wife, son and I went for a walk to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall just outside our village. I grew up here, right along the border between East and West Germany. You might be thinking, “But the Wall fell on November 9th, 1989.” And so it did, in Berlin. However, I lived along the further westward inner German border–the 870-mile double-barrier of steel mesh fencing, anti-personnel mines, barbed wire, watchtowers and dog runs. The opening here began on December 22nd 1989, with just pedestrian access and only in specific towns.
Starting with the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, we set out to see how Backroads-quality biking could be combined with a luxury floating hotel. We quickly realized that this is the perfect blend. The Danube is known for having the longest bike path in the world along its banks, known as the Donauradweg. But our job was to look for more than that, to find “backroads” so guests can get off the well-ridden path and really get to know the region via bicycle.