As I pedaled along the riverside bike path on a clear and sunny day, I couldn’t let go of the feeling that something about this riding just felt different. I was leading our Rhine River Cruise biking trip last summer and the thought kept dancing in the corner of my mind, ever-present as the smile that wouldn’t leave my face. Finally, it dawned on me.
Whether it's swapping stories with a friend or traveling with a group of Backroads guests on our Douro Valley River Cruise, I can't help but share all the fascination and stories about port wine production and the country of Portugal. It's all just so darn good.
This unique Rhine River Cruise bike tour combines the comforts of luxury cruising with the total immersion of active travel. And thanks to Backroads Regional Coordinator Michael Bernhard, who grew up exploring his native Germany on two wheels, it's a journey shaped by an insider's perspective: our flexible routes take you well beyond the typical tourist paths, deep into the rich culture and natural beauty of the Rhine Valley.
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.
The banks of the Danube are soaked in history, having witnessed the rise and fall of countless empires. Today, within the cities along the Danube, the past remains visible in stunning clarity. An imperial glow is embedded within the very masonry of capitals like Vienna and Budapest. One stands at the footsteps of the Hofburg Palace or the Hungarian Parliament and senses how it must have felt to be a provincial subject from some far-flung corner of the empire, awestruck by their imperial grandeur. The Danube has retained this aura of historic wonder and it flows like a gateway into the past for all travelers who tread its banks.
Backroads pioneered the active river trip, partnering with AmaWaterways, the leader in river cruising, to create a new kind of travel experience featuring biking and walking explorations from an elegant floating hotel. Our Danube River Cruise Bike Tour takes you through the heart of this culturally diverse region from Prague to Passau, Vienna to Bratislava and on to Budapest. Pedal through the Bavarian forest, stroll among baroque architecture, sample local beers and discover tucked-away hamlets. Then luxuriate on board the ship as it carries you to your next adventure.
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.