Ultimate Guide to Bike and Boat Tours in Europe

The picturesque city of Passau, on the border of Germany & Austria | Pat Rochon
The picturesque city of Passau, on the border of Germany & Austria | Pat Rochon

Ultimate Guide to Bike and Boat Tours in Europe

Joining a bike and boat tour is a great way to explore Europe's waterways and towns. Consider the added benefits of covering a great deal of distance while only unpacking once, waking up to a different view each morning, and meeting like-minded travellers, and it’s easy to see why these active holidays are the talk of the town.
 
In this helpful guide, we discuss everything you need to know about taking a bike and boat tour in Europe. If you need more advice, feel free to contact our team of active travel experts.
 
Cycling the Danube River in Bratislava, Slovakia |  <i>Pat Rochon</i>
 

What is the difference between a bike and barge tour and a bike and sail tour?

A bike and barge tour cruises along the canals and rivers of Europe. Popular tours are in France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and exploring the many countries along the Danube river. Click to view our self-guided bike and barge tours or click for our guided bike and barge tours.
 
Veneto Bike and Barge Passau in the southeast of Germany is located at the Austrian border at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. Bikes lined alongside the barge on our Berlin Bike & Barge trip


Bike and sail tours explore the open waters of the Mediterranean Sea and are popular in Croatia, Greece and Turkey. They are a fantastic way to explore the many idyllic islands of these nations. The vessels used are motorised yachts or gulets (a wooden Turkish sailboat). View all our bike and sail tours.
 
The majestic tallship, Atlantis Explore the Cyclades Islands on our Greek Island Bike & Sail trip Enjoying lunch on the Panagiota |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 

What are the boats like?

We are proud to offer the largest range of bike and boat holidays in Europe, and with it, a comprehensive range of vessels that appeal to various budgets and tastes.
 

Barges

A barge is a spacious, usually flat-bottomed boat that typically features comforts such as a dining area, onboard chef, friendly staff, sunbathing lounges, and ensuite cabins. Barges are grouped in categories, from A+ to D, based on their facilities and level of comfort. Some of the large vessels can accommodate up to 135 passengers. On most trips it is possible to upgrade to a deluxe tour. Browse our full range of vessels.
 

Sail boats

Yachts also have different gradings according to their level of comfort and amenities, ranging from Deluxe Plus to Standard. On most trips it is possible to upgrade to a deluxe tour. Depending on the boat, these can feature a dining area, onboard chef, a local crew, sunbathing area, ensuite cabins, and even a hot tub!
 
 
Of course, personal taste also comes into play – some of you may prefer the smaller barges that are generally family-owned and run and oozing character while others may opt for the more luxurious vessels. Browse our full range of vessels.
 
MS Provence in Lyon View of the Middle Rhine Valley Boat moored at the ruins of 'Cleopatra's baths' on our Turkey Walk & Sail |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 

How fit do I need to be for a bike and boat tour in Europe?

All of our active holidays are graded from 1 (introductory) to 5 (challenging). Bike and boat tours are generally on the more relaxing end of the grading spectrum. These gradings take into account:
  • the distance cycled each day,
  • topography and steepness of ascents and descents, and
  • impact of weather conditions.
You can expect daily distances between 25 and 55km/15.5 and 34mi, usually along cycle paths and low traffic roads. A bike and boat tour is ideal for beginner cyclists and anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.
 
There are generally options to upgrade your bike to an e-bike (electric bike) for an added boost to your pedalling. Read more about the benefits of e-bikes here.
 
Cycling in Croatia
 

What does a typical day look like on a bike and boat tour?

Each morning starts with a hearty buffet breakfast to fuel your day. Packed lunches are assembled before you head out. The boat will dock to land and the crew will get your bikes ready for the day’s journey.

If you’re on a guided tour, your guide will lead the way as you pedal through Europe’s beautiful countryside. For a self guided tour, you are free to cycle at your own pace as you follow the route notes (maps, navigation apps) of your itinerary.

At the end of the days cycling adventures, you’ll meet up with the boat. The crew will pack away your bike and you’ll have the evening free to prepare for dinner, socialise, read a book, or simply enjoy the surroundings as you cruise downstream. The best part about a bike and boat trip is only having to unpack once!

If you’d like to read some firsthand traveller experiences of a bike and boat tour with UTracks, find them in our Bike and Boat Travel Stories section in our blog.
 
Cycle the Inner Hebrides and the Scottish Highlands on our Scotland Bike & Boat |  <i>Scott Kirchner</i>
 

What are the most popular bike and boat tours?

Take a look at our best bike and boat tours page, where you can find the most popular trips for each country.
 

Are there family-friendly bike and boat tours?

Absolutely! A bike and boat holiday is a great way to spend quality time with the kids while exploring Europe. Find all of our family-friendly bike and boat tours here.
 
Family cycling along Danube
 

When is the best time for a bike and boat tour?

Bike and boat tours generally run between April and October, making the most of warmer temperatures. The peak period is during the European summer months of June, July and August. During summer, cabins on boats are naturally in high demand so we advise booking far in advance to avoid disappointment. However, if you're interested in fewer crowds then it is better to book outside of these months.
 

Should I go on a self-guided or guided bike and boat tour?

There are many benefits to having a professional guide lead your group. Guides are fountains of information on culture, language, and the hidden secrets of a country. Read our article on how guides make good trips great to learn more advantages.
 
On the other hand, our self-guided tours allow you to explore at your own pace. Travellers are provided with maps/directions and follow signposts that are clearly marked in most European nations.
 

Do you offer hike and boat tours?

Yes! For those travellers who prefer to explore on foot, you can find a selection of great hike and boat tours here.
 
Hiker taking in the view of the Lycian Coast |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
 

Find your bike and boat tour

 

Want more bike and boat information?

Find traveller stories, expert advice, videos, FAQs and reviews of our bike and boat tours on our bike and boat information hub.
 

 
Do you have any questions about a bike and boat tour? Ask them in the comment section below.

  
Bike and Boat, Bike and boat guide, bike and barge tour, bike and sail tour, bike and boat europe, bike and sail

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