How do you imagine cycling in Flanders? To this question, the answers can be very different. Slowly follow a stream through the green countryside, or push on the pedals to conquer the cobblestones and reach the top of one of the legendary walls of the Tour of Flanders. Pass through the orchards of Belgian Limburg, or towns with historic centers dotted with centuries-old buildings. Tackle the slopes of the Flemish Ardennes or relax along the North Sea coast. Pedaling lapping the treetops, or below the water level.
What is the right answer? None, because they are all valid.
In Flanders, the northern region of Belgium, cycling is culture that lives on in the daily lives of the inhabitants and those who visit them. The dense network of bicycle paths, whose intersections are called “nodes,” makes an excursion of a few hours or a multi-day vacation an easy and varied experience. Different lengths, different gradients, endless combinations: whether it’s your first biking vacation, or you have hours of training in your legs, you’ll find the road in Flanders that will satisfy you.
To help you choose, the Iconic Cycle Routes, or the iconic cycle routes of Flanders (at www.fiandreinbici.com all the information, includes GPX tracks). These routes connect the best of the region and have different lengths and difficulties, from one to three. So they are suitable for everyone, modular if you don’t want to complete them completely or if you want to take detours, and they carry signs in both directions. You can then choose which direction you want to ride, where you want to start or end, like those who have been there before you.
The easiest routes: waterways
Water distinguishes the four simplest iconic Flanders bike routes, with difficulty level one. The coastal route, 85 km, takes you along the beach overlooking the North Sea, through dunes and forests, and explores the vast flat polder landscapes, discovering the history of coastal life. Sixty-three, on the other hand, are the kilometers, partly pedaled on the banks of one of Europe’s great rivers, of theMeuse route, where you can meet migratory birds and animals in the wild, and visit picturesque villages. Nature and iconic architecture also alternate along the 181 km of theScheldt route, the river that connects Ghent and Antwerp and is crossed several times by ferry along the way, offering moments to rest the legs but not the eyes. And finally, the water of the bathing lakes touched by theKempen route, with extremely varied landscapes: moors, forests, desert dunes and ancient mining sites. But the real treat along this route is the possibility of pedaling suspended from the ground, at the height of tree canopies.
The intermediate routes: through history
The iconic routes with difficulty two are those that best tell the story of Flanders, starting with the Flanders Fields, the territories that were the scene of World War I. Bunkers, trenches, craters left by bombs, underground tunnels, but above all the touching silence in military cemeteries: the 100 km of the’14-’18 itinerary are a ride through memory. Theart cities itinerary on the other hand, is significantly longer, 342 km, but it is one of the most attractive iconic itineraries for first-time visitors to Flanders: the cities of Brussels, Leuven, Antwerp, Mechelen, Ghent, Bruges, and Ostend in one route rich in art and culture.
The most challenging routes: gradients and lengths for those with legs
The gentle landscapes of the Flemish countryside may fool the mind, but not the legs. Hills and slopes create unique vistas that must be mastered. The green belt route surrounds Brussels with 126 km of continuous ups and downs, through Bruegel and hop country, past castles and stops for a beer geuze. The 459-kilometerHill Route reflects the name: a challenging ride through southern Flanders, from east to west to the famous Flemish Ardennes of champions, always dotted with tasty stages. Last, but first in length, the
: 962 km from the countryside to the sea, passing through cities of art and small historic villages, is the long-distance route that combines the iconic bicycle routes throughout Flanders.
Flanders has the ambition to be a destination for pleasant vacations suitable for everyone: from the youngest to seniors, for tourists with or without disabilities or those who need special attention. A cycling vacation is no exception: bike paths can also be the destination for those with special needs, for a complete experience of Flemish culture!
To learn more visit VisitFlanders’ website www.visitflanders.com/it