Countries: Czech Republic & Austria
Distance: 250 miles
For a country the size of Maine, the Czech Republic maintains a staggering quantity of bike trails—some 24,000 miles’ worth—all well marked and color coded. (Is it possible the Czechs prefer pedaling to pilsner?) The best place to begin is on the trail that started it all: The Prague-Vienna circuit kicked off central Europe’s Greenways movement in 1995. It threads right along the Iron Curtain, taking in ruined castles, Renaissance-era villages, and the dramatic cliffs flanking the Dyje River along the way.
Get your fill of Prague’s stone sights and party scene, then hit up Praha Bike for some wheels and access the 250-mile trail straight out of town ($35 a day; prahabike.cz). In the southern Bohemian town of Český Krumlov, take a break from the saddle for a lazy trip down the Vltava River. Rent a kayak from Malecek and the owners will drive you back to your bike from Zlatá Koruna, ten miles downriver (two hours, $25; malecek.cz). Come evening, try some goulash soaked up with bread dumplings at the cavernous, firelit Krčma Šatlava (satlava.cz), then sleep it off at quiet Villa Conti (doubles from $80; villaconti.cz).
As it nears the Czech-Austrian border, the trail is pocked with World War II–era bunkers and a few stretches of barbed wire that once separated East and West. In stunning Podyjí National Park, trek along the rim of the 720-foot-deep Dyje River canyon through beeches and firs, and watch for rare orchids, river otters, and eagle owls. The next day, via Mikulov, you’ll pass into the gentle hills of Austria’s wine country. (Whites are big here: Grüner Veltliner is the classic.) Rounding out the trip, you’ll pedal through the steep, limestone Leiser Mountains before cruising into stately Vienna. Your reward? The city’s signature Sacher torte (heavenly chocolate cake).