Thinking of taking a guided tour of a European country but don’t want to be “herded” from place to place? Not sure if you feel comfortable exploring a country entirely on your own? Here’s a happy solution. Try a self-guided Austrian cycling tour that arranges your hotel and meals. The tour also provides step-by-step directions on how to get from one place to the next. Be independent while having the guidance of an “unseen” tour guide!
My husband and I usually plan our trips by ourselves. Of course,this means scouring websites, comparing open-jaw versus round trip flights and searching for reasonably priced hotels. At times, it all seemed like too much work. We checked into some guided tours, but the idea of being with a group day in and day out had little appeal. Then we came across the Bestseller Travel website and found the answer to our dilemma.
This company offers self-guided biking and hiking tours throughout Europe. Their tour through the Salzkammergut Lake District of Austria was a perfect match for what we wanted in a vacation. Besides, how can you go wrong biking past chalets with overflowing flower boxes, then stopping for a piece of Viennese torte?
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Just Follow Directions
We soon discovered a self-guided tour simply meant following directions. The pre-trip guidelines told us exactly what to do after arriving in Salzburg. We just took the designated Bus #150 to our first bed and breakfast. Easy. Upon arrival in our uber-cute room with a view of mountains and bell-wearing cows, we enjoyed a hearty dinner. Easy. The next morning, after eating a delightful breakfast, we followed a printed and pictorial map and took a ferry ride to our hiking destination. Did I mention this was an easy tour? Throughout the eight days, our only decisions involved whether to enjoy gelato or pastry for a mid-afternoon snack. (We solved that dilemma by having both.)
Keep Active on Your Own Terms
Our cycling and walking tour provided the opportunity to be as active as we wanted. Each day, there was an option to take a longer or shorter route. As long as we ended up at our designated B&B, all was well. Our luggage? No problem. Some “Mystery Elf” picked up our suitcases and delivered them to the next location. Our guidebook offered options such as “Ride 65 km to the town of Bad Ischl, or hop on the train in Ebensee and reach Bad Ischl in 45 km.” Since the scenery through the Alps and along lakeside towns was so gorgeous, we often decided on the longer routes. It was our choice.
Best Cycling Tour Decision Ever: E-bikes!
We opted to pay extra and rent e-bikes. Best decision ever! Austria is hilly! There are hills and mountains in Austria. (Get my point?) Unless you and your family are hard-core mountain bikers, I recommend the e-bikes. You still have to pedal and work up a sweat, but the ascents are manageable. I would have been sitting on the side of the road in tears if I didn’t have my e-bike. I kissed the battery many times in thanks for the assist it gave me.
B&Bs Without Any Hassle
Often, when traveling, selecting a place to spend the night can get complicated. Do you want to be in an expensive central location, or pay less but be away from major attractions? Our self-guided tour took away all those decisions. The pre-planned reservations at various B&Bs simply required that we show up and hand over our voucher for lodging, breakfast and dinner. It felt like a true vacation when we arrived at our B&B after a long day of hiking or biking and could shower and relax. Well, maybe not relax. We had to go downstairs and enjoy the “gemutlichkeit” of cozy restaurants that served huge portions of dumplings, Weiner schnitzel and an assortment of hearty breads. Usually after dinner we took a short walk around the village and then quickly fell asleep under our down comforters.
Attractions Along the Way
Each day, whether walking or biking, our route went through several points of interest. We visited salt mines in the picture postcard-worthy town of Hallstatt and stopped at the church where the famous wedding scene for The Sound of Music was filmed. The leader of my fitness class asked us to wear our “Fit School” shirt when we travel. I went a step further and brought along a wedding veil to take a picture as if I was Maria getting married wearing the Fit School shirt. It gave the tourists a good laugh! We passed Alpine meadows and scenic paths along numerous lakes. My favorite spot was checking out the island castle near the town of Gmunden.
Many Options Available for Self-Guided Cycling Tours
While we enjoyed the Bike and Hike trip, Bestseller Travel offers a variety of guided and self-guided tours. They even offer cross country tours in the winter. I can see how families with teenagers could enjoy this type of travel. Since most rides follow designated bike paths, safety isn’t a big concern. Let your teen speed up and lead the way up the hills. For people wanting to travel independently without the hassle of hours of planning, one of these tours is the way to go!