From Grense Jakobselv in Norway to Cabo St Vincent in Portugal, this is the longest predominantly off-road bikepacking route in the world, put together by Andy Cox, aka Doubletrackfanatic.
The route passes through the seemingly endless forests, alongside lakes, rivers and on the dirt roads of Scandinavia, through the patchwork of farmland, woodland, heathlands and grasslands of Central Europe, then into the south and eventually the Iberian Peninsula where the diversity of landscapes will surprise you, and the trails are often loose and rocky.
The inspiration for this route came from a need for a dirt road touring route exploring an alternative side of Europe, mostly away from the popular tourist destinations. While more challenging bikepacking routes can be great fun, following them for months on end is perhaps less sustainable. Here, easier tracks and trails have been linked together into a route that's greater than the sum of its parts. The challenges will come from the logistics of finding water, food and accommodation, the weather throughout the multiple seasons it'll doubtless take to ride it, and the act of riding a heavy bike, off-road, more than 7,500 km (4,660 mi) across Europe.
While this route is called the European Divide Trail (EDT), it's unlike the Great Divide Mountain Bike route in North America, as this route doesn't follow the Continental Divide, rather it crosses many different divides on its journey through Europe. These divides are economic and social, geographic and geologic, historical and cultural, with numerous languages and customs, laws and regulations, but all within the European Union. Some of these divisions are obvious as you'll cross ten international borders, but often less obvious on the ground, as the reality of crossing international borders on a bike is that the landscape rarely changes, and even the language can be somewhat the same cross-border as well.
This is an epic crossing of the European continent, from (almost) the most northeast to the furthest southwest tip of the continent, predominantly off-road or traffic free. So with that in mind, although there are plenty of paved sections, there's often no easy alternative, or there's issues with private land or access to off-road alternatives. That's not to say that there aren't alternatives, so if you're feeling adventurous then by all means go exploring!
Bike recommendations are more down to comfort and tyre size than anything specific; so most off-road capable bikes would be fine, with a minimum of 40mm wide tyres, and 50mm or larger being a safer and more comfortable option. You could ride most of it on a touring bike with panniers, but it's best tackled on something more focused towards gravel and mountain biking with bikepacking style luggage so you can enjoy the trails more. There's no need to carry more than 3-4 litres of water at any point, and while the longest stretch without grocery stores is 255 km (158 mi), which is in Finland, there's also several sections in Sweden that are around 200 km (124 mi) without any services, and also some surprisingly empty areas of Spain and Portugal.
You could start riding from the north from late May or early June, or from the south in late March or early April. Bear in mind that the highest points are both in Eastern Spain, at around 2,000 m (6,562 ft), and could still have snow or sub-zero temperatures even into May, and there's often still snow close to sea level in the far north throughout the year. Expect to take between two to six months to ride the whole thing.
Kirkenes airport is the closest to the northern start point (60 km or 37 mi away), and Faro airport in Portugal to the southern point (100 km or 62 mi away). Although 99% of this entire route has been recced at least once, access rights and local laws can change, so if you encounter any issues or private signs etc, then please let us know through the EDT website or in the comments below. Please be courteous to local people you meet on the trails and obey local laws and regulations. If you're local to a part of this route and you know of an alternative or better route then again please let us know in the comments. If you come across sections that don't seem to make sense, there's usually a good reason behind the route choices.
But most of all, enjoy the journey!
This first section takes you from the Russian/Norwegian border and the edge of the Arctic Ocean into the interior of Lapland.
Characterised by bare rock, scrubby trees, bogs and lakes, …
This is the longest stretch without services on the whole European Divide Trail, and while there a couple of small hamlets where you might find a meal or accommodation, there's not much in-between except trees, reindeer, mosquitoes and more trees.
This is a national highway in Finland, but there's not much traffic, and any that you'll come across doesn't often moving quickly, so just relax into the journey and enjoy the Arctic tundra, stunted trees and clean environment.
After you turn away from Lake Inari, Finland's second largest lake, there's finally a section of dirt roads. The middle part is quite boggy and slow but it's only a few kilometres long and then you're back onto hard tracks for a while.
Next you'll go through the town of Inari. Here there's various shops and accommodation, and it's worth stocking up with food as the next groceries are at Muonio on the Swedish border.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.
Once reaching Kittilä, the coldest place in Finland (-51.5°C), the gravel begins, and so do the hills.
Enjoy the amazing dirt roads climbing over ridge after ridge with views across to higher ground to the south and west, towards the Swedish and Norwegian borders.
There's a few wilderness cabins you can stay in for free along this part, and the route passes by some large tracts of proper wilderness so if you have some extra time then go exploring.
You'll ride past the Finnish ski resort of Olostunturi and into the border town of Muonio.
Once beyond the border and into Sweden you start to eventually get onto a series of tracks and trails leading into more wilderness.
Stage 4 is another long section with no services but with a free ferry crossing, and this one involves quite a
lot of dirt road riding, so expect a slower pace and not much passing traffic.
With bigger climbs and valleys, huge rivers run off the border mountains towards the Baltic sea, which are often dammed to provide hydroelectric power.
You'll find various dirt, gravel and logging roads now, so while the trails might get vague now and again, they always link up again to something rideable in the end.
There are various options to miss sections of off-road riding out if the weather is bad or time is short, as the route parallels a main highway for most of the route across Sweden here, although it's hardly busy compared with anywhere else in Europe.
You'll ride along some wild roads and trails on Stage 5. Big rivers, hydroelectric power plants and their accompanying reservoirs, and some beautiful country.
Then it's into the first proper …
There's more wild country and off-road riding between towns optimises this area of Sweden, climbing over ridges, descending down to rivers, then repeat.
Services are relatively frequent now, so no need to carry more than a couple of days of food with you.
Look out for signs by the side of the roads marked 'Kall Källa' as this means spring water and there's often a covered well of sorts with a cup next to it.
An extended period of dirt roads heading towards the mountains of Jämtland now. This is a particularly empty area of Sweden with a minimal population and some of the harshest weather and wildest landscapes.
In places the trails become vague, but they always link back onto hard packed tracks eventually. Go prepared for potential bad weather, and be sure to take extra food for tent-bound days if storms roll through and you don't want to have to keep going.
Also look out for the numerous open sided wind shelters that are good places to spend the night or wait for bad weather to pass.
There's more of the same type of terrain, with seemingly endless dirt and gravel roads, forest, hills, lakes and rivers on Stage 8.
It gets a little monotonous after a while but a change is coming soon, as the next sections are some of the prettiest and most interesting, so just keep going!
Once again there's plenty of places to hide from the weather if it is bad, with wind shelters on or near the trail.
If you see something that looks like one, then it probably is and it's worth investigating.
Ride through more forests and past lakes and rivers, and finally find a few large settlements with more than one grocery store to choose from. There's also numerous accommodation options and other services you might require.
With some excellent trails and reasonable views, why not keep things interesting by stopping to see what animal signs are in the sandy edges of the tracks you're riding on.
If you're into fishing then it's worth having a telescopic rod and some tackle, as there's so many places to fish. You'll need to have a license for each area, but there's often signs up with instructions on how to pay for one using your phone.
The end of the most tedious stretch of the whole route is near at hand, as you're almost into the Swedish ski areas next to the Norwegian border.
Sveg is the largest town with all the services you need and even a bike shop, of sorts. It's not on the route but you can easily make the detour there and back on the roads.
There's a river to ford, and while it's not deep or fast flowing, be sure to take a look for animal prints in the soft ground bordering it. Lynx, wolverine and bear prints have been seen here before.
Eventually you'll cross into a more rugged zone closer to the mountains and the small town of Särna which has most things you'll need plus a beautiful wooden church to explore as well.
Wild and empty lands, mountains and ski resorts, and hunters searching for moose are what you'll find out here. The Norwegian border is really close and while there's a fair bit of road riding across this area, the dirt roads and mountain views make up for it. Rörbäcksnäs is a pretty little town with loads of mountain bike trails around the area so well worth exploring a bit or just relaxing for a few days.
The last stretch of high country is crossed on Stage 12 before dropping down into an almost lush valley with a huge river, the Klaräven, and proper farmland for the first time on this route.
You are out almost out of the rain shadow of the Swedish Norwegian border mountains, so the humidity is higher. It's potentially wetter, but certainly warmer.
There are signs of defences from the Second World War along here, but still plenty of wildness to cross before you get towards civilisation.
The last stretches of true wildness seem to end around here, but you'll be surprised how wild the higher areas are as you get closer to the first big city …
Denmark is quite the contrast from Sweden, more in its landscape than its people and culture.
Gone are the endless forests and their dirt roads: instead you're straight into a patchwork of forest plantations and farmland abounded by the beautiful coastline of the North Sea.
It's wild and windswept, so be prepared for wind and rain, and make the most of any sunshine that you get.
Leaving the port of Frederikshaven you firstly head northwest to the coast, before following it inland between the dunes on some soft ground, some dirt roads and some cycle tracks, and sometimes actually along the beach. If the going is too soft in the dunes then there's plenty of quiet lanes to use instead.
This route mostly follows the long-distance hiking route Hærvejen, so there's a fair bit if singletrack, but it's mostly rideable even on a loaded bike.
Starting off on a disused railway line converted to a cycle track, this is easy riding (as long as the wind isn't in your face) to the city of Viborg, with all the services you would expect from somewhere in Western Europe.
Then it's onto a series of tracks and trails, quiet lanes and roads. Be aware that Hærvejen is a national hiking trail but there's also a cycle touring version, the EV3, so keep an eye out for the hiking signs rather than the EV signs.
There's some beautiful countryside along here, and while it's not wild like in Sweden and Finland, there are some great sections. This area of Denmark isn't densely populated at all, so there's plenty of empty space.
The trails can be hard work, with mud and sand, cobbles and ruts, but the surface soon changes so the hard parts won't last long.
This last section of Hærvejen certainly has more paved sections than the previous parts, but that's just part of the countryside as you get closer to Germany and the more populous areas of western Europe.
There's still plenty to see though, so keep an eye out for stone circles, menhirs, stone ships and ancient bridges, most of which have tourist information signs in several languages.
The final section ends at the old border crossing into Germany on the edge of the Baltic Sea, where the border is just a bridge across a river with some customs posts on either side.
Flensburg is a bustling city with a large Baltic Sea fishing port, and good transport links with the rest of Germany. It might come as quite a shock to the system if you've spent the last month or more in sparsely populated Scandinavia, but rest assured you can still find quiet places in Germany too.
In parts the route follows St Jakobs Way, which is a pilgrimage route starting in Trömso, Norway, that eventually joins up to the Camino de Santiago a Compostela. The Way is a great mixture of dirt roads, farm tracks, lanes and single-tracks, and while it's sometimes a bit patchy and 'start-stop' in its nature, that's simply due to the patchwork of forest and farmland in Germany.
Eventually you'll end up on a quiet trail following a small river into Hamburg. It's another big city along the route, but one I feel is worth going through. There's loads to see, great coffee from Deathpresso, and a fantastic bike shop at Suicycle, both in St Pauli, the Red Light area of the city.
Then it's under the River Elbe through a great old tunnel that used to take motorised traffic but is now only for bikes and pedestrians, and into the patchwork landscape of northern Germany.
Into some hills more after the relatively flat lands of northern Germany, and it's pretty much up and down on the way to Cologne now.
The spectacular rock formations of Bärenstein are ridden between, before crossing the army training area north of Paderborn. This might be closed due to army manoeuvres, but if it's open then it's a great quiet ride on cobbles for many kilometres, through open countryside before a great selection of trails around Paderborn.
Here the hills get a little steeper and longer, and there's more forest roads to enjoy.
You're now crossing through Sauerland, with numerous reservoirs, forests and small towns. There's plenty of good riding: steep in places, but also fun and engaging.
Finally you'll ride across the Rhine and into Cologne, and the halfway point of the European Divide Trail. Dusseldorf has got an international airport, and there's plenty to see and do around the city.
Staub und Teer is a good bike shop, but there's plenty of others as well and transport links throughout Germany and beyond.
Out of Cologne, you cross through farmland and patches of forest until the hills start again and you enter the edge of the Eifel National Park.
This is a very pretty area with plenty of good tracks through the forests, with small towns and cities in between as you climb and descend across many river valleys.
You'll also pass the Nurburgring motor racing circuit and cross the Mosel river.
There's some older growth forest but mostly it's plantations of pines and the forest roads joining them up.
There's a huge variation in trail surfaces throughout Germany, so if the part you're on is vague or rough, it'll soon change to something else.