Everyone has dreamed of cycling south until you reach the sea. When I was a child, I often imagined what it would be like to ride or walk the distance we drove by car on family holidays. How long would it take? What experiences and landscapes would I find hidden beyond the motorways in France?
Twenty years later, I finally put what was, at the time, no more than a passing thought into action. I bought a new bike and equipment, secured everything to my bike and set off for the sun.
This Tour was my first and it ignited my passion for cycle touring. Over the years, I added more and more routes to explore with my buddy ‘Alfred’ – my bike. Spain, Portugal, France... there was a lot on my list. The Tours all had one thing in common – south-western Europe. I guess I have a soft spot for that area.
I love the idea of cycling to the south of France whenever I can so much that I’ve now cycled there three times. This Collection that I would like to share with you draws on the experiences, memories and route variations I gathered along the way.
The route leads from my hometown Weil der Stadt in Germany, through Sainte-Marie-la-Mer (not to be confused with the municipality with almost the same name in Camargue) in the south of France. The 15 stages vary in length from 33 to 154 kilometres (20 to 95 miles), averaging around 80 kilometres (50 miles). In total, you’ll ride 1,255 kilometres (780 miles) through impressive nature and landscapes. With almost 10,000 metres (32,800 feet) of climbing, great views await you too. From the Rhine Valley, you cross the Swiss Jura, ride from Lake Geneva into the Rhône Valley, cut along the Vercors mountain slopes, cycle over mountain passes in the Garrigue and Cevennes mountains and reach the longed-for Mediterranean Sea shortly before the finish.
In some of the Tour descriptions, I give tips for alternative stage stops where it makes sense to divide a longer stage into two days. For the most part, I chose to stay overnight in campsites and I give more information in the Collection. Of course, it is ultimately up to you to decide which starting and finishing points are best or most convenient for you. This Collection is mostly about the roads in between after all – these are what makes the route from the Rhine plain to the Mediterranean one of my favourite cycling Tours.
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Last updated: December 16, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
The journey to France begins in Weil der Stadt. The birthplace of the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler is idyllically embedded in the midst of its historic city mountains in the beautiful Heckengäu - in the west the Black Forest, in the east the Alb foreland.
Before you get on the saddle, it is worth…
Today is all about the Rhine. After a refreshing swim in the Oberbruch reservoir in the morning, you drive past Ulm (don't worry, you haven't lost your way) and reach the bank south of the Lichtenau Rhine lowlands. If you feel like having a break at this time, the rustic, creative Ku-Stall in Freistett…
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Of course, the route to Switzerland could also simply be continued along the Rhine. But in order to add a bit of variety to the tour, I decided to drive through the sun-drenched Breisgau instead and pay a visit to the university city of Freiburg.
From Riegel, you roughly orientate yourself on the course…
A short and tight descent and you're close to the Rhine again. At Istein you go to its bank and follow it until the urban charm of the industrial cities in the border triangle awaits you at Weil am Rhein. You have to go through there now - between railroad tracks, highways and shipping containers. But…
After you've warmed up well over the past few days, it's time to get down to business for the first time: 145 kilometers and over 1,000 meters of altitude await you on your way to Lausanne today. The good news: a lake to cool off is almost always within reach. So the strategy with which you master this…
Today at least a good half is dedicated to Lake Geneva. You drive along its entire north-west bank, then you pass the glamorous city of Geneva with its villas and diplomatic quarters, until you finally devote yourself to the last task of the day: the passage through the foothills of the southern Jura…
Seyssel is a beautiful little town that is worth looking at from at least both sides of the river. From here you are also on the Via Rhôna, the river cycle path along the Rhône. If you just wanted to do it, you could easily follow it via Lyon to the Mediterranean. Lyon, with its big city flair and the…
With one last look in the direction of Lac d'Aiguebelette, you start the mountain stage of the day. It is an exhausting ascent, especially since at the beginning of the tour you still feel refreshed in the lake while the sweat is running off your forehead again - but who said that a bike tour is always…
If you have some extra energy left in your legs, it is worth taking a detour to the Vercors from Cognin-les-Gorges. The Gorges du Nan is practically right on your doorstep and invites you to take a short tour along the spectacular road that accompanies it. You can come across the tour a little further…
I could write now that today is all about the Rhône. But he doesn't - or at least only partially. Because today it's up to the mountains, to the high plateau of the Ardèche, the Cevennes almost in sight, to the south of France, a little closer to the sun. From here the landscape, the vegetation, the…
After a leisurely morning at the campsite, you will drive down the Route de Vallon into the Ardèche valley. The landscape gives you many great views over the valleys of the increasingly furrowed high plateau down to Vallon-Pont-d'Arc.
On the way you will pass the Chauvet 2 grotto. The entire area is a…
Today you can take it easy. The stage to Anduze is not far and you don't have to overcome large differences in altitude either. Enjoy the warm sun on your skin and suck in the scent of the unspoilt garrigue vegetation around you.
At Les Mages you cross the course of the Auzonnet river, which is rewarded…
Today's route takes you high up at the beginning of the tour - to over 300 meters in the regional park of the Cevennes. The ascent, which must therefore be mastered directly from Anduze, is not entirely without for the first three kilometers. Here you work up a sweat on hot days. Just allow yourself…
Of course, if you are already on a practical river, it would be a good idea to simply drive along it until it finally ends in the Mediterranean Sea. The route on the Hérault is anything but unspectacular and finds its climax with the Pont de Diable in the nice village of Sain-Jean-de-Fos. Now that I…
Today it's on the home stretch of the tour. At this point, I am always so excited to arrive at my destination that I can do the route that it makes sense to do within two days in a single day. With the result, after 150 kilometers in the evening exhausted but happy to arrive in Sainte Marie.
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