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From north to south via the ocean — La Vélodyssée

Guillaume Favez

From north to south via the ocean — La Vélodyssée

Bike Touring Collection by Guillaume Favez

13-28

days

3-6 h

/ day

812 mi

16,875 ft

16,925 ft

La Vélodyssée is aptly named: it’s a real cycling odyssey that will take you from the north of Brittany, in Roscoff, to Hendaye, on the Spanish border. Why these two towns? Because this is where the British and Spanish cycle routes connect, via a ferry to Great Britain, of course. La Vélodyssée is part of an even more ambitious itinerary, EuroVelo 1, from the far northern tip of Norway all the way to Portugal: more than 11,000 kilometres (6,840 mi) of cycle paths across six countries!

If we focus on France, the diversity of landscapes is already exceptional: the windswept cliffs of Brittany give way to the beaches, hillsides and pine forests of the south-west. The natural landscapes are exceptional but the cultural highlights are not to be outdone: the cities of Nantes, La Rochelle and numerous castles and villages are full of historical treasures and hidden heritage to discover.

All of this is offered in 21 Tours, or around three weeks of exploration, with average stages of 65 kilometres (40 mi) and only 200 metres (660 ft) of altitude gain. At the end of some of the Tours, accommodation is limited, so I advise you to book in advance.

I’ve outlined the itinerary from north to south but you can also ride in the opposite direction. The difference in altitude is similar and the wind, especially from west to east, does not really influence your direction.

To arrive at the start of the first stage in Roscoff by train, you can usually change at Morlaix, a town served directly from Paris. At the end of this route, you can go to Hendaye station, served by Bordeaux.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    03:16
    27.1 mi
    8.3 mph
    1,650 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This first stage of the Vélodyssée does not run alongside the ocean but takes you inland. For this reason, it is the steepest Tour of all the stages of this cycle route with more than 500 meters of elevation gain. To compensate, it is the shortest with only 43 kilometers.After a few detours in Roscoff, a small town of …

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  • Intermediate
    04:52
    36.9 mi
    7.6 mph
    1,275 ft
    1,125 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage through Brittany does not follow the ocean and is therefore not as flat as the following stages of the Vélodyssée. 390 meters of elevation gain await you on this 59-kilometer Tour.Much of this Breton section of the Vélodyssée takes you along an old railway line. We discover many old stations, sometimes abandoned and taken over by abundant …

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  • Intermediate
    04:28
    38.9 mi
    8.7 mph
    800 ft
    1,300 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This 62-kilometer Tour includes 250 meters of ascent but also 400 meters of descent. It runs along the Brest-Nantes canal for most of the route. The only real climb is at kilometer 30, when the EuroVelo 1 route temporarily departs from the canal.From the first few meters along the Nantes-Brest canal, a passage catches the eye: it is the …

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  • Intermediate
    03:58
    42.0 mi
    10.6 mph
    800 ft
    925 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You will have to pedal 67 kilometers to reach Le Roc-Saint-André from Pontivy. The 250 meters of ascent are concentrated on the first 15 kilometers, the rest of the Tour being mainly of the false flat descending.The Nantes-Brest canal has many locks, including a series of 9 locks around the tenth kilometer. Apart from the inevitable photo of the successive locks, we can imagine the time needed to travel these few kilometers by boat.

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  • Difficult
    04:57
    41.9 mi
    8.5 mph
    675 ft
    750 ft
    Expert bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    67 kilometers separate Le Roc-Saint-André from Guenrouet, via the Nantes-Brest canal. The 210-meter climb is segmented into several small climbs all along the route.From the eighth kilometer, do not hesitate to make a small detour to discover the historic center of Malestroit: stone facades and 15th century half-timbered houses await you.After 37 kilometers along the canal from Nantes …

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  • Intermediate
    04:31
    40.9 mi
    9.1 mph
    500 ft
    450 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This 66-kilometer stage in the direction of Nantes has only 160 meters of vertical drop: the route is relatively flat.Follow the Nantes-Brest canal for 25 kilometers to reach the Château de Blain. This medieval fortress built 900 years ago now houses a tavern and even an escape game! This original place is my favorite stop on this Tour, but if you want to stop there, it is better to take the lead and book in advance.

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  • Intermediate
    03:48
    39.8 mi
    10.5 mph
    750 ft
    800 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    This stage marks a turning point in the Vélodyssée: leave the land to finally reach the ocean! In 64 kilometers and 230 meters of elevation gain, you reach Nantes to head straight west along the Loire.Nantes is full of monuments, attractions and great restaurants, so make sure you take a few detours. Remarkable for its size and its Gothic …

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  • Intermediate
    04:13
    40.5 mi
    9.6 mph
    1,225 ft
    1,150 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This 65-kilometer stage runs along the western end of the Loire to reach the ocean. Therefore, you stay close to the coast but do not expect a perfectly flat route: 370 meters of climb will punctuate your route, divided into many small accessible climbs.At the Loire estuary in the ocean is Fort Mindin, a strategically placed place full of …

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  • Intermediate
    04:37
    42.7 mi
    9.3 mph
    350 ft
    400 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage is one of the longest at 68.7 kilometers but it is also one of the flattest with barely 100 meters of climb as it runs along the ocean from start to finish.The Tour starts on Boulevard de l'Océan, along the beach, before reaching the Lyarne marsh. At the eleventh kilometer, the bridge at the Port du Collet …

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  • Intermediate
    04:16
    40.4 mi
    9.5 mph
    675 ft
    675 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This 65 kilometer stage includes a few more gravel than road sections, but nothing impractical.The start of this stage takes place in the forest, between a sandy beach and immense marshes. Do not hesitate to take a short break on one of the many beaches along the track, such as the Plage des Demoiselles, around the tenth kilometer.Further …

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  • Intermediate
    04:14
    41.6 mi
    9.8 mph
    625 ft
    625 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The 67 kilometers of this stage include less than 200 meters of vertical drop and the surface is suitable for any type of bike.The first kilometers of this route include a nice passage between Lake Tanchet and the ocean. You then drive on a dike adorned with rocks and sand on the sea side and vegetation on the lake side. Without a doubt my favorite part of this stage.

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  • Intermediate
    04:23
    37.9 mi
    8.6 mph
    325 ft
    300 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    With 61 kilometers and only 100 meters of vertical drop, this stage is a little easier than the previous ones. What to rest a little and to benefit more from the Unmissables.From one of the dyke gates of the Marais Poitevin, discover how these constructions protect against tides, floods and drought. Cross the marsh for about twenty kilometers before joining the Marans canal in La Rochelle.

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  • Intermediate
    04:07
    39.1 mi
    9.5 mph
    500 ft
    525 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The 63 kilometers and 160 meters of vertical drop of this Tour should allow you to enjoy the attractions throughout this stage.Starting with the beach of Châtelaillon, long and composed of fine sand, this beach is supervised in summer and used for sand yachting in low season.At kilometer 35, the cycle route takes you to Rochefort. Shortly before …

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  • Intermediate
    03:26
    35.4 mi
    10.3 mph
    550 ft
    525 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This 64-kilometer stage winds through swamps until it reaches the Seudre Bridge, which offers a superb panorama of the land and the ocean. Just after the bridge, the trail offers you protection from the sun in the shade of the Coubre forest. You are then driving on a paved track, in perfect condition and a stone's throw from the sea.

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  • Intermediate
    03:32
    37.6 mi
    10.6 mph
    425 ft
    400 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    The 60 kilometers and 130 meters of climb of this stage should give you enough time to enjoy the many beaches that punctuate the route.And you start from the first kilometer with a superb beach punctuated by rocks and surrounded by turquoise water: Chay beach has many assets.The Royan ferry is not free, but it allows you to …

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  • Intermediate
    03:36
    38.5 mi
    10.7 mph
    900 ft
    925 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This 64-kilometer Tour includes 280 meters of elevation gain, which is barely more than the previous stages, but the climbs are well distributed throughout the course.As soon as you leave Hourtin, the track leads you into the forest of the same name. Meander in the shade of the pines, halfway between the beach and Lake Hourtin. The Carrefour de Malignac is a crossroads that allows you to reach the lake, where it is possible to swim.

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  • Intermediate
    03:37
    38.7 mi
    10.7 mph
    600 ft
    500 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    With only 62 kilometers and 190 meters of vertical drop, this stage around the Arcachon Basin shouldn't tire you too much. In any case, it will give you time to rest!The landscapes around the Arcachon Basin are splendid. Like Andernos-les-Bains which offers a magnificent panorama. A few kilometers further on is the port of Fontainevieille, a marina which, installed directly in the Arcachon Basin, is affected by the tides.

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  • Difficult
    03:21
    35.4 mi
    10.5 mph
    875 ft
    950 ft
    Expert bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    This 57-kilometer stage departs a little from the coast to take you between the ponds of Cazaux-Sanguinet and Biscarrosse-Parentis.The first kilometers start in a pine forest, a few hundred meters from the beach. From the eighth kilometer, a small wooden path allows you to reach the beach, but you will have to push your bike to climb the dune that protects the beach.

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  • Intermediate
    03:32
    37.7 mi
    10.6 mph
    825 ft
    875 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    These 60 kilometers and 250 meters of vertical drop will take you a little further south along the ocean, without any particularly difficult passage.The first 20 kilometers of track lead you towards the coast, which shelters a biological reserve. Take the opportunity to rest in the shade or opt for a tour of this ecosystem organized by the National Forestry Office.

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  • Intermediate
    03:50
    39.9 mi
    10.4 mph
    900 ft
    925 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    This penultimate 64-kilometer stage runs along the coast without approaching it before the 40th kilometer. Nevertheless, the difference in height remains contained with 280 meters of climb.The cycle route starts by bypassing the Léon pond and then crosses the Courant de Messanges nature reserve. Do not hesitate to take detours to observe the pond more closely or discover the flora and fauna of the nature reserve.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    21
  • Distance
    812 mi
  • Duration
    84:43 h
  • Elevation
    16,875 ft16,925 ft

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From north to south via the ocean — La Vélodyssée

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