Total tour distance: 175 miles
Daily tour distance: 34 miles
Difficulty: 30 / 100
Long before rickety railways and rushing roads, the Rhône River connected the region’s most important cities. Consequently, this dazzling azure artery, stealthily snaking through the Swiss Alps into southern France, is home to a wealth of quaint villages, historic chateaux, and spectacular scenic spots. The “Via Rhôna” project is a bicycle path connecting Lake Léman (Geneva) to France’s Mediterranean beaches. This seven-day cycling itinerary allows you to take everything in between the Rhône’s two big cities, Geneva in Switzerland and Lyon in France. The tour serves up the very best the Rhône has to offer along the way, from historic forts to glistening lakes, Roman ruins to parkland panoramas. Best of all, the dramatic mountain scenery is enjoyed from a painless route, making it the ideal tour for families and leisure riders.
Starts any Sunday from April through October.
Day 1 (Sunday): Arrival in Geneva
The first day of the itinerary is the easiest of all – all you have to do is get here! Geneva is a cultured and cosmopolitan city with more than enough attractions to fill a day, so you can check in to the lovely Hotel Jade in the heart of the city, then head on out to explore. Whether you want to stroll around the city’s beautiful botanical gardens, go shopping for world-famous watches, chocolates, and Swiss knives, or set sail on sparkling Lake Geneva, it’s up to you.
Day 2 (Monday): Geneva – Seyssel (approx. 60 km/37 miles)
Following breakfast, you will meet our guide who will brief you on your itinerary and give you all the necessary equipment for your trip. This is when your journey really begins! Prepare for your longest day of cycling during the whole tour; with rolling hills, you’ll climb your highest ascent – but the good news is you’ll get to enjoy plenty of downhill riding (715 meters total)! The route itself winds its way southwest, across the Swiss border at Chancy into the picturesque wine region of Rhône-Alpes, France, where you will spend the remainder of your tour. There are plenty of reasons to stop along the way — stunning panoramas, striking rock formations, and historic forts – and you’ll end the day in Seyssel, a sensational small village.
Day 3 (Tuesday): Seyssel — Champagneux (approx. 57 km/35 miles)
Covering a shorter distance, following a nearly straight line, and climbing just 230 meters, this day’s ride will feel like a picnic compared to the previous day. Consider exploring Chanaz – the Little Venice of Savoie – or park the bikes to try the exquisite local cheeses in the Roman town of Belley. Or, if you are content to add some extra kilometers to the journey, you can also head just off route to enjoy lunch in one of the ancestral wineries on the banks of Lac du Bourget.
Day 4 (Wednesday): Champagneux — Villebois (approx. 41 km/25 miles)
From Champagneux you can take a small detour and travel southwest to visit Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers to learn the story of Louis Mandrin, the French Robin Hood. Then, as you head north, you can stop in any village you choose. From Morestel, a charming town known for painters and flowers, to Briord, a small town with a Roman aqueduct, it’s up to you where and when lunch will be served! Riding adjacent to the Isère, your day will conclude in Villebois.
Day 5 (Thursday): Villebois — Pérouges (54 km/34 miles)
Today your ride will continue along the Isère, passing through towns such as Sault-Brénaz, Hières-sur-Amby, Vernas, Loyettes, and Chânes. Early on your voyage you will have the option to stop at La Balme-les-Grottes, the “caves of Balme” where you can find the largest number of bat species in the area! If bats aren’t of particular interest to you, no need to fear boredom as you will be able to see stalactites, stalagmites, an underground lake, and many unique sights. Also worth a stop, Hières-sur-Amby has an archaeological site rich in natural history. Enjoy your ride but leave yourself some time to explore your medieval destination, the walled town of Pérouges.
Day 6 (Friday): Pérouges — Lyon (62 km/39 miles)
As Lyon has plenty to keep you busy for days if not weeks, you can bike directly to the city or take a few breaks along the way. If time is not your concern, you can have lunch in the Miribel Jonage Park (one of the largest urban parks in Europe) and enjoy a swim in Lac des Eaux Bleues (Lake Blue Waters). Upon arrival to Lyon, your options for the rest of the day are endless. Trek to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière for the best view in town, or shop, visit a museum, or the Halles de Lyon market. Be sure to reward your cycling soul with a delicious meal!
Day 7 (Saturday): Departure
After breakfast, depart at the time of your choice.
Please note that rates are given as a guideline; based on Euro vs. US$ exchange rate as of 12/10/14.
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