Austria & Germany: Danube River Biking Adventure

May 24 - 31, 2020

The mighty Danube River (called the Donau in German) flows from its source in the Black Forest of Germany all the way to the Black Sea.  The Danube bicycle route that stretches approximately 320 kilometers (or a little over 200 miles) between Passau, Germany and Vienna, Austria ranks as one of the world’s best cycle routes. No other section of the river offers as diverse a range of landscapes and cultural landmarks, or as many historical sites.

A mix of tranquil valleys, steep riverbanks, forests, fertile plains, and lovely vineyards line the Danube in this section. And except for a few short sections in towns, bikers are on paved wide bike paths or minor roads that are away from traffic, usually right alongside the river (and often have the choice of a north or south bank). Add to this a well-developed “bike tourism” infrastructure with well-signed trails and maps, and a nearly flat route that follows the river downstream (making it slightly easier than going the other direction) with (rather than against) prevailing winds and you have about as perfect a week-long bike ride as you can get anywhere in the world!

We’ve created this tour for those cyclists who enjoy a more relaxed pace, with daily mileages that allow time to stop for leisurely lunches at the small towns we pass through and leave you with enough energy at the end of the day to take in the sights of our charming host towns by foot. You’ll have a fun group of fellow cyclists with whom to travel with and guides and a support van along the route during the rides. All you need to do is show up and ride each day from town to wonderful town – we’ll bring your luggage to the next hotel for you each day so it will be waiting for you when you arrive.

Private Tour Info

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Details

  • Dates: May 24 - 31, 2020
  • Cost Per Person: $3,600
  • Optional Single Supplement: $800
  • Private Tour Minimum: 12
  • Activities: Biking
  • Difficulty: All Abilities
  • Guides: To Be Determined

Other Info: Bike rental of 25 euros per day is an additional charge. E-bikes are available upon request for an additional fee.

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Trip Highlights

  • Easy, flat 320 kilometers of biking along the beautiful Danube River
  • See castles, fortresses, monasteries and more on each day's ride
  • Very little navigation is required as paths and roads follow each side of the river
  • Explore a different town each night while your luggage is shuttled ahead for you
  • Delicious cuisine and local wines
DAY 1 > Meet in Passau, Germany

We meet after lunch at our hotel in the Bavarian fairytale-esque city of Passau, regarded as one of the most beautiful in Germany. Known as the city of Three Rivers, it sits at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz, and Danube Rivers. You can actually see the marriage of the waters as they unite into one river: green water from the Inn, the black water of the Ilz and, of course, the blue Danube. Old Town, where we’ll spend the night, has picturesque squares, brightly colored Baroque and Gothic houses, soaring towers, romantic winding alleyways and lovely promenades along the rivers. After introductions and an orientation to our bikes, we’ll embark on an introductory ride up the Inn River before returning to our hotel to check in and have a festive first dinner together!

Biking Distance: 22 Kilometers / 14 Miles

DAY 2 > Passau to Schlögen, Austria

We wish Passau a fond auf wiedersehen after breakfast and hit the trail, passing into Austria partway through our ride. The steeply rising slopes along the river form the edge of the Bavarian forest, and over millennia the Danube has cut a path through rock up to a thousand feet. The south-facing riverbanks are exposed to strong sunshine and that warmth has created a thriving environment for plants, trees and animals...and recreationists like us! Across the river, you’ll see the mighty Vichtenstein Castle, dating back to the 12th century, standing in front of the tallest peak in the region. Not far after is the famous Schlögen bend, where the Danube met its match: it couldn’t penetrate the rock here and so makes a couple of 180-degree turns to get around it. It is a scenic spot and we’ll spend the night here at a resort along the river. We left time in the day to make the 30-minute hike up to the lookout above the village of Schlögen, where you’ll get a view of the river’s dramatic loops as well as a panorama of the Donauleiten forest. A drink on the terrace while watching the river steamers and barges pass by might be appropriate for tonight’s dinner at the resort.  

Biking Distance: 44 Kilometers / 27 Miles

DAY 3 > Schlögen to Linz, Austria

Our ride this morning starts out by continuing our way along the giant bends in the river. In the town of Untermuhl the rocky slope under the Neuhaus Castle (one of the largest castle complexes in Austria that is now a private home) is not passable by bike so we must take a ferry for 800 meters to get around it! People prospected for gold in these parts and also successfully harvested pearls out of the mussels in the river’s tributaries. We’ll also pass a hydroelectric power station, fields, farmhouses, and forests before arriving in Linz for the night. Linz’s enormous medieval square influenced the city’s economic development over the centuries but it is now known as one of Europe’s “capitals of culture,” particularly for its digital art. Our lodging is close to the city center and you’ll have time to get out and about to explore the third largest city and the second largest shopping street (called Landstrass) in Austria tonight before dinner.

Biking Distance: 54 Kilometers / 34 Miles

DAY 4 > Linz to Grein, Austria

Today is one of our longest rides of the week. Downstream from Linz, the landscape returns to the green and fertile open countryside and through storybook towns. You may wish to leave the valley for a short uphill detour to the Mauthausen Memorial, a former concentration camp that is now an international site of remembrance and a place of historical and political education. Another option for a detour is the castle and countryside at Clam, now used in the summer as a concert venue for up to 10,000 people, which will give those of you itching for some hills a more physically demanding ride to Grein. The river narrows markedly and the current becomes swifter a few kilometers before reaching the charming town of Grein. This is a difficult stretch of water that has been long feared by ship captains. For a change of pace, we stay in a small pension tonight. 

Biking Distance: 72 Kilometers / 45 Miles

DAY 5 > Grein to Melk, Austria

After yesterday’s longer ride, you can take it easier today. One of the prettiest structures along the Danube is the Persenbueg Palace (owned by the Habsburgs), at the confluence of the Struden River, another perilous place for ship captains. The town of Persenbueg was an important shipbuilding town in the past. Near here it is possible to take a side trip up the beautiful Ysper Valley, where one can explore the ruins of a castle and safely swim in the “old arm” of the Danube before reaching our home for the night: the town of Melk. Melk is home to a remarkable Benedictine Abbey. With its museum, library, garden, and pavillion, it is considered the height of the flamboyant baroque architecture. Tonight, we’ll enjoy a 4-course gourmet dinner at our hotel. 

Biking Distance: 51 Kilometers / 26 Miles

DAY 6 > Melk to Tulln, Austria

Today is our longest route of the week and we get to spend the better part of our day in the Wachau, one of Austria’s best-known wine growing regions. Today’s ride offers some of the most beautiful landscapes along the entire Danube. Picturesque vineyards line the river here and steep terraced hills help block the wind. The best vineyards are located between Spitz and Durnstein, so a glass of wine with lunch (such as the young and spicy Gruner Veltliner or the noble and fruity Rheinriesling) is definitely in order today! Art history lovers: today is the day we pass by the town of Willendorf! When the Danube railway was being built in 1908, workers unearthed the “Venus of Willendorf,” a carving of a plump naked female form that represents fertility and is one of the most accomplished art pieces from the stone age. Eventually, the valley spreads into expansive flood plains and meadows. We reach the good-sized town of Tulln, the center of which is dominated by single-story houses with rural character and medieval elements. Tonight’s dinner is “on your own.”

Biking Distance: 80 Kilometers / 50 Miles

DAY 7 > Tulln to Vienna, Austria

You have the option to skip the biking today and instead take a 45-minute train ride directly to Vienna and spend the day exploring this rich and historic city. However, many bikers will regard the final stretch to Vienna as the highlight of their tour. The principal pleasure of this riding day is nature! Near Vienna, you will enter residential and industrial suburbs and eventually veer right along the canal’s bike path into the center of the city. We’ll celebrate all 200+ miles of this week’s journey with a special farewell dinner.  

Biking Distance: 40 Kilometers / 25 Miles

DAY 8 > Auf Wiedersehen! 

We’ll enjoy a walk in the historical center of Vienna before returning to the hotel to check out. From here, you are free to continue your journey or depart for home. The airport is a 20-minute shuttle from our hotel.

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Trip Accommodations

NIGHT 1 >> HOTEL RESIDENZ / PASSAU, GERMANY

Our sweet hotel for tonight is smack in the middle of Old Town and right on the promontory between the Danube and Inn Rivers.  It is a wonderfully warm and cozy four-star hotel in which to begin our trip. 

NIGHT 2 >> HOTEL DONAUSCHLINGE / SCHLOGEN, AUSTRIA

Located directly on the world-famous Schlögener Schlinge (a river loop in the upper Danube River), our hotel provides unbeatable river views, pleasant accommodations, and delicious traditional cuisine.

NIGHT 3 >> HOTEL WOLFINGER / LINZ, AUSTRIA

This historic hotel offers a perfect combination of contemporary and traditional accommodations, located in the heart of Linz's main square. The rooms are adorned predominantly in lovely Biedermeier style furnishings while still providing modern comforts, creating a perfectly calming atmosphere to relax in after a long day's ride.

NIGHT 4 >> PENSION MARTHA / GREIN, AUSTRIA

What's your favorite color? Well, be prepared to be dazzled. Each room of tonight's hotel is designed to focus on a specific color, providing an energizing effect. It's exactly what we need for our next day's ride.

NIGHT 5 >> HOTEL ZUR POST / MELK, AUSTRIA

Our accommodations for tonight are in a classic Austrian hotel with friendly and considerate staff, comfortable beds, and quiet rooms. A great place to rest your head after today's bike ride.

NIGHT 6 >> DIAMOND CITY HOTEL / TULLN, AUSTRIA

Located right off the Wachau cycle path, our conveniently situated modern hotel was constructed just a few years ago, offering contemporary yet comfortable accommodations. 

NIGHT 7 >> HILTON VIENNA PLAZA / VIENNA, AUSTRIA

With a 1920s Art Deco flair, our Vienna hotel for tonight offers the perfect combination of historical grandeur and modern comfort. It's located on the famous Ringstrasse, home to some of Vienna's most popular sites and architectural masterpieces - the State Opera, Art History Museum, City Hall, the Burgtheater, and Vienna Stock Exchange.

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Arrival & Departure

We meet you on the first day of the trip just after lunch at our hotel in Passau, Germany.  Passau has great train connections from Vienna and many cities in Germany (such as Munich).

On the last day of the tour, you can depart at any time as we have nothing planned but a leisurely walk through Old Town Vienna this morning. It is a 20-minute shuttle to the Vienna airport and even less to the main train station.

What's Included?
  • At least two Zephyr guides accompany each trip and a third is added as necessary.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
  • All of your dinners (except one) and breakfasts are included. Gratuity for these meals is also included. In general, we leave lunches open so that you have time to explore and enjoy the local flavors en route.
  • All your transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • All trail fees and permits are included.
  • NOT INCLUDED Bike rental, beverages, desserts, lunches, gratuities to your guides, personal expenses and travel to and from the destination.
Weather

May is one of the best months to bike the Danube (and is before the summer crowds!). It is not as hot as June, July, and August, but there is always a chance for rain (average of 8 days a month in May). The average high temperature is near 70 degrees, with average low temps in the 50s. 

Extending Your Stay

The easiest way to extend your trip if you have extra time is to spend another day or two in Passau, Germany on the front end or Vienna, Austria on the tail end. Munich and Bavaria are a short train ride away as are the mountain hiking mecca of Innsbruck, Austria or the classical music mecca of Salzburg. Many other nearby European cities can be reached via a short flight from Vienna. 

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance! We will attempt to keep our website itinerary as current as possible and communicate any major changes with you in the weeks prior to the tour.

 

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