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We pick the ten best islands in the world for road and off-road cycling adventures

ireland killarney


Some 200 miles off the coast of North Africa, Tenerife is the largest of the sunblessed volcanic Canary islands. It’s not just the sunshine that brings cyclists here – after all, there are some 20 distinct microclimates on the island; not all of them dry – but the whole cyclist’s wish list. Staggering variety of landscapes to ride through? Check – from the barren, blackened volcanic slopes of Mount Teide, to the shady pine forests of La Corona forest park. Challenging roads? Check – Tenerife is laced with well-surfaced mountain roads, including Europe’s longest continuous road climb, which rises from sea level to 2100m in one unbroken 35km climb. Mountain bike trails? Check –  explore pine forest trails, or descend from over 2,000m to the beach. Flowy forest singletrack, Mars-like volcanic trails, or gnarly, rocky downhills, the choice is yours. 

Riding highs
Any of the five incredible roads up (or down) Mount Teide. Off road don’t miss the 25km descent from Circo de Las Cañades to Vill de Arico.



The Mediterranean island of Mallorca has taken cycling to its heart with half the professional road peloton practically living on Spain’s biggest island during the off season. It’s easy to see why: immaculate roads, respectful local drivers, fully signed cycling routes, miles of tranquil, flat riding between sleepy Mallorcan villages on the central Es Pla plains, as well as two serious mountain ranges which flank either side of the island. The largest of these, the Serra Tramuntana in the west is laced with sinuous challenging climbs and epic descents, incredible scenery at every turn, and those essential coffee stops in shady medieval town squares. Off-road Mallorca has a growing reputation too, with high mountain trails, oak forests and secluded coves, which can only be accessed by knobbly tyred bikes. Whether it’s technical rocky trails around the spectacular Lluc Monastery, or orange groves in the Soller valley, there is riding for every ability and taste on this beautiful island.

Riding highs

With 854m of vertical gain, Puig Major is the island’s biggest cycling climb at the heart of the Serra Tramuntana. Be sure to stop at Formalutx for a coffee and view



The word ‘epic’ might have been invented for cycling in Iceland. The 1,332km Ring Road which runs around the island, connecting major towns: Epic. The natural wonders you’ll see from it, such as the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, and the Dyrhólaey and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoons: Epic. The black sandy shorelines, lava fields, and erupting geysers powered by geothermic activity so ubiquitous it generates 25% of the country’s electricity and heats most of its homes: Epic. Even (or especially for cyclists, to be honest) the sub-polar weather is epic. Pedal into Iceland’s interior, the remote, sparsely populated Highlands, and you’ll find snow-capped mountains, lava fields and landscapes that are as inhospitable as they are photogenic. Thankfully camp sites are good and cheap and there is a good network of mountain huts.

Riding highs

Pedal through the foothills of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in the south of the island to gawp at the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall or blaze the sandy yellow singletrack of the barren Landmannalaugar trail.



The Inner Hebrides’ largest island is quintessential Western Scotland cycling: barren, craggy landscapes shaded a thousand hues of brown, dripped with a thin, deserted ribbon of tarmac, backed by foreboding, dark grey mountains. And rainy, of course – with 266 days a year of rain, waterproofs and a sunny disposition will need to be top of your packing list on any cycling visit to this part of the British Isles. Scenically the jewel of Skye’s crown is the Cuillin Ridge, as ridden by stunt rider Danny MacAskill in his 2015 video The Ridge (read our interview of him on page 30). But don’t even think of riding there yourself – this ridge is considered one of the most extreme ridge scrambles in the world… The ridge is best left as a part of the island’s many epic backdrops, every inch of which you’re free to explore, thanks to Scotland’s enviable (from a English point of view) ‘right to roam’ policy.

Riding highs

Enjoy a breath-taking circuit of the Trotternish peninsula with ever-changing sea views and its giant obelisk-like Storr rock formation before returning to colourful Portree.


Azores_-_MTB_in_Faial_da_Terra.jpgSao Miguel, Azores

The largest of the nine Portuguese islands that make up the Azores archipelago, Sao Miguel is everything you’d expect from a volcanic island adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Lake-filled calderas, waterfalls, a stunning coastline battered by Atlantic rollers and a unique culture, Sao Miguel is a verdant biker’s paradise of lush vegetation, epic views and wild landscapes. Mountain bikers will find trails from ultra-technical single tracks connecting mountain passes, beaches and coastal flats known as fajãs, while roadies or leisure cyclists can link up lakes, mountains and coastal views on a winding network of quiet tarmac and dirt roads flanked by dazzling hydrangeas and Japanese cedars.

Riding highs

Ride on or off road through the village of Sete Cidades, next to the lake at the bottom of the three-mile wide crater of the same name that it sits in. This location has seen it named one of the 7 natural wonders of Portugal

Book it

Azores Mtb Holidays runs a 4-day guided MTB tour of Sao Miguel, visiting thermal waterfalls, local eateries, and the island's spectacular volcanic calderas. Price: From £823 pp. 


Next 5 cycling islands

IOW_Anna-Glowinski-mountain_biking.jpgIsle of Wight

Just four miles off the coast of Hampshire across the Solent, the Isle of Wight packs in over 500 miles of cycle and bridleways inside its 57-mile coastline, with a huge variety of cycling landscapes to explore. Whether it’s family friendly disused railway cycleways through corn fields and woodlands, seaside cafes and promenade cruises, or leg-ripping climbs of its steep chalky ridge interior, the Isle of Wight has it all. Mountain bikers are well catered for too, with sign-posted off-road itineraries all around the island as well as managed and graded trail centre tracks. With bike-carrying buses, easy bike hire, baggage transfer services to take your bags and gear between hotels, and even its own cycling festival every September, you can see why the Isle of Wight calls itself Britain’s Bicycle Island.

Riding highs

The Red Squirrel Trail is a 24-mile, mostly flat and traffic-free signed cycling trail from coast to coast with woodlands, wetlands, ice cream parlours, and if you’re lucky, red squirrels. The Chalk Ridge Extreme route is a tough 50-mile cyclocross bike classic with everything from tarmac climbs to slimy chalk trails for you to navigate.


The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is dominated by Europe’s biggest live volcano, the 3,329m Mount Etna, which is clearly the elephant in the room when any Sicilian cycling challenge is being planned. Epic road and mountain bike rides can take you to the 2,000m high base of Etna’s cone, with the most famous ascent the 20km climb from Nicolosi to the Sapienza Refuge. And then there’s the 1,000-plus kilometres of coastal roads, four Regional Parks and 20 Nature Reserves to explore on and off road. Visit Greek temples in Agrigento or Segesta, ride between deserted coves on the south coast, or spot herds of wild horses in the Nebrodi National Park… the variety of riding is vast, with spectacular landscapes and lazy town plazas for long lunches on every ride

Riding highs

The off-road loop of Etna is epic and unique, climbing from the Sapienza refuge to skirt Etna’s crater at 3,000m. Downhillers should head to Madonie MTB Resort for its fantastic man-made trails.


Perhaps it’s cheating including an archipelago as ‘an island’ but on a two-wheeled visit to Croatia you’d be crazy not to include more than one of its 1,185 islands sprinkled of its coast in the glittering Adriatic. There is no better way to explore this sheltered, historic, and beautiful coastline than by bike and ferry, visiting vineyards for ‘refreshment’, idyllic coves for cooling dips, and ancient towns such as Korcula and Hvar for culture fixes. Start in the medieval port of Split and you can link up the islands of Korčula, Brač, and Hvar before continuing along the Pelješac Penninsula – which looks and feels like an island – and on to the architectural masterpiece and pan-tiled port of Dubrovnik.

Riding highs
On the island of Hvar, pedal from the idyllic port town of the same name, to Stari Grad, one of the oldest towns in Europe. It’s hilly but ride the route in high summer and your reward will be the sensory overload of the purple lavender fields of Brusje.



With two Tour de France winners to its name, cycling culture is deep and strong in the ‘Emerald Isle’, and a small population means that this big island nation is brimming with wild and spectacular landscapes to explore on and off-road. One of the most famous and rewarding destinations for two-wheeled exploration is Kerry, in the deep south west of the country, where rugged mountains shelter quaint, colourful coastal villages with world-famous pub culture and ambience. The whole western coast of Ireland has now been encapsulated with the 2,500km Wild Atlantic Way road route, which runs from Kerry in the south all the way to the clifftops of the Northern Headlands of Donegal in the north. All around the island there are mountain ranges to explore on or off road – from the Wicklow Mountains in the east, to the Glens of Antrim in the North, the Maumturks in the West and the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks in the south.

Riding highs

The 169km Ring of Kerry Road Cycle Route from Killarney includes about 1,150m of simply staggeringly beautiful (and tough) vertical gain. For off-road fun, there are numerous long-distance trails throughout Ireland, as well as several trail parks, with the Ballyhoura MTB centre in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick consistently coming out one of the most popular.  


Canada_Vancover_Island_MTB.jpgVancouver Island

Recently named the Cycling Capital of Canada, Victoria on Vancouver Island is the natural starting point for most cycling explorations of this Pacific Ocean island hugging the British Columbian mainland. The island is 290-mile long and 62-mile wide with a top-to-bottom mountain ridge of over 2,000m running down the middle. Every ride on this island is scenic: from coastal rides where you might see seals or whales playing in the ocean, to snow-capped mountains, rolling vineyards, and giant Douglas Firs.

Riding highs

Mountain bikers will love the singletrack of the Comox Valley and the Cowichan Valley Trail, which is part of the epic Trans Canada Trail. Roadies with a penchant for sea views and coffee stops should try out the 25-mile Victoria Seaside Touring route loop.

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