I started the cycling journey that would take me from Switzerland to the Netherlands… Welp. This was going to be a lot harder than I thought!
Why the Heck I’m Doing This
When Phil and I were in India, I read a post by a health & fitness blogger about her Rhine river cruise experience. Whenever I’m home, I always see those cruises departing- and all of the people looking seriously relaxed on them. They look freaking amazing! And that’s what her blog post reconfirmed. Seeing that those Rhine river cruises cost upwards of 3000 bucks for a week, I figured going on one was not really an option. So I looked into cycling the Rhine. Not nearly as relaxing, but you can still stop at all the towns the river cruises do, all while staying active.
Turns out, there’s a Eurovelo route that runs along the Rhine. Eurovelo routes are cycling routes that span all over Europe! This one, the Eurovelo 15 (EV15), was pretty flat, excluding one day in the Swiss Alps, and it sounded like something I wanted to do! Phil was pretty keen to cycle the Rhine, too, and well, here we are!
I’ll be writing a detailed guide to cycling the Rhine after we’ve finished the trip, but I figured it would be nice to read about the day to day experience. There aren’t too many blog posts about this trip on the World Wide Web, but the few posts I found that had daily experiences were the ones I found most helpful and enjoyable. Here’s my version!
First things first; I am NOT a cyclist- I have never done longer than a 6 hour day on a bike, AND I think I was like 12 years old that one 6 hour day. This is all really overly-ambitious, but hey, if I can do it, you certainly can too!
Day 1: Andermatt – Chur
I thought this day would be absolutely horrendous. THIS is the day I’ve heard everyone moan about and I was scared I wouldn’t make it up the Oberalp Pass. I mean, it’s a 600m ascent in one go! That’s a lot when you’ve only really ridden on flat ground!
Phil and I woke up at 5am and rode to the Basel train station, where we caught a 6:04 train towards Lucerne. A couple train changes later, we were in Andermatt! We didn’t really eat breakfast because we had left so early, so we stopped at the Coop in Andermatt, had some muesli, and then headed out for the Oberalp Pass. You follow the Route 2 in Switzerland.
It wasn’t even that bad. I won’t lie, my legs were on fire and I thought I’d throw up one time, but I thought it was going to be really really REALLY hard, and it wasn’t. It is pretty much uphill for an hour or two (depending on how fast you are), but it’s a VERY gradual uphill. You can go slowly and I think it’ll be pleasant that way. My top gears weren’t working but I didn’t want to look like an absolute knob going 0.000001 km/hour so I pushed hard and rode up as quickly as I could. Don’t recommend doing it that way.
I was surprised when we got to the top; I expected it to take much longer and for it to be more miserable, but it wasn’t bad. I might have even enjoyed it.
The way down is awesome. I didn’t have to pedal for like half an hour!
It’s a pleasant little stretch of cycling after the pass until you get to ANOTHER HILL. This one is much shorter than the pass, but also much steeper. I won’t lie; I pushed my bike a couple of times.
There are a couple more uphills and downhills, which is really exhausting after doing the pass. Finally, after hours of cycling, we had made it to Chur.
We set up camp and slept like babies.
Distance: 95 km
Time: 9 hours
Day 2: Chur – Rohrspitz
We had a 9am start from Chur and thought it would be absolutely fine to get to Konstanz, which is where we thought we’d be stopping for the night. The ride was really pleasant; we meandered through small adorable towns (those were the only hilly sections), vineyards, and farmland. I really enjoyed being out in the countryside- it was peaceful and interesting; the ride never got boring.
We didn’t actually make it to Konstanz, which is where we planned on stopping. It was 130 km away from Chur, and by 6pm, we were knackered and only just getting to the lake, which meant Konstanz was still about 40 km away. We set up camp at a really great campsite along the water and even ate at their restaurant. They had HUGE pizzas and I ate one entirely myself.
Distance: 96 km
Time: 9 hours
Day 3: Rohrspitz – Büsingen Am Hochrhein
It was an absolutely lovely day when we headed out! The trail was absolutely stunning along Lake Constance, we rode through more farmland, and the weather was perfect. The lakeside was so relaxing, and it’s somewhere I’d love love love to return to and spend more time at.
We had plans to try and make up some time from the day before and get to near the Rhine Falls, but in the afternoon, it started pouring. I’m not exaggerating when I say pouring. It wasn’t just a little sprinkle, it was a full out thunderstorm with lightning. It was 1) miserable to ride in, and 2) dangerous to ride in, so we decided to stop for the night even though it was only maybe 5pm. We wouldn’t have been able to stay dry at night if we had camped (or even been able to have set up our tent), so we looked for the closest hotel/hostel/b&b that wouldn’t charge us an arm and a leg. We found the Katzenhof, a farm b&b. It was reasonably priced, warm, and most importantly, dry!
It was really cosy and lovely and we slept great, though I was worried about my shoes drying- they were so wet they’d squish water out with every step!
Distance: 100 km
Time: 8 hours
Day 4: Büsingen Am Hochrhein – Basel
Well, I was right about the shoes. They didn’t dry.
Breakfast at the b&b was amazing. There was Bircher muesli made with homemade yogurt, breads, cheeses, coffee… everything we needed to fill us up for a long day ahead. It was about 140 kilometres to Basel and while our butts were sore and our legs tired, we were ready to rush there!
The morning was lovely and seeing Rhine Falls was so fun! We had a 10am wurst & brot (sausage and bread) and enjoyed the view before heading on. The day was much hillier than I expected. They were small hills, but they took a toll on us. After Koblenz, it flattened out a lot, and we POWERED through to Basel. It was a 12 hour day but we made it and were welcomed back home with open arms. We even got to do laundry.
Distance: 139 km
Time: 12 hours
Day 5: (Much Needed) Rest Day
We had a rest day in Basel, which was absolutely perfect. A fabulous Sunday brunch with my family, a float down the Rhine, a walk through town, some ice cream, and a homemade dinner. Just what we needed.
Day 6: Basel – Strasbourg
It’s very easy to get lost getting out of Basel. The signage is great, but the trams are scary and cities are scary when you’re cycling. Also, you can’t ride on the side of the Rhine that leads to France. It’s closed every day except Sunday because it’s Novartis property. You have to go through Germany to get to France. We made the mistake of going towards Novartis and we had to turn around.
When you first enter France, the signage is really confusing. You aren’t following the route 2 anymore; you follow the EV15 route. It takes some getting used to, and then it’s pretty simple to follow.
Stock up on both food and water in Switzerland, because along the French route, there are absolutely NO places to fill your water, and the route takes you through residential areas where supermarkets are hard to find. Switzerland did this part really well. You always found yourself near a supermarket, and there were so many fountains to drink from.
I didn’t find the scenery THAT lovely, but it was still very pleasant to cycle here. It was easy and mindless cycling.
All of the campsites about 100 km away from Basel are quite far off the trail. We started looking for campsites about 40 km away from Strasbourg, but we only found some about 20 kilometres away, 10 km of which were off the route. We kinda said “might as well,” and cycled all the way to Strasbourg.
The final 40 km stretch to Strasbourg is really lovely. It’s along a canal and just sooooo relaxing. Though I did get stung by a bee on my lip.
We checked into our hotel and were so tired we didn’t even go out into the city.
Distance: 143 km
Time: 12 hours
Day 7: Rest Day
This was supposed to be a short day of cycling so we’d have time to explore Strasbourg, but since we pushed it all the way to Strasbourg the night before, it was a rest day!
We didn’t have a set plan for exploring the city; we walked around Petite France, went into the cathedral, ran errands, and ate some very good ice cream (a daily treat), so I’d consider it a day very well spent!
Click here to read about days 8-13
And here to read about days 14-17!