Two-Wheeled Tourism: 10 Cities to Visit If You Love Bikes

Anna Brones

Why spend your summer vacation on subways and buses when you could be out exploring places on two wheels?

Thanks to an explosion in bike-share systems and a general appreciation for bike culture, making cycling a central part of your travels is becoming easier and easier. You don’t have to throw down, pack your bicycle and head off on a full cycle tour to get the pleasure of seeing a place on two wheels; there are plenty of cities around the world that are bike-friendly and perfect for anyone who enjoys the thrills of riding in a new place.

Here are the ten best places to explore by bike.1. Amsterdam
There’s no denying that if you’re a bike lover, Amsterdam should be at the top of your list. Here people are practically born on bicycles, and if you want to experience the city like a real local, there’s no better way. Start off in the Jordaan district, rent a bike at the friendly Bike City and get ready to master the dance that is cycling in the Netherlands.

2. Copenhagen
Bike riding in Scandinavia is truly part of the local lifestyle, and nowhere is this more true than the Danish capital of Denmark. This is the birthplace of Cycle Chic after all. There are over 390 kilometers of designated bike lanes and over 50 percent of locals commute by bike on a regular basis. The Copenhagen tourism office has a round up of top bike rental places to make fitting in easier than ever. Just remember to wear your finest — Scandinavians look good on their wheels.

3. Portland, Oregon
Beer, baristas and bikes; it’s the Portland trifecta. You can get all three at Velocult, the city’s hub for bike related events and general fun. If you’re downtown you should be sure to hit up the Courrier Coffee Bar, opened by one of the city’s favorite pedal-delivered craft roasting companies. Add Trailhead to the list as well, another bike-powered artisan roaster. And when you’ve had enough pedal-powered caffeine for the day, take your bike, roll over to the bike-centric bar Apex and drink one of their 50 beers on tap.

4. Paris
Ok, so Paris might not be the first place that comes to mind on the list of bike-friendly places – you do have to do a lot of scooter and pedestrian dodging – but thanks to the successful Velib bike-share system, cycling is a big part of Parisian culture. The key in Paris is to identify that bike paths; you’ll find separated lanes around the city that make two-wheeled Paris a true delight.

5. San Francisco
Don’t let the hills scare you off. Through the late spring and early fall you can take advantage of Sunday Streets, a collection of events that closes off streets to cars in different neighborhoods around the city, and in Golden Gate Park there are car-free Sundays and Saturdays. For a longer adventure, make your way to Marin County.

6. Berlin
Berlin is in the top 10 of bike blog Copenhagenize’s bicycle-friendly cities and with good reason. Around 13% of the population ride their bike on a daily basis, and in some neighborhoods it’s as high as 25%. There’s the 1st Bicycle Gallery which is all about showcasing gorgeous bicycles . There’s an online route planner you can use to facilitate your ride, and if you want a different look at one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, cycle the Berlin Wall Trail, tracing the former wall.

7. Rio de Janeiro
A bike-share and over 250 kilometers of bike trails make a normally congested city ideal for the cycle crowd. A large part of the bike push has come for preparing for the Olympics in 2016, and above and beyond the Bike Rio bike-share system, there are plenty of bike rental options around town.

8. Barcelona
Beach and bikes; it’s no surprise that Barcelona is popular with budget-savvy travelers looking for a little warm weather and outdoor strolls. There are over 100 stations for the city’s Bicing program, and a variety of rental and tour options. Top that ride off with some tapas and you have the perfect day.

9. Montreal
Montreal is the place to be if you’re a cycle lover. There are trails, separated lanes and designated biking streets, easily navigable on PedalMontreal. The city is also the gateway to Quebec’s Route Verte, boasting over 5,000 kilometers of bikeways all over the region along with bike-friendly accomodations. You may need a few weeks.

10. Bogotá
Bogotá’s CicloRuta s one of the most extensive in the world. Given that a very small percentage of the local population has access to cars, bicycles make economic sense. If your destination is too far to ride to, the network of bike lanes connects well with the local transportation system, complete with bike parking at several designated stops. As the city’s ex mayor Enrique Peñalosa said, “I think the future of the world has to do with bicycles.”

Layover Report: Where To Eat At Miami, Lima, And Bogota International Airports

cuban foodI just returned from three weeks in Bolivia and Paraguay. In that time, I had 12 flights, five of which were required to get me from my home in Colorado to La Paz. Now why, you may ask, in this age of expedited air travel, does it take so many connections to travel 4,512 miles (or nine hours by air)? Budget, baby.

I’m also horrifically flight phobic, so for me to fly various Third World carriers from Miami to Bogota to Lima to La Paz (and then La Paz to Lima to Asuncion, and Asuncion back to Lima en route to Miami, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth to Denver), is probably the best example I can provide of just how much I love to travel. I really, really, really love it. I also really love having Xanax on hand when I fly.

One of the reasons I didn’t mind my layovers too much is that I happen to adore most South American airports, especially Jorge Chavez International in Lima (so many cools shops, free snackies, great Peruvian food!). And since one of the things I most like to do in South America is eat, I used my downtime to see if there was anything worth writing about, foodwise. Indeed there was, and so I present to you my findings. Feel free to send me some Xanax in return (kidding! I’ll take empanadas instead).

Miami International Airport
It’s hardly a secret that the Concourse D location of Miami’s beloved La Carreta chain rocks, especially in a sea of Au Bon Pain and Starbucks. Best of all, it opens at 5 a.m., so when I was rushing to make my 5:30 a.m. flight to Bogota, I was able to grab a jamon y queso sandwich en route. If time isn’t an issue, sit down and feast upon Cuban-style roast pork, stuffed green plantains or fufu con masitas, or a medianoche sandwich.
empanadasJorge Chavez International Airport, Lima
It’s all about Manacaru, the token Peruvian eatery in this gorgeous, progressive airport (they even recycle and post about water conservation). Every time I layover in Lima, I make a beeline for this full-service restaurant in International Departures, and order some empanadas and suspiro limon. Also known as suspiro a la limena; this achingly sweet, meringue-and-condensed milk pudding is the official dessert of Lima.

It’s no Gastón Acurio restaurant, but it’s pretty damned good for airport food; even the ceviche is sparkling fresh in my experience. It’s also great for when you’re dashing between flights, as they’re centrally located between gates, and have an entire case of grab-and-go.

They are open pretty much around the clock, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and coffee.

El Dorado International Airport, Bogota
Never having been to Colombia, despite repeated attempts to plan trips, I was desperate for a taste of the national cuisine when I landed in Bogota. Thank god for the (wait for it) Juan Valdez Cafe. I happily resolved my caffeine jones, and ordered up some arepitas, mini-versions of arepas. These corn-and-cheese cakes are Colombia’s most iconic street food, and I was thrilled to be able to try them despite being unable to leave the airport. Gracias, Juan.

[Photo credits: Cuban sandwich, Flickr user star5112; empanadas, Flickr user jules:stonesoup]

Coffee Cupping In Colombia

“A hint of chocolate, a whisper of citrus,” he tells the barista. He’s a foodie, so unlike me, he actually smells these aromas. This isn’t a wine tasting – I’m at a coffee cupping in a coffee lab in Bogota, Colombia. Coffee cupping is a ritual taken very seriously by food and wine geeks, and an intriguing challenge for caffeine addicts like me.

We’re standing around a table in the pristine lab that’s tucked behind a glass wall in E&D Cafés. Locals seated at tables in the coffee bar on the far side of the glass drink espresso and stare at us, while cafe owner Jamie Duque introduces us to the ritual.

Ten empty cups sit on the table before me near a metal bowl, our spittoon. We start by taking a sip from each of the first four cups, which have been filled with different types of water. After each sip, we spit into the metal bowl before moving on to the next one. Deciding which cups hold the sweet, salty, bitter and acidic tastes helps activate our palates.

I step back to take a picture and bump into the metal counter that stretches the length of the room. On it, there’s an industrial-size coffee grinder and containers with clear water that Jean’s assistant is using to fill our coffee cups. A colorful coffee taster’s flavor wheel hangs on the wall. At one end of the room a massive coffee-bean roaster sits against a brick wall and there’s a lingering smoky scent, perhaps from the last coffee that was roasted.

Apparently there are more than 30 different aromas a truly sensitive palate can taste while drinking coffee, according to Duque. Coffee from the central region of Colombia, for example, tends to be sweet because sugar cane also is grown in the same location. Coffee from Sumatra, however, has a more earthy taste, because the beans dry on the soil, Duque says.
After this discussion, we move to three more cups that have been filled with samples of the inexpensive brands of coffee one buys off a supermarket shelf. Duque pours water into them and says, “Break the crust gently by moving the spoon back and forth to release the aroma. Then, sniff hard.”

I follow his instructions but have to swallow a giggle listening to my friends sniff like they are in the fourth day of a cold. Here’s when the suggestions start flowing. “Chocolate,” “bitter,” “sweet,” different people reply. I keep quiet, recognizing that subtle coffee tastes are not my forté. To me, it’s “just right,” “too strong,” or “too weak.”The remaining cups are filled with carefully measured amounts of three different types of ground coffee beans that were picked in different growing areas in Colombia. (To create good coffee, the amounts used are very important, according to Duque.) After going through the sniff routine, we move on to the “slurp” movement we were taught when tasting the first three cups. We gently skim off the crust that’s formed on the top of the coffee in our cups and toss it into the spittoon. Then, as Duque had explained, we proceed to “slurp” a bit of the brew and move it around our mouths to sense the coffee’s essence. For the next few minutes, it sounds as if we are in a Japanese noodle shop, slurping noisily to show our appreciation for the taste.

Finally, the specific coffees we are tasting, and the region each comes from, are revealed. After amiable arguments about which brew has the best taste, we’re each allowed to choose our favorite and take 100 grams of beans back home to the States.

As we’ve been tasting, Duque has been scribbling facts about Colombian coffee on the glass wall with a black pen. Duque has a friendly face, with a smile that invites friendship but disappears when he starts giving you facts about the coffee industry in Colombia. At times, listening to him is like learning from a college professor teaching a popular class. He explains that there are 800,000 coffee farms in this country and about two million people make their living directly or indirectly from coffee. The coffee is grown mostly in small farms on land that’s between 1,100 and 2,000 meters above sea level. The types of soil differ greatly, ensuring different coffee profiles.

Duque knows these facts because he’s a driving force in Colombia’s coffee industry. An agricultural engineer by training, his youthful looks – despite slightly thinning black hair – belie that fact that he has spent 20 years working with coffee growers and producers. His focus: to help coffee growers reach social, technical and environmental sustainability, in part through the implementation of certification programs to ensure quality coffee. In the lab he designed at E&D Cafés (which stands for Education and Development of Coffees), he works with coffee producers and retains an overview of the coffee chain, from the growers to the baristas making cappuccinos for the line of locals in the coffee bar.

If you’re visiting Bogota, you can arrange to partake in a coffee cupping in the lab at E&D Cafés. It takes about one- to one-and-a-half hours, and it costs approximately $25 a person, although the price for bigger groups is flexible.

Drink, slurp, spit! The essence of a coffee cupping. Back home, after brewing the coffee I purchased at E&D Cafés, it’s strictly “drink, drink, drink” – and savor the memory of a special day.

LAN Colombia will begin flights to the U.S.

On February 1, LAN Colombia will celebrate the airline’s inaugural flight to the United States when it touches down at Miami International Airport from Bogota. The event will be marked by a water cannon salute and will be attended by the iconic Juan Valdez (and possibly his mule Conchita) in an effort to promote his coffee brand-which will now be served exclusively on all of LAN’s long-haul flights.

So why might you be interested in hopping on one of the seven weekly flights between Bogota and Miami? Not only was Bogota named one of Gadling’s picks for best budget vacations in 2012, but Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast is one of our top picks for national parks to visit in all of South America. If you need more convincing, find out why Alex Robertson Textor things Bogota is the next Buenos Aires.

Budget Vacation Guide 2012: Bogota, Colombia

Everything about Bogota, Colombia’s capital of culture, cuisine and Cumbia, begs for further exploration. From the rough-around-the-edges street art of colonial-tinged ‘hood Candelaria, to the fabulous golden Pre-Columbian artifacts at the Museo del Oro, to the buzzing coffee bars of Zona G, there’s a little something for every type of traveler in this rapidly rising mecca of South American tourism. Best of all, there’s never been a better (or cheaper) time to investigate this symbol of Colombia’s continued tourist resurgence.

Simply put, Bogota offers one of the continent’s most affordable blends of culture and cost. Thanks to a healthy exchange rate of around 1,900 Colombian pesos to the dollar, Bogota visitors can expect to experience the city’s first-rate amenities at positively rock bottom prices. A taxi ride to most attractions within the city costs less than $10, while a hearty plate of Bandeja Paisa, a gut-bursting sampler of Colombia’s culinary staples, will set you back less than $5. Bogota’s array of budget-friendly guesthouses offer private rooms starting for as little as $15-30/night.

And at just a six hour non-stop flight from New York City and three and a half hours from Miami, Bogota is surprisingly easy to get to. Move over Buenos Aires – Bogota is about to give South American travelers in search of a great value a run for their money.