For my first official venture outside of France, I could not have picked two better cycling itineraries than the Mosel and the Romantic or Middle Rhine. My bicycling time on the Mosel ended much too quickly, and I’m feeling the same happen on the Rhine. I’m making the most of each day of my Romantic Rhine cycling experience, but I find myself comparing the two rivers, as they are an amazing study in contrasts.
The Romantic Rhine and the Mosel River share some similarities, but overall, they’re two completely different cycling experiences. This blog post is dedicated to those of you who have written asking me which of the two you should bicycle. I hope you’re not disappointed, because I can’t answer that question, but I can help you understand some of the differences between these two great rivers. Maybe then you’ll be able to decide which one is for you. If you’re lucky, you’ll decide to bicycle both, like me!
To begin with, the Mosel River and the Romantic Rhine are both great cycle paths with great signage in both directions. You can easily get to the beginning, or end of each river by train from either Paris or Frankfurt. Both are safe with very good lodging options and support services. Both offer fantastic landscapes and a memorable cycling experience. Both are bursting with history, the Mosel seeming to have more Roman history, but I could be wrong about that. Both can be easily cycled in 4-5 days, but you’ll probably want longer if you plan to take advantage of some of the diversions along the way. Bottom line, it’s really hard to make a wrong choice with either one of these itineraries. But then, if you only have time for one, how do you choose? Here are some details on each to hopefully help!
At just over 200 km from Trier to Koblenz, you could easily bicycle the Mosel in a long weekend, which many Europeans do. But there are so many deviations from the main itinerary, especially from Trier, that a week in this area wouldn’t be too long! You’ll definitely want to spend some time at each end of the trip as Trier and Koblenz are very special towns.
Bicycling the Mosel was a very special experience. I really had no expectations of the route, and I was completely blown away by the region. Here are some things you may want to consider if you are considering cycling along the Mosel:
- You can rent a very good quality 28 speed bicycle right at the Trier train station
- There’s a very affordable baggage service along the river so you don’t need to carry panniers
- There’s a service that will return your bike to Trier from Koblenz at the end of the trip
- There is local train service to most towns, helpful if you encounter bad weather
- There are towns every 10 km or so
- You can bicycle both sides of the river, I bicycled downstream or north most of my journey
- The route isn’t always along the river
- The river is peaceful, serene, calming
- The Mosel is very un-touristy, which I found amazing
- Lots of Weinstube to enjoy local wine
- There are plenty of bridges making it easy to visit or stay in towns on either side of the river
- The one constant throughout the Mosel is the vines, they are everywhere, and they really define this region
- Local tourism offices are in every village and town and always seem to be open
So you may be thinking that the Mosel is the river for you, but don’t be too hasty, there’s the Rhine to consider too. The “official” distance of the Romantic Rhine from Koblenz to Bingen is about 70 km. The distance that you would cover if you bicycled the route is closer to 100 km since there are deviations from the river, and there are deviations into towns. I began the route in Koblenz, went to Remagen, and then headed south to Bingen, a distance of about 120km. Bottom line, you could very easily do this itinerary in a long weekend, but as with the Mosel, you’re probably going to want more time!
Just like the Mosel, cycling the Romantic Rhine is a very special experience. Let’s take a look at some things you might want to consider if you were thinking about cycling this itinerary:
- Bike rental is not as easy as the Mosel. The two best options are renting in Rudesheim or Boppard, but I will be looking into other options
- The towns along the river look like something out of a fairy tale
- There are no bridges for easy access to the other side, only periodic ferries from one side to the other
- The Rhine River is visually powerful, strong, bold
- Towns are larger than on the Mosel, but not as close
- The Rhine is definitely more busy, more touristy, but it’s because it’s so gorgeous!
- Whereas on the Mosel the constant was the vineyards, on the Rhine, I was struck by the complete and total wilderness between towns. The breadth of the forests and wilderness was amazing
- There are vineyards, but fewer than on the Mosel
- The cycle path very closely follows the river, rarely is it out of your sight for long
- There’s the castles and all the history that goes with them, including the opportunity to visit one, eat lunch at one, or even spend the night at one, the ultimate splurge
- There’s the tale of the Lorelei and all the surrounding magic and folklore
- There are wonderful riverfront cafes in almost every town for enjoying lunch, dinner, afternoon ice cream orna glass of wine
- There is train service of each side of the river, as well as an elaborate ferry system, in case you encounter bad weather
I know that I will think of more key points to add to this list, but for now, this will provide some insight for those planning a trip to this area. As a last thought, I’ll leave you with two more photos from these incredible rivers!