Belgium is a land of delicious beer and excellent cycling infrastructure, making it a great destination for a bike tour. Even if you had never considered a bike tour as a means of travel, Belgium’s Trappist breweries just might get you pedaling for your next pint.
We had thought about doing a bike tour in Belgium for a while, but were dragging our feet. While we cycled a bit around town for transportation, the jump to a real bike tour seemed like a big one. Inspired by this trip, and a desire to change our lifestyle, wanderlust kind of exploded from the beer tour idea and next thing we knew we were no longer thinking about a 2-3 week vacation from work but rather a multi-year round the world odyssey, a marriage and a liquidation of most earthly belongings.
When the time came to start the tour we decided to focus the itinerary on the seven Trappist breweries, six of which are in Belgium with the seventh in the Netherlands. Planning the tour around the Trappist breweries provided an easy framework on which to build an itinerary and ensured we would get to taste some of the best beers in the world.
Trappist monks prefer to remain cloistered—closed off—from the public so that they can practice their religious devotion without distraction. This makes a cycle tour to their “breweries” somewhat silly as all you end up doing is riding around the outside of the abbey and conjecturing about inner workings and beer-related activity. What makes the visit worthwhile is the unofficial tasting rooms located at or near each abbey. Locals are very proud of their beer and will happily offer tastings paired with Trappist cheeses, patés, and other goodies. It is the perfect reward for a day spent on your bike.
All of the breweries are located within one or two days’ ride from each other and there are so many opportunities to camp in beautiful forests or stay in historic bed and breakfasts on the way. Even a beginning cyclist could see all seven breweries in two weeks.
Belgium also has a whole network of bicycling paths. On several days we never saw a single car as we sailed through the countryside on converted railroad lines deep in the forest. Even when we cycled on the road, traffic was calm, pavement was excellent, and drivers were courteous.
Did I mention we got to taste the best beer in the entire world? According to beer nerd websites that rate this sort of thing, West Vleteren 12 is considered the best beer in the world and is only available for sale at the West Vleteren Abbey St. Sixtus. The monks limit purchases and six packs of this beer have been known to go for as much as $150 on eBay! As beer-nerds ourselves we are happy to report that it lives up to the hype. West Vleteren makes a great place to end your bike tour.