Half-timbered architecture in Monschau, Germany on the Four Countries Bike Tour. Photo via Flickr:Gunter Hentschel

Quiet countryside in Epen, South Limburg, the Netherlands. Photo via Flickr:Bert Kaufmann

Four Countries Rails to Trails

Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg Bike Tours

Cycling the European Vennbahn, Europe’s most scenic and longest railway cycle path

  • Here in the west, we are very familiar with the Rails to Trails movement and know that is is a lovely cycling experience. Now, we offer this European version, through four countries.

    You will pedal 127 kilometers on a little-known route called the Vennbahn through a landscape dotted with ancient abbeys and tidy villages of whitewashed brick and half-timbered homes.

    The route weaves between borders and meanders through high moor and grassland terrain, famous the world over for its local cheeses, cured meats, and grains that flavor rich Belgian ales.

    Those who love history, will love this tour. The region has been a key player from the Romans, Carolingian Emperors, Industrial Revolution, WWII, up to the present.

    Highlights:

    • Crossing borders
    • Cycling the longest rail to trail path in Europe
    • Aachen
    • Trier
    • Optional excursion to Bastogne to visit the World War II Battle of the Bulge museum
    • Holland/American WWII cemetary in Margraten
    • Regional cuisine

    For those who love longer tours, it is possible to combine this tour with a boat experience. Scroll down for day to day of the Five Country combined hotel and bike and boat tour!

  • 2019

    Hotel to hotel:
    Price £ 1770 $ 3,567 2065 $ 3139 NOK 19618 kr 18108 $ 2,354 Single supplement: £ 197 $ 397 230 $ 350 NOK 2185 kr 2017 $ 262 Hotel to Hotel plus boat: 
    Please ask!

    2020
    Price £ 1843 $ 3,714 2150 $ 3268 NOK 20425 kr 18854 $ 2,451 Single supplement: pending
    Hotel to Hotel plus boat: £ 2863 $ 5,769 3340 $ 5077 NOK 31730 kr 29289 $ 3,808 Single supplement: pending

    extra options

    2019

    Electric bike: £ 73 $ 147 85 $ 129 NOK 808 kr 745 $ 97   Excursion to Bastogne to visit the World War II museum, including entrance/guide: £ 30 $ 60 35 $ 53 NOK 333 kr 307 $ 40  

    2020

    Electric bike,hotel portion: £ 77 $ 155 90 $ 137 NOK 855 kr 789 $ 103 Electric bike, combined tour: £ 154 $ 311 180 $ 274 NOK 1710 kr 1578 $ 205 Excursion to Bastogne to visit the World War II museum, including entrance/guide: £ 30 $ 60 35 $ 53 NOK 333 kr 307 $ 40  

    please note

    Rates are per person based on double occupancy.

    Information to read before you book.

    We recommend purchasing bike trip insurance.

    Please see our FAQ.

  • Travel

    We advise to fly in to Amsterdam which has a good train connection to Maastricht and to fly out of Frankfurt, it is closest to Trier, Metz, and Cochem, and again, offers good train connection.

    Local Travel

    From Amsterdam, train to Maastricht and taxi or public transportation to your first hotel.

    Climate

    Please check local conditions before your arrival! A good website to visit to research regional weather including average high/low temperatures and average rainfall is weatherbase.com. Here you will find average high/low temperatures and average rainfall as well!

    Remarks

    May we suggest:

    Excursion to Bastogne to visit the World War II museum: € 35 Euro pp including entrance/guide
    Kayak tour on the Sure river on Friday (weather depending): € 25 Euro pp

    Documents

    Before you travel, please check your country's passport and visa requirements and the passport and visa requirements of the country/countries you plan to visit. For US citizens, the US Department of State website is a good source of information. The Country Information tab in the International Travel section provides details about passport validity, blank passport pages required, etc.


Where You’ll Stay

You will be accommodated in 3 and 4-star hotels which are charming to the core. Many are historic and family-owned, many smaller inns and bed and breakfasts with character. For those who will participate in the 5 Country Combined tour, you will also be accommodated on board the Comfort Plus vessel, the Iris.

What’s Included

  • 8 nights in hotels in Limburg (area), Monschau, St. Vith, Clervaux and Trier (area).
  • Welcome reception and dinner
  • 2 dinners in Limburg
  • 1 dinner in St. Vith
  • Lunch at Clervaux
  • Farewell diner in Trier (area)
  • Guided city walk in Trier on Saturday morning
  • All transfers during the tour by train or coach
  • Bike rental (Gudereith Trekking Bike)
  • Combined tour
  • 7 nights in hotels in Limburg (area), Monschau, St. Vith, Clervaux and Trier (area), including breakfast
  • Welcome reception and dinner
  • 2 dinners in Limburg
  • 1 dinner in St. Vith
  • Lunch at Clervaux
  • Dinner in Trier (area)
  • Van support and cycling guide
  • All transfers during the tour by train or coach
  • 7 nights on passenger barge IRIS including breakfast
  • 6 packed lunches
  • 6 dinners on board
  • Cycling guide for boat portion(no van support)
  • Bike rental (Gudereith Trekking Bike)
  • Helmets, panniers, water bottle

What’s Not Included

  • Excursions and Exhibitions
  • Dinners/Lunches not mentioned in the day to day program
  • Drinks during lunches and diners included in the program
  • Gratuities for your tour guides/van driver and other staff
  • Traveling to and from your tour
  • Bicycle Protection
  • Travel Insurance
TourBike
TypeGuided
SkillEasy–Moderate
Length9–15 days
From2065 Rates
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Tour Dates

2019

September 21, 2019

2020

May 30 and June 27, 2020

Skill Level

We are rating this tour easy to moderate taking into account the 2% uphill grade for part of the ride. It does require some leg and lung effort. If you do not like the word “hill”, you can always rent an electric bike!

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Day-To-Day Itinerary

Four Countries Rails to Trails Map

Hotel to hotel , Four Country Rails to Trails

Day 1:
Limburg
Day 2: Slenaken - Maastricht
Day 3: Epen - Aachen, Germany
Day 4: Aachen - Monschau
Day 5: Monschau - St. Vith, Belgium
Day 6: St Vith - Clervaux, Luxembourg
Day 7: Clervaux - Moselle area, Germany
Day 8: End of our guided tour/ transfer to Cochem or Metz if you are extending your tour on a bike and boat experience!
Day 9: After breakfast it’s time to check out!

Average daily biking distance is 25 miles (40 km). All distances are approximate. The above planned itinerary is subject to change, even on very short notice, due to changing wind and weather conditions and other unforeseen circumstances.

Day 1: Welcome in Limburg region in Holland 
In the hills of Limburg, in a old village, Epen, close to the Belgium and German borders, you are welcomed to your little hotel. This will be your home for the first 3 nights and from here, you will bike and discover. But not today, today is your time to recover from your travels, have a nice drink on the terrace, and enjoy the scenery and the local hospitality. 

Day 2: Slenaken- Maastricht
Spanish and Roman ruins, elegant French and Belgian touches in the food, architecture and manners. This is the exotic Dutch south. Your bike ride weaves through rolling countryside dotted with castles and breweries. After visiting the impressive Holland/American WWII cemetery in Margraten, you follow an easy route to the region’s capital city Maastricht, an ancient and important bridge crossing for getting food and grains from France to the Roman garrisons on the Rhine, the eastern frontier of the empire. Today, Maastricht is lively, international and buzzing with university students. The Maastricht Treaty made the city known in our times as the birthplace of the European Union, European citizenship, and the Euro currency. Take time to explore the beautiful square surrounded by grand cafés, shops, museums and a pair of magnificent churches. The cozy streets and alleys form a medieval labyrinth atop which Sint Pieter fortress crowns the city’s medieval defense system, linked via an underground network of tunnels. The best place to try spicy Indonesian food (outside of Sri Lanka) is in Holland thanks to their seafaring and spice trading routes in the East Indies. “Rijsttafel” (a selection of spicy dishes served with rice) is a must try before leaving.

Day 3: Slenaken - Aachen, Germany
After a hearty Dutch breakfast, you "saddle up" and follow the emperor’s road to Aachen, Germany’s westernmost city and former Imperial Residence of the Carolingian Dynasty. It was the heart and soul of the medieval European world, the home of Charlemagne and his court in the 9th century. Both French and German cultures trace their beginnings back to him. For 600 years after, 30 German Kings and 12 Queens were coronated in the cathedral Charlemagne built in 796, now a UNESCO world heritage site. His royal remains are interred here and it has been an important pilgrimage destination on the road to Santiago de Compostela. Aachen is also a famous German spa town. Roman legionnaires soaked their battle-weary bones in the 30 hot springs that bubble up, heated by volcanic activity not far beneath the earth’s crust. Medieval monks and kings all took the waters here. The modern-day spa is a topnotch bathing facility and highly recommended. The gothic Rathouse (town hall) is also worth a visit with its 50 life-size rulers guarding the facade. If you stop for a coffee at Café zum Mohren, you’ll have historic views of centuries in one glance…the medieval cathedral and ancient Roman ruins, not to mention the best homemade ice cream cakes in all of Germany. Not to be missed!

Day 4: Aachen - Monschau 
Today you start the 127 km Fen-Railway bike path. This 1882 industrial line was built to transport iron ore and coal to the steel works in Aachen. A hundred years later, it was converted to a rails-to-trails. Crossing viaducts and tunnels, we cycle alongside various rail signal installations and huge water pumps that once filled thirsty steam locomotives. What a thrill for historic train enthusiasts. We climb at a 2% grade through a forest you can imagine Hansel and Gretel would have played—and gotten lost. The air is piney fresh along the German-Belgian border through towns like Roentgen—first to be liberated by American troops at the end of WWII. We descend into a narrow forested valley to Monschau, arriving at our historic hotel, a half-timbered beauty brimming with flower boxes. Thanks to the river that flows through the center, mills generated cloth fabric in the 1700s and the town grew rich. This pretty German village looks too “Disney” to be real, but it is. Imagine meandering cobblestone streets, craggy cliffs, a 12th century castle and outdoor terraces overlooking the river. It’s like finding a treasure when you least expect it.

Day 5: Monschau - St. Vith, Belgium
Today we ride through the high fen (moor) straddling the Belgian-German border heading south. It is a mystical landscape, a place for poets, daydreamers, and cyclist. Due to a unique variety of grasses, heathers and birdlife, this watery world of springs is not only a National Park but also a massive watershed for two major rivers including the Maas and the Rhine. We pedal through the peaceful Belgian countryside into sleepy villages with steaming waffles tempting you to stop. Smell the roses, they’re blooming! The views sweep across rolling green pastures as far as the eye can see with horse farms and grazing cattle. This is farm country at its best. If you happen to catch a whiff of bacon, it’s because the finest smoked meats are cured in the former railway station in Montenau along the route. St. Vith is  home for the night. After centuries as a market town and then important railway junction, you’ll notice the town appears new, and it is. On Christmas 1944, St Vith was obliterated, the fate of so many border towns throughout the ages. It’s the tiny part of eastern Belgium that speaks German. Find a café and order steamed mussels and a local Belgian ale. You earned it.

Day 6: St Vith - Clervaux, Luxembourg
The morning ride promises a good chance of wild animal sightings…herons, field rabbits, falcons, red stags and wild boar. Before you know it after a few more clicks in Belgium, we’re already in Luxembourg, the world’s only Grand Duchy. A country half the size of Rhode Island. The language is a mélange of her two powerful neighbors French and Germany, resulting in a unique language called Luxembourgish. For the last leg of today’s journey we board a train to our overnight destination in Clervaux overshadowed by a 12th century castle and Benedictine abbey, both worth visiting. In the afternoon, you can relax or spend time in our 4-star hotel’s wellness center. There’s an optional side trip to visit the Battle of the Bulge War Museum in Bastogne, Belgium. To prepare for this trip, we recommend Monuments Men and the HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers.

Day 7: Clervaux - Moselle area, Germany
Back on a morning train to Ettelbrück in Luxembourg, where we enjoy easy cycling along the Sauer River, our final leg before reaching the vineyard clad slops of the lovely Moselle River. First we pass Diekirch, home of the famous Luxemburg Beer. We arrive for lunch in the precious town of Echternach, and you can feel a certain presence the minute you step foot inside the oldest town in Luxembourg. The town developed around the Benedictine monastery which Willibrord, the Patron Saint of Luxembourg built in 698 AD. He is the only saint to be buried in this country and his remains lie here. Another important pilgrimage stop for Catholics. The monastery was renowned for its Scriptorium, which produced priceless decorative manuscripts. Remnants of the largest Roman villa ruins north of the Alps are on display for us to investigate. Enjoy a leisurely lunch on the town square. By midday we arrive at the German Mosel River, famous for Riesling wines, dramatic scenery and Imperial Trier, the ancient Roman city where Constantine the Great ruled  during the late Classical period.

Day 8: Trier
Guided city tour in Trier or if you are combining your tour, you will be transferred to the Iris, your floating hotel, for contination.

Day 9: After breakfast it’s time to check out!
Additional nights can be arranged on request

Combined Tour, Five Country Rails to Trails. See pricing section for price.

July 6 or October 12, 2019:
Day 8:
Train transfer to Metz, board the Iris
Day 9: Metz - Remich, 19/31 mi. (30/50 km)
Day 10: Remich - Saarburg, 28 mi. (45 km)
Day 11: Saarburg - Trier, 22 mi. (35 km)
Day 12: Trier - Bernkastel-Kues, 31 mi. (50 km)
Day 13: Bernkastel-Kues, 28 mi. (45 km)
Day 14: Bernkastel-Kues - Zell - Cochem, 28 mi. (45 km)
Day 15: Departure from Cochem 

May 30 and June 27, 2020

Day 8: Train transfer to Metz, board the Iris
Day 9: Metz - Remich, 19/31 mi. (30/50 km)
Day 10: Remich - Saarburg, 28 mi. (45 km)
Day 11: Saarburg - Trier, 22 mi. (35 km)
Day 12: Trier - Bernkastel-Kues, 31 mi. (50 km)
Day 13: Bernkastel-Kues, 28 mi. (45 km)
Day 14: Bernkastel-Kues - Zell - Cochem, 28 mi. (45 km)
Day 15: Departure from Cochem 

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    Four Countries Rails to Trails Boats + Barges

    Iris Photo

    Iris France, Germany Premium Class Boat The Iris was put to sea in April 2005. She is a refitted freight barge that accommodates 24 overnight passengers. The interior of the Iris is fresh, tasteful and comfortable. The Iris can navigate on most rivers and canals in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. On the top deck you will the lounge, a roomy sitting area, a cozy bar and a sun deck. The whole barge has central heating and air-conditioning.

    PWPC