Canterbury To Venice: Alpine Advice

If you wake up at 3am and can’t get back to sleep, what do you do? Check your emails! And here is one from Hannah;

Dear Andrew,

Firstly, thankyou for your website it has come in extremely useful helping me plan a similar route! Thanks. It’s a pleasure.

My friend and I are planning to cycle from Canterbury to Venice in a week’s time. I am having difficulty in planning a route over the Alps. So did I; too many hills to choose from. I know that we want to stop in Luzern and Milano and go via the St Gotthard pass, (ah! you have made the big decision then)however I have a few questions regarding the pass as I’m relatively new to long distance cycling! Me too, compared to most. Best tactic: make it up as you go along.

Does this route avoid tunnels? I was told cyclist weren’t allowed through tunnels in the Alps. Good question! It depends what you mean by a ‘tunnel’. If you mean the very long ones that whisk you under the Alps, you still have the option of taking the train before you get to Andermatt, but I’m going to assume that you don’t want to go through a very long tunnel and that you mean short tunnels instead, the ones that any road in any mountainous area is bound to go through. The road from Lucern to Altdorf skirts around Lake Lucern and once you have crossed the lake at Beckenried, there are a few gallery type tunnels that are cut into the rock. Once you start to climb up towards th St. Gotthard Pass, the route is more or less tunnel free, especially if you choose to take the old cobbled route (recommended) on the way up. It’s a similar story on the way back down and again, I would imagine that you would choose to take the old cobbled switchback road rather than the main road that speeds you down to Airolo. In essence, don’t worry about tunnels. There will be a few short ones but I never saw any signs banning cyclists from them. It would be difficult to do so as the higher you get, the fewer road options there are. After Lucern it’s either the road to the pass or… the road to the pass.

Also we are planning to average 50 miles a day for our trip with a few rest days in between. I noticed that for this part of your trip you covered a lot of ground between Lucern and Como. Was this due to necessity or would it be possible to stop more frequently during this leg? We are planning on taking a tent to enable us more freedom. Good idea to take a tent. There is a campsite in Lucern – a couple of kilometres south of the town on the eastern side of the lake. The next place I stayed was in Andermatt but that was a long day in the saddle. There is a campsite in Altdorf (although I didn’t of course stay there) but not one that I know of between Altdorf and Andermatt. Andermatt has one – next to the entrance to the cable car on the far side of the town – but after that the next place to camp is Bellinzona unless you choose to ‘wild camp’ on the mountain (probably not recommended). If you can afford to stay in hotels or hostels, that may increase your options – you could stay in the hotel at the pass itself(expensive?) and there are plenty of hotels in Airolo.

Also I have not yet bought any detailed maps for the route yet. I wanted to wait until I had a rough idea of where we were going until I invested. Do you have any recommendations for good cycling maps? I used the Michelin 1:200,000 maps. See this post on the website and you will be able to read my logic for choosing them. Another good resource for cycling across Switzerland is the excellent website you’ll find here. It has very detailed maps and also suggestions for accommodation – you’ll be able to check on campsites and hotels – but also a very handy profile of the route as it crosses the country. You’ll be surprised just how flat it is before you arrive in Altdorf.

Any advice you could offer would be much appreciated! I hope what I have written above helps you. I’ll also email you the section of my book (as yet unpublished and which doesn’t appear here on the website) where I talk about cycling from Lucern to Bellinzona. Any feedback on what I have written would be useful and if you happen to know anyone who is a publisher of travel literature, let them read it too!! Good luck with your trip and if you have any further questions, just get in touch. Bon voyage!

Categories: Cycling

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  1. I stayed in a campsite before Bellinzona, I think it was in Clara, and saw a number of campsites signed along the road down the mountain.

What do you think?