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Hike and Bike Your Way around the World with Butterfield & Robinson

Updated: May 26, 2023


Hiking the Dolomites.
Hiking the Dolomites.

The pioneering slow-travel tour company has seen a spike of family “takeovers” to make itineraries their own. “Life,” Albert Einstein wrote, “is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” It’s a maxim that isn’t lost on Judy Newton, a Virtuoso traveler who’s taken more than 20 biking and walking tours in the past two decades, all with Butterfield & Robinson. “Recalling those trips brings me to my happy place,” Newton says – especially during her pause from travel for much of the pandemic – and it’s no wonder: A short list of her most inspiring memories includes seeing the sun rise in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert during a morning stroll, preparing empanadas in a local’s home while cycling through Argentina, and having a spiritual breakthrough about being present while ascending the steep path to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan. “I love the integration of physical, cultural, and experiential aspects these trips offer,” she says, “along with all the ‘aha’ moments you have on them.” Now’s an especially good time to have your own aha moments, says Pat Eisen, Newton’s Virtuoso travel advisor. Focused on outdoor activities and often in remote locations, small-group walking and biking vacations offer built-in health-and-safety measures. “So many lessons born from the pandemic about how we want to live and travel moving forward mirror what makes these trips special,” she says. For starters: being more mindful, reconnecting with nature, living sustainably, and taking on new adventures.

Cycling through Bordeaux.
Cycling through Bordeaux.

Slow Wins the Day Sunny-day cyclists and amblers can rest easy: B&R’s itineraries cater to a range of fitness levels from first-timers to go-getters, and their guides adeptly tailor days accordingly. Need a boost? E-bikes are available on almost all biking tours, and support vans (and snacks) are always on standby. At their essence, these trips are about slowing down to savor the local lifestyle through high-end boutique hotels and locavore cuisine. “You’re not racing to see it all,” Eisen says, “but instead, celebrating what makes each place special.”

Winetasting in Burgundy. Visits with boutique vintners are a staple of B&R trips.
Winetasting in Burgundy. Visits with boutique vintners are a staple of B&R trips.

Winetasting in Burgundy. Visits with boutique vintners are a staple of B&R trips. Fellow slow-travel devotee and Virtuoso advisor Ralph Iantosca agrees. “I love B&R’s philosophy of ‘taking the slow road’ to experience a destination like a local and make new friends,” he says. Case in point: During a walking vacation on Mallorca, guides led Iantosca and his companions to an off-the-beaten-path beach club, where they joined its owner and his friends for seafood paella and chilled local rosé. “We’d never have found this place on our own,” he says. It’s a scene that plays out on each of B&R’s trips. Hikers, for example, can learn about traditional qvevri (clay wine barrel) making with a vintner on a new trip through the Republic of Georgia’s wine country; a new Tuscan bike trip includes tossing pizzas with a family in their farmhouse kitchen. Natural wonders abound too, such as on the new Kyushu cycling vacation, which wends past the Japanese island’s green tea plantations, along crystalline coastlines, and through caldera grasslands. Guests can take added comfort in knowing they’re traveling sustainably. Iantosca points out that this type of travel not only lightens our carbon footprints, but also directly supports the artists, craftspeople, winemakers, restaurateurs, and hoteliers in these hyperlocal economies, who have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

Sundowners in Namibia's Sossusvlei Desert.
Sundowners in Namibia's Sossusvlei Desert.

Make It Your Own Butterfield & Robinson pioneered European cycling vacations in the 1960s and has since branched out to small-ship voyages, safaris, wellness tours, and more. Europe still figures prominently in its itineraries – cyclists on a new Portugal and Spain trip, for instance, can mingle with pilgrims while spinning along the Camino de Santiago – but B&R’s growth means guests can now take the slow road on all continents save Antarctica. The company has crafted custom trips for clients for decades, but as pandemic-era travel resumes, it has seen an increased interest in families and groups of friends taking over scheduled group departures that aren’t booked yet – essentially privatizing them for their own travel bubble. On these buyouts, groups can tweak itineraries – swapping a bike ride for a day at the spa, an additional dinner reservation, or free time to explore town on their own. And it’s a great value when compared to the cost of creating a custom trip from scratch, since B&R already has the hotels, transfers, guides, and dinner reservations lined up. Travelers love the customization privatized and bespoke tours offer, says Newton, who has been on several herself. “It’s like having a large canvas in front of you and you’re able to fill in details,” she says. Picture these settings: ambling through hilltop hamlets in Tuscany, cycling along impossibly green rice fields in Japan, or trekking to mountainside monasteries in Bhutan. For accents: a picnic lunch with homemade wine on an agriturismo farm, a lesson with a traditional pottery maker, or a drum ceremony with Buddhist nuns. The world feels wide open. You’re in motion again, in balance.






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