Ride of your life
THERE'S NO DOUBT that sipping cocktails poolside and indulging in room service with abandonment can be beneficial to the soul. But for many holidaymakers, the high is soon replaced with feelings of post-indulgence guilt. One way to strike a happy compromise is to embark on a luxury biking holiday which combines exercise with gourmet foods and fine wines.
One of the most tempting on the market is courtesy of luxury lifestyle group Quintessentially Escape (quintessentiallyescape.com). The company's 'Luxury Cycle Tour in Provence' package makes sure guests experience France's picture-perfect region in all its glory. Accommodation is at the Crillon le Brave (crillonlebrave.com), a charming rustic hotel and ideal base to explore the vineyards, olive groves and lavender fields.
Day one starts with a gourmet dinner in the hotel, but don't despair; the next day you work off the calories with a cycle to Avignon for wine tasting in the famous vineyards of the region, including Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Gourmet lunch and picnics are on offer before guests peddle back to their private chateau.
Croatia is fast impressing the jet-set crowd and reclaiming its reputation as one of Europe's must-see destinations with its crystal-clear coves and harbour towns along the Dalmatian Coast. Seeing its potential, adventure travel group Austin-Lehman Adventures (austinlehman.com) has added Croatia to this year's itinerary, with a trip exploring the city of Split, with its treasure trove of palaces, churches and bridges.
Participants can bike around the island's vineyard and olive grove-clad hills, and after a day on the saddle get to check into the Hotel Adriana (the hotel's rooftop salt-water pool should help relieve tired muscles). The Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik near the city's old town provides extra comfort on the trip's final night - think fluffy bathrobes and slippers.
Fitness and nature junkies seeking something a little more challenging can head down under for some outback action courtesy of All Trails (alltrails.com). Billed as Australia's first luxury outback bike trip, the journey takes in the remote areas of Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland, a region bordered by coral reefs and tropical forests. Bikers get to visit the Split Rock art site - one of the world's largest collections of indigenous art - and partake in moonlit cinema around a fire after a gourmet camp-oven dinner.
Foodies and oenophiles should have their appetites satisfied by Black Tomato's (blacktomato.co.uk) gourmet tour of California. The 10-day jaunt starts in San Francisco and winds its way to Sacramento and wine valleys in Napa, Sonoma and Calistoga. In San Francisco, guests stay at the Clift Hotel, a design lover's haven with furniture by Philippe Starck, Ray and Charles Eames, and Salvador Dali.
It's when you leave the city that the bike fun begins; next stop Sacramento. Hit the pedals and take a tour of the Delta wine region on charming vintage bikes. With a picnic in arm, discover the vineyards and take a lunch break under the shade of the oak trees. With a personal guide in tow, participants get the chance to meet with the families who own some of the best wineries in the area and share a bottle of wine or two - after the bike ride, of course.
It might involve a quad bike but this exotic journey is too good to ignore. The package from Based on a True Story (basedonatruestory.co.uk) takes travellers to Morocco. Get whisked away for a scenic helicopter flight high into the Atlas mountains for lunch, before returning to Marrakech and a private riad in the city's heart.
The next day, a private plane zooms guests to the Erg Chegaga desert to explore its majestic dunes by four-by-four, camel and quad bike with a private picnic in a palm oasis. After an evening's entertainment with the Tuareg nomads at your exclusive camp deep in the dunes, you'll awake to a champagne hot-air balloon ride over the desert. Then it's a quick helicopter flight to a private palace Kasbah to relax poolside and select from the menu of massage and spa treatments. CHILLED CYCLE For those seeking a more low-key experience, Brazil's design-savvy Hotel Unique (hotelunique.com.br) has introduced an eco-friendly way for guests to explore the capital Sao Paulo. Bikers can explore the city's street art, check out Liberdade's diverse Asian community and its gastronomy scene, circuit boutique shops - all on the hotels' eco-friendly U-bike.
At the Intercontinental Bali Resort (bali.intercontinental.com) on the Indonesian island of Bali, guests can dip into the area's rich culture by taking part in the resort's 'Colours of Jimbaran Bike Tour'. Zip past the traditional Balinese markets and discover the villages' way of life, including visits to a Hindu temple and a ceramics studio.
The Sunset Bicycle Tour takes in village sights at sunset, while the Kedonganan Fisherman's Village Tour is a great way to experience village life, the traditional fish market, colourful jukung boats and observe a typical Balinese house compound.