London To Istanbul The Long Way – Bicycle Touring with Hels on wheels

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Last Updated on 3 May 2024 by Cycloscope

London To Istanbul The Long Way - Bicycle Touring with Hels on wheels 3

Cycling London To Istanbul The Long Way

15000 Bicycle Touring with Hels on Wheels. Itinerary, map, GPX track, advice. Bikepacking the world on 70 USD/week.

Bicycle Touring with Hels on Wheels

bike

DISTANCE

15000 Km/ 9320 Miles

bike

DAYS

550

bike

SURFACE

Mostly bitumen, but many dirt roads and the odd Albanian goat track

SETUP

Front Panniers – Ortlieb
Rear Panniers – Ortlieb

BIKE

Vivente Gibb

It was supposed to be a relatively simple London to Istanbul route.. but then the pandemic struck. I had set out early spring of 2020 striking Italy from my itinerary but naively believing I would be otherwise unhindered. 2 weeks later I was in lockdown in Munich.

Since then my journey has meandered, paused, and doubled back as Covid restrictions and border closures required.

On the way I was robbed, contracted COVID, and had a gun pulled on me. I crossed the highest pass in Austria, visited empty Venice, and spent the winter in a remote Macedonian border village.

I’ve slept in monasteries and ancient tombs, and after pitching up in the dark, woke to find myself on the edge of Europe’s deepest canyon.

There, in Albania, I was quite possibly the first fully loaded cyclist to cross the mountains via goat trail from Girojaster to Korçë. 18 months and 15000kms later I arrived in Istanbul, but the journey didn’t end there.

Difficulty Score
Climb
70
Surface
70
Weather
40
Safety
70
Essentials
My iPhone is my most essential piece of equipment, my Mr. Hubba Hubba tent has served me well over the years… everything else is pretty replaceable
challenges
Finding couchsurfing hosts in smaller towns
63

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London To Istanbul The Long Way - Bicycle Touring with Hels on wheels 4
London To Istanbul The Long Way - Bicycle Touring with Hels on wheels 5

I will in a fixed AU$100/week which is pretty comfortable throughout the Balkans (whilst free camping) daily a bürek and fresh ayran are cheap and filling. I was rarely more than a few hours from a shop.

bicycle touring london istanbul

I almost exclusively wildcamped. There are few warm showers hosts in the Balkans. Monasteries we generally welcoming places to sleep, abandoned buildings inland, and on the beach at the coast. Hostels in Bulgaria are affordable; $5-10/night.

London To Istanbul The Long Way - Bicycle Touring with Hels on wheels 6

It is possible – and I believe ethical – to travel at this time. Stall holders in the grand bazaar are desperate for the return of tourists missing while Turkey is on many country’s red lists.

So long as we take proper precautions, follow the guidelines, keep abreast of the ever changing situation, and spend money in the local economy then it can be an incredible opportunity to see Europe’s heavily touristed places without the crowds

London To Istanbul The Long Way - Bicycle Touring with Hels on wheels 7

THINGS TO SEE ALONG THE ROUTE

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  • Bavarian villages
  • Venice Slovenian lakes and mountains
  • Croatian island hopping
  • Montenegro’s black mountain
  • Albanian wilderness
  • Bulgaria’s historical cities
  • Greek ruins and islands
  • Istanbul’ bazaars
  • Parque nacional de Doñana
  • El Rocio
  • Sevilla
  • Cordoba

MY EXPERIENCE

Touring during the pandemic has completely altered the way I travel; it’s taught me to slow down and go with the flow. While I still always have a plan, I’m a lot more ready to change it as the situation requires.

hels on wheels

Full-time global hobo since 2004, by bike since 2017. Travelling the world on AU$100/week creating vlogs, blogs, and photos as I go.

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