With UNESCO celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020, don’t miss out on these unbelievable World Heritage Sites, with Freedom Treks

On 16 November 1945, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was founded in London. It was created to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding worth to humanity. To be selected, a site must be of exceptional universal value and meet at least one of 10 selection criteria, such as ‘to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius’, or ‘to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance’. Today, there are more than 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world just waiting to be admired; why not combine these incredible places with exhilarating cycling tours, with Freedom Treks?

Specialising in self-guided and guided bike tours in Europe and Asia for all cycling levels, Freedom Treks believes there is no better way to get beneath the surface of a country than from the comfort of a saddle. Travelling by bike allows riders to engage with a new destination, learn about a different culture, find hidden viewpoints, stop and sample fresh produce, listen to local musicians and breathe in the fresh scents of nature. Plus, with more than 80% of Freedom Treks’ tours visiting an UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is no better way to experience these captivating places.

From marvelling at the magnificent interiors in the historic centre of Kraków in Poland, exploring the many fascinating sites in Italy and discovering the past splendour of Ayutthaya in Thailand to taking in the sacred landscape of Bagan in Myanmar or pausing at the stunning sites in Albania, these tours are ideal for delving into these astonishing destinations.  

Kraków & Dunajec Cycle Path
Although there are hundreds of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, the first version of the list, published in 1978, included just 12, one of which was the historic centre of Kraków. Built in the 13th century, the former capital of Poland is situated at the foot of the Royal Wawel Castle and is home to Europe’s largest market square and numerous historical houses, palaces and churches. The town’s captivating history is continued with the 14th century fortifications and the medieval site of Kazimierz, with its ancient synagogues and Gothic cathedral. Beginning and starting in Kraków, explore the unspoiled landscapes, authentic villages and local legends of southern Poland on a leisurely cycle tour with Freedom Treks. Alongside the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, pedal through the narrow Dunajec Gorge, bike past traditional wooden churches and listen out for traditional music played by a range of instruments, including the Hurdy-Gurdy, Devil’s Fiddle and Vessel Flute. The longest day’s ride is 35 miles and all days follow relatively flat routes; it is an ideal tour for regular cyclists.
Level: Easy to Moderate
A seven-night Kraków & Dunajec Cycle Path Hotel & Bike self-guided tour, departing on 14 September 2019, costs from £729 pp (two sharing) and includes half-board accommodation at three-and-four star hotels, maps and route information, luggage transportation, local contact number for assistance, transfers during the tour and access to the Klezmer concert on the last evening. Return flights, bike hire, cycle helmet and other meals extra.
Freedom Treks (01273 224 066, www.freedomtreks.co.uk)

Bolzano to Venice
Home to 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country. See five of these sites, including the Dolomites, City of Verona, City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto, Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico) in Padua and Venice and its lagoon on the Bolzano to Venice cycle tour with Freedom Treks. Ride along the banks of the Adige River, through green vineyards, sprawling orchards and quaint villages with the mighty Dolomite mountain range acting as an inspirational backdrop. Have a break from cycling and board a ferry to cross the sparkling Lake Garda. Step inside the Roman Arena, the Church of San Zeno and Juliet Capulet’s House in Verona, take in the spectacular views of Vicenza, home to 16th century palaces designed by Andrea Palladio and marvel at the world’s first botanical garden, which opened in Padua in 1545. At the end of the trip, appreciate the extraordinary architecture of Venice, a city in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese.
Level: Easy
A seven-night Bolzano to Venice Hotel & Bike self-guided tour, departing in September 2019, costs from £746 pp (two sharing) and includes B&B accommodation in four-and-three star hotels, luggage transportation, travel guide with maps and route notes (GPS tracks available on request), welcome meeting, local contact number for assistance, four hour ferry cruise on Lake Garda, entrance to Villa Valmarana ai Nani and ice cream in Vicenza. Return flights, transfers, bike hire, cycle helmet and local taxes extra.
Freedom Treks (01273 224 066, www.freedomtreks.co.uk)

Bangkok and the River Kwai Short Break
Although the Historic City of Ayutthaya, in Thailand, was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century, its remains, characterised by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendour. Before its demise, Ayutthaya – founded in 1350 – grew to be one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas, as well as being centre of global diplomacy and commerce. In 1991, it became one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Asia. Spend time exploring this fascinating archaeological ruin on this action-packed itinerary, which starts and finishes in the Thai capital, Bangkok. Other highlights include visiting the floating market in the Mae Klong Delta and bartering with the traders, boarding a long-tail boat and cruising through riverside villages and plantations, jumping on a train for the stunning journey along the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi and discovering the deep caves at Tham Krasae, where a golden statue of Buddha can be found. Although the rides are less than 20 miles each day, an air-conditioned support van will follow at all times, allowing cyclists to take a break whenever necessary.
Level: Easy
A three-night Bangkok and the River Kwai Short Break guided tour, departing every Tuesday throughout the year, costs from £619 pp (two sharing) and includes four-and-three-star resorts and boutique hotels, most meals, bike and helmet hire, services of an English-speaking local guide, support vehicle, transfers during the tour, hotel pick up and drop off, luggage transportation plus snacks and water when cycling. Return flights, drinks, and visas (if required) extra.
Freedom Treks (01273 224 066, www.freedomtreks.co.uk)

Highlights of Myanmar
One of the newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites, having been added to the list on 6 July 2019, Bagan is a sacred landscape, featuring an exceptional range of Buddhist art and architecture. Lying in a bend of the Ayeyarwady River, in the central plain of Myanmar, Bagan comprises numerous temples, stupas, monasteries and places of pilgrimage, as well as archaeological remains, frescos and sculptures. One of the best times to experience this exceptional place is first thing in the morning, before the temperature rises and the crowds arrive. Visit the Shwezigon, Dhammayangyi and Ananda temples alongside the 14th to 19th century sites then return to the friendly hotel for a relaxing afternoon. As an extra-special treat, guests travelling between 1 October 2019 and 15 April 2020 can enjoy a sunrise hot air balloon flight over Bagan (costs from $360 / £296 pp). Before arriving in Bagan, take a boat trip to see the unique leg rowing fishermen on Inle Lake, meet the diverse population of Bangladeshi Muslims and visit the Green Hill Valley Elephant Sanctuary in Kalaw. Cyclists will enjoy mixed terrain with some long, but gradual ascents.
Level: Moderate
An eight-night Highlights of Myanmar Hotel & Bike guided tour, departing 30 November 2019, costs from £2,153 pp (two sharing) and includes full-board accommodation in two-to-five star hotels and a guesthouse, service of a local English-speaking guide, internal flight from Yagon to Heho and from Heho to Bagan, air-conditioned support vehicle available, transfers during the tour, luggage transportation, water and snacks when riding, all entry costs and attractions listed on the itinerary, cycling jersey and water bottle. Return flights, transfers, alcohol, soft drinks and visas extra.
Freedom Treks (01273 224 066, www.freedomtreks.co.uk)

Highlights of Albania
Showcasing five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Albania is home to natural and cultural wonders. See three of these five on the Highlights of Albania trip. Beginning and ending in Tirana, the capital of Albania, cross into Macedonia and cycle the south-west stretch of Lake Ohrid, which along with its hinterland, including the town of Ohrid, has been inscribed on the World Heritage List since 1979. While pedalling back towards Albania, look out for the numerous endemic species of freshwater fauna and flora dating from the Tertiary period plus the prehistoric pile dwellings in the shallow waters near the shore. Continue the itinerary and arrive on a wide plain beneath the UNESCO hillside town of Gjirokastra, which is known as the “city of a thousand steps” and is a rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period. Afterwards, ride into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Butrint has been the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric and is one of the country’s most important archaeological treasures. With its challenging and varied cycling, and rides reaching up to 45 miles each day, this programme is ideal for intermediate and advanced cyclists.
Level: Moderate to Challenging
A nine-night Highlights of Albania Hotel & Bike guided tour, departing 3 October 2019, costs from £934 pp (two sharing) and includes full-board accommodation in three-and-four star hotels and two nights in a family-run guesthouse, English speaking tour guide, support van available for assistance, bike rental, luggage transportation, all transfers in the itinerary and departure transfer to Tirana airport. Return flights, transfer to first hotel, drinks with meals and entrance fees to attractions extra.
Freedom Treks (01273 224 066, www.freedomtreks.co.uk)

To find out more about any of these tours visit www.freedomtreks.co.uk, call 01273 224 066 or follow Freedom Treks on Facebook (Freedom Treks).