Marco Polo Bike Tour Overview
Your Bike Holiday in Europe Starts here
Join Ride and Seek on our most ambitious project to date, following in the footsteps of Marco Polo, one of history’s greatest explorers. The aim is to ride from Venice to Beijing with 7 distinct stages pencilled in. The first of these is running in September/October 2020 and takes us from Venice (Italy) to Athens (Greece). Our first leg takes in 5 countries and provides a wonderful taste of life down the Balkan peninsula on our way to Greece. This leg in itself is an epic bike tour and one of our best cycling holidays in Europe. Keep reading to find out more, and please get in touch if you have any questions.
Marcello Usula is the architect of this tour and it has been on his radar for over 25 years, since he studied Marco Polo at university in Venice in the mid-1990s. Since then, he has been running bike tours and has designed many itineraries along the Dalmation coast. Taking this tour to its natural conclusion in China though was always the ultimate dream. It was meeting Stephen Fabes in 2013 on his 6 continents ride that served to provide the final inspiration to make it happen. Check out the video below that gives an insight into his amazing journey. We’re delighted to have Stephen on board as a tour ambassador.
Our Epic Cycling Tours are all created with a sense of discovery at their core and this tour fulfils that in abundance. Marco Polo is one of the great travellers in history and in many ways he embodies the spirit of the tours we run. The historical focus provides the context and runs in tandem with the cultural and gastronomic immersion we always seek to provide.
The first leg of this epic bike tour from Northern Italy to Athens is split into two distinct stages that are different in terms of their relative difficulty and the extent to which they appear on the cyclo-tourism radar. The first stage is graded as 2.5 espresso cups and takes us from Venice across to the Adriatic Sea before heading down the Dalmation coast to the wonderful city of Dubrovnik. On this stage of the bike tour, we island-hop between harbours and place our own mark on an already well-trodden route.
Stage 2, on the other hand, is more of a step off the beaten path as we head south to Montenegro and through the very much undiscovered country of Albania that we promise will charm you. From Albania, we then head to the island of Corfu before heading inland to ride across Greece to Athens.
This stage is a 3.5 espresso cup tour which reflects longer distances than the first stage and a more challenging topographical profile.
In terms of the inspiration for this journey, the spirit of Stephen’s 6 continents ride can be found in this short video that charts a journey that covered 75 countries and 88,206km (54,809 miles).
Marco Polo Tour Highlights
Stage 1 – Venice to Dubrovnik
This Epic journey is split into two distinct stages that are different in terms of their relative difficulty and the extent to which they appear on the cyclo-tourism radar.
The first stage takes us from Venice across to the Adriatic Sea before heading down the Dalmation coast to the wonderful city of Dubrovnik. On this stage, we island-hop between harbours and place our own mark on an already well-trodden route.
Stage 2 – Dubrovnik to Athens
For the second part of our journey, we step off the beaten path as we head south to Montenegro and through the very much undiscovered country of Albania that we promise will charm you.
From Albania, we head to the island of Corfu before turning inland to ride across Greece to Athens. You’ll experience longer distances than on the first stage and a more challenging topographical profile.
Marco Polo Tour Dates 2023
|Stage & Epic Dates 2023||Start Date||End Date||Days||Cost (Euros)|
|Stage 1 – Venice to Dubrovnik||4th Sept||17th Sept||14 (13 nights)||€ 7,400|
|Stage 2 – Dubrovnik to Athens||17th Sept||3rd Oct||17 (16 nights)||€ 8,450|
|Epic – Venice to Athens||4th Sept||3rd Oct||30 (29 nights)||€14,700|
All tours and individual stages are available as a custom tour for your group – contact us for details.
- Accommodation in our carefully selected hotels
- Meals – hotel breakfasts, snacks en route and pre/post-ride nutrition, lunches including the famed Ride and Seek picnics, multi course group dinners with a focus on the local cuisine.*NB we include occasional independent lunches & dinners to break up the week
- Ride and Seek jersey
- Garmin 1030 use with all routes preloaded
- Ride and Seek water bottle
- Kit laundry service once a week
- Passionate, experienced and knowledgeable guides always on hand to help
- Alcoholic beverages
- Bike hire
- Pre & post tour accommodation
- Single supplement – Our prices are based on twin/double occupancy. If you wish to have your own room then a supplement is applicable.
- To reserve a place on a stage of this tour we ask for a deposit of €1000 (or your local currency equivalent). We also accept payment in GB£ and AU$. The final invoice will include any applicable single supplements and bike hire costs.
Marco Polo Reading
The Travels of Marco Polo (Marco Polo, introduction by Ronald E. Latham)
Marco Polo (1254-1329) has achieved an almost archetypal status as a traveller, and his Travels is one of the first great travel books of Western literature, outside the ancient world. The Travels recounts Polo’s journey to the eastern court of Kublai Khan, the chieftain of the Mongol empire which covered the Asian continent, but which was almost unknown to Polo’s contemporaries. Encompassing a twenty-four year period from 1721, Polo’s account details his travels in the service of the empire, from Beijing to northern India and ends with the remarkable story of Polo’s return voyage from the Chinese port of Amoy to the Persian Gulf.
The Travels of Marco Polo: The Illustrated Edition (Marco Polo)
Marco Polo almost single-handedly introduced fourteenth-century Europe to the civilizations of Central Asia and China. Now this stunningly illustrated volume, edited by renowned historian Morris Rossabi, offers the complete text of Polo’s travelogue, enhanced with more than 200 images–including illuminated manuscripts, paintings, photographs, and maps. Sidebars and dozens of informative footnotes combine to present Polo and his travels in a captivating new light.
Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu (Laurence Bergreen)
Drawing on original writings and walking in the footsteps of Marco Polo himself, Laurence Bergreen has created the most definitive biography of the legendary traveller to date, separating the man from his considerable myth. In this masterly work, Marco Polo’s incredible odyssey—along the Silk Road and through all the fantastic circumstances of his life—is chronicled in sumptuous and illuminating detail.
The respected historian and travel writer, John Man, tells the remarkable story of the world’s most famous traveller — Marco Polo — and the moment when East met West for the first time.
Marco Polo’s journey from Venice, through Europe and most of Asia, to the court of Kublai Khan in China is one of the most audacious in history. His account of his experiences, known simply as The Travels, uncovered an entirely new world of emperors and concubines, great buildings — ‘stately pleasure domes’ in Coleridge’s dreaming — huge armies and imperial riches. His book shaped the West’s understanding of China for hundreds of years.
Marco Polo Bike Tour History
Marco Polo (1254-1324) was a Venetian merchant who journeyed across Asia at the height of the Mongol Empire. He first set out at age 17 with his father and uncle, travelling overland along what later became known as the Silk Road. Upon reaching China, Marco Polo entered the court of powerful Mongol ruler Kublai Khan, who dispatched him on trips to help administer the realm. Marco Polo remained abroad for 24 years.
Marco Polo: The Early Years
Marco Polo was born around 1254 into a prosperous merchant family in the Italian city-state of Venice. His father, Niccolò, and his uncle Maffeo had left the year before on a long-term trading expedition. As a result, he was raised by extended relatives following his mother’s death at a young age. Niccolò and Maffeo first spent about six years in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), which had been under Latin control since the Fourth Crusade of 1204. The two brothers then went to the port city of Soldaia (now Sudak, Ukraine), where they owned a house.
Did you know? Christopher Columbus purportedly sailed to the New World with a copy of Marco Polo’s “Travels” in tow. Thinking he would reach Asia and having no idea about the Mongol Empire’s collapse, Columbus marked up the book with notes in preparation for a meeting with Kublai Khan’s descendant.
The Byzantine re-conquest of Constantinople in 1261, along with upheavals in the Mongol Empire, may have blocked their way home. Niccolò and Maffeo therefore turned east in order to trade in such things as silk, gems, furs and spices. After spending three years in Bukhara in present-day Uzbekistan, they were encouraged by a Mongolian embassy to visit Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, who controlled a huge swath of Asia. Kublai quizzed them on European affairs and decided to send them on a goodwill mission to the pope. In 1269, the two brothers finally made it back to Venice, where Niccolò and Marco Polo met each other for the first time.
Marco Polo in Venice
Marco Polo was captured in battle by Venice’s arch-rival Genoa. While in prison he met the Arthurian adventure writer Rustichello of Pisa, with whom he would collaborate on a 1298 manuscript called “Description of the World.” It has since become better known as “The Travels of Marco Polo” or simply “The Travels.” With the help of notes taken during his adventures, Marco Polo reverently described Kublai Khan and his palaces, along with paper money, coal, postal service, eyeglasses and other innovations that had not yet appeared in Europe. He also told partially erroneous self-aggrandising tales about warfare, commerce, geography, court intrigues and the sexual practices of the people who lived under Mongol rule.
A Genoese-Venetian peace treaty in 1299 allowed Marco Polo to return home. He probably never left Venetian territory again. The following year, he married Donata Badoer, with whom he would have three daughters. Not much is known about his golden years except that he continued trading and litigated against a cousin. Marco Polo died in January 1324, having helped to inspire a later generation of explorers. Everything we know about him comes from his own text and a few Venetian documents; Asian sources never mentioned him. This lack of hard evidence has caused a small number of sceptics to question whether Marco Polo actually made it to China. They back up their case by pointing to certain inaccuracies in “The Travels,” as well as his failure to report such practices as chopstick use and foot binding. Nonetheless, most scholars are convinced by the detailed nature of Marco Polo’s account, which, they say, overwhelmingly checks out against available archaeological, historical and geographical records.
This is my first experience with a bike touring company and I could not say enough good things about Ride and Seek. Such friendly and accommodating service. Most of the touring members on this trip had done tours with them before and I am definitely coming back for another trip next year. Looking forward to reconnecting with fellow riders again.
Highly recommend Ride and seek for any level rider that wants to ride some new adventure.
Evelin E – Marco Polo
I choose Ride&Seek whether rain or shine.
My husband and I just finished riding from Venice to Dubrovnik. Although there were many challenges for the R&S team (weather, strikes, ferry cancellations), as riders, our experience was a seamless as could be. They met every request with a smile. Even in a group with varying levels or skill and endurance, I know everyone felt they were able to ride their ride. I chose an e-bike for the first time ever and it made the experience far less stressful for me since I could much more easily keep up with my hubby and friends. Can’t say enough about the Ride and Seek team. They are pros in every sense of the words. Thanks, guys!
Susan V – Marco Polo
Venice across the Adriatic down the Dalmatian coast to Dubrovnik = EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE !!!
Definitely, a trip you will never forget. Ride your bike while you are pampered by first-class guides, beautiful scenery, fine food and great lodging…… Plus, an added bonus of understanding the local history. Ride & Seek takes care of ALL the details for you so you can relax and have fun while exercising. If you’re looking for active fun while exploring different parts of the world but yet not having to worry about the details – Ride n Seek is the company for you! They are true pros in every sense of the word and always have a smile on their face.
Jeff D – Marco Polo
The guides were very flexible with all of the different levels of bike riders. I really enjoyed myself and I rode an electric bike which the staff were very helpful in helping me with.
Kym M – Marco Polo
This tour starts in Venice but the real riding starts with beautiful coastal roads and Seaside hotels in Croatia. Dubrovnic at the end of Stage 1 has a fort above the town and the best “old town” of the tour. Stage 2 moves on to more climbing in Montenegro and Albania still along the coast and includes a challenging 900-meter wall of 11-18% between Lezhe and Durres, Albania. The mountain top views of the seacoast and the following descents are fabulous. The hotel in Metsovo, Greece is beautiful, homey and not to be missed. The monasteries at Meteora are amazing.
Jack N – Marco Polo
Ride and Seek provided an excellent, carefully thought out and balanced experience despite a daunting set of logistics, some of which were entirely unexpected. Upbeat and helpful to all the riders, it was a great tour for everyone. I am looking forward to next years tour already. Thanks R&S!
Christine C – Marco Polo
This was my first R&S tour, but not my last! They have a unique niche in creating these Epic Journeys. It greatly added to the feeling of accomplishment knowing we were covering the first half of Marco Polo’s journey. Hotels reflected the character of each region, and most of the meals were excellent. Guides had a great attitude and went over and above the call of duty every day, in dealing with e-bike issues, special requests, etc.
Robin S – Marco Polo
A truly memorable ride in a gorgeous setting. The Ride and Seek team go out of their way to handle every detail to make the tour a seamless experience. I look forward to future trips!
Julia H – Marco Polo
The routes and roads traveled are spectacularly planned by the experts at Ride & Seek. However, what makes their tours so memorable are the warm, hospitable guides and genuinely lovely fellow guests their tours attract. Positivity breeds positivity which makes the riding fun!
Deanna C – Marco Polo
Ride and seek excelled themselves by delivering a new epic tour in the year of CV19. Venice to Dubrovnik was a richly rewarding experience, firstly getting away for a holiday, then great cycling, excellent company and Marcello displayed his deep knowledge of Croatian wines to complement the excellent food throughout. The good humour with which the totally unflappable R&S team navigated changes to the arrangements caused by the actions of third parties displayed both their versatility and commitment to delivering a wonderful cycling experience.
A fascinating and smooth tour leaving us largely ignorant of the cancellations, reschedulings, and closures that failed to interfere with the plan. The Croatian islands each had their own character and special interest ranging from coastline huggings cliffs, cute ports, and harbours with thousands of years of history, to superb olive oil tastings. The riding was varied and hugely satisfying, the overnight stops likewise, the food was an unexpected bonus and the geography and history encountered had us scrabbling around on google to learn more and understand it all. The local welcome exceeded expectations and we came away determined to sign up for stage 2 of this mammoth tour. A real adventure off the beaten track and a must for anyone who loves something new!
Tour at a Glance
The Epic – Venice to Athens 2023 Dates: 4th Sept – 3rd Oct 2023
Countries: Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania & Greece
Number of days: 30 days
Number of stages: 2
The Epic – Venice to Athens 2023
Dates: 4th Sept – 3rd Oct 2023
Stage 1 – Venice to Dubrovnik 2023 Dates: 4th Sept – 17th Sept 2023
Number of days: 14
Stage 1 – Venice to Dubrovnik 2023
Dates: 4th Sept – 17th Sept 2023
Stage 2 – Dubrovnik to Athens 2023 Dates: 17th Sept – 3rd Oct 2023
Number of days: 17
Stage 2 – Dubrovnik to Athens 2023
Dates: 17th Sept – 3rd Oct 2023