As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it can seem like there is nothing new to discover in Europe.
Every footpath, dirt road, and even single track has been covered. Whether you’re on a vacation off the motorcycle, or if your vacations include two-wheelers, we all know what Europe has to offer – beautiful, centuries-old cities and towns, lovely beaches, excellent food, and so much more.
But have you ever stopped to consider that maybe you don’t know all there is about Europe? More than just cobblestone streets and old buildings, there’s over 51,000km (31,000mi) of dirt trail through some of Europe’s most remote, diverse, and interesting landscapes – it’s called the Trans Euro Trail.
Inspired by the Trans America Trail (which is relatively tiny at “only” 8,000km (5,000mi)), the Trans Euro Trail was founded by John Ross and is maintained and powered by a non-profit group of volunteers called the Linesmen, who find and manage the network of trails that spans 30 European countries.
These trails should be manageable on any traditional dual-sport, but for those who love a challenge, bring your big adventure bike and give any of these routes a try.
Sound interesting? Of course, it does. Here are six reasons why you need to ride the Trans Euro Trail.
1. This is an adventure rider’s dream.
The whole point of the TET is to explore Europe’s dirt roads and find some of Europe’s most remote regions (all while respecting local laws, of course). You won’t find many tourists here. In fact, some nights in some locations, the only company you’ll need to watch out for are the bears and wolves who might be interested in your campground. Other days you’ll pass through ancient castles, medieval towns, and locales ravished from WWII.
2. Did we mention it spans over 30 countries?
The TET is comprised of routes in Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
3. There’s something for everyone.
Very little of the routes involve paved surfaces. The trails mostly span the kind of terrain adventure riders love: gravel, mud, sand, water crossings, and rocks. You get a break in some spots due to the width of the trail (large enough for a 4x4 in some spots), but many routes are single track.
The timid will be perfectly at home on a smaller, traditional dual-sport, but those truly seeking a challenge of their skill and fortitude can bring a BMW GS, Super Adventure, or other ADV motorcycle.
4. Some countries have no laws regulating trail riding.
Generally speaking, Europe is very restrictive when it comes to off-road travel, so you’ll be glad to know some of the countries along the TET have no such regulations. Of course, still be respectful.
5. Camping and Lodging options are plentiful.
While you could stay at five-star accommodations in certain areas, the TET experience is best done by camping under the stars at night. Although this also means packing luggage and camping gear, this is the best way to get fully immersed in the TET – or at least part of it. Completing the whole TET in one shot could take you weeks. For those who prefer a hot shower, meal, or a proper bed, hostels and B&Bs are also available in some areas.
6. It’s free.
That’s right, you can download GPS routes and maps for the TET completely free of charge. The Linesmen, the group of volunteers responsible for organizing this whole thing, have done so without looking to make a profit.
Rather, they just want to share the amazing landscape the European continent has to offer adventure motorcyclists – from the tip of the Arctic Circle, down to the Straight of Gibraltar, just a stone’s throw away from Africa. Before you go, be sure to check the TET website, as it also includes more helpful information like trail descriptions, best times to travel, trail closures, alternate routes, fuel stops, and other points of interest.
If you’re not excited about the Trans European Trail yet, then maybe adventure motorcycling isn’t for you. The term Epic gets used a lot in many facets of life, but to experience a true adventure ride, through 30 European countries, on routes far away from the tourist traps Europe is known for, can truly be considered an epic journey.
When you consider the Trans America Trail is “only” 8,000km (5,000mi) and the Continental Divide Trail is even shorter at 4,800km (3000mi), the Trans European Trail at 51,000km is simply massive!
If you ask us, the Trans European Trail should be divided into sections. Breaking it up by country may work best. Pick a country (some may have more trail networks than others) and plan your route accordingly.
The TET guides on the website give plenty of great route options, broken down by features, to help you choose where to go along your way. As a side note, the website also gives a brief introduction to the actual rider(s) who scouted these routes for you, along with their picture, so you can better understand their credentials and gauge the route for yourself (not to mention you can give a virtual thank you to the individual for putting in the hard work of adding detailed descriptions, points of interest only locals would know, and riding tips to help you through the trail).
Be sure to also leave time to stop and admire the scenery and history of any interesting points along the way. Often these backstories are what make these rides so memorable. However, you choose to tackle the TET, since the trail is so vast (and ever-growing as more routes are discovered), it gives any adventure rider a reason to come back again and again.