What is it like to pedal on a Wachau tour through a 1,000-year-old wine region set alongside Europe’s second largest river, boasting postcard villages, medieval castles, apricot and apple orchards, and edible rabbit poo? I found out.
Wachau Tour Highlights
The guided bike and wine tasting tour threw a 24 km loop around the best bit of Wachau Valley, between Krems and Weissenkirchen. I have been to Wachau loads of times but never covered that many different things in just one day. And I had never cycled there. Our group was made up by several couples, a family, a girlie group of friends, and single travellers.
Biking Through The Vineyards
The Danube bike path runs along the river, and cuts through villages, vineyards and orchards. The good thing about a Wachau tour on two wheels was that you absorbed all these spaces more intensely. Esther, our tour guide, grabbed provided her first primer on local wine culture, how vintners produce their wines and what makes them taste special right in between the vineyards.
Having chosen the one old bike in the back of the storage, my bottom remembers a few kilometers, unlike those of my fellow members’, which kept no memories.
It is perfectly legitimate to get tipsy during a wine tasting session, even if it starts at 11 am. At local cooperative ‘Domäne Wachau’, we knocked back five glasses of different white wines each, while learning about what matters in a Wachauer’s life: growing wine, differentiating wine flavours, the wine harvest, bad weather, and best white wine types. When I walked out, I saw the surroundings a little different…
Climbing Up To Richard Lionheart’s Prison
At that point of the Wachau tour we chould choose between strolling around Dürnstein village, burying our toes in the sandy Danube shores or power hiking up to Dürnstein castle ruin, King Richard Lionheart‘s prison. I decided to climb up the ‘donkey trail’ to the castle, together with a few other crazy tour members, for a magnificent view of the Danube valley and for seeing a heap of history-laden withered stone. I made it up to the top, but even if I hadn’t, the view from the middle would have been well worth it.
Savouring Rabbit Poo and Apricot Schnaps
When it comes to local delicacies, the natives go far beyond wine. The local produce shop we descended upon stocked every imaginable goodie made with apricots, which grow in the area in raw quantities: apricot liqueurs, schnaps, chutneys, jams, kernel oils, chocolates, and even soap. We tasted two different types of apricot schnaps. Another delicacy of the shop: a chocolate perversity called ‘rabbit poo’ (raisins coated in chocolate).
Hanging Out At A Wine Estate
Officially, Esther had planned our visit at family run wine estate Denk in Weissenkirchen to cultivate our acquired knowledge about local wines. That part of our Wachau tour was also to introduce us to the alcohol micro-industry of the Wachau valley. Inofficially, the shady terrace overlooking Wachau valley generated that ‘feel good’ type of memories you get when you slow down at a place that is ‘right’. There are dozens of this kind of small wineries in the area. Experiencing a Heuriger is a must if you want to grasp Wachau life.
Picking Mirabelle Plums
A huge bush full of small mirabelle plums along the bike path back to Krems was the best fleeting experience of this tour. Within seconds, ten of us jumped from their bikes and buried our hands deep into the foliage to pick a handful of those plums which are popular in the area: they were still very sour but had that lovely taste of an unexpected good surprise. I bet the remaining plums won’t survive the next school trip passing by.
Bathing In The River Danube
It was a hot August day when we stopped at the Southern shores of the Danube. The cool water almost fizzled when we sank our bodies into the river, after 22 km of cycling on a hot summer day. Esther chose an amazingly picturesque bathing spot, just opposite the second most photographed church tower in Austria, that to Duernstein monastery. The place was frequented by a few locals, and us.
The tour starts with a one hour train ride from Vienna to Krems with your tour guide. The bike path from and back to Krems is easy throughout. The longest track we cycled in a row was 30 minutes on flat roads through vineyards and market towns. Check more information and tour dates.
Note: I joined this tour by invitation from the tour operator. All opinions expressed are my own.
Other great wine tours: Wachau Valley Tour and Burgenland Wine Tour (insider tip)
go to Melk Abbey – UNESCO World Heritage on the Danube
go to Vienna Danube Guide – Insider Tips on the Danube, Danube Canal and Danube Island
go to Vienna with Kids – Classical Music, Fun Museums, and Outdoor Tips
go to Vienna Woods – Tour Ideas by a Native
go to Seegrotte Tour Review – Boating on Europe’s Largest Underground Lake
go to Vienna Travel Planning – Trip Planning and Travel Consulting by Vienna Unwrapped