A six day, self-guided French foray through some of Île-de-France’s stunning national forests, all within an easy distance of Paris, with the added bonus of some serious châteaux along the way, cycling Fontainebleau to Versailles. When a cycling holiday is topped and tailed with two of the country’s most famous châteaux, you know that you’re in for a classy treat of a trail, with four other grand houses en route. This tour is easily accessible by train from Paris, and a perfect addition to a city break to the capital. A six day, self-guided adventure through some of Île-de-France’s most famous forests, all within an easy distance of Paris, cycling Fontainebleau to Versailles.
- Château Vaux-le-Vicomte
- Château de Dourdan
- Château de Blandy-les-Tours
- Rambouillet National Forest
- Vallée de Chevreuse
- Palace of Versailles
Click to view map
Day 1: Arrive in Fontainebleau
After arriving at the accommodation, spend some time wandering around the Ville Impériale, with a fascinating royal history.
- Accommodation: Hotel Victoria or similar in Fontainebleau
Day 2: Château Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainebleau | 57km
This morning’s route heads towards Melun to explore its riverside location on the Seine, and its market, which features many regional products, including the famous Brie de Melun. From here, the route heads towards Château Vaux-le-Vicomte and its formal gardens to stop for lunch before continuing to Château de Blandy-les-Tours, a rare example of medieval military architecture in Île-de-France. Following a trail along the banks of the Seine River, then through the medieval communes of Fontaine-le-Port and Samois-sur-Seine, the route enters the gardens of Château de Fontainebleau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only example of a royal residence that was continually inhabited by monarchs for eight centuries.
- Cycling for the day: 57km, 5h, ↑160m, ↓170m
- Accommodation: Hotel Victoria or similar in Fontainebleau
Day 3: Fontainebleau – Étampes | 55km
Today’s route heads through the Forest of Fontainebleau, the second-largest national forest in France, filled with diverse flora and fauna. Continue through several small villages, including Dannemois and Barbizon, the birthplace of Impressionist painting, before arriving in Étampes. Spend the evening wandering around this City of Art and History, discovering its many historical sites, such as the historical church of Collégiale Notre-Dame-du-Fort d’Étampes and the Neo-Gothic Town Hall.
- Cycling for the day: 55km, 5h, ↑301m, ↓315m
- Accommodation: Hotel Ibis Étampes or similar in Étampes
Day 4: Étampes – Rambouillet | 55km
Leaving Étampes behind, follow a bike path along the river towards the former royal town of Dourdan, on the edge of Vallée de Chevreuse Natural Park. Visit Château de Dourdan, built in the 13th century to defend the southern part of the royal estate, before ending the day in the forest of Rambouillet, opposite Château de Rambouillet.
- Cycling for the day: 55km, 5h, ↑333m, ↓254m
- Accommodation: Hôtel Mercure Relays du Château or similar in Rambouillet
Day 5: Rambouillet – Versailles | 50km
Begin the day heading through the estate of Abbaye des Vaux-de-Cernay, which dates back to the 12th century, before continuing towards Château de Dampierre-en-Yvelines, the former residence of the Archbishop of Reims and Duke of Chevreuse. From here, the route leads to the final destination of the tour, the UNESCO World Heritage site Palace of Versailles, the principal residence of French royalty from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI.
- Cycling for the day: 50km, 5h, ↑272m, ↓292m
- Accommodation: Hotel des Roys or similar in Versailles
Day 6: Departure
Departure after breakfast.
What to expect
Accommodation on this tour includes a mix of mostly small, locally-owned 3/4-star hotels. They have been carefully selected based on a variety of criteria, including their location, warm hospitality, fine local food or commitment to responsible tourism. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms.
Click to view default hotels
Hotels are subject to availability. In the event of a particular hotel being fully booked for your chosen dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included on all days. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops or packed lunches can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. Where no dinner is included, restaurants are available in the local area.
Difficulty and terrain
This trip is graded moderate and includes daily cycling routes of 50-57km. The routes are mainly flat with occasional ascents and descents and follow a mix of small country roads, forest trails and cycle paths. Heavier traffic is common on the last stage as you approach Versailles (read more about difficulty grades).
When to go
This trip is available from the beginning of April until the end of October. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, meaning you can start your trip on any date during the season. During the 2024 Olympic Games (26 July-11 August), some dates may not be available, including the previous or following weeks.
The weather in this area is varied. Generally, you can expect a mild to warm climate and pleasant temperatures for cycling between 16C-26C. Summers are hot, dry and sunny and late spring and early autumn are less hot but typically warm enough to spend your evenings outside.
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Our recommended arrival airports for this tour are Paris Orly and Paris Charles de Gaulle.
By train or bus
If you are able to travel to France without flying, this holiday is reachable by rail, with railway stations in Fontainebleau and Versailles. For more details, see the national rail operator SNCF-Connect. From the UK, Eurostar offers direct trains from London St. Pancras International to Paris (2h 20mins). Please check the Eurostar website for more details on schedules and prices.
Arrival in Fontainebleau: From Paris, there are direct train services to Fontainebleau (40mins). For timetables and further information, visit SNCF-Connect or use the Omio planner above.
Departure from Versailles: There are direct train services to Paris (20mins). For timetables and further information, visit SNCF-Connect or use the Omio planner above.
- 5 nights in private en-suite rooms
- 5 breakfasts
- Travel package including route description, maps and navigation app
- Luggage transfers (one piece per person 20kg maximum)
- Phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Additional luggage
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Entry fees (payable locally)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- If you’re travelling in a group, a supplement applies to group members who would like to have a room of their own
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Extra nights
- Bike rental
- Bike theft insurance
Hybrid bikes are available to rent on this tour. All bicycles are equipped with a lock, repair kit, rear bag and handlebar bag. Helmets are available on request. Sample models attached below, note that the exact models may differ depending on the availability, but the standard will be the same.
- Type: Hybrid
- Frame: Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum, formed tubes, fender/rack mounts
- Front derailleur: Shimano Tourney, 3-speed, top-swing
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Altus, 8-speed
- Front and rear brakes: V-brake, linear pull
- Type: Hybrid
- Frame: Fuji A2-SL custom butted alloy
- Front derailleur: Shimano Acera OR microSHIFT R9
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Alivio shadow OR microSHIFT R9
- Brakes: Tektro HD-275, hydraulic disc, 160mm rotors