Overcrowded, over-regulated, and overrun: this is what Europe sounds like for a lot riders. While the scenery, the culture, and the insane motorcycle roads are all there, it’s true that some parts of Europe are starting to feel way too crowded and too restricted for anything remotely adventurous. But is that actually true, and is it possible to find wilderness in Europe?
The answer is yes.
Trans Euro Trail
The Trans Euro Trail project has grown exponentially over the last few years, so much so that just about every off-road or adventure rider in Europe is now more than familiar with the TET. Similar to the TAT, the TET is a network of off-road and backcountry roads across Europe from Norway to Greece and from Portugal to Ukraine, offering local riders a chance to adventure at home and foreign riders, to discover Europe off the grid.
The TET trails and tracks vary from country to country: in some parts, it’s barely existing due to to regulations, but in others, it can be pretty spectacular. Depending on where you’re aiming to ride, downloading the TET tracks is the fastest way to get off the road – and do it legally.
Pockets of Freedom
Most European countries either down allow or regulate off-road riding, and you can’t just set off exploring in most places. However, you still have pockets of wilderness in Europe – you just need to know how to find them. Spain and Portugal remain the undisputed gold mines for off-road riding, as most off-road trails are still open to motorcyclists; be mindful in Southern Spain, however – Andalucia is a fantastic country for off-road adventures, but some trails are restricted during the summer months due to big fire hazards.
The Balkans are another wild place to explore: Slovenia, for example, is so mountainous and forested it feels like the entire country is a set for the Lord of the Rings movies. Remote wild camping spots, swimming holes, waterfalls, and countless dirt tracks abound here, and you’re guaranteed to meet clusters of TET riders in Slovenia – it’s like it’s the new Italy, but for dirt riding.
Bosnia and Hercegovina should make your bucket list, too. The stunning Una National Park and Livno area still has wild horses running free (OK, technically, they’re feral horses rather than wild, as their origins date back to the 70’s when locals around Livno set their domestic horses free to replace them with tractors and other farm machinery; but the horses ae still there, fifty years later, perfectly adapted to live in the wilderness), and you can ride for days traversing a landscape more reminiscent of Mongolia than Europe before ascending the foothills and the mountains again. Bosnia and Hercegovina is small, but there are so many off-road trails out there it’s worth spending a couple weeks exploring the country – and once in Sarajevo, locate the old Olympic Park and ride the abandoned bobsled track. If you dare.
The neighbouring Croatia is a dirt bike paradise, too: from joining events like the Dinaric rally to exploring the country’s countless dirt tracks on your own, there’s no shortage of places to fall off the grid. For days. And the best part is, Croatians are sworn dirt bike maniacs; if you link up with the locals, they’ll take you places that will steal your breath away.
If you’re headed East, Ukraine is a must. Unrestricted of-road riding, crazy and friendly local riders, and the mighty Carpathians provide the ideal ADV playground, and you can easily spend several weeks exploring, riding dirt, and camping to your heart’s content.
Finding wild camping spots and off-road trails is harder in Northern Europe – but not impossible. Poland and the Baltic countries are awesome for both: wild camping is still largely unrestricted, off-road riding is virtually unlimited, and you can wander in the Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian countryside for days camping at lakes and rivers, riding local sand and gravel, and feasting on local food. The landscapes aren’t as dramatic as the Balkan mountain countries or the Spanish-Portuguese vistas, but you’ll have the place to yourself – and may come to appreciate the tranquillity.
All Roads Lead to…Greece
If all else fails, head South and aim for Greece. Home to Europe’s biggest rally race, the Hellas Rally Raid, Greece is one of the best enduro destinations on the continent. Mainland Greece has an abundance of mountain trails, rocky tracks, and technical terrain, and if you’re looing for serious escape, take a ferry to Crete off-season. The island is huge, wild, and tourist-free starting October, and you’ll have a variety of landscapes, trails, and scenery at your fingertips, not to mention delicious local food and easy-going atmosphere.
So yes, it’s entirely possible to find wilderness in Europe – it’s shrinking rapidly, but for now, we can still escape.
What are your favorite off-grid places to ride in Europe? Share in the comments below!