Headwater - Self-Guided Bike & Boat: Passau, Budapest and Vienna

8 days
Activity level:
Activity Level: Leisurely
Trip code: 
Way to Travel:
Self-Guided Holidays

Discover the iconic River Danube by boat and bike

The impressive Danube loop, the fascinating landscape of the Wachau region with its wine terraces, fortresses and palaces, the untouched forests of the Donauaen National Park and the picturesque Hungarian Danube bend; what better way to explore these beautiful destinations than by bike and boat? Leisurely cycling along quiet cycle paths, you encounter iconic cities such as Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest whilst your floating hotel accompanies you at all times. With free time at all the major destinations along your route, this is the perfect method to discover the scenery, culture and cuisine of the Danube area. The ship sails at a leisurely pace along the Danube to Budapest, then returns to Passau where the itinerary ends.


  • Three iconic European capitals
  • Romantic towns and mighty castles
  • Danube National Park
  • Leisurely cycling along easy routes
  • Stay on a small, comfortable ship each night

Key information

  • 7 nights on board the MS Normandie, all cabins are en suite with air conditioning
  • 5 days cycling 95% well-surfaced cycle path, 5% road
  • Easy cycling along mainly quiet roads 
  • E-bikes available on request
  • Countries visited: Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia

What's included

  • All breakfasts, self-made packed lunches and dinners included
  • All accommodation (see accommodation section)
  • All luggage transfers
  • Route notes and maps
  • Local bike hire

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request) Compulsory supplement
  • Visas or vaccinations
  • Arrival & departure transfers (available on request)
Call for general departures:
01606 720003
Call for tailor made trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


Days of Cycling

Our routes follow mainly cycle paths and quiet roads. The cycling is generally along the riverbank but there is the occasional climb to reach riverside towns.

Day by day breakdown
Day 246.0km/28.0miles
Day 354.0km/33.0miles
Day 440.0km/24.0miles
Day 525.0km/15.0miles
Day 742.0km/26.0miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 


  • Day 1

    Start Passau

    Make your own way to Passau. Embarkation generally starts from 5pm. Evening cruise to Engelhartszell whilst you enjoy your first evening on board the MS Normandie.

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 2

    Starting in Engelhartszell, cycle towards the 'Great Loop'; one of the most scenic sections of the Danube before boarding again at Brandstatt

    After breakfast, the cycling stage starts today at Engelhartszell, which has the only Trappist monastery in Austria. You follow the romantic river landscape of the Danube loop, which is arguably one of the most beautiful sections along the river. After reaching the charming village of Brandstatt you board the ship which cruises through the night to arrive in Bratislava around midday the day later.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 3

    Arrive in Bratislava around noon; cycle a loop via Hainburg and the Imperial Palace of Hof. In the evening take an optional city tour of Bratislava

    Enjoy a cycle loop from Bratislava, on to Hainburg and then to Schloss Hof; a baroque palace in Austria, located near the border of Slovakia. There is time to enjoy the beautiful terraced gardens before you cycle via the old castle of Devin, back to Bratislava. The Slovakian capital city can be experienced further by an optional city tour before the ship leaves for Budapest later in the evening.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Enjoy a morning arrival into the iconic city of Budapest before a roundtrip to Szentendre or an optional city tour for those who do not wish to cycle

    As the morning light breaks you will enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the beautiful landscape along this section of the Danube, before a spectacular entrance into Budapest, which has many of it's iconic buildings located right next to the river. The day is free for you to enjoy a city tour by coach or bike (not included), or ride a loop to the charming town of Szentendre with its Mediterranean atmosphere and lively art life. In the evening there is the opportunity to join an optional Budapest by night tour.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Start at the famous fortress of Visegrad and choose one of two routes towards Esztergom. Sail to Vienna overnight.

    The Danube bend is probably one of the most delightful and attractive parts of this trip, and today you will travel through the area known as the Hungarian Wachau. The bike leg starts at Visegrad with an opportunity to visit the famous fortress and the ruins of the former palace. There is a choice of two routes; the longer involves a side trip to the island of Szentendre if you did not visit the day before, and also visits the baroque village of Vac. The other route leads you directly to the bishop-town of Esztergom which boasts the largest Catholic Church basilica in Hungary. In the night the boat moves on to Vienna.

    Cycle approx. 25km or 60km for longer route

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Spend a day in the beautiful city of Vienna visiting the major sites such as St Stephen's Cathedral and the Hofburg

    Discover the iconic city of Vienna by bike or bus on an optional city tour today. Don't miss the most famous buildings: the Hofburg, St Stephen's Cathedral, Ringstrasse boulevard with the opera, theatre and town hall, the colourful Hunderwasser house and the ferris wheel at Wiener Prater. The evening is yours to spend at your leisure; take in one of Vienna's famous concerts at the Hofburg or enjoy a relaxing evening in a wine tavern.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 7

    A real highlight day today; pedal through small villages, apricot trees and vineyards, passing castles and monasteries on your way

    Your last ride is a special highlight! Today you cycle through small villages, enjoying the enchanting scenery dotted with apricot trees, vineyards, castles, monasteries and ruins. Pedal past the iconic blue tower of the monastery of Dürnstein; a real landmark of the Wachau. In Weissenkirchen there is the opportunity to sample some of the region's deliciously light wines, before you board the ship again in Pöchlarn to enjoy a final farewell dinner before the journey back to Passau.

    N.B. The longer cycling route today is 52km (32 miles)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 8

    End Passau

    After breakfast enjoy a last look of the Schlögener Schlinge (Great Loop) before you arrive into Passau at approximately 10am. Disembarkation is half an hour later, and we recommend arranging connecting trips from noon onwards.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info




There are no specific health risks.


There are no specific health risks.


There are no specific health risks.


There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, packed lunches (self-made), afternoon coffee break and dinners included. Welcome cocktail on arrival also included.

For breakfasts you should expect a buffet affair, with hot and cold choices, fruit and a selection of hot and cold drinks. Lunches are self-made and can be put together using the wide selection of breakfast foods. Dinners are generally three courses and consist of a soup or salad, a main course showcasing the local cuisine, and a variety of desserts.


The weather here is comparatively stable, particularly during mid-summer, although it can get hotter than 30 deg. C at some points. Temperatures are similar to those experienced in the UK and rainfall, although relatively low, is possible throughout the year.

Is this trip for you?

Cycling conditions
This is a self-guided cycling trip for those who like to cycle independently, but with back up to take out the hard work and planning. We provide you with a map and route notes so that you can cycle at your own pace, while your bags stay on your floating hotel that you return to each evening.
Activity Level: 1 (Leisurely) 
Please see the introductory pages of the cycling holidays brochure or our website for more important information on classification and grading.
Av. daily ride: 41 km (25miles).
No. of days cycling: 5.
Terrain & route: Our routes follow mainly cycle paths and quiet roads. The cycling is generally along the riverbank but there is the occasional climb to reach riverside towns.
Vehicle Support: There is no vehicle support for this trip. A representative will be there to meet you, make sure the bikes are all set up and will be on call throughout the trip should you need.

It is important that you are happy reading maps and following route notes, we make these as accurate as possible and they are regularly checked. Where possible we stick to cycle tracks and quiet roads to make the journeys as pleasant as possible, however, on occasion we have to use busier routes.

As this is a self-guided holiday there is no set group or leader. You will be staying on board a ship and all passengers will be travelling on the same route; some may be cycling more than others. There will always be the opportunity to opt out of the cycling and enjoy the cruise down the river. Each morning there will be a daily briefing where you will learn about the route and recommended points of interest. There may be optional extras that the staff on board can help organise for you.

Self-guided cycling holidays are a perfect option for families as they offer the freedom for you to take your holiday at your own pace. You can stop as and when you want and need, at the cafes and restaurants that suit your family and the sites that interest you. We have not suggested a minimum age for this trip, but as it is self-guided and you will be leading your own family we will ultimately leave this decision up to you. The daily distances are all published in the trip notes along with a description of each days cycling so you have a good idea of what to expect. Please do be aware that on some occassions on this trip the cycling can be along busier roads so any children must be comfortable cycling alongside traffic. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact one of our experts. The principle idea is that these holidays can be as flexible as you like, with logistical support but no group or leader to dictate the daily activities.

Call for general departures:
01606 720003
Call for tailor made trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


MS Normandie

7 nights are spent on the MS Normandie (max. capacity 100 guests). All cabins have exterior views, air conditioning and are en suite. On joining this vessel you are immediately aware of the cosy and informal ambience on board. On the upper deck you will find the comfy panorama salon with its bar, on the main deck the comfortable restaurant (no direct access from the cabin-zone). On deck there are both deck chairs and ordinary chairs and tables, which encourage conversation and communal activity in fresh air. The MS Normandie has two 1-bed-cabins and forty-nine 2-bed-cabins. They are all outside cabins, giving some 10-11 square metres of space (2-bed) and about 7 qm (1-bed). All 2-bed-cabins are equipped with two lower beds, one of which can be folded against the wall during the day to provide a more homely atmosphere, shower and WC, hairdryer, TV, safe, individual air-conditioning and a picture window. Only on the upper deck the windows may be opened. 1-bed cabins have one lower bed and are otherwise equipped with the same features.

Single cabins are available on an on request basis. It is also possible to upgrade your cabin type to a more superior cabin. Please speak to your sales consultant for more details.

Call for general departures:
01606 720003
Call for tailor made trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

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Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.


What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.


2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.


3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.


 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 


Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]