Lake Constance is actually a giant bulge on course of the Rhine River as it flows from its source in the Alps on its way to the sea. It borders on Switzerland, Germany and a small segment of Austria. The entire circumference of the lake is 273km. The southern 72km belong to Switzerland, 28 to Austria and the northern and western 173km to Germany. It measures 14km across at the widest point.
It is actually three lakes: The Bodensee, the largest, the Uberlingersee to the northwest and the Untersee which flows out to the Rhine.
This is a very popular ride and provides many amenities for travelers; campgrounds, trails, ferry crossings and interesting towns along the route. There are no real cycling challenges here. It is just a fun ride for all ages and a great opportunity for a taste of cycling in three countries.
We flew into Zurich and since we knew we would be arriving late, we chose to stay near the airport, the first night. Zurich is a great city and we recommend a visit to stroll the lakeside promenade, complete with fountain and visit the old center as well as Zurich’s world class museums.
Stage One: Konstanz to Rorschach 37,5 km
We headed off on the train to Konstanz; the largest city on the lake and it’s cultural and economic center; making it a great place to start a bicycle tour.
The German and Swiss Bahnhof are next to each other. We got our bearings and left the station to wend our way the few blocks to cross over into Switzerland. The border crossing was simply a congenial wave. We’ll be watching for and following the Swiss Route #2 signs. The path is paved and well marked as we ride through a park and past orchards and then beside the lake into Romanshorn. This makes a nice lunch stop. Follow around the harbor, past the ferry landing and carefully following Route 2 signs past lovely gardens and out of town. Soon we’re beside rail tracks and passing campgrounds with peek a boo glimpses of the lake until we reach Arbon. If you want a break, this is a good spot to wade. The Swiss love fountains. You will note the one in Arbon, as well as other towns along the lake. Leave Arbon and continue on this nice path, over footbridges and on to Horn. Leaving Horn, watch carefully for the crossing to ride beside the lake all the way into Rorschach. We checked in to our hotel and rewarded ourselves with a nice cold beer at a lakeside beergarden. Rejuvenated, we strolled the seaside promenade and admired the fountain and then explored the town itself, which rises up the hill from the lake.
Stage Two: Rorschach to Lindau 42,4 km
Next day we headed out for our three country excursion. It is mostly level today. We leave along the seaside promenade trail and then divert away for a small climb and then back down past countryside with pastures and cows. Again we are following route #2 and when we reach the tree lined Alte Rhine Canal we ride beside to the border crossing, which is simply an unattended bridge over this canal. We notice there is less signage once we reach Austria. We pedal down the opposite side of the canal for a bit before turning off. The Alps are in the distance as we ride through farmland. We pass by several nice and popular campgrounds. Just ahead is a lowland where the Rhine enters the lake and as we discovered, even in July, this marsh may flood, as it had today. We were in the company of a number of other cyclists so we put our heads together and all struck out to find a cycleable diversion from the flood. We did not have a GPS with us (this was 2001) on this trip; but, it would have been helpful. It ended well; however. We were lost and in the company of others, which can be reassuring, even if there is a bit of a language barrier. We all ended up back on track in the end. We crossed the Rhine on a bridge and then entered a nature preserve. We cross over several small footbridges over small tributaries, before coming to a clearing just before the town of Hard. No pun intended; but, it was hard to find our way out of Hard, due to lack of signs. Once we escaped; however, we were on the highway over the Bregenzer Ache waterway and then an immediate left to ride beside it on a nice trail that eventually leads to the lake and past beaches, campgrounds and marinas before the impressive spires of Kloster Mehrerau come into view. Stay on the bike path and there will be a choice to head straight into the town of Bregenz or continue along the lake. We opted to pass up the town and continue on toward Germany on a nicely paved path, sometimes beside the lake and sometimes near the rail tracks. We rode on along the path and when we crossed the bridge, we were officially in Germany.
There are more campgrounds and a short stint on the highway and a roundabout before crossing another bridge, which is a wide expanse used by the rail line and a nice cycle.path. At the end is Lindau. We have now entered Bavaria and Lindau has much to explore. We had picked a centrally located lodging and were anxious to explore the harbor and old town center of town.
Stage Three: Lindau to Meersburg 45,0 km
Today is strictly in Germany. We start by retracing the ride back over the path that brought us out to the “island of Lindau”; but turned the opposite direction at the end and continued beside the lake. Keep on the path until it ends at a highway and then a short climb up to a ridge on the bike path. We come back down to the lake on the approach to Wasserburg. Ride on and there is a stretch on the roadway before coming back to the lake at Nonnenhoen. From there we pass campgrounds, orchards, woods and parks. Watch closely for direction signs. Ride through the pretty cobbled streets of Langenargen and on through several more small towns and across the bridge over Schussen creek. Pedal on past Eriskirch rail station. Cross the tracks and continue alongside the tracks. We are making a lunch stop in Frederickshafen to visit the Zeppelin Museum. Inside is a 30ft replication of the Hindenburg. Out over the lake you may catch sight of the Blimp that makes daily flights over the lake. Pick up the bike path next to the Harbor park. Leaving the park is a climb and a confusing section where you will really need to watch for signs now to Meersburg. Soon we were riding beside the rail tracks and then alongside the highway through Fischbach and then through Immenstaad. More popular campgrounds dot the lake on one side and vinyards on the hillside, as we make our approach to Meersburg.
This is such a pretty little town with lots of visitors. Part in on the lakeside and the old town is up the hill. Both areas are worth strolling and the view back down to the lake from the castle is fantastic. By the way there are two castles in town.
Stage Four: Meersburg to Konstanz 15,3 km
Today will be part by bike and part by ferry. We head out along the lakeshore for a visit to Unteruldingen. Here, built over the water, is the Pfahlbau Museum, which recreates a stone age settlement from 3000 B.C. It was worth our morning visit before we double backed the few kilometers to the Ferry landing. The relaxing cruise across the lake to Konstanz was about a half hour. We exited the ferry and climbed toward the Zentrum, following the signs. There is a bike lane for the nearly 5km into the Zentrum. It brings you into town, across the Rhine on a nice cycle bridge. Konstanz has a long history and interesting harbor.
There are many pedestrian streets that radiate from the harbor and we enjoyed the self guided walk that Tourist Information offers.
Stage Five: Konstanz to Stein am Rhein 28,9 km
We start from in front of the Bahnhof, as we did on the ride to Rorschach; however, we turn right, before the Swiss border. We take a different exit from Germany. We ride along the Untersee to where the Rhine leaves the lake and becomes a full fledged river. We are heading west: a different Swiss border crossing; but again we’re given a cordial wave to cross. We wind through some neighborhoods and then follow good old Route #2 out into the countryside. We are beside the roadway for a while; before coming back to a path through crop fields. Soon we are in the Untersee with the water to our right and rail tracks on the other side. You will see a number of marked route signs; but, Route #2 is the one to follow today. We are back and forth beside and over the rail tracks with the water always on the right. There are a few rolling hills before we reach and pass by the Eschenz rail station on the way through town. As we enter the outskirts of Stein, we cross the tracks for the last time today.
Straight ahead is the roadway. Cross over and turn left, then down to Stein. The banners were waving as we crossed the bridge over the Rhine.
This is where it officially leaves the Untersee.
The cobbled main square is filled with shops and restaurants as well as frescoed facades. It’s pedestrian and cycle only… no cars. Yea! We had a lovely place right on the square.
This compact center was a picture postcard and we leisurely explored before an nice outdoor dinner at one of the establishments on the square. Next morning we will be heading up to the Rail Station. For us, we were connecting by train to Basel for another ride: Alsace. If you are ending at Stein, you can head back and spend some time enjoying the ambiance of Zurich, before you head home.