When planning a getaway, one of our first prerequisites as triathletes is dreamy terrain to train. But we also want to soak up the distinct local culture and energy. Globetrotting XTERRA pro triathlete Ben Travis says it best: “My ideal itinerary gets my blood pumping and my mind inspired by new ideas and places.”
These three design capitals—Cape Town, Taipei, and Barcelona—boast singular opportunities for swim, bike, and run workouts while also working their creative muscles.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
This beautiful port city is a dynamic melting pot of cultures, reflected in everything from its eclectic cuisine to historic architecture. Cape Town is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, who take full advantage of its waterfront location and natural landmarks, highlighted by the iconic Table Mountain.
The Old Biscuit Mill, a reimagined cookie factory, is a stylish mixed-use hub showcasing local creatives of all kinds.
Southern Sun The Cullinan is a classy historic hotel located close to everything you want to see or do.
Part of the Norval Foundation, a contemporary art complex including a gallery, sculpture garden, library, and amphitheater, the widely touted Skotnes Restaurant serves traditional South African food with modern verve.
Meet up with local triathletes for a Friday sunrise swim in the V&A Waterfront canals. “The canals are clean, the water is clear and it’s an amazing experience,” says ATC Multisport chairman Steve Attwell. Opt for one 1600-meter loop or more—just be sure to bring a wetsuit.
“If you can manage 60 miles, then a ride around the peninsula is a must,” Attwell says. You’ll be rewarded with the best views of the city and bay. For a shorter route (closer to 25 miles), start at Camps Bay and ride to Chapman’s Peak and back.
Take off from the waterfront and make your way to the cable cars at the base of Table Mountain (three to six miles, depending on the route), then catch a ride to the top. For a more challenging route, run Platteklip Gorge to the top of the mountain and hitch a ride back down.
Challenge Cape Town (Nov. 8, 2020) involves a 1.2-mile bay swim, 56-mile coastal ride, and 13.1-mile run.
The capital and cultural center of Taiwan, Taipei, melds vibrant East Asian heritage with ultramodern élan vital. Here, ancient temples sit in the shadow of sleek skyscrapers. When the health and fitness boom spread across Asia more than a decade ago, the sport of triathlon took root and has only become more popular. “The number of races has grown to more than 25 with the sport thriving,” says longtime resident and triathlete Craig Johns.
Head to the Zhongzheng District to sample the architectural diversity and artistic aura of Taipei. Tour the Renaissance-style National Taiwan Museum, then continue to the National Theater & Concert Hall or Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to glimpse the most celebrated of traditional Chinese architecture.
Located centrally in the upscale Xinyi District, the Humble House Taipei is home to 600 pieces of original art, all on display throughout the luxury property.
Taipei is known for its excellent streetfood scene and night markets. Work up an appetite exploring the gorgeous Dalongdong Bao’an Temple, which houses a trove of native folk art, then peruse the array of open-air food vendor stalls surrounding the temple.
Head to Baishawan Beach north of the city for its white-sand beach and clear, blue water. There are multiple swim complexes throughout the city that offer indoor and outdoor lap swimming, or you can pay a drop-in fee at top-end hotels like Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei.
For an incredible three- to four-hour loop, pedal north (and up!) from Taipei and into Yangmingshan National Park, taking in the stunning mountain views before descending switchbacks that lead to the coastal route home.
Dubbed “the lungs of Taipei City,” Daan Forest Park is an urban greenspace refuge and popular run spot for local runners. You’ll see ponds, pavilions, and people practicing tai chi. (Consider it Taipei’s answer to Central Park.)
Formosa Xtreme Triathlon (Nov. 27, 2020) involves a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2 miles of running with over 21,000 feet of climbing.
Dubbed “The City of Marvels,” Barcelona enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate, sits ideally between the mountains and the coast, and is home to a wealth of artistic treasures, from medieval churches to modern art (Picasso, anyone?).
The artsy El Born neighborhood reflects Barcelona’s eclectic, expressive personality. Walk the narrow cobblestone alleys dating back to medieval times, peruse stylish shops showcasing wares by local designers and artists, pop into a funky bodega for wine and tapas, marvel at the Gothic architecture, and view the Picasso collection at the eponymous modern art museum.
The chic-but-cozy Margot House Hotel is more than a hotel right in the mix of the city center—it is a regular gathering place for local creatives, many of whom have had a hand in the hotel’s minimalist modern design.
Housed in an 11th century castle and shrouded in beautiful botanical gardens, Can Cortada serves up traditional Catalan dishes in a setting you won’t soon forget.
Head to the Platja de la Nova Mar Bella, the venue for the popular Barcelona Triathlon, for a swim in the Mediterranean. For a pool workout, both the Club Natació Atlètic-Barceloneta and Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc offer sweeping city and ocean views while you recover between sets.
One of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, Barcelona is best explored on two wheels. For a solid 50-miler that heads into the mountains and then skirts the coastline, try the La Conreria-Sant Mateu-Céllecs loop (you can find the route map on Strava).
Head to the urban greenspace of Parc de Collserola for beautiful, leafy trails and gorgeous views of the iconic Sagrada Família cathedral and city below.
Ironman Barcelona (Oct. 4, 2020) entails 2.4 miles of swimming, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run in the seaside village of Calella.