A complete guide to the 12 Zwift worlds
Zwift routes & worlds - a complete guide
Where to go in Zwift's virtual cycling universe. GCN's guide on all the places you can ride indoors in your smart trainer workouts
Junior Tech Writer
One of the big benefits of the cycling app Zwift is that it allows its users to create specific and tailored training programs to suit their needs, but it also gets you pretty close to the feeling of riding outdoors without actually leaving the comfort of your own home. So let's face it, when the weather makes a turn for the worse, as it's currently doing here in the UK, the prospect of turning to Zwift for a regular cycling fix becomes more and more enticing.
As Zwift has continued to grow since its launch back in 2015, so have the number of virtual cycling worlds available to ride in, with a total of 12 worlds currently available to explore. It started with the original world of Watopia, and now an additional nine 'guest worlds' are available on a rotational basis made visible via the Zwift calendar. There are also two more exclusive worlds that only become available during special Zwift events.
Each of these worlds has its own characteristics with some being based on real-world settings and modelled on past UCI World Championship circuits, like Yorkshire, Scotland, Innsbruck and Richmond. While others are totally fictitious locations and bring a more fantasy element to the experience, like Crit City and a futuristic version of New York.
Although it can be fun to simply explore each world at your own leisure, with countless routes to discover in each of the worlds, it can be tricky knowing exactly where to start. In this beginner's guide to all the Zwift worlds, we’ll give you the basic facts so you can pick the one that suits the type of riding you're looking for.
Where better to start than the original Zwift world of Watopia, the only one that is permanently available to use at any time and a staple of any Zwifter’s riding.
Watopia is by far the largest world in the Zwift universe with 48 routes available to ride
Watopia has a wide mix of routes from the flat ones based around the beach area or the flat volcano sections, up to Alpe du Zwift which is a replica of the iconic Alpe d’Huez climb from the Tour de France. In total, there are 78 individual routes in Watopia with the shortest being the Volcano Circuit at 4.1 kilometres. At the other end of the spectrum, there is the Uber Pretzel that features 2335m of elevation gain across the 128.3km course.
Watch more: Can I Ride Every Road On Zwift In One Go?
Along with the standard routes that are permanently available, Watopia is also home to a further 11 routes that are only accessible through specific events.
France is considerably smaller in its offering compared to Watopia, with nine routes available. As the name suggests, France is the first world on this list to include a virtual replica of real roads that you'd expect to find if you actually visited France. The flagship inclusion is the Ven-Top route. At 20.9km in length, it simulates the mythical Mont Ventoux climb.
The France world has some rolling terrain as well as a replica of Mont Ventoux
At the other end of the spectrum the 'Douce France' route has only 108 metres of climbing, and offers a far more relaxed ride through the idyllic French countryside.
Keep an eye out for some other iconic French landmarks, like the ancient Pont du Gard aqueduct that features in some routes, with a KoM segment on the way up to it!
While Zwift's France world does have some great routes, they are quite testing, featuring rolling terrain, punchy climbs and longer routes than you'll find in Watopia. This makes it great for hill repeat training or if you're looking for a bigger, more testing ride that lasts more than an hour.
Innsbruck was the second Zwift world to be introduced based on a UCI Road World Championship course, with a replica of the finishing circuit of the 2018 route that itself included two alpine climbs.
Being a real-world replica it offers an added layer of interest to many Zwift users, especially ones planning on riding these roads in real life. Seven routes make up the Innsbruck world, with one flat route available. The remaining six feature at least one ascent of the Innsbruck KOM climb, coming in at 7.4km with an average gradient of 5.4%.
Innsbruck is a course for the climbers and ideal for 20-minute FTP testing
The Innsbruck KOM is a great climb that can be used for FTP testing as it is a challenge to complete the full ascent in under 20 minutes. If you do plan on using this route for testing, be careful to pace your effort as the climb features some steeper ramps as well as some flat sections.
Riding here can be a great training tool to help you pace your climbs in the real world and deliver consistent power across an irregular profile.
Another route based on the real world, London also includes some novel routes that take you underground into the city's tube stations as well as out to the Surrey Hills. Although it's not a 100% accurate reflection of real world London it is close enough and features iconic landmarks to help riders identify that they are in England's capital city.
London includes the easily identifiable landmarks of central London along with the testing Surrey hills
London boasts 20 different routes in total with the shortest, the ‘Classique’, coming in at only 5.4 km, with 19 metres of ascent. Conversely, the longest route available is the ‘Full PRL’. This is not only the longest route in the London world, but also across the whole of Zwift. It's a whopping 173km in length with almost 2300 metres of climbing, so is certainly a route for only the most committed of indoor riders.
London is perhaps one of the most well-rounded worlds offering both long and short courses as well as hilly and flat profiles. Although there are no alpine-length climbs on offer, the repeated ascents of Box and Leith Hill soon add up.
This one is similar to Watopia in the sense that it is firmly a fantasy world. With inspiration from Japanese geography and culture it comprises three distinct zones: Yumezi, Neokyo and Urukazi.
Makuri Islands are inspired by Japanese culture and geography with a selection of fairly easy routes
It is ideally suited to beginner riders, or people looking for a slightly easier ride. All of the routes within the Makuri Island world are short, with the longest being the ‘Makuri 40’, which, as the name suggests, is 40km in length.
It is also fairly light on climbing making it a great option for a recovery spin, with the most climbing of any of its route being 300 metres.
New York City
New York City is similar to London in that it is loosely based around the real-life city. However, the key difference with New York is that it is set in a futuristic version of the city. This has allowed the creators at Zwift to introduce some elevation in to what would otherwise be a flat landscape, with virtual roads climbing up between the skyscrapers.
The New York world is set in the future with roads weaving between skyscrapers
Altogether there are 15 routes available in New York, ranging from 6.8 to 54.7km, with the longest of the routes being used for the 2022 Cycling E-sports World Championships.
New York offers riders a nice intermediate world to ride in. If you are looking to start mixing some climbing into your rides without getting caught out on a monster alpine climb, this could be the perfect world for you.
Paris is by far the smallest of the Zwift worlds and uses the iconic finale from the Tour de France. The routes on offer are both a clockwise and anti-clockwise loop of the finishing circuit around the Champs-Élysées and the Arc du Triomphe.
The iconic Champs-Élysées is the setting for the Paris world
Both options feature very little in the way of climbing and can be used for either a warm-up or cool-down ride as well as for longer steady-state efforts for training power delivery on the flat.
This was the first Zwift world to be added that was based on a UCI Road World Championship course. Of the four routes on offer in this world, the most popular one is the 2015 UCI Worlds course, which replicates the finishing circuit where Peter Sagan took his first of three world titles.
Richmond was the first UCI World Championship course to be made available on Zwift
Richmond offers riders a short punchy profile across the four routes with the longest available only a little over 16 kilometres. This world can be great for VO2 max efforts with the short, sharp climbs that litter the second half of the course.
In 2020, Zwift updated the graphics for the Richmond world to give it a more up-to-date and modern aesthetic.
The Scotland world is fresh to Zwift this year in conjunction with the Glasgow UCI World Championships. With five routes on offer that all take inspiration from the Scottish landscape, this world has a mix of city and countryside riding.
Scotland is the latest edition to the Zwift universe with some punchy routes to test yourself on
The ‘Glasgow Crit Circuit’ features some of the finishing routes from the men's and women's races without the punchy climbs that helped to launch Matthieu Van Der Poel to victory.
If you are looking for something a bit spicier in this Zwift world, then ‘Muckle Yin’ is sure to keep your heart rate high. Although only 25.1 kilometres in length, it has almost no flat sections within it. Don’t let the 279 metres of climbing deceive you, this is a tough route to ride fast.
The final Zwift world that is available outside of special events is Yorkshire. The world is an addition from the 2019 UCI Road World Championships, where Mads Pedersen took a surprise win in front of Matteo Trentin and Stefan Küng in biblically wet conditions.
Yorkshire has some steep and punchy gradients to really test out your anaerobic abilities
On offer are five different routes, with one of them a complete replica of the finishing circuit from the World Championship race. This 13.8-kilometre loop with 240 metres of climbing will have you jumping in and out of the saddle as the gradients often kick over double digits.
Yorkshire also features one of the shortest Zwift routes across all the worlds with ‘Duchy Estate’ clocking in at just three kilometres.
If you are looking for a real test for your aerobic system, the longest route in the Yorkshire world is ideal. ‘Royal Pump Room 8’ adds a few extra roads to the World Championship course, allowing it to be ridden both clockwise and anti-clockwise in one continuous loop. This route features 480 metres of climbing across the 27.7km route.
This is one of the two worlds that Zwift has made available for events only. That means you need to sign up for an event in this specific world in order to experience it.
The Bologna course was a first for the platform, as it is an exact GPS-accurate replica of the 2019 Giro d’Italia prologue time trial. The route is eight kilometres long with a surprising 230 metres of climbing packed in.
Zwift offers both one and two-lap events, however, it is worth noting that a two-lap event is not an out-and-back. Instead, this will have you ride the prologue course, turn around, and ride back to the start before doing the same thing all over again. This makes the two-lap event 24 kilometres long.
Crit City, as the name suggests, is a world for fast-paced racing. Although there is only one route in this world, it can be run in a clockwise (Downtown Dolphin) or anti-clockwise (Bell Lap) direction. Each lap is 1.9 kilometres long with only eight metres of ascent.
Entering an event in Crit City is a surefire way to get high-intensity efforts into your training and can provide exhilarating fast-paced racing.
Zwift has an unbelievable wealth of virtual roads to ride on with each world providing a different experience both graphically and with the demands of the courses. Watopia has the most rounded profile with plenty of long and short courses with a mixture of climbing options.
The other worlds that feature in the Zwift calendar rotation will keep your riding fresh and interesting, with each world allowing you to train differently. London would be a great go-to for all things except long climbs, whereas the Makuri Islands offer the most beginner-friendly options with shorter flatter routes.
It is worth entering a few events, even if just to experience the two event-only worlds, especially Bologna with that GPS-accurate copy of the opening stage from the 2019 Giro d’Italia.
Do you have a favourite Zwift world or route? Let us know in the comments below, which routes you like to head to.
Need more indoor cycling help or inspiration? GCN's ultimate guide to indoor cycling has you covered with advice and guides on everything from turbo training tech to workouts. Check it out here.
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Junior Tech Writer
Alex writes for the GCN editorial tech with a passion for all things bike tech.