Cycling in Croatia: The Top 6 Bike Routes
Croatia is fast establishing itself as one of the go-to European destinations for cycling. The remarkable scenery beckons those from near and far who enjoy discovering new places on two wheels.
There are an abundance of routes available to explore when you’re cycling in Croatia, no matter the season. The coastline stretches for 1777km, revealing over 1200 islands. From popular paradises to hidden coves, it’s a match made in cycling heaven if you’re looking for a holiday to get back in the saddle in beautiful surroundings.
In this article, we break down the different regions you can explore and the bike routes where you can hit the ground rolling, as well as highlighting the key things you’d want to know such as the level of experience you’d need to complete the track. There are so many options, we know you’ll be spoilt for choice when cycling in Croatia.
Hvar may be known for its champagne-doused parties and beach bars, but the other side to the island can be celebrated just as much. Hidden amongst the vast backcountry are a plethora of winding bike trails which take you on a journey of discovery through the blooming wildflowers, lavender fields and fragrant pinewoods. You may also happen upon the 13th century walls and hilltop fortresses, which only add to the charm of the island.
One of the more popular bike trails in Hvar is the UNESCO 704 route. Starting in the quaint fishing village of Jelsa, this trail follows the rolling hills into Starigrad’s ancient farm plots and other nearby villages such as Doi and Vrbanj, before heading west to finish in Hvar town. The route is roughly 23km in length, and a combination of tarmac and macadam, providing you with a relatively smooth track to cycle over.
Take a break at the Starigrad harbour for a pitstop and indulge in the chef’s catch of the day in a fresh seafood tavern, washed down with a glass of wine from the local vineyards. Be sure not to overindulge however, as once you’re feeling satisfiedly energised, you still have the rest of the track to go.
Hvar Town is where the real celebrations can start; the old town is lined with plenty of great spots for sipping on a well-deserved beverage whilst soaking up the vibrant atmosphere after a fabulous day of cycling.
Mljet National Park
One to tick off the bucket list of cycling tours in Croatia, the Mljet National Park loop is a renowned trail in the Dalmatia region.
The park is made up of 2 glistening salt-water lakes, shrouded by deep green forestry on wooded hills. The circuit tracing the outskirts of the Veliko Jezero (the largest lake) is roughly 6 miles, but we recommend putting aside the whole morning in your cycling itinerary.
As you pedal along the path, you will undoubtedly be tempted by glimpses of the turquoise waters through the trees and beckoned by the little golden beaches sat amongst the shore. Pack a picnic to enjoy at your chosen rest stop, breathe in the thick scent of the Aleppo pines and take in the beautiful surroundings.
It’s not just its natural beauty that has placed this track as a firm favourite amongst cyclists; the accessibility of the route means it’s easy for the whole family to enjoy. It also houses a 12th century church and Benedictine monastery – one of the oldest church complexes in the Adriatic – which is a valuable insight into Croatia’s Romanesque culture for those exploring the national park.
At the end of your cycling expedition, swap your pedals for paddles and enjoy a relaxing kayaking experience up and down the azure lakes.
Home to the largest peninsula in the Adriatic, and some of the most intriguing cycling destinations in Croatia, Istria is a fabulous place to take your bike and explore the 2600 km that it measures at.
The influence from the Italians is still a very obvious presence, with Roman architecture dressing the towns and Italian cuisine featured on the menus of all restaurants. As you cycle through the peninsula soaked in rustic charm, the aromas from the kitchens will tempt your tastebuds and you won’t be able to resist taking a seat in one of the restaurants dotted along the town. Refuel with some of Istria’s finest delicacies and wash it down with a chilled Favorit (a popular Istrian lager) before hopping back into the saddle.
Istria is a very popular destination for self-guided cycling, specifically the 78km Parenzana railway line route. The railway line originally passed through Italy, Slovenia and Croatia acting as a lifeline for the more remote villages in Istria.
It operated for 33 years, before it was restored into a scenic pathway for cyclists and hikers alike. The track links the two rustic towns of Buje and Porec which are equally perfect places for a pitstop.
There are also various different cycling tours you can take part in in Istria. A fun way to get an insight into the local life is by joining one of the more immersive tours of truffle hunting. Motovun village is famous for hosting genuine truffle hunting experiences; led by a local truffle hunter and trained dogs, you will be taught how to uncover the Istirian delicacy and learn the history of the famous ingredient.
Krka National Park
Hidden away in the depths of Croatia’s hinterland in Lozovac, Central Dalmatia, lies the Krka National Park. The park’s beauty is profound; a colour palette of earthy greens, blues and browns paint the idyllic site which is home to a collection of 17 cascading waterfalls, ranging in height by over 45 metres.
There’s a wide variety of both flora and fauna in the park with over 800 species of plantlife being identified. For the twitchers amongst us, you may be able to identify over 200 different bird species, as well as possibly one or two of the 18 different bat species that also call the park their home.
There truly is an abundance of resplendent natural surroundings on offer, and what better way to take it all in than gliding through the boardwalk trails which lead you to the captivating waterfalls and rivers. If you really want to discover the depths of the park, we’d recommend dedicating a large portion of your day, so you can take your time and perhaps stop to relax or refuel along the way.
Alternatively, you could tackle the Krka National Park Loop, which is a challenging circle dipping in and out of the reserve and covering 35 miles of ground in total. You could begin at the base of the park by the Skradinski Buk waterfall, before making your way further north towards the smaller picturesque villages and less-visited terraces of the Roski Slap waterfall.
The accessibility of this route is the only downfall; there are certain areas where you will need to dismount and carry your bike. We think it’s worth it for spectacular scenery and the opportunity to skip the tourist crowds on the main route.
Central Dalmatia is certainly a hotspot for bike trails and is an excellent starting point to explore the Croatian coastline. Over the years the region has accumulated an incredible 4000 km of bike routes, all of which vary in levels of difficulty and accessibility, turning it into a cyclist’s paradise.
One for the television fans amongst us, the Game of Thrones trail is one of the more worn-out tracks in Central Dalmatia. Beginning in Split – the self-proclaimed capital of the Dalmatia region – you will embark on a fantasy-fuelled journey through the set locations.
Follow in the footsteps of your favourite character and explore the Diocletian’s Cellars, the Antoničin Mlin (mill) and the Quarry (Žrnovnica) as well as Klis fortress. With the route being 55 km long in total, there are certainly further sites along the way that are equally as intriguing whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not.
It’s no secret that Croatia has a wealth of cultural hotspots. As well as being an integral part of the Game of Thrones set, the Diocletian’s Palace is a magnificent UNESCO world heritage site which takes prime harborside position in the heart of Split.
The palace was originally commissioned by the Roman emperor Diocletian to act as a combined imperial residence, military fortress and fortified town in time for his retirement in AD 305. There was certainly no expense spared in the creation of this fascinating site; Diocletian had lustrous white stone transported from the island of Brač and the total construction time lasted 10 years.
You will never be short of options when on your two-wheeled travels in Central Dalmatia; the whole region is saturated in delicious Croatian cuisine, spectacular beaches and must-see attractions.
One of Croatia’s best kept secrets, the Konavle Valley is a 4-hour long narrow dirt track that leads you south to the border of Montenegro. Sandwiched between the Adriatic waters and the Sniježnica mountains, you will be spinning through the Croatian countryside with unforgettable panoramic views of the valley’s mountain peaks at every turn.
Cycling over the Konvale region is a cycling experience which certainly ignites all your senses. The fragrant pine and cypress trees thicken the air’s aroma, filling your nostrils with a rich scent of the Croatian country. Cycle along the riverbanks and listen to the sound of falling water over the river Ljuta echo through the forest as you discover the vineyards and olive groves which decorate the rolling hillside.
The local landmarks such as the watermill at Divanović, the Franciscan monastery and the 15th-century church of St Blaise are certainly sights to be admired and will make for excellent pitstops along your journey as you learn of the region’s ancient wool-making traditions. You can also taste fresh figs, olives and mandarins harvested from the ancient orchards.
Safety for Cyclists
Although cycling is an amazing way to freely travel the countryside, there are some things to bear in mind when taking your two wheels to the track. Once you’ve planned your route, you should do some research to make yourself aware of the regulations you have to ride in accordance with. Below, we have highlighted a few of the important guidelines and rules to consider when cycling in Croatia.
- You must have all of the legally-required equipment on a bicycle, as well as any other equipment suitable for various weather conditions.
- Before any cycling journey, you should check the condition of your tires, wear and pressure, as well as checking the brakes, pedals and gears.
- Cyclists under the age of 16 have a legal obligation to wear a helmet. It is also highly recommended for those over 16 to wear one too.
- You should be considerate when cycling on the road and always make other road users aware of yourself (perhaps through reflective clothing) and your intentions, especially when turning at crossroads or using a roundabout.
- If you encounter a pedestrian crossing which doesn’t have marked cycling lanes, you must dismount.
- Always try to be as close to the right-hand side of the pavement as possible. Bike users cycling in a group should also be behind one another, not side by side.
- It is forbidden to ride whilst under the influence of alcohol, using a mobile phone, or riding with no hands. Additionally, anything that inhibits your concentration should also be avoided, such as wearing headphones.
Whether you’re an avid cyclist wanting to broaden you and your bike’s horizons, or just starting up on your cycling journey, Croatia is a perfect destination to get the wheels rolling. Explore this Mediterranean hotspot and immerse yourself into the depths of Croatia’s hinterland in a way you’ve never seen before.
If you’re wanting to experience the Croatian countryside on your bicycle, why not try a Cruise Croatia tour of the Adriatic so you can explore all the best cycling hotspots available. Contact us now to see how you can make the most out of Croatia’s coastline!