Our 7 Good Reasons to Go Cycling in…CROATIA!!

cycling path in croatia seen with a drone - near a cliff

Croatia offers bike routes of varying degrees of difficulty,

suitable for both people who simply want to enjoy an active holiday,

as well as for passionate cyclists!

Croatia is an oddly-shaped eastern European country located in the Balkan Peninsula, belonging to the EU, which also adopted the Euro in 2023.

While the country stretches for over 400km in the Balkan Peninsula, it also flanks the Adriatic Sea for over 500km, and counts 78 islands and 524 islets.

Be it on the coast, on the islands, or in the heart of the mainland, in Croatia there’s always something to see and do!

In the past, we already spoke about traveling to Croatia by campervan, and today we thought of doubling up and giving you 7 awesome reasons why you might want to consider a trip to this country also if you’re looking for an epic biking holiday.

If you’re an active traveler, taking a Croatia Bike Tour is an experience you should add to your bucket list! 😉

Let’s dive right in! 🙂

 

Why Croatia is a

Popular Destination for Cycling?

1. The Landscapes are diverse

and Breathtaking!

me and Isa biking in front of Krka Waterfalls

Thanks to its weird geographical shape (check it on a map if you don’t believe it’s weird! ahah), Croatia stretches from the Adriatic Sea to the heart of the Balkan Peninsula and offers diverse panoramas in all its regions.

From the famous 16 Lakes of Plitvice between the mountains to the Krka waterfalls (in the photo above), from the hilly and Istria region to the crystal-clear turquoise waters of Adriatic Coasts and its picturesque rocky towns, Croatia is a marvel to discover!

The good news is, that the country is big, but not humongous, and it’s doable by pedaling in a week or two: from north to South, Croatia is about 500km, while just 400km from East to West).

If you have couple of weeks to dedicate to your trip, I would suggest you start your biking journey from Osijek in the far east and ride west passing through the Prirode Papuk Park, Zagreb, Instrian Peninsula, Dalmatia, and down the coast until Dubrovnik.

If you need to optimize your times, you cannot cover all of it in one go, or you’re simply looking for something less extreme,  I would suggest going with the Dalmatian wineries road, the coast, and taking an island hopping tour (some companies will bring you with a ferry in different islands where you can cycle a half or full day!) 🙂

No matter what route you choose, get ready for the Croatian landscapes to change rapidly, providing an ever-evolving backdrop that will keep each day of your trip fresh and exciting!

 

2. You can Rest on some of the

Most Beautiful Beaches in Europe

beach near Dubrovnik (Ragusa)

Croatia has some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Period.

Forget the long sandy Spanish beaches, and the wide Greek family beaches, Croatia beaches are surprisingly smaller, and rockier, but because of that not at all less scenographic! 

While cycling along the Adriatic coast with its dramatic cliffs and quaint fishing villages, it’s surprising how many tiny “boutique beaches” (as I named them!) there are scattered here and there!

Surely, some beaches are world-famous like the Pakleni Island beaches or Zlatni Rat, but what I found most amazing on our journey is noticing how many tiny, almost “private” coves and beaches there are near almost any village.

In most, there are no tourists, just locals.

The waters are transparent and have nothing to envy to most famous ones. It’s hard to find beaches more than 20-30 meters wide, as the mountain chain on the coast dives quite abruptly into the sea.

Said that, it’s refreshing to know that you can stop anywhere on your journey, take a break from pedaling, and enjoy the sea at your rhytm, away from tourist masses!  

3. Croatia as an Enormous Cultural Heritage,

and 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites!

walls of dubrovnik - by drone

The Croatian countryside is dotted with ancient Greek and Roman ruins, while the whole country counts 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites packed within its small area (pretty impressive!). Cycling through the country allows you to explore historic cities like Dubrovnik, Split, and Pula, each with its own unique charm and historical significance.

Hereafter I will leave you some routes you might be interested in checking out depending on what you prefer to visit:

  • Istria: This region is renowned for its mix of Croatian and Italian cultures, evident in its architecture and cuisine. The 78km Parenzana railway line route is particularly popular for self-guided cycling. You can enjoy the rustic charm of the region and indulge in local delicacies, especially the famous Istrian truffles. There are also immersive tours like truffle hunting in Motovun village.
  • Krka National Park: This park in Central Dalmatia is known for its beautiful waterfalls and diverse wildlife. The Krka National Park Loop is a challenging 40km route that offers a mix of terrains and breathtaking natural beauty. The park’s boardwalk trails are perfect for cyclists wanting to explore away from the tourist crowds.
  • EuroVelo 8: A part of the Europe-wide EuroVelo network, this route stretches a massive 1,000km along Croatia’s coastline, from the north to the south of the country. It offers diverse landscapes, from pebble bays and pine-covered islets to the Dinaric Alps.
  • Hvar Island: Known for its vibrant summer parties, Hvar also boasts scenic cycling routes like the UNESCO 704, which goes through ancient farmlands and charming villages. There are various cycle tracks suitable for different skill levels, with opportunities to enjoy local cuisine and stunning sunsets.
  • Mljet National Park: This park features a lovely loop around Veliko Jezero, the largest of the two lakes in the park. It’s a relatively accessible route, taking you through beautiful natural scenery and past historical sites like a 12th-century Benedictine monastery.
  • Central Dalmatia: This region offers over 4000 km of diverse bike routes. One notable trail is the Game of Thrones trail in Split, where you can explore filming locations from the series and visit cultural hotspots like the UNESCO-listed Diocletian’s Palace.
  • Gorski Kotar: Often called the “Green Heart” of Croatia, this region offers a 260km trail through national parks and historical sites. You can visit places like Risnjak National Park, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and the medieval castle of Bosiljevo.
  • Split and Dubrovnik: Both cities are known for their historical and cultural significance, with UNESCO World Heritage sites like Diocletian’s Palace in Split and the well-preserved medieval architecture of Dubrovnik. They also feature beautiful beaches and scenic cycling routes.

Quick Side note: When planning your cycling holiday in Croatia, the best seasons are May-June and August-September, when the weather is ideal for biking. However, the peak season of June-July is also good, especially to see the lavender fields on Hvar in full bloom​​​​​​​​.

4. In Croatia you can find different Terrains,

for All Levels!

cement route near the sea - croatia by bike - different terrains

Personally, despite being born in the middle of the mountains in Trentino (Italy), I love cycling on concrete rather than mountain biking.

Said that in Croatia we found a mix of everything: snowy-frozen grass the inland (it was March when we were there), asphalt concrete on the main roads, rocky cycling paths outside of the coastal villages, and anything in between!

For sure, monotony on the Croatian roads will never set in!

One day you’re biking in the shadow of snow-covered mountains, the next day you’re cycling through rolling countryside covered with olive groves and vineyards, and the next day you’re riding along the turquoise-blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.

When cycling in Croatia, no two days are alike because the terrain changes practically every day!

If you’re more of a casual rider, I would suggest you linger between the coast and the islands, as here the roads are less steep and more maintained. There’s surely also much more to see in coastal towns!

The inland on the other side, I see more tailored to professional bikers who looking for challenges in the middle of nature! 

5. In Croatia Food and Wines are Class,

and make the trip super enjoyable!

 

wineries croatia

A cycling trip in Croatia is not just a feast for the eyes but a treat for the taste buds as well!

The country’s diverse regions offer a variety of mouthwatering dishes that showcase the richness of its culinary heritage.

Some popular dishes that all travelers to Croatia must try include:

  • Pasticada: This slow-cooked beef dish, marinated in red wine and aromatic spices, is a specialty of Dalmatia. Served with gnocchi or homemade pasta, Pasticadaembodies the perfect blend of flavors and textures.
  • Istrian Truffle Delicacies: Istria, known as the “Tuscany of Croatia,” is a haven for truffle lovers. Indulge in dishes like truffle-infused pasta, risottos, and even truffle-infused oils that add a unique touch to the region’s cuisine.
  • Peka: Commonly found in Dalmatia, Peka involves slow-cooking meats like lamb or octopus with vegetables under a bell-shaped lid. The result is a tender and flavorful dish that captures the essence of the Mediterranean.

Croatia also produces some of the finest wines in the world. Here is a list of the must-try:

  • Plavac Mali: Hailing from the Dalmatian coast, this red wine is robust and full-bodied, often compared to Zinfandel. The terroir of the region imparts a distinct character to Plavac Mali, making it a must-try for wine enthusiasts.
  • Malvazija Istarska: Istria, renowned for its white wines, produces Malvazija Istarska. This crisp and aromatic wine pairs perfectly with seafood dishes and showcases the region’s commitment to quality winemaking.
  • Dingač: Produced on the Pelješac Peninsula, Dingač is a red wine made from the Plavac Mali grape. Its rich flavor profile and velvety texture make it an excellent companion to hearty Croatian fare.

 

6. It’s possible to do Island Hopping

on over 30 Islands!

transfagarasan romania

Croatia’s coastline is adorned with numerous islands, each offering a unique charm and character.

The most famous and popular for cycling are:

  • Hvar: Known for its lavender fields and Renaissance architecture, Hvar is a cyclist’s paradise. Explore the island’s charming villages, such as Stari Grad, and savor the local wines in the island’s vineyards.

  • Korčula: Often referred to as “Little Dubrovnik,” Korčula is renowned for its well-preserved medieval architecture. The island’s serene landscapes and secluded coves provide a tranquil retreat for cyclists seeking a peaceful escape.

  • Brač: Famous for the radiant white stone used in Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Brač offers diverse terrains for cycling enthusiasts. Zlatni Rat, one of the most famous beaches in Croatia, is a must-visit for its unique shape and crystal-clear waters.

Island-hopping across these islands with a bike and a boat is an experience typical of Croatia, hard to find anywhere else! 😀

7. If you cross Istria (and you Should!),

you can stop for an Istrian Truffle Hunt!

truffle hunting in istria

Istria, the heart-shaped peninsula in the north of Croatia, is a heaven for truffle lovers.

The region’s rich soil and climate create the perfect conditions for cultivating high-quality truffles, and Istrian truffles are considered some of the best in the world.

If you’re crossing the region, and you’re looking for a one-day typical Croatian adventure, we would recommend to stop and: 

  • Go Truffle Hunting: Take a break from cycling to embark on a truffle-hunting adventure in the forests of Istria. Join local truffle hunters and their trained dogs as they unearth these prized delicacies. The experience offers not only a culinary treat but also a unique insight into Istria’s traditional practices.

  • Try Truffle-Based Delicacies in a Restaurant: Istrian truffles find their way into various dishes, including truffle-infused oils, pasta, and cheese. Indulge in creamy truffle risottos or sample truffle-infused chocolates, allowing your taste buds to savor the earthy and aromatic flavors that define Istrian cuisine.

If you love truffle, you cannot miss a stop in Istria, mark my words: you won’t regret it!! 😀

Conclusion

STREET IN BUCHAREST - ROMANIA

And here we come at the end of this article 🙂

In this article, we’ve seen seven good reasons why taking a biking tour in Croatia is an awesome experience.

We discovered that the oddly shaped form of Croatia is at the base of the country’s varied geographical landscapes.

We’ve seen the most scenographic cycling routes, the most beautiful beaches, the UNESCO World Heritage sites and some memorable activities to do along the way such as truffle hunting, island hopping, and visiting wineries!

All in all, I hope that with this post we gave you an idea of how damn awesome is Croatia by bike! 😀

Before going, I would like to ask you:

  • What do you think about the article?
  • Have you had the chance to travel to Croatia by bike before?
  • How was your experience?

Let us know in the comments below! 😀

Hereafter I will leave you a few articles that you might also be interested in checking out:

Thank you for reading, and see you in the next article!

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