Croatia is a wonderland for cyclists. There are two-wheel-worthy routes that weave around pine-clad islets in the Adriatic Sea, others that link together ancient truffle towns in Istria, and some that conquer the great waterfalls of Krka. Tempted to get in the saddle? We thought you might be. Read on for our guide to five of the top cycling routes in Croatia…Table of contents
The EuroVelo 8 is the mother of all cycling routes in Croatia. It's a part of the colossal, Europe-wide EuroVelo network that runs from the ends of Greece all the way to the tundra of Scandinavia (talk about a workout for the hamstrings, eh?). This particular section is still under development but is fully connected on both certified EuroVelo tracks, roadways, and coast paths.
It can take you a whopping 1,000km in all, linking the very north of Croatia to the very south. The track sticks to the coastline the whole way, snaking past pebble bays and pine-covered islets in the shadow of the forever-present Dinaric Alps. There are plenty of highlights, from the olive-covered hills of Istria, where Italian hill towns are shrouded in mist, to the sunny sands of the Makarska Riviera.
Most folks take a couple of weeks to complete EuroVelo 8. There are campsites and resort towns filled with hotels along the length, so you should never be short on somewhere to stay. You could even turn it into a real cross-Euro odyssey, since the route also carries on through Albania and Greece, and pushes west through northern Italy all the way to the sunny Costa del Sol in Spain!
Unesco 704 on Hvar
Hvar might be best known for its champagne-doused summer parties and beach bars, but there's much more to the island than that. If you can pull yourself away from Hula Hula for a moment, there's a backcountry bursting with springtime wildflowers, fragrant Aleppo pine woods, and breeze-kissed vineyards.
We drop in here on our cycling Croatia cruises and hit the UNESCO 704 route that starts in the charming fishing village of Jelsa, before rolling through the ancient farm plots of Stari Grad, some of which were laid out millennia ago! Stari Grad itself is our pitstop for a fresh-caught seafood lunch or traditional Croatian tavern food on the harbour. Then, we move further west to bar-brimming Hvar Town, where you can crack a hard-earned cold one with the sunset.
The 704 is by no means the only option. The great thing about Hvar is that there are cycle tracks to suit all levels. Take the Sucuraj 700, an up-and-down trail that weaves together the empty bays on the eastern side of the isle. Or there's the Kabal 706, which takes you to the coves of a peninsula on the north shore.
Mljet National Park
The loop around the shimmering salt-water lake at the heart of the Mljet National Park is another of the bucket-list-busting cycles that we conquer on our Cycle Tours. It's a favourite thanks to its accessibility, but also its stunning beauty, taking in a 12th-century Benedictine monastery and vistas of sylvan hills.
The aim is the circuit that rings Veliko Jezero (the larger of the two lakes). It's about six miles all in, but we recommend taking the whole morning to cover the journey. You'll happen upon all manner of pebbly swimming coves and rest stops. They are prime places to chill, read a little, or meditate in the balmy air, thick with the scents of Aleppo pines.
It's also possible to explore the rest of Mljet island via bicycle. A good path runs along the southern shoreline to the turquoise inlet of Grabova Vala. There's also a road that goes north to a half-ruined Roman villa that stands crumbling by the side of the Adriatic.
The Truffle Route
Take in the rustic charms of old Istria on the Truffle Route. A 35-kilometre loop around the northern part of Croatia's northernmost coastal province, it's all – as the name implies – about casing out a region rich in the world's priciest tubers. No wonder, then, that it kicks off in Buzet, a dramatic hilltop village that was built by the Venetians but is now considered the truffle capital of the country.
From there, you ride undulating gravel tracks that dip into a wooded valley through Sveti Donat and then climb to the hamlet of Vrh. Take in the views of the surrounding hills and imagine the wealth of truffles that are within, all before hopping back in the saddle and hitting the path that meanders with the River Mirna going north.
This is where things get pretty cool (or should we say hot?), because bikers whizz past the old Communist sanitorium of Istarske Toplice. It's got hot springs and bathing pools that can cure any tight muscles. Then, it's back on to Buzet for a dinner of – you guessed it! – truffles!
Krka National Park Loop
Krka National Park is unquestionably one of the jewels of the Croatian hinterland. A short drive inland from Sibenik on the coast, it's a place of roaring cataracts and lush forests. Most will come to walk the boardwalk trails that lead to waterfalls and rivers, but you can also do it on two wheels…
Cue the Krka National Park Loop. It's a challenging circle that dips in and out of the reserve, taking a full day and covering over 35 miles of ground. You can begin with a sighting of the famous Skradinski Buk waterfall at the base of the park. It's a symphony of white-water ribbons that emerge from gaps in the oak woods. Then, the path takes you north through small villages and up to the less-visited terraces of the Roski Slap waterfall.
This isn't a cinch. There are uphill parts that are quite exposed to the sun and even one or two sections where you'll need to dismount and carry the bike. The good news is that it does let you skip the tourist crowds on the main waterfall walking routes and boats!
All this tempted you to cycle Croatia? Great! It's an experience like no other. We run organised boat and cycle tours through this amazing part of Europe, so be sure to get in touch for more information!