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Get your legs moving on a Balkan cycling adventure from Split to Sarajevo. Taking in stunning scenery of the Croatian islands, along the Dalmatian coast and inland, this trip will take you riding through three fascinating countries - Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Tackle challenging climbs, scenic flats and a new rail trail following the now defunct Austro-Hungarian railway line, soak up the sunset views of the Adriatic, unwind with a drink and a dip at one of Dubrovnik's hidden cliffside bars and finish in the intriguing, yet sobering, city of Sarajevo, with visits to Mostar and other picturesque towns on the way.
Day 1: Split
Dobro Dosli! Welcome to Croatia. Today is arrival day and there are no activities planned for today until a welcome meeting at 6 pm. After this meeting you have the option of heading out for a meal with your group. Perhaps grab a drink at a bar on the gorgeous Riva Promenade. As this tour will spend a limited time in Split, arriving early is recommended to fully enjoy all that this city has to offer. Explore the impressive ruins of Diocletian's Palace, see the original and fantastically preserved basements under the city, or simply unwind with a walk along the waterfront.
Day 2: Brac Island
It’s an early start today catching the ferry (approximately 1 hour) from Split to Supetar on the island of Brac. There is a bike fitting for the group followed by a short test ride to ensure everything is working properly. From here, begin your first 'real' ride in Croatia, cycling from Supetar along the coastal road to the beautiful seaside village of Pucisca. Along the way, take a short detour to the tiny village of Dol, passing well-maintained vineyards, fig trees and olive groves. After a quick stop for refreshments in Pucisca, encounter your first real climb up to Praznica – it is a pretty steep climb (7kms at an average of 7.5%) but you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views over the Adriatic Sea. Have a rest at the top then cycle across the relatively flat centre to a descent down to the town of Bol. Bol is famous for the Zlatni Rat (Golden Cape) – one of the Adriatic’s most beautiful beaches. Take part in an orientation walk, with time to enjoy an optional visit to the famous Stina Winery for a tasting. End the day with a walk along the coastal boulevard and perhaps try some seafood for dinner.
Day 3: Hvar Island
It's another early morning as you take the ferry to Stari Grad via Split (approximately 4.5 hours). Have lunch in Split and spend time looking around before boarding the second ferry. Set in a beautiful protected bay, Stari Grad is one of Europe’s oldest towns, settled by Neolithic tribes as far back as 3500BC. Today the old stone houses, narrow streets and small squares still retain a deeply historic feel. There's plenty to see and do, including the Dominican Monastery and Tvrdalj Fortress. Leaving Stari Grad behind, ride up to the scenic heart of Hvar Island, via a less-trafficked old road, passing viewpoints and old taverns along the way before stopping for a break. Afterwards, descend through the old village of Brusje and down into the vibrant Hvar Town, with its historic charm and ancient city walls (approximately 21 kms). The streets of Hvar are a traffic-free zone, giving you freedom to stroll the pjaca (piazza) and soak in the views of St Stephen's Cathedral, the Arsenal, and the myriad palaces that flank the square.
Day 4: Korcula Island
Enjoy a free morning with a quiet sleep in, or spend some more time savouring the ambience of Hvar Town. For options for your free day, perhaps check out the Hvar Spanjola fortress for views, go on a boat tour, or ask your tour leader for suggestions for a hike to Velo Grablje village. This afternoon, catch a catamaran across to the island of Korcula, arriving late in the evening into Korcula Town – a Venetian Renaissance-inspired walled city full of narrow streets, medieval towers and the reputed birthplace of Marco Polo. Perhaps head out for a late dinner and a bar with a view of the Adriatic.
Day 5: Korcula Island
Prepare for a big day on the road through the heart of Korcula, past vineyards, olive groves and forests – this is a long one but worth the effort! Starting early, drive up to the hamlet of Pupnat – avoiding a nasty 10km/6 mile climb on the bikes – for a homemade breakfast with local hosts. The position of Pupnat and steepness of the approach is no accident. It was designed to help keep Pupnat safe from pirates through the ages. Pupnat is Korcula ‘as it used to be’ – a picture perfect farming village with stone buildings and a laidback atmosphere. Enjoy a descent down to Pupnatska Luka – a beautiful bay with a pebble beach, following the coastline through Smokvica and its vineyards before tackling the final climb to Blato, and descending down to the port town of Vela Luka. You’ll have time to walk around, have a quick coffee then board your vehicle to drive back across the island towards Korcula Town. In the late afternoon, drive back to Pupnat to visit a local farm and eat an al-fresco dinner. Sample some of the family wines and be treated to a meal made entirely from ingredients found on the farm.
Day 6: Dubrovnik
Transfer by boat to Orebic on the Peljesac Peninsula. To avoid some serious uphill riding, you’ll drive high above the tiny village of Postup to its 'panorama viewpoint', taking in the views, before beginning the ride towards Potomje village for optional wine tasting experience. Take to the backroads and cycle through the hills of the Dingac before continuing to the bay of Zuljana. Finish the day with a rewarding climb up to the village of Putnikovic, then enjoy an impromptu picnic and optional wine tasting in the natural surroundings before continuing by vehicle (approximately 20 mins) to the walled town of Ston. Visit Ston’s ancient salt pans on a short leader-led orientation walk, and afterwards, re-board your support vehicle and follow the winding coast all the way down to Dubrovnik (approximately 1 hour). With the sparkling water of the Adriatic in the background, Dubrovnik is picturesque, full of character and can easily be covered on foot. Take part in an orientation walk, including entry to the ancient city wall itself.
Day 7: Dubrovnik
Today is a free day for you to explore more of Dubrovnik until your next group meeting at 6 pm where you will meet new cyclists joining for the Balkan leg of the journey. Perhaps go out for an optional dinner together (hot tip: Old Town's gelato is phenomenal).
Day 8: Kotor
This morning you'll transport by vehicle from Dubrovnik into Montenegro to avoid the hectic traffic outside the city. Continue over the border to Herceg Novi where you’ll have your bike fitted before you'll start cycling. Follow the Bay of Kotor, cycling alongside rolling hills for approx. 16 kilometres to the small whitewashed port town of Kamenari. Take a short ferry ride across the azure waters between the headlands to Lepetane, then continue riding along the shaded quite road all the way town of Kotor itself.Located on the shore of the Adriatic, Kotor is a 5th-century World Heritage-listed city boasting a spectacular location between the beautiful bay and the imposing mountains. Its medieval Old Town features winding cobblestone lanes, historic buildings and buzzing nightlife. Ride: approx. 25-30kms/15-19 miles, lightly undulating terrain, with approx. 240 metres/790ft of elevation gain in total.
Day 9: Niksic
Depart Kotor this morning by vehicle, heading north to scenic Slano Lake . Start riding near the dam wall of the lake along the old road (mixed asphalt and gravel surface) via the tiny hamlet of Kunak. Montenegro is naturally hilly and this section of road is no exception, with a steep climb in store. However the steep and windy descent, with spectacular views along the way definitely make the climb worthwhile.After rejoining the main road we park the bikes and jump into local taxis to ascend to the incredible Ostrog Monastery, a white-washed building built into a cliff that's the most important site in Montenegro for Orthodox Christians. As tempting as the ride would be you'll thank us for avoiding the sweat and effort (and crazy traffic) required to reach this gravity-defying icon, resting some 900 metres above the Zeta Valley.After the monastery visit jump back on the bikes and continue a gradual climb along the quiet old road to the tiny village of Stubica before dropping back down to the Zeta River then riding the long, straight boulevard all the way to Niksic. As you get closer you’ll pay a quick visit to the Ramparts of Onogost for a good view of the town. Founded in the 4th century, Niksic is the country's second-largest city and has plenty of options when it comes to an evening meal and entertainment.Ride: approx. 40kms/25miles, undulating terrain, with approx. 750 metres/2460ft of elevation gain in total.
Day 10: Pluzine
Today you'll cycle approximately 40 kilometres from Niksic to Pluzine, a small town on the shore of the man-made Lake Piva. It's a hilly ride today, starting with a long but gradual climb then hitting undulating terrain. Ride through rolling, tree-lined hills with the support vehicle nearby in case you'd prefer to avoid the long climb. Visit the 16th-century Piva Monastery and its museum that contains, among other things, a psalm from the Crnojevici printing press, the first printing press in the Balkans (circa 15th century). Enjoy a picnic by Lake Piva then continue to Pluzine, a small, beautiful town in which to relax and rest those legs.Ride: approx. 40kms/25 miles, with a long but gradual climb for the first 25kms. Elevation gain is approx.1070 metres/3500ft.Note: depending on adverse traffic or weather conditions your group leader may shorten this particular ride
Day 11: Mostar
Today is a shorter ride than yesterday and you'll be cycling through Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time. Depart Pluzine and drive approximately 185 kilometres to small Bosnian village of Žulja to start our cycling. Riding along an old, long forgotten country road through half-abandoned hamlets past shepherds tending herds of sheep, this is the Bosnia beyond tourism, where everything done the old traditional way.Riding along the ridgeline for around 10kms, the mainly asphalt road is virtually traffic-free and enjoys spectacular views down to Mostar and the surrounding hills before descending to the charming town of Blagaj, situated at the spring of the Buna river and a historical tekke (Dervish monastery). Enjoy lunch then ride the next flat 15kms to the utterly charming town of Mostar. Mostar is best known for its iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge), from which both tourists and locals dive into the River Neretva. This is a tradition for local boys, who are said to have a lifetime of bad luck if they do not complete the jump in order to become a man. It's a beautiful spot to kick back by the river, enjoy a Bosnian coffee and watch the divers and the world go by.Ride: approx. 31 kms/19 miles, mostly downhill with approx. 220 metres/720ft of elevation gain.
Day 12: Mostar
Prepare for a real treat riding a section of the Ciro Trail, a new trail trail that follows an old Austro-Hungarian railway track running from Dubrovnik to Mostar. Stretching more than 140 kilometres, this well-maintained track traverses some truly wild, spectacular landscapes while winding through long-abandoned villages. It's touted as an 'open-air museum', and was partly funded by the EU in the hope of injecting some tourist dollars into the local economy. You'll ride approx. 35 kilometres of the trail to the cosmopolitan city of Čapljina before visiting the ancient Roman ruins of Mogorjelo villa, crossing the canyon and cycling back to medieval town of Počitelj. After a short visit (and perhaps a quick coffee while the bikes are loaded onto the trailer) drive back to Mostar, where you can continue exploring the alleys, bars and restaurants in search of a hidden gem.Ride: approx 40-45kms/25-28 miles, undulating with approx. 270m/885ft of elevation gain
Day 13: Sarajevo
Start the day with an approximately 120 kilometre drive north towards Sarajevo, the intriguing capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics and you'll begin cycling from Igman, the site for several events including the ski jump. More importantly, Igman was the only lifeline into Sarajevo during its thousand-day blockade during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s. Weather permitting, the group will take the same route as many Sarajevans did, over Igman and finishing at beautiful Vrelo Bosne (springs of Bosna River) in the suburbs of Sarajevo. The views are phenomenal on a clear day. After lunch, and a little time to explore in Vrelo Bosne we’ll load the bikes up and drive into Sarajevo proper, arriving with enough time for your leader will take you on an orientation walk of this fascinating city before an optional farewell dinner with your group.Ride: approx. 30 kms/18 miles, mostly downhill with approx. 200 metres/650ft of elevation gain.
Day 14: Sarajevo
Your Balkan cycling adventure comes to an end today. There are no planned activities or rides, so you're free to depart anytime before noon.
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The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
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Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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