12 reasons to go cycling in Croatia

When the British summer seems to have got lost on the wrong side of the jetstream, the dull grey cold mizzly days are getting too much to bear and your itching for some blue skies, warmth and pleasant riding, Croatia could be the perfect place to go. Well, we thought so and after 10 days cycling, swimming, sea kayaking, ice cream eating, drinking and a bit of sightseeing haven’t been proved wrong!

View from Marjan Hill over Split

So, in fairly random order, some reasons why a cycle tour along the Dalmatian coast (we went from Split to Dubrovnik, but it’s equally possible to do the other way around) is a great option for late August.

1. The weather We might have got quite lucky with the weather, but after a cool 25C arrival in Split it was 28-33C every day. It was definitely pretty warm on the hills but never impossibly hot with a good supply of water. (Both for drinking and for splashing over you!).
We did hear a couple of weeks earlier it had been in the high 30s which the locals said was unusually (and unbearably) hot.
We had blue skies every day bar one when it was cloudy some of the time and tried very ineffectually to rain in the evening. A couple of days were quite breezy though.

Boats in the harbour at Pucisca, Island of Brac, Croatia

2. The islands/quiet backroads. Hvar and Korcula have a network of lovely quiet lanes, with mostly good and smooth tarmac. Perfect for road biking, but next time I’d be tempted to take the gravel bike so I could explore a few of the rougher limestone tracks we saw occasionally but didn’t explore with skinny tyres.

After the Dingac tunnel, Peljesac peninsula, Croatia

3. Luggage transfer services! We’ve never done this before, it seemed the “too easy” option. But, as we weren’t sure how well we would handle the heat, on this trip it seemed a great idea to lighten the load. Purists will undoubtedly be up in arms at the idea, but just being able to have a change or few of clothes, and different footwear for the evenings/days where we stopped for 2 nights was fantastic. We used Meridien 10 (who we also hired bikes from, on their self guided tour). The route from Split to Dubrovnik (and vice versa) via the islands is well geared up for this.

The luggage would meet us at the boat for inter-island transfers, then be collected again on dry land for onward transport to our accommodation.

4 Swimming. In the morning before you ride, when you feel like it along the ride, or even to cool down after the ride! On the islands there are so many places to take a cooling dip in the lovely clear waters that a hotel pool seems surprisingly unattractive at the end of day. You dry off quickly and as most of the beaches are stony, there’s no irritating sand to get everywhere afterwards! Just pack a pair of sandals or Crocs or equivalent – there are sea urchins in places, although we didn’t find any near the shoreline.

Heading down to a secret beach near Racisce (Korcula)

5. Lightweight packing. With hindsight we took far too much with us! Cycling shorts and synthetic wicking T-shirts dry overnight. Evening jeans and fleece weren’t needed as nearly everyone eats outside (so no cold air-conditioned restaurants) and it’s still very warm into the night. Swimming clothes get rinsed and dry quickly each evening – or even dry between daytime dips on route.

6. Language. As a Brit I’m embarrassed to admit I fall foul of our stereotype here. I’m not good at other languages beyond the basics of two beers please (dva piva molim), thanks (hvala), hello (doberdan) etc etc. But English is very widely spoken, almost as “the tourist language”. And most folks speak it very well, although they do appreciate even “not very good efforts” to speak the first few words of a conversation in Croatian.

“Dva piva, molim” – the most important phrase in any language 🙂

7. Bakeries (pekara). With all sorts of lovely snacks. Chocolate croissants beside the sea for breakfast when we had an early start were a fab way to start the ride. R (my husband) also really appreciated the various apple, cherry and cheese pastries later on in the day.

Tempting choices!

8. Ice cream In plentiful supply in most places of any size, a wide variety of flavours was available and was a lovely treat in the hotter afternoons. I have to admit the “dark” flavour we found in Korcula town was a little odd though, not dark chocolate as I was lead to believe but probably a liquorice flavour. It also left our mouths looking very black! You do have to eat it more quickly than back home though – the higher temperatures means it starts to melt quickly!

Sladoled is the Croatian for ice cream. And it’s available in almost every large village 🙂

9. Late August. Although it’s still very busy, prices are still high and the temperatures can be pretty warm, the busiest season is beginning to wane (end of July/first two to three weeks of August is peak season), but everything is still open and operating on a summer schedule. And the peak of “outside school holidays” traffic in September hasn’t quite started.

10. Variety of eating/drinking/nightlife. If partying is your thing there are plenty of late night bars/clubs and even party boats that take you to an offshore island for the night’s drinking, returning with the sunrise. But if not, (and cycling uphill in the heat with a hangover really isn’t a great idea!) the party areas are usually quite well contained and there are plenty of quieter more relaxing options for eating and drinking along the waterside in the main towns.

11. Fresh fish. Often the fish on the evenings menu would have been swimming in the sea the previous night and landed ashore early morning. And the tuna steaks were particularly good.

Sea bream is a common fish in the restaurants.

12. Historical interest. The old towns of Split, Dubrovnik, Korcula and Hvar where we stayed date back to Roman times. Split’s Diocletian Palace, Dubrovnik and Ston’s walls, Hvar’s Arsenal and Old Fort, Korcula’s tower are some of the many sites you’ll pass by/through. Even if history isn’t your thing they still make for an interesting sight as you wander into town to dine/drink in the evening.

Inside the Diocletian Palace, Split

For a more in depth blog series about our trip see:

Day 0 Arrival in Split (Diocletian Palace)
Day 1 Split (Marjan Hill)
Day 2 Split to Brac (Supetar to Bol)
Day 3 Brac to Hvar (Bol – Jelsa-Hvar Town)
Day 4 Hvar (Pakleni Islands – sea kayaking)
Day 5 Hvar to Korcula (Hvar Town – Vela Luka – Korcula Town)
Day 6 Korcula (Beaches)
Day 7 Korcula to Ston/Dubrovnik (Korcula Town – Peljesac Peninsula – Ston. Transfer to Dubrovnik)
Day 8 Dubrovnik (sightseeing) – yet to be written