The Central Dinaric Alps have been a natural border between the coastal towns of the Adriatic and highland trading cities and settlements along the Ottoman caravan routes to istanbul. Few have been to the region and even fewer have cycled the old Roman, Ottoman and Austro Hungarian routes connecting the Croatian coast with the Bosnian highlands. This is a challenging guided and fully supported cycling trip on mainly paved and secondary roads. Only the last day do we cycle into Sarajevo on dirt mountain roads that functioned as a lifeline to those stuck and surround in Sarajevo in the last conflict. This trip is for those interested in finding out more about the diverse cultures in the Western Balkans and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Immersing themselves with their bikes into the rich history of the region, while treating themselves to a great workout and lots of authentic food and drink.
* Dubrovnik Old Town
* Swim in the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea
* Walk over the Mostar Old Bridge
* Patch together the tumultuous history of Sarajevo, the European Jerusalem
* Ride over Bjelasnica, the 1984 olympic mountain range
* Explore the new wines for Herzegovina
* Tvrdos Orthodox monastery
* Cross the rugged Dinaric Alps
Itinerary – 8 Days
Day 1: Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic
Individual arrival to Dubrovnik’s Cilipi airport, which is about 13 miles (21 km) away from the Dubrovnik Old Town. After check in the hotel, we set out to explore the old town and the ancient walls surrounding a myriad of cobbled alleyways lined with beautiful stone houses and an occasional church and museum.
Welcome dinner in the Old Town. Overnight stay in Dubrovnik.
Day 2: The Blue and Green Colors of the Konavle Valley
Today’s first cycle tour is in the Konavle valley, located about a 20min drive away in the southernmost region of Croatia. Bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina to the east and Montenegro to the south, Konavle is known for its pine and cypress forests, vineyards, olive groves, and old watermills.
We’ll cycle along small quiet and narrow asphalt roads dotted with many small villages. It’s a perfect start of our trip with great riding along the valley, tasty local fare, and an opportunity for a late afternoon swim in the clear blue waters of the adriatic. Let our Dinaric Alps adventure begin in style. We end the day in Cavtat, with a short transfer back to our hotel in Dubrovnik and dinner in the bustling old town of Dubrovnik.
Moderate ride / 4 hrs cycling / 45 km/28mi / Ascent: 560 m / Descent: 700 m / 100% Asphalt
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Overnight stay in Dubrovnik.
Day 3: The winemaking monks of Tvrdos monastery
From the busy region of southern Dalmatia we head to the quiet foothills of the Dinaric Alps to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our transfer to the Bosnian border will take us about 30 minutes, after which we begin our ride along Popovo fields. This area flooded regularly in the past and as a result most of the old villages are located up on the sides of the dry limestone mountains and ridges. We cycle along old train tracks repurposed as village roads. The sun is high as we settle into our lunch spot at the entrance of Vjetrenica, one of Herzegovina’s largest underground limestone cave systems. After our tasty picnic lunch we explore the first 500m/1600ft of this stunning and cool cave system.
Having cooled off we set out to Tvrdos monastery to warm our hearts and bodies with both spirit and wine. The visit of the Orthodox church is sobering and full of quiet introspection. However our moods are soon changed by the cellars and Tvrdos’ excellent red wines. Having sampled the wine and mezze, traditional savoury finger food, we end the day in the Trebinje, Southern Herzegovina’s unofficial capital.
Overnight stay in Trebinje.
Moderate ride / 4hrs cycling / Ascent: 500 m / Descent: 515 m / 40km/24mi / 100% Asphalt
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Overnight stay in Trebinje.
Day 4: Conquering Mostar and it’s sleeping giant Velez
This is our first cycling day with a serious climb. From the old trading town of Nevesinje we steadily climb up to the plateau of Podvelezje at the base of Velez mountain (1,969m / 6,460ft). Velez is named after Veles the Slavic god of earth, waters, forests and the underworld and overlooks Mostar like a sleeping giant. We are now entering the Dinaric Alps and staging point of many roman roads deep into the dark interior of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We enjoy a light traditional lunch in one of the villages on the plateau, before setting out on an exhilarating descent down to Mostar and the famous old bridge. The views of Mostar are stunning and with each completed hairpin turn the city offers a new perspective of its ancient secrets as a one of the main trading posts in the mediterranean. Taking your bike across the bridge at sundown and under the call of prayers of the many mosques in the city we are gently reminded that this day too, however fabulous and full of impressions, must come to an end.
Moderate ride / 4hrs cycling / Ascent: 655 m / Descent: 1,485 m / 50Km/31m / 100% Asphalt
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Overnight stay in Mostar.
Day 5: The Caravan Route
We conquer and explore Mostar sites in the early morning hours before setting off to Boracko lake, a the Glacier lake situated at the foot of the Bosnian Himalayas. Here we start our ride along the old now paved caravan road over Prenj, Visocica and Bjelasnica mountain ranges. The day is long and hot, with a steady and strenuous climb to the pass over Visocica. We pass medieval tombstones, monuments of Bosnia’s mediaeval history, and a reminder of what once was a Kingdom stretching all the way to the Dalmatian coast.
At the end of the day we have one last short climb before we roll into the village of Umoljani. A place teeming of history and legends, watermills and good hearty highland fare. You have arrived in the heart of the Dinaric Alps.
Challenging ride / 5hrs cycling / Ascent: 1,870 m / Descent: 1,000 m / 52Km/32mi / 90% Asphalt / 10% Gravel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Overnight stay in Umoljani.
Day 6: Ride the 1984 Olympics to Sarajevo; a ride through recent history
Today’s ride is full of highs and lows. We cycle below Bjelasnica’s highest peak which hosted the 1984 winter olympics men’s’ events. The area is now a favourite winter sport destination for locals waiting to be discovered by the rest of the world. From the open rocky plains and peaks of Bjelasnica mountains we head down the thick pine wood forests of Igman. Igman too hosted several winter olympic events, including the ski jump and cross country. Igman however was also the only lifeline into Sarajevo during its 1000 day blockade in the conflict raging through Bosnia and Herzegovina in the beginning of the 90’s. We will take the exact route over Igman into Sarajevo as many Sarajevans did. We will also cycle, time permitting, directly to the tunnel which connected the mountains with Sarajevo proper.
This will be a time of reflection of the days we cycled from the Adriatic into the the heart of the Dinaric Alps. A day for taking stock of all the cultures of the region and why the Western Balkans is a truly wonderful destination in Europe. A day to stand still at the resilience of the region, its people, and this ongoing feat of reconciliation and development.
Moderate ride / 4-5hrs cycling / Ascent: 450 m / Descent: 1,586 m / 50Km/31mi / 75% Asphalt / 25% Gravel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Overnight stay in Sarajevo.
Day 7: Sarajevo Discovery and free time in the afternoon
Bosnia has a lengthy, tumultuous history. One of the most oriental and culturally diverse cities in Europe, Sarajevo spent over 400 years under Turkish governorship until the Austro-Hungarians arrived in the late nineteenth century. Fifty years later, the empire collapsed when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated here, hastening the outbreak of the First World War. In the late twentieth century, Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics (1984), only to crumble once again a few years later in a 4-year siege by Serb forces amidst the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
Our tour of the major historical, cultural and war sites in the city will help you to piece together its complex and fascinating history. Sites we will see include:
* Sarajevo’s ancient old town, and medieval beginnings
* The historic Old Towne Hall (National Library) – 1896
* The Alifakovac Cemetery – 1550
* Kazandziluk Street – and the old coppersmiths at work
* Bascarsija (the Old Towne’s Main Square)
* The old historic Orthodox Church – 1539
* The old historic Synagogue – 1581
* A 19th Century Roman Catholic Cathedral – 1889
* The Svrzina House (a Turkish Style house of a well-known Muslim family, and a wonderful opportunity to have a coffee or tea)
* The guided story of Gazi Husref Bey (the founding of a city)
* The Latin Bridge – the place of King Ferdinand’s assassination – June 28, 1914
2 hour walking tour of the old Ottoman and Austro Hungarian parts of the city
Breakfast, Lunch, Free afternoon, Dinner, Overnight stay in Sarajevo.
Day 8: Sarajevo Departure, transfer to Sarajevo International Airport
Depending on your departure time, you will be transferred to the Sarajevo International Airport.
Breakfast, Airport transfer.
Price stated above does not include Bikes.
Bikes available to be rented (in advance at the time of booking, can be paid upon booking or directly to Trip leader at place), per price €25/day, includes:
Specialized Rockhopper Sport/Comp 2017 Hybrid touring / mountain bikes, 20-speed
Bicycle insurance is available to buy. It costs €10/week for the hybrid touring bikes
The bikes will have flat pedals. If you want to bring your own pedals, please bring your own shoes and also the necessary equipment to change the pedals. The guide can assist you in attaching them to your rental bike.
It is required to wear helmets on this tour. In order to guarantee optimum protection, we request that you bring your own helmet and – for your own safety – wear it on all bike tours. A limited number of helmets are available to rent, at the time of booking, thought it is highly recommended to bring your own helmet. Helmet rental is additional €5 per day. Can be paid upon booking or directly to Trip leader at place.
Surface and Terrain
Terrain and route: 80% on quiet regional and village asphalt roads. Great riding mostly on a mix of narrow vehicle width tarmac and some regional roads. The ride is mostly undulating with several long climbs (up to 1000m) and fast descents with stunning views of the region’s’ karst mountains, and the surrounding town.
Biking experience advisable and a good level of overall fitness is essential
This cycle tour requires a good level of fitness from all participants, which should be acquired from spending time on the bike. The routes will go up to a height of 657- 1,640 feet (200- 500 m) above sea-level, with mileage from 24- 36 miles (39 – 58 km).
The terrain will be hilly and mountainous, but the rides are completed without any time-constraints. There will be some long and steep climbs, during which you can push your bikes or be assisted by our vehicle support. It will be primarily on asphalted roads, which have very little traffic during the season. Only on your last day of riding will we be on mountain gravel roads 75% of the time.
You can either decide to rent a hybrid/mountain bike or bring your own bike for this tour. You will need to decide this in advance of the tour.