Cycling tours in Croatia offer a bewildering array of options, including self-guided and guided tours. It’s not surprising there’s so much choice; when you look at a map of Croatia, it’s soon obvious why it’s so perfect for cyclists.

Croatia is home to more than 1,000 islands, as well as medieval towns and UNESCO world heritage sites. Its coastal areas have a cuisine that’s been heavily influenced by Italy and Greece, plus a lovely Mediterranean climate. Cycling in Croatia on a self-guided bike trip is the way to find charming villages, hidden beaches, and dining spots away from the usual tourist paths. Our tip: wear padded shorts and pack your swimming gear!

Exploring Croatia by bike is simply the best way to discover the country and in this article, we pick the brains of Croatia cycling expert, Dalibor Rudan, who founded Fiore Tours in 1992. He has a passion for helping cyclists discover Croatia with authentic travel and cycling experiences. Fiore Tours run guided, semi-guided and self-guided cycling tours in Croatia.

In this article Dalibor focuses on where to go on a self-guided cycling tour in Croatia. He shares tips and insights to help you have an amazing trip. Enjoy!

Part 1: How to plan a self-guided cycling holiday in Croatia

First things first…

1. Why go on a cycling holiday in Croatia?

Beautiful scenery

While inland Croatia is full of natural reserves and beauty, Croatia’s coastline is really the star of the show.

Croatia includes 1,246 islands; perfect for those that love beaches and island-hopping cycling tours! Korcula, Hvar and Mljet islands are some of the best-known destinations.

The terrain is generally small rolling hills, particularly in Istria and on the Dalmatian islands, which makes it perfect for a relaxed cycling holiday (electric bikes are available too!).

History and architecture

Croatia has evolved under the influence of many European cultures. It was occupied by the Romans, Greeks, Illyrians, and Slavics, and all have left traces in Croatia’s development and culture.

This means that on a cycling tour in Croatia you’ll come across medieval town centres with battlement walls and ancient amphitheatres – as well as Cold War leftovers. The country is scattered with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the Euphrasius Basilica in the coastal town of Poreč. Even better known, is Dubrovnik’s Old Town (thanks Game of Thrones!); bordered by mountains and sea and surrounded by incredible city walls, it’s a sight to behold.

Location

Croatia is described as being part of Southeast Europe, but it’s located very centrally in Europe and is very well connected.

It boasts five principal international entry points: the airports of Zagreb, Pula, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. These airports accommodate the bulk of scheduled and chartered air traffic from both Europe and North America. Among them, Split Airport is the busiest (Split is the second largest city of Croatia).

If you’re thinking of a multi-stop holiday in Europe, Croatia is a great choice as it shares borders with many other fantastic countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro – as well as the Adriatic Sea of course! Give yourself plenty of time as there’s lots to explore.

Culture

Croatian people are known for their friendliness and helpfulness. Even better, after Croatian, English is the most commonly used ‘foreign’ language. Most hotels, shops, and tourist-related services have an English speaker available.

Food

It won’t come as a surprise, that Croatia is heaven for seafood lovers. Pasta is also a speciality here and you’ll also find amazing cheese. For example, Pag island is famous for its sheep’s cheese infused with wild sage (it’s called Paški sir). And did we mention Istria’s white truffles?

Istria’s excellent Malvazija wine, and Korčula’s Pošip wine is also very popular with our guests who tour with us.

2. Why go on a self-guided cycling holiday in Croatia?

While we offer guided and self-guided tours, I think self-guided tours offer a great middle ground. They’re a cost-efficient way to get the most out of a cycling holiday for the following reasons:

Inside knowledge

With over a thousand picturesque islands and many places that would be excellent to ride in, the challenge is knowing where to begin.

This is where local experts like us come in handy. They know the ferry schedules, the well-maintained cycling paths that avoid tourist crowds, the vineyards that offer tastings along the way, and the hidden beaches with turquoise waters. This is the kind of intel that makes a trip and helps you really get under the skin of the country.

No need to wait for others

When you’re on holiday, you want to do things at a pace that suits you; not be constantly waiting for others or chasing to keep up. A self-guided holiday gives you this freedom and flexibility.

Want to stop and have a chat with the shepherd you bump into at the beach? Sure, no problem! A self-guided trip gives you time for interaction with locals and exploring the places you’re interested in on your own.

Choose your start date

The schedule is flexible – you can choose your travel dates and cycling days and distances. You don’t need to fit into an organised travel schedule.

Choose your travel companions

You get to pick who you ride with; you don’t have to cross your fingers and hope that you’ll like the other people you’re riding with.

The right level of adventure

Self-guided travel provides safety, security and the right amount of pre planning that you don’t get with DIY travel arrangements.

At the end of your trip you’ll know that you’ve navigated your way through a new country with a good deal of independence. Even if you’re a more experienced cyclist, this brings a great sense of accomplishment.

 

3. What are the best places to cycle in Croatia?

We’ve been running cycling tours in Croatia since 2000. There are many great cycling options to choose from, but here are my pick of the best self-guided cycling tours in Croatia.

This map of Croatia shows you the Istria Peninsula in the north (you can see Pula and Rovinj marked on it) and Dalmatia to the south (with Split and Dubrovnik, as well as some of the islands, marked on it).

Map of croatia

Istria Peninsula

Where is it?

Istria is a triangular area, that is part of Croatia and Slovenia. Its northernmost tip lies in Italy. It is located between the Gulf of Kvarner and the Gulf of Trieste. It has 445km of coastline and an area of 3,160 square kilometres.

This part of Croatia is closest to Italy and this is reflected in the food and also the fact the much of the population is bilingual, speaking both Croatian and Italian.

What’s it like to cycle the Istria Peninsula?

One of the draws of this region is that its quieter than the Dalmatian Coast to the south. It’s also got a rich mix of Roman, Venetian and Austiran historic sites, with seafront ports like romantic Rovinj, hilltop towns like Grožnjan and Roman ampitheatres like the one at Pula.

There are tons of vineyards and the food is also excellent, thanks in part to its proximity with Italy. It’s perfect for leisurely cycling holidays!

What are the highlights of this region?

  • Pine forests, meadows, vineyards and olive groves at the foot of the Alps, dotted with medieval hilltop villages, which many compare with Tuscany. On the coast, you’ll find dream-like beaches and fabulous bays such as the white pebble beaches in Rabac. Istria is also home to Deep rivers, some of which are cut deep into the limestone and are often compared to the fjords of Scandinavia.
  • Grožnjan and Motovun are historic towns, rich in arts and history, with nearby Livade known for truffles. Istria is the place for lovers of truffle-rich pasta dishes!
  • Porec – the UNESCO-protected Euphrasia Basilica in Porec is a sight to be seen.
  • Rovinj – cycle to the idyllic small town of Rovinj on the west coast of Istria; with its narrow streets and tightly crowded houses, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Croatia.
  • The weather – Istria is also know for having more than 2,300 hours of sunshine per year.

Who would it suit?

Food-loving cyclists, looking for demanding bike rides in the inland hills – or families cruising on the Parenzana Railway route.

What are the cycling routes like?

Whether you stick to “Blue Istria“, and its flatter routes along the coast, or head inland to the rolling hills of “Green Istria“, you’ll find routes to suit.

The 120km Parenzana Railway is a popular, gentle route connecting through Livade to Vižinada. This route is particularly appealing since it leads you to the beautiful Roman town of Porec and it’s pretty easygoing all the way!

Small group or self-guided?

The peninsula is ideal for self-guided tours, especially along the straightforward Parenzana Railway. Options range from 5 to 8 days, covering 30km to 60km per day.

Tell us about your tours

  • Road biking – a loop ride around the Istrian peninsula with a choice of daily distances, nice climbs, riding mostly in secondary roads with low traffic: Road cycling through Istria.
  • Gravel biking – Istria is perfect spot for those searching for gravel biking. There are many gravel roads of different difficulty with a blend of secondary asphalted roads can make a an amazing gravel bike holiday: Gravel biking Trieste to Pula.
  • Family trails – Riding on former railway “Parenzana“ is a perfect cycle path for families seeking cycling vacation on traffic free roads: Family cycling holiday Slovenia to Croatia.
  • Luxury e-biking – searching for a luxury cycling holiday with extraordinary small boutique hotels, restaurants with excellent food, visits or boutique wineries and riding in a peaceful environment on e-bike: Luxury e-bike tour in Istria, Croatia.

Dalmatia Coast

Where is it?

Croatia’s Dalmation Coast is the most popular and touristy stretch of coastline in the country, stretching from the coast town of Zadar to the Bay of Kotor. It’s alive with Mediterranean admosphere, nice covers and famous places, such as the must-visit town of Dubrovnik and the city of Split, as well as islands such as the ritzy Hvar and rustic Korcula.

What’s it like to cycle the Dalmatian Coast?

The Dalmatia Coast is the place to come if you want a road cycling holiday and island-hopping is on your agenda. Croatia’s central Dalmatian islands are packed close together, making the views between them a lovely patchwork of rolling hill and sparkling Adriatic waters. Even someone who hates swimming in the sea will find it hard to defy the temptation of this region’s crystal-clear waters (in fact in 2022, it was top of the pristine water charts).

Many of the islands are just 20 or so kilometres across, which makes riding around them quite achievable. On Hvar, you can climb away from the crowds, whilst on Mljet you’re surrounded by national park.

The mainland is home to famous UNESCO sites like Diocletian’s Palace in Split and the old romantic towns of Dubrovnik and Trogir (haven’t heard of Trogir? Well it was named as one of the top 10 island cities by National Geographic…). Between Split and Dubrovnik, the Peljesac Peninsula features the second longest defensive wall in the world; construction began in 1358 and it was originally more than seven kilometres long, surrounding and protecting the city of Ston.

Meanwhile, the beaches aren’t too shabby either. The “Golden Horn” on Brac, Dalmatia has according to Forbes magazine one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

What are the highlights of this region?

  • Dubrovnik – cyclist or not, Dubrovnik is one of those cities you just have to see for yourself. But it also makes a great start or end point for a cycling adventure. From here, you’re in the deep south of Croatia and close to many other Balkans nations, if you want to extend your trip.
  • Hvar Island – Croatia’s fourth-largest island offers the perfect place for a circumnavigation by bike. The island is famous for attracting celebrities, oligarchs, and yachtsmen. It’s also a fantastic destination for cycling. If you want to ride into the centre of the island, bring your climbing legs as the roads climb steeply, passing lavender fields and olive groves. From the top you can admire breathtaking views, including the tiny Pakleni islands. You’ll also find ancient fishing villages like Stari Grad and quaint, typical villages, surrounded by stone houses, lovely cobblestone streets, and heavenly sea views.
  • Korcula Island – Korcula Island is famous for being the birthplace of explorer Marco Polo. It’s stunning, with quiet villages, olive trees, holm oaks and fragrant Mediterranean pines. Korcula old town’s impressive cathedral and mini-Dubrovnik looks and marble-clad alleyways make it popular with cruise-shop day trippers. But you can try and avoid them by heading for the trails.
  • Mljet Island– This attractive, rural island is full of natural beauty and doubles as a national park. Mljet National Park cloaks its western end, and scenic backroads lead inland to two unusual saltwater lakes. One even has a tiny island monastery at the centre, which is now a cafe. Make sure you have a swim, as the water is warmer here than in the open sea, and very pleasant.
  • Peljesac Peninsula – The thin strip of land that is the Peljesac Peninsula makes a great ride on the way to the walled town of Dubrovnik. It nearly touches Korkula Island – in fact you can get a ferry to one end of the Peljesac Peninsula from Korkula (landing in Orebik), or approach it from Ston at the other end (see the information on its walls above and it’s known for its excellent seafood and vineyards too).

What are the cycling routes like?

Many cyclists cycle the Dalmation Coast as a linear (or semi-linear as you might like to ride around a few of the islands) route from Dubrovnik to Split, or vice versa. The terrain for this kind of route isn’t super hard. Expect hills – including some steeper hills with 10-12% gradients – but this is not the Alps, it’s an undulating coastline, with some sea level to summit climbs.

You’ll mostly be on road with with a few gravel tracks on the islands.

Who would it suit?

Cyclists that don’t mind taking on a few hills, who want to see some of Croatia’s most famous destinations and who love to jump in the sea at the end of a day’s riding.

Tell us about your tours

Island hopping cycling tour – Dalmatia with its many beautiful islands and well connected ferries is a great choice for those seeking an island-hopping holiday.

4. What’s the best time of year to visit?

Cycling season begins in March in Croatia and runs through into early November.

We think the best months for cycling in Croatia are late Spring and Autumn, so April, May, June, September and October.

We always suggest that our clients avoid July and August if they can, as there are so many visitors in Croatia and the roads can get really busy.

  • Croatia does not yet have many cycle-specific paths, so cyclists tend to ride on the roads; this can be less enjoyable when there is too much tourist traffic. Given this, it’s a good idea to consider going on a cycling trip out of classic peak season in July and August to avoid heavy traffic on the road and crowds in the towns.
  • It can also be really hot in July and August and, if you decide to ride in Dalmatia, you’re likely to have to queue for ferries.

In spring and autumn, the weather might be a touch less predictable, but you should still enjoy some warm weather. In spring, think about timing your trip to coincide with Croatia’s glorious wildflower season and during April and May you can try wild asparagus dishes, as it’s ready for picking at that time.

A draw of a cycling trip to Croatia in September or October is that sea temperatures are still pretty warm. For those that love wine, it’s also worth bearing in mind that grape harvest happens in September and riding with the aroma of fermenting grapes in the air is very memorable! In Istria, the truffle festival starts in mid-September, although the most important are during October and November.

A final note of caution: keep an eye on the weather forecast. The weather in Croatia is generally good, but occasionally there are strong winds, such as the mistral and the bura. More info on Croatia’s winds, here.

5. What is the food like in Croatia?

Food is a very important part of life in Croatia. This is good news for cyclists visiting Croatia!

However, don’t expect acai berries and cortados. The kind of food you’ll find in Croatia is delicious, authentic and local, with lots of fish and fresh seafood. Southern and coastal areas of Croatia have been influenced mostly by Italy, while central and northern parts have had stronger influences from Austria, Germany and Hungary. We have also adopted many excellent Turkish dishes.

Sampling the local cuisine is a big part of a self-guided cycling trip in Croatia.

 

6. What is the accommodation like for cyclists in Croatia?

Tourism in Croatia is still relatively new and there’s a strong push towards sustainability and slow travel. This means that you shouldn’t expect massive Mallorca-esque sports hotels with mega buffets and 50 different sports to choose from. More common are small, rural hotels and guesthouses which are high on charm but low on cycling-specific facilities.

Many are renowned for their excellent cuisine and, choose wisely, and you’ll be sure of a warm welcome to cyclists, traditional hospitality and an authentic experience.

Boutique 4- and 5-star hotels with swimming pools are available, but they’re less common so can have an impact on itineraries.

7. Anything else to consider for a self-guided cycling holiday in Croatia?

Practical preparations

Before you go, make sure you know how to fix a puncture. On a self-guided trip, tour companies will expect you to be able to manage this yourself.

If you’re bringing your own bike, make sure it’s serviced and consider a pre-departure bike fitting so that you know you’ll be comfortable in the saddle.

Consider your level of fitness compared with the route you’re undertaking. You might also want to do a little training if you’re not used to riding multiple days of biking back-to-back. Otherwise, you might find that your holiday is less fun and more painful than you expected!

Wear proper cycling shorts and pack the right clothes and kit (include sunglasses and suntan lotion!) – if you’re on a self-guided trip there’s no option to sit out a day in the van.

Cultural sensitivities

Many rural areas in Croatia are still not overly used to visiting cycling tourists. Think twice before checking out the local church in your scanty lycra.

Remember that not all the Dalmatian islands have the best waste disposal or recycling. Consider taking litter that can’t be recycled where you are back with you from the island, so you can dispose of it in a better way.

Ferries

Dalmatian islands are well connected with the mainland and between the islands. There are three ferry companies connecting the islands: Jadrolinija, TP Line and Krilo. If you plan an island hopping cycling tour, please check the ferry schedule carefully.

Also bear in mind that if there are strong winds or rough weather, some passenger ferries will not operate and you should expect longer connection times between the islands, using the car ferries. Between some islands you may find private speedboats as well.

Traffic

One of the advantages of a cycling holiday with a local operator is that we take great to make sure we plan holidays on quiet roads with low traffic through small villages. However, in order to make sure you also see some of the more famous towns, it’s sometimes necessary to ride on busier roads as you approach them (for example Poreč, Umag, Rovinj). It’s also a good idea to visit outside of the busiest “general tourism” months, to reduce the amount of riding in traffic you’ll do.

Health

Take out the appropriate travel insurance, making sure it includes cycling that you’re planning on doing. There’s more on cycling travel insurance, here.

Make sure the tour operator you’re with knows about any medical issues you have.

Make sure you take enough water. Cycling Croatia’s hills is thirsty work, whatever the weather. While you’ll ride through towns from time to time, it’s best not to rely on there being other water sources around.

Adjust your bike so it fits you at the start – and if you’re on a self-guided tour, make sure you’re comfortable before you leave as you might not have access to much expert guidance on the way. Bringing your own saddle can be a good idea for extra comfort.

Carry a basic first aid kit and remember to apply suncream!

Highway code and travel information

As ever, it’s a good idea to check current travel information before you book and travel. For UK visitors, the UK government travel information pages for Croatia are here.

You should also read and follow Croatia’s highway code.

Part 2: Cycling in Croatia: self-guided cycling holidays in Croatia with Fiore Tours

8. What tours do you offer in Croatia?

In Croatia we offer lots of different types of cycling tours: guided, semi-guided and self-guided gravel, MTB, road/race, e-bike and family bike tours with a choice of accommodation in classic three star, premium four star and luxury five star hotels.

Our most popular three Croatia bike tours are:

  • Self guided bike tour from Trieste to Pula: with a choice of cycling on gravel or asphalted roads
  • Self guided cycling Istrian wine roads tour – the easiest self guided cycling tour in our Croatia offer, distances are around 30-45 km mostly on flat and easy hills
  • Self guided island hopping tour from Split to Dubrovnik – with accommodation in three, four and five star hotels on islands, using ferries and private boat to moving from island to island

 

9. What is special about what you offer?

I founded Fiore Tours in 1992 and I am proud to say that we were the pioneer of self-guided cycling holidays in Croatia and are now the most experienced operator of adventure, cultural and gourmet travel in Croatia.

Every year we run over 200 self guided cycling tours of Croatia for singles, couples, small groups, family reunions, clubs or friends.

Our size means that we can offer guests a choice of self-guided, semi-guided and fully guided and supported cycling tours. We can also customise every tour if the client wishes. Our in-depth knowledge of the regions means we can offer clients a choice of accommodation categories: classic three star hotels, premium four star hotels or luxury five star hotels.

For our guided trips, we keep our group sizes small. Travelling in small groups between 4 and 18 people gives you lots of freedom – much like you would have if you were traveling with friends.

Customer service is key for us and we always try to give a very fast response time to client requests. Our staff are knowledgeable, friendly and speak English.

We have a fleet of good quality bikes and equipment for rental and can offer 24/7 support during a tour. We also own our fleet of vehicles for support, luggage transfer and airport transfers, which helps ensure we can meet our clients’ demands.

10. What are your tips for choosing between companies offering self-guided cycling holidays in Croatia?

I think it’s helpful to bear these points in mind when choosing a tour operator in Croatia:

  • Do you get a response to your enquiry within 24 hours?
  • Can they customise the trip to your requirements?
  • Do they offer a flexible start date?
  • Is there 24/7 support on the ground?
  • Are there high quality bikes and and equipment for rent?
  • Are the route descriptions and maps excellent quality?
  • Do they offer free use of an app for offline navigation?
  • What are their reviews like?

11. How should someone find out more about you?

The best place to start is our website, www.fiore-tours.com. From here, you can check out our tours or get in touch via our contact page or social media.

 

 

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Dalibor says, “In 1992, my father and I took the plunge and set up Fiore Tours. We started by arranging accommodation for clients in hotels, apartments, and private accommodations in Croatia. Over the years, we introduced an array of adventure holidays, with mountain biking, road cycling and family-oriented trips now being a very large part of what we are about. At Fiore Tours, we pride ourselves on providing exceptional and unforgettable experiences for our clients, ensuring that their holidays are filled with fun and exploration.”

Last Reviewed: 29 February 2024

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