This Croatia bike tour was my first experience in fitness travel and I loved it. I got to explore Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast from the inside out, fully immersing myself in the surroundings. I got drenched in the rain. I sweated up the hills in the scorching sun. When I got tired, I stopped for a dip in the aquamarine coves along the coast. I rode on dirt roads through olive groves and vineyards, pausing along the way to feast on grapes and figs. I passed whitewashed limestone villages and stopped for lunch at small, off-the-beaten-path restaurants, some of which seemed like they had not changed since Tito’s time. And after a full day on the road, when I felt blissfully tired and high on the exercise, I got to explore the main tourist attractions in town.
Our small group began the tour in Split, a stylish city that blends modern and ancient elements. I could spend a whole month there, hanging out in the old city and exploring Diocletian’s Palace. From Split, we took the ferry to Brac Island, famous for its stone cutting and carving traditions. Apparently, the stone the White House is made of comes from Brac. Who knew!
On the third day of our Croatia bike tour, we went to Hvar Island. The ferry left us in Stari Grad, an ancient Greek colony dating back to 400 B.C. From there, we rode into the hills. The climb was hard but on the descent into the town of Hvar, we were rewarded with gorgeous views of the neighboring islands. The town of Hvar is supposed to be one of the World’s top ten destinations. And therein lies the problem with Hvar, beautiful as it might be. Too many tourists. Too loud. Too much partying. At night, the whole town feels like one big disco club.
The next day, we took a speedboat from Hvar to Korcula Island where we enjoyed some of the most picturesque rides of the trip. The town of Korcula is spectacular, with narrow cobblestone streets and alleys, stone churches, and a promenade packed with hotels and restaurants along the sea. Naturally, it is quite touristy. But unlike Hvar, there is no throbbing music blasting at night.
Our Croatia bike tour ended in Dubrovnik, the so-called “Pearl of the Adriatic,” where we spent two days exploring the old town. A magical place steeped in history, full of chic boutiques and excellent restaurants. I arrived there with great reservations, knowing that two cruise ships were scheduled to dock at the marina that same weekend, unloading tourists by the thousands. Sure, I was a tourist myself. But I was spending two nights in town while they were coming in for a few hours. Just enough to spoil it for me.
Truth be told, the old town would have felt dead without the hordes of tourists. Because of rising rents, many of the locals have been forced out. Most buildings now host shops, restaurants and hotels.
By the time I made it to Dubrovnik, my legs were sore from biking. But I managed to make it up the steps and walk along the city walls. That was the highlight of Dubrovnik for me. The views out to sea and of the beaches were beautiful but what I loved even more was surveying the town from above. Watching the tourists swarming the narrow streets as the locals went about their lives: families sitting down to lunch in small yards, young boys playing soccer in a tiny schoolyard.
The Croatia bike tour was the perfect vacation for me. It had it all: exercise, beaches, charming medieval towns and cities with ancient Greek and Roman ruins, and plenty of gourmet options along the way.
The only problem: I can never experience it for the first time again! But I’m definitely taking another bike trip next summer. Stay tuned for the new location!