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 at 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.
Overnight in Dubrovnik
Day 2: The Blue and Green Colors of the Konavle Valley (28 miles/45 km)
Today's first cycle tour is in the Konavle valley, located about a 20 minute 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.
Overnight in Dubrovnik
Day 3: The winemaking monks of Tvrdos monastery (24 miles/40 km)
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 village of Majkovi near 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's excellent red wines. Having sampled the wine and mezze, traditional savory finger food, we end the day in the Trebinje, Southern Herzegovina’s unofficial capital.
Overnight in Trebinje
Day 4: Conquering Mostar and its sleeping giant Velez (31 miles/50 km)
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 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.
Overnight in Mostar
Day 5: The Caravan Route (32 miles/52 km)
We conquer and explore Mostar sites in the early morning hours before setting off to Boracko lake, 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 medieval 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 with history and legends, watermills and good hearty highland fare. You have arrived in the heart of the Dinaric Alps.
Overnight in Umoljani
Day 6: Ride the 1984 Olympics to Sarajevo; a ride through recent history (31 miles/50 km)
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 favorite 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 pinewood forests of Igman. Igman also 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 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.
Overnight 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
After our short walk, we'll have dinner in Bascarsija, the city's beautiful old bazaar, dating from the Ottoman period.
Overnight in Sarajevo
Day 8: Sarajevo Departure
Individual trip home or extended stay in the Western Balkans