Pedal your way through the Dinaric Alps - the natural border between the cute coastal towns of the Adriatic and the highland trading cities along the Ottoman caravan routes to Istanbul. Expect challenging rides, off-the-beaten-track gems, and plenty of gorgeous photo ops along the way.

Highlights

  • Swim in the deep-blue waters of the Adriatic
  • Explore Dubrovnik's famously beautiful Old Town
  • Learn about the tumultuous history of Sarajevo
  • Taste Balkan wines and cross the Dinaric Alps
  • Visit the mystical Tvrdos Orthodox Monastery

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic Dubrovnik
Day 2 Konavle Dubrovnik
Day 3 Bosnia and Herzegovina's winemaking region Trebinje
Day 4 Mostar and its sleeping giant Velez Mostar
Day 5 The Caravan Route Umoljani
Day 6 The Olympic Route into Sarajevo Sarajevo
Day 7 Sarajevo Sarajevo
Day 8 Sarajevo Goodbyes  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Welcome to Dubrovnik - one of Europe's most ancient (and most popular) walled cities. Fly in early and spend the day exploring the popular cobblestone old town with its charming stone houses, churches, museums, and hidden seaside bars tucked away on the cliffs just outside the wall. The town is also a filming location for Game of Thrones, so if you're a fan, don't miss the iconic filming locations scattered throughout the city, including the steps where Queen Cersei began her walk of shame.

Day 2: Konavle

Cycling the Konavle Valley along the Adriatic Sea

Start your first full day of cycling in the pretty Konavle Valley, which borders 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. Pedal along quiet, narrow roads as they weave through small villages and alongside the bright blue Adriatic Sea. Stop for a swim along the way and a tasty local lunch before reaching your destination and taking a van back to Dubrovnik for another night within the ancient walls.

Cycle time: 4 hours
Cycle distance: 28 miles (45 km)

Day 3: Discovering Bosnia and Herzegovina's wine country

Foothills of the Dinaric Alps

Wave farewell to bustling Southern Dalmatia as you head into the quiet foothills of the Dinaric Alps in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Start your ride along the Popovo Plains - where ancient villages cascade down the sides of the dry limestone mountains, built that way during times of ancient flooding. Cycle along the old train tracks (repurposed as village roads) until you reach Vjetrenica, one of Herzegovina’s largest underground limestone cave systems. After a tasty picnic lunch, take some time to explore the caves before continuing on.

Next, cycle on to the mystical halls and wine cellars of Tvrdos Monastery. Pause here to visit the Orthodox church and the wine cellar, where you'll find excellent reds. Grab a glass and enjoy some local mezze while you're here. Then mount your bike and continue on to Trebinje, Southern Herzegovina’s unofficial capital.

Cycle time: 4 hours
Cycle distance: 19 miles (40 km)

Day 4: Mostar and Velez

Mostar's famed old bridge

Get ready for some serious climbing. Today, you'll make your way from the old trading town of Nevesinje steadily uphill to the Plateau of Podvelezje at the base of Mount Velez. Velez is named after Veles - the Slavic god of earth, waters, forests, and the underworld - and overlooks Mostar like a sleeping giant. This is the gateway to the Dinaric Alps and the starting point of many old Roman routes deep into the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Summit the plateau by lunchtime and pause for a light traditional meal in a local village before setting out on an exhilarating descent down to Mostar and the famous fully-restored old bridge. With each hairpin turn, take in new, breathtaking vistas of the city and its fairytale stone old town. Then, once you arrive, walk your cycle across the bridge at sundown as the Muslim call to prayer sounds all around you from the towers of the city's many mosques.

Cycle time: 4 hours
Cycle distance: 31 miles (50 km)

Day 5: The Caravan Route

Caravan road through the Prenj, Visocica, and Bjelasnica ranges

Leave your cycle behind (temporarily) and start your morning exploring Mostar's most important sites - like old town with its cute cobblestone alleyways lined with shops full of colorful hanging lamps, beautiful scarves, and shining metal Bosnian coffee sets. Then, once you've had your fill, make your way to Boracko Lake - a glacial lake at the foot of the Bosnian Himalaya. It's here that you'll start the day's cycling.

Pedal along an old caravan road - now paved - over the Prenj, Visocica, and Bjelasnica mountain ranges. The climb is a steady and strenuous one, so be prepared for a tough but satisfying ride. Pause to take in Medieval tombstones and monuments along the way. Finally, roll into the village of Umoljani - a place teeming with history and legends, watermills, and hearty highland fare. You have arrived in the heart of the Dinaric Alps!

Cycle time: 5 - 6 hours
Cycle distance: 31 miles (52 km)

Day 6: The Olympic Route into Sarajevo

Cycling through the Bjelasnica Mountains

Get ready for some high highs and low lows as you cycle around the base of Bjelasnica’s highest peak (which hosted the men's events at the 1984 Winter Olympics), through rocky plains, and then down into the thick pine forests of Igman. Igman, which also hosted several winter olympic events, including the ski jump and cross-country, was the only lifeline into Sarajevo during its 1,000-day wartime blockade in the early 90s. Take some time to reflect as you follow the same route that those fleeing Sarajevans did, cycling into the tunnel that connected the mountains with the city. Spend the rest of the day relaxing, reflecting on the region's history, and, if you're up for it, doing a little exploring.

Cycle time: 4 - 5 hours
Cycle distance: 31 miles (50 km)

Day 7: Discovering Sarajevo

Stop for lunch in Bascarsija

On your last full day in the Balkans, step into the past with an exploration of Sarajevo's lengthy and tumultuous history - from Ottoman rule to Austro-Hungarian conquest and from the collapse of the empire and start of World War I to the heartbreakingly recent Bosnian War. Visit Sarajevo's Medieval old town, Alifakovac Cemetery, and a variety of historic churches, synagogues, and cathedrals. 

Stop for lunch in Bascarsija, the city’s beautiful old bazaar dating from the Ottoman period. After lunch, your time is your own. Popular attractions include the Sarajevo Tunnel and War Museum, the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, and walks (or bus rides) up the hills around the city to take in the sweeping views.

Day 8: Sarajevo goodbyes

Happy cyclists at the end of their journey through the Balkans

Wave farewell to Sarajevo and the Balkans as you make your way to the airport and then home - or extend your trip and explore more of the region! Italy fans will love Croatia's Istria region, known for its truffle mushrooms and hilltop towns. Sea-lovers will find a lot to adore on Croatia's many islands or in the ancient coastal town of Split. And those longing for more mountain getaways will find a real treat in northern Slovenia's charming mountain towns.

Map

Map of Crossing the Dinaric Alps by Bike - 8 Days
Map of Crossing the Dinaric Alps by Bike - 8 Days