When you think of the top European destinations for road cycling, what comes to mind? Is it usual? France, Spain, Italy… The big old cycling nations many people keep seeing through the screens during the larger part of the racing season.
But if you are dreaming of empty roads, far away from all the masses of fellow cyclists and are up for experiencing an authentic culture just a tad away from your comfort zone, you should put the Balkans right on top of your bucket list.
Let us tell you why the Balkans are an undiscovered destination for road cycling, which most of us haven’t experienced just yet:
1. Catching fresh sea breeze off the Dalmatian Coast
Even the most pain-savvy cyclists enjoy a good ride around a scenic coastline! Meander along azure inlets, punctuated by ancient seaside towns and white sand beaches. Travel back in time to ancient Rome as you roll through the streets of Split, or take your bike on a ferry a few of the islands off the Dalmatian coast; there are thousands to choose from. And if you become tired of the comfortable pace and sea breeze, you’re never too far away from challenging climbs and perspective-changing views!
2. Travelling back in time between the limestone walls of Dubrovnik
No trip to the Balkans would be complete without a stop in bustling Dubrovnik. Stepping through the walls of the city swaying along the coastline, the fairy-tale historic centre will leave you charmed and in awe. Dubrovnik is also a UNESCO World Heritage City, with an impressive collection of Roman ruins, Middle Age coastal forts, Baroque buildings, and shining limestone streets. If you are a big history geek or like to drift away from the rush and technology overload of today’s world, Dubrovnik will become your new favourite refuge.
3. Climbing the ladder of Kotor
The Kotor serpentine road, also known as the “Ladder of Kotor,” is an incredibly steep road which begins at the bay of Kotor and takes a dizzying, zig-zagging track up to the base of Mount Lovcen. With 30 hairpin curves and some of the best views on this side of the Adriatic, the Ladder of Kotor is one of those once in a lifetime rides that no cyclist will ever forget.
4. Climbers’ Cloud-Nine
If you can’t live without the feeling of an increased heart rate, sweat drops drizzling down your face, or the sense of achievement you only get on the top of a hard climb or a mountain pass, you will find your cloud nine in the ancient heart of the Balkans. Steep grades and endless ascents are rewarded with crowdless roads and vista after vista.
5. Simple, delicious full of fresh and rich flavours: the Balkan cuisine
If you don’t think about food first thing after a full day of climbing, you’d be lying to yourself. Mediterranean, Eastern European, and even Ottomon cuisines come together on the tables in the Balkans. Staples of the Balkan cuisine include homemade sausages and cured meats, freshly baked bread and delicately stuffed pastries, crispy vegetables and bean salads, and baked specialities. And let’s not forget the local wine, served with platters of cheeses and sliced fruits! An astonishing variety of dishes and flavors will satisfy your palate and keep you filled with nutritionally rich meals for the days to come.
6. Making new friends for life
Well, maybe not for life, but the people of the Balkans are known for their hospitality and hearty friendliness. But you’d only ever experience portions of it if you spent your trip inside a tourist coach or a minibus. While perched on your saddle you can chat with a farmer as he rides his horse-drawn carriage into town. Savor the freshest, sun-ripened fruit at a local market. Take time to experience the centuries-old coffee culture at your rest stop. Feel the pulse of small-town life as you pedal through at your own pace – and likely get invited to someone’s house for lunch with the family, where you’ll be treated as an honored guest!
7. Never a dull rainy day
The Balkans are surprisingly sunny and balmy in the summertime and during autumn. Cloudless skies give clear views of dramatic coastal scenery. Countrysides are steeped in yellow fields of sunflowers and blossoming fruit trees. Mountainsides provide a burst of refreshment with cool breezes and icy streams. Nighttime is comfortably cool, a must in a region with almost no air conditioning. There’s no better climate to ride in!
If our seven reasons had left you googling for the best plane tickets to Dubrovnik, you should leave the rest of the planning to us and our friends from Spice Roads. This October you can sign up for our Exclusive Departure – the Balkan Breakaway and enjoy your ride through the Balkans with an experienced guide, only few other riders in your group, without a worry in the world. Get all the information about your next trip here.
And if you are looking for a peace of mind when travelling with or without your bike, don’t forget to take out reliable travel insurance for your next adventure. You can get covered with us, starting from £16.85 for 7 days European travel.