Split to Zagreb. 593 kilometers. 8540 meters ascend. 8450 meters descend.
Croatia. A beautiful warm country in the Mediterranean. Cocktails by the sea. Game of Thrones locations. Fresh seafood. What about riding a bike there? In October 2018 I was in Croatia for 16 days, and 11 of those were spent on the bike. I rode my 2016 modified Pine Mountain from Split following the Adriatic Crest Route, all the way to Bater and from there I took the smaller roads to the capital Zagreb.
From Split to waterfalls
Kilometers: 0-105 Ascend: 1986 meters
We start our little adventure not by bike but by boat from Split to Slatine. After a 45 minute ferry to the idyllic little Slatine beachside, a mojito in the seaside bar and a nice rock oven pizza in the restaurant we were ready to start the Adriatic Crest trail.
From Slatine it starts with a nice 3.5 km climb before a descent into Trogir. From there it went up into the hills and to the Wind turbines on some rocky “gravel” roads. The view was pretty awesome, but the downhill track a bit sketchy, with loose rocks.
Then it’s a path of pain and suffering to push past an overgrown path surrounded by thorn bushes and spikes. But it turned into some nice gravel roads past vineyards down to Sibenik, an old coastal town with a nice boardwalk by the sea in the old town and three fortresses. It was a good place to spend the night in a hostel.
15 km from Sibenik you will arrive at Krka National park entrance. Krka has spectacular waterfalls. When climbing from Krka up the hills you will find yourself in country that reminds you of a spaghetti western with some really nice gravel roads passing Krka’s other areas on the road, and it’s a great area for camping.
From cowboy country to Nicola Tesla
Kilometers: 105-247 Ascend: 1506 meters
From cowboy country and the last bits of Krka you go down to a nice valley with a lake, which was a great place for a swim and beer stop. From the valley you climb and push your bike up to the mountain where there are some epic camp sites and views.
After a long uphill, crossing six different valleys you land at Sveti Rok. The 33km from Sveti Rok to Gospic passes a section with landmine warnings. It’s quite flat takes an hour and a half to ride.
This is the last point of resupply for food and water on the route before Batek. Near Gospic can also be found the Nicola Tesla memorial center.
Riding up high, so high
Kilometers: 247-395 Ascend: 3201 meters
This part of the ride has epic views, rideable uphill roads and wild horses. You ride past Velebit National Park and Sjeverni. Velebit National Park has the highest point on the route, around 1600 meters above sea level. On this leg I passed some mountain shelters that were closed as it was October, but they always have a well to resupply water. There’s also a great hike-a-bike section and really nice gravel and paved roads.
The herds of wild horses were amazing to see, but meant being a bit careful – dismounting the bike, walking it past the horses, and speaking in a calm voice all the time. There were 40-50 horses, some younger ones with their mothers, but I was able to pass without causing too much alarm and disorder.
Camping is not allowed in the National Park area, but the mountain huts provided a decent place to pitch a tent for the night.
There are amazing views, forests and even mountain road tunnels. After all the climbing you will be rewarded with a 10km downhill back to seaside hills with arid landscapes until Bater. The Adriatic Crest route goes up from here to the mountains, and after the bistro 1.5km on the route there is a pretty nice camping place.
Back to civilization
Kilometers: 395-593 Bater+Fuzine+Karlovac+Zagreb Climb 1829 m
From this point I left the Adriatic Crest route and followed smaller tarmac roads from village to village. From the night in the mountains near Bater you descend around 9-10 km to Bribir. Bribir has a bakery, a grocery store and a couple of bar-cafes. It is a good place for resupply.
The road from Bribir is quite straight, with some smaller uphills and downhills all the way to Hrejlin passing some smaller settlements. One of these settlements is Tribalj that has a big lake where people were fishing and camping. Hrejlin has a small store, a bar, a bakery and a nice pizza place with big yard.
From Hrejlin to Fuzine is just uphill, and some sections are quite steep. 6 km before Fuzine, there is a big Jesus on the Cross statue on the side of the road. Behind Jesus there is a slightly overgrown old road that has a pretty good place for a tent. I took a rest day in Fuzine in a nice apartment. Fuzine has three lakes, some nice trails, pizza, bar, hotel, a grocery shop and a nice view.
From Fuzine to Karlovac and to Zagreb is quite easy riding. Some uphills, but mostly you are
going downhill or on plain ground. Karlovac is a nice city, with pretty good cyclo lanes and a nice old town with parks and hostels. The road from Karlovac to Zagreb is filled with small villages and on arriving in Zagreb, you will find it to be the total opposite of Karlovac cycling-wise.
Getting back to Split
I ended my riding in Zagreb, where I spent a couple of days exploring the city, by foot. I didn’t have time to ride back to Split to catch my flight, so travelled from Zagreb to Split by bus.
Good to know
In October the temperature varied from 21-29°C in Split to 3-11°C in the mountains. I rode the whole time in shorts and a long sleeve merino shirt (rolling up the sleeves when hot) and in the rain added leg warmers and a rain jacket.
Carry water, a lot of it. One day I drank 7 liters of water and was carrying almost all the time on the Adriatic Crest Route around 5-6 liters of water.
Along the route you can almost always find a hostel or a rental apartment reasonably, if you need a shower or a place to wash your clothes or just relax. Not all villages have restaurants, but they do have bakeries, where you can find some salty and sweet goods that will work well for lunch. Also one of the pizza toppings that you can find in Croatia is sour cream. I recommend you try it out just once.