Travel Croatia: A cycling holiday to Hvar Island
Written by travel writer Sue
Often listed as one of the top 10 most beautiful spots in the world, Croatia’s Island of Hvar (pronounced H-VAR) could easily be the definition of paradise. Besides the pristine pebbly beaches, quaint towns and gorgeous vistas, Hvar provides a wide variety of spectacular terrain for those on bicycles.
Cycling holidays in Croatia continue to increase in popularity with guided tour groups becoming a frequent sight, especially on the islands and Istria. With sleeping accommodations provided on a boat, cycling away from the harbor offers visitors on two wheels a break from tourist crowds. Within minutes a cyclist on Hvar Island may feel no tourist has yet found this nirvana.
Let the cycling holiday begin
Our trip to Hvar Island, was a self-guided affair and began with a ferry ride from the mainland city of Split to an island which has been inhabited since the 4th century BC. A guidebook will describe Hvar’s climate as perfect and the landscape lush and green. It takes approximately fifteen minutes on a bike, traveling in blistering sunshine toward the island’s summit, to realize that the author of the guidebook may not have been traveling by bicycle but rather lounging on a Croatian beach while conducting research.
The reality of self-guided cycling
When our ferry docked at the town of Stari Grad (meaning Old Town) on the northern side of Hvar, the reality of our self-guided cycling day became apparent. Fresh off a week-long guided cycling holiday in Slovenia we felt confident we could manage this one day on our own in Croatia. However without a guide to meet our needs of food, water and the most basic essential of all- the bikes, the challenges began. Our research had included that Stari Grad had a bike rental shop near the ferry terminal. We pictured it steps from the terminal, it was a taxi ride away. No harm done.
With bicycles rented and a quick stop at a nearby grocery store for supplies we set out to Hvar town. The road signs directed us to the ‘Bike Route’ which immediately turned and climbed skyward. We had decided not to bring our padded cycling shorts since it would be such an easy day. Suffice it to say that by day’s end, sweating in the blazing Croatian heat, we were keen to stand and take in views.
Along the ‘Bike Route’ there seemed to be an inordinate amount of cemeteries, tombstones and memorials. With very few vehicles and a noticeable absence of cyclists other than ourselves, we joked that perhaps those traveling by bicycle before us were even less prepared perishing along the way due to lack of food and water.
What could this be?
In the photo below you will see many piles of stones. On higher elevations the obvious old and often haphazard arrangements could be seen everywhere. Due to the language barrier and lack of information in guidebooks we remain stumped.
Can you tell us about the rock piles and why they cover the hillsides?
Our tips for cycling on Hvar Island
- Have a bike map with you and be sure of your route. There are several cycling options on Hvar and much easier ones than the one described above. Our trip was from Stari Grad to Hvar Town return (approximately 40kms round trip with a total climb of 1000m) The map we used can be found here.
- Take plenty of water and food with you. The day we cycled on Hvar was very hot. There were very few stops to get water or snacks along the way. Some facilities that were on our route will be closed out of season.
- Arrange your bike rental ahead of time. If you are staying in Split you can rent a bike and take it with you on the ferry. If you are renting in Stari Grad upon arrival by ferry be prepared for a 30 minute walk or a quick taxi ride. Our lack of specific research delayed the start of our adventure and left us cycling primarily in mid day heat.
- If you are not a confident and experienced cyclist plan to do a guided trip. Having a guide and support vehicle takes all the stress of navigation, bike repairs and supplying food and water out of the equation. There are many companies offering guided tours in Croatia. We have used Nichols Expeditions five times in countries throughout Europe and have been very happy with each of our tours. We have just booked with them to do a cycling and hiking trip to Peru. Want to join us?
Sue and her husband Dave live in Canada. Declaring themselves well into the second half of the game of life these adventure and travel enthusiasts love to inspire young and old alike to live big, get off the couch, explore and laugh a lot along the way. You can find their world wide adventures on their blog at Travel Tales of Life as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Be careful they may have you running a marathon or climbing a mountain before you know it!