Dalmatia – Dubrovnik Region

Dalmatia – Dubrovnik Region

The mild and warm south, a still unknown cycling corner of the country

This is a region of unexpected possibilities for a stay in nature and cycling, particularly for enjoying the beauty of everything around us. The Baćina Lakes and the valley of the Neretva with Metković and the Narona Archaeological Museum in Vid, the vineyard-winery expanses of the Pelješac peninsula with Ston’s walls, saltworks and shellfish-oyster beds and the houses of the famous sea captains of Orebić.

 

From the sea are amazing views of part of UNESCO’s world heritage, the city of Dubrovnik, with its two-kilometre long mediaeval walls and fortresses. Nevertheless, the view of the centre of the region and the city’s historical heart with its masses of red roofs, palaces and houses, defensive towers and church towers, is the most beautiful from the hill of Srđ. The elegant views of the cypress trees are the most impressive decoration of the authentic ambience of fertile Konavle and Orebić. The mediaeval stećci, part of UNESCO’s world heritage, decorate Konavle cemeteries, just like the decoration of the distant cemeteries of the hinterland of the Dubrovnik Littoral.

 

The string of islands is characterised by the lushness of fragrant pines, Aleppo pines, and medicinal and aromatic herbs. The town of Korčula is known for its mediaeval architecture and renaissance beauty, whilst the forested Mljet National Park hides a monastery and two saltwater lakes. They still call it Odysseus’s temporary resident. In the region are three archipelagos – the Nature Park of the Lastovo Islands, the islets of the Pelješac Channel and the exceptional beauty of the Elaphiti Islands.

 

This is definitely a region of many phenomenal, but as yet still unrecognised cycling destinations!

Domagoj Blažević

If you start from Ploče, Baćina has its seven Baćina Lakes of exceptional beauty and slightly brackish waters in which eels, frogs and mullet live, which come from the sea via a channel. They are an ideal cycling destination with a cycling trail around five of the seven lakes 10 km long. Along the trail benches have been placed for resting, and there is also a natural water spring. The lakes are home to a large number of protected plant and animal species, whilst from the tourist activities, besides cycling, there are popular boat rides, photo safaris, as well as swimming and surfing, regardless of the fact that the sea is not so far away.

With the Neretva riverboats it is possible, in the atmosphere of the real Neretva spirit and way of life, through the valley of the Neretva and the town of Metković and over the Modro Oko lake to reach the museum of ancient Narona in the village of Vid. In 1995 and 1996 the sensational remains of a Roman Augusteum temple and 17 life-size and larger marble sculptures were found, and in 2007 the first in situ museum in Croatia was built. The surroundings of the museum and Vid with the settlements of Dragovija and Prud were already known as mountain biking destinations of this region with XC, singletrack and downhill trails.

 

The Pelješac peninsula is most famous for its excellent wines. The centuries of tradition in the cultivation and care of the grapevines, the top selection of terrain, the steep slopes and the day-long sunshine give the wines exceptional sweetness and quality. Of the world-known Plavac Mali sort the wines called Dingač and Postup stand out. The Napoleon Road on Pelješac is one of the rare remaining witnesses from the Napoleon period in the Dubrovnik region, and today it is a marked and very attractive walking and MTB trail from Ston to Ponikve (7 km) with views of the valley of Ponikve and Ston Field. Parts of the Napoleon Road extend all over Pelješac, and the interpreted parts for tourists are Žuljana – Puntikovići and Janjina – Kuna Pelješka. Ston with its impressive mediaeval defensive walls about 5 kilometres long is a point which should not be missed, nor should the saltworks from the 14th century. The connection of the Pelješac peninsula is good by road through the Bay of Mali Ston, as well as from Ploče by ferry to Trpanj and further from Orebić to Dominče on Korčula, plus ferries also sail from Prapratno to the island of Mljet. In Trpanj there is the walking-cycling trail from the Vrila campsite (6 km) to Velika Prapratna along the restored centuries-old olive groves and dry walls, as well as new olive plantations.

 

The island of Korčula has three excellent cycling destinations: in Lumbarda (three cycling routes), Blato (six routes) and Vela Luka (four routes). Also available along the marked routes are maps with descriptions of the routes. All the locations on the island of Korčula are exceptional, starting in the old town of Korčula from the house of Marco Polo. For cyclists, there are many excellent asphalt and macadam roads which lead through the many picturesque island settlements such as Lumbarda, Pupnat, Smokvica, Blato and Vela Luka. The 47 kilometre-length of the island does not present a logistical problem because there are many places to stop for refreshment, a meal or, more importantly, for a dip in the sea.

Ivo Biočina

Even a bike ride down the greenest, in other words, most forested island in Croatia, is a special experience. The largest southern Dalmatian island is covered with thick forests of Aleppo pine, pines and holm oak. It was declared the Mljet National Park in 1960. It is 37 kilometres long, and a ride down the island’s road can be a real adventure because Mljet is quite a hilly island with the highest peak of Velji Grad at 514 m.

Boat connections to the island are good from Prapratno on Pelješac and from Dubrovnik. Apart from the island’s main northwest-southeast road, there are also shorter asphalt and macadam roads very suitable for cycling. The most beautiful and easiest is the walking-cycling trail around the Malo and Veliko (Small and Large) saltwater lakes with the view of the islet of St Mary and the Benedictine monastery from the 12th century. Bikes can be hired at three locations perfect for accessing the lakes. The best one is on the bridge between the Small and Large lakes.

 

Lastovo, the island of crystal stars and crystal-clear sea, is also suitable for exploration by bike in complete peace and quiet. This is when the experience of direct contact with nature is at its best. The island is about 10 km long and 6 km wide with numerous coves and fields amongst gentle island hills. It is ideal for cycling trips in spring and early autumn when the sun doesn’t burn, and there is a pleasant breeze which makes the ride comfortable. The asphalt roads are less busy and suitable for riding, and there are also convenient macadam, trails and little paths which lead to some of the island’s attractions or to some of the 40 or so little mediaeval churches scattered around the island. There are six to ten shorter cycling routes to choose from , and the longest and most difficult is the Lastovo – Hom (417 m) – Lastovo (20 km), to the island’s highest peak with a combination of asphalt and macadam road as far as possible, and then by foot to the top. The other routes are about five to ten kilometres long. Ubli is the ferry port, and the Solitudo Hotel, the only hotel on the island, offers bicycle hire.

 

The beauties of Šipan, which along with Koločep and Lopud make up the group of the Elaphiti Islands, are easily accessible by the interisland ferry line from Dubrovnik. As part of the Via Dinarica – Blue Trail one short itinerary also leads to the island of Šipan. The Blue Line of the Via Dinarica offers the opportunity to get to know the Croatian Adriatic coast famous for its unique combination of mountains and sea. Therefore, it combines the experience of the sea and coastline with the experience of a stay and travel in the mountains. Familiarisation with the coast and the interior of the island of Šipan with its olive groves, vineyards and carob tree plantations is most accessible by bike, as well as by foot. There are two large settlements on the island Šipanska Luka and Suđurađ, linked by a road which leads through the fertile Šipan Field. The Via Dinarica - the Blue Trail also runs down this route, over the island 3.8 km long, with a combination of asphalt and macadam sections. The island is rich in the country summer houses of the aristocratic families and rich citizens of the Dubrovnik Republic, built mostly in the 15th and 16th centuries, one example of the typical architecture of such summer residences is the summer house of Vice Stjepović-Skočibuha in Suđurađ from 1561. It is a house with a tower and walled-garden, built mainly with stone from Korčula. The most beautiful view of the open sea is from Velji Vrh (243 m) which dominates above Šipanska Luka, and on it the military fortress from the period of Austro-Hungarian rule is dominant.

Although the cycling routes of the upper villages of the Dubrovnik Littoral due to the hilly terrain and steep climbs are not used so much for riding, except maybe by electric bikes, they are a very good and sought after alternative to the busy Adriatic highway with regards to the facts that the traffic on them is not common, the nature is extremely interesting, and the views of the Elaphiti are breath-taking. It is easiest to start a ride from the direction of Dubrovnik or to turn in Orašac towards Gromača or in Slano towards Trnova, and from Zaton-Doli one can head for Mravinca and Trnova. Villages such as Čepikuće, Visočani, Smokovljani and Ošlje are authentic, and the cemeteries and areas around the churches are adorned by stećci, mediaeval tombstones, which were placed from the end of the 13th century to the mid-16th century. There are 26 preserved necropolises of stećci in the Dubrovnik Littoral, and the Stećci of the Dubrovnik Littoral themed cycle route, which is good to start in Slano, passes through six sites of which the most valuable is Novakovo greblje – Čepikuće, one of the best preserved and beautiful sites of stećci in the Dubrovnik region.

 

Southeast of Dubrovnik is the Konavle part of the region which has three cycling routes through picturesque and above all harmonious and authentic villages, with the mills on the River Ljuta, the views of the rugged mountain of Sniježnica (1,234 m) and slender, elegant cypress trees which dominate the landscape. Konavle with its spacious, fertile field was always the granary of the Dubrovnik Republic. Even today it is famous for its olive groves, vineyards, citrus fruit orchards and cultivated fields, and mostly for its rural tourism due to the ever-present authenticity and true reflection of the traditional culture of old Dubrovnik. The first of the three cycling routes is circular and 25 km long and leads from Čilipi on Donja Banda with the settlements of Gruda, Ljuta and Pridvoje over Konavle Field. The second route is also circular, 26 km long and leads over the slopes of Gornja Banda, again over the field and settlements of Miljasi and Zvekovica all the way to Cavtat from where it begins. The third is the shortest, a linear route of 9.5 km from Cavtat over Miočići to Čilipi. The route passes alongside the old ‘Ćiro’ narrow-gauge railway which connected Dubrovnik with Čapljina and Konavle with Mostar from 1901 to 1976, when the popular ‘Ćiro’ set off from Dubrovnik for the last time.