The good news is that there's a lot of great cycling in Croatia. There are many kilometres of unspoiled countryside and gorgeous national parks for mountain biking. The bad news is that Croatia is webbed with two-lane roads that offer great views but require nerves of steel as cars whiz by. The situation is better now that the coastal highway between Rijeka and Split is open as it draws trucks away from the narrower roads.
By far, the most popular cycling destination is Istria. The kilometres upon kilometres of gently rolling hills and rural roads make cycling a delight. Because cycling is so well organized in Istria, it's the easiest destination to arrange a self-guided trip.
There are about 60 marked mountain bike trails, almost 2600 km worth, but not all of them are plotted on the Istria tourist board maps. So far, you can follow maps of 1500km of marked circular trails, about 70% of which pass through unpaved country roads or forest paths.
Northern Istria has nine circular trails about 400km long. The mountainous terrain make these the most difficult trails but the views are spectacular. Look for ones that pass through the hilltop village of Motovun or the tiny town of Hum.
Central Istria has seven marked bike trails circling Pazin. These are relatively untouristed even in high season.
Southern Istria has the easiest trails. The 300km of marked trails are divided into eight sections with a lot of riding along the coast. There are two bike trails around Porec but the most beautiful trails are around Zlatni rt park outside of Rovinj. There are also three marked trails around Vrsar that pass through the Kontija forest with a sweeping view of the Lim Channel.
For more information on cycling in Istria, see www.istra-bike.com
There are an increasing number of bike rental shops particularly in well-touristed destinations but it's wise to check the local tourist office first to be sure. Coming without your own bike means it may be easier to participate in one of the many cycling tours in Croatia. Not only is your bike provided but experienced guides make sure you see a lot with the minimum hassle.
Do check out the policies for bringing your bicycle on Croatia's ferries and catamarans. And don't forget to check your medical insurance coverage before you go!
Here's a selection of bike shops but you'll find bikes for rent in most coastal resorts. Hotels, guesthouses and travel agencies can usually dig something up.
No matter which outdoor activity you engage in, I highly recommend that you purchase a travel insurance policy. You'll get the best possible deal by going through World Nomads. The policies are flexible and can be purchased or upgraded at any point in your trip. Prices are highly competitive and coverage includes 24-hour emergency assistance, trip cancellation, theft, full medical reimbursement and an option for coverage of a wide range of adventure sports. There are also a number of extras such as travel alerts, language guides and on online travel journal.
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