A motorcycling dream on the Adriatic – touring in Croatia
Since the end of the Cold War, the opening up of Eastern Europe has meant a slew of new countries are within easy reach of motorcyclists. Relatively untouched until the 90s, countries like Croatia are now very much in the mainstream of biking tourism.
For bikers, there are endless new roads offering breathtaking views in the New Europe. And with the old Eastern Bloc short on motorways, most of it is interesting, twisting tarmac that keep you wanting to get in the saddle each morning.
Croatia is one such country. Ok, so it means riding across such motorcycling bastions as Italy and Germany to get there, but the extra effort is definitely worth it.
The Dalmatian coast on the azure waters of the Adriatic has to be first point of call for any serious motorbike enthusiast. Wind your way south from Pag in the north down to Split and onto the beautiful city of Dubrovnik.
Niko Bulic, director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, believes this part of the country offers "a real atmosphere" for bikers and tourists of all colours. The coast has over 1,000 islands, some of which are well worth an explore if you have the time.
"There's a rich cultural heritage – you can see where the Romans were living there [through to] modern Croats, taking care of everything we've inherited," explains Mr Bulic. "As we were isolated from one another, you can see that each part of Croatia is different from the other. On one island they will have different accents to somebody on another island."
He continues: "It's a rich world of diversity in such a small country – this is what makes Croatia different and interesting. There is also a good balance between the money you're paying and the quality of service you receive."
That's probably enough tourist brochure stuff. So, to the nuts and bolts of motorbike touring in Croatia.
You can take many different interesting route to get there, but all will take you through or very close to the Alps. So unless you're going in the summer, it's worth bearing in mind there could be snow to deal with.
Head through France and northern Italy to Milan and then Venice, from where it's a short ride to Rijeka on Croatia's northern border. Alternatively, cut through Germany to Munich and through Austria and Slovenia. Both options will get you there quickly and mean there's lots of interesting things to see along the way.
Jadranska Magistrala - Rijeka to Zadar.
This 224 km route takes you over breathtaking views of the Adriatic on the heart-pounding route 8 road that snakes its way along the Croatian coast from north to south. Featuring endless hairpins, it's a wonderful route that has lots of smooth, medium-fast corners, according to the Best Biking Roads website.
Juzna Damacija – Split to Dubrovnik
Another coastal journey on route 8, this is a winding, 240 km tour from the ancient Roman town of Split to Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Dubrovnik is cut off from the rest of Croatia, so you you'll pass through Bosnia-Herzegovina to get there. Alternatively, jump on the ferry at Ploce, which goes to
Trapnj, a town on the finger-like peninsula of which Dubrovnik is part.
Islands of Pasman and Ugljan
Two of the largest islands off the coast of mainland Croatia, these can be covered by bike in a day as part of a longer tour of the region. The ferry at Zadar will take you to Preko on Ugljan, the more northern of the two.
According to the AA, use of dipped headlights during the day is compulsory, as is the wearing of crash helmets for both the driver and passenger. Children under 12 cannot travel as a passenger. A fine will be imposed if the passenger – or driver - on a motorcycle is found to be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.