The Trans Dinarica Cycle Route is named Lonely Planet’s “Best in Travel” for 2024

The Trans Dinarica — the first and only cycle route linking all eight countries of the Western Balkans — has been named as one of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel experiences for 2024. The renowned travel media company, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, will release the 2024 edition of their much-anticipated annual book spotlighting the planet’s most exciting destinations on October 24, 2023.

 

Three cyclists near Prokoško jezero in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Trans Dinarica makes the dream of cycling across this adventure-travel-rich corner of Southeastern Europe a reality for the first time. The route, which is more than 4,000 kilometers, rolls across and connects Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Serbia. Riders will now be able to tackle around 100 stages that prioritize responsible travel, culture, national parks, and UNESCO sites while bringing a sustainable economic engine to communities across the western half of the Balkan Peninsula.

“From the beginning of the Trans Dinarica’s development until today, the idea is to give travelers a way to enjoy the region while moving safely and at their own speed,” says Jan Klavora, one of the route’s designers and a co-director at GoodPlace: a Slovenia-based, sustainability-travel-focused NGO that works with destinations to develop tourism products and strategies. “This region is perfect to discover by bicycle because of its hospitality and richness of heritage. We are proud and honored that Lonely Planet acknowledges this and has also made a priority of responsible travel.”

The route, which averages about 50 kilometers per stage (day), follows quiet asphalt roads, forest trails, and bike paths. The Trans Dinarica — supported by USAID’s Economic Development, Governance and Enterprise Growth (EDGE) Project and GIZ’s Sustainable Rural Development in Albania — was created to make it easy for cyclists of all abilities to discover the region on two wheels. To that end, visitors to the route’s website will receive basic information about the trail for free and then pay a nominal fee for all the GPX tracks and information about accommodations and services across the entire Trans Dinarica.

“We hope travelers take advantage of the Trans Dinarica so they can better enjoy themselves on bicycles,” continues Klavora. “But, more than anything, we hope people will feel the magic that we have felt while traveling in this way across the region.”

Cycling Albania: different, wild, but also a rapidly developing country

Another field exploration is behind us. There were a lot of questions before visiting Albania. For two reasons: although all of us from the team had been to Albania before, it is the least familiar country to all of us. Secondly: even the Albanians themselves don’t know which road is still dirt and barely passable, which is under construction, and which may have already been paved – this is the speed at which a country that was very isolated from the rest of the world until the 1990s is changing.

 

Above Theth in the northern part of Albania.

Above Theth in the northern part of Albania.

 

Today, Albania, Trans Dinarica’s country no. 5, is developing at the speed of light, and if you were in Tirana, the capital with half a million inhabitants, a decade ago, you would hardly recognize it today. Progress can also be seen in the countryside, especially with many new roads and other infrastructure projects, and on the coast, where tourism is booming. But we at Trans Dinarica hold the red thread – the Dinaric Mountains and the less populated mountain regions, which in Albania means that we cycled to many less-visited places. This also meant a bit more research work for us; we even had to swap our support van for an off-road pick-up truck for a few days.

 

Albania is perfect for cycling, and cyclists are perfect for Albania

This intertwining of unspoiled nature, living the old-fashioned life and on the other hand development (roads!) and openness of the country for tourism leads us to the conclusion: Albania is a perfect country for cycling, and cyclists are perfect guests for Albania. Everywhere they welcomed us with open arms, treated us well, and were enthusiastic about the idea of a cross-border cycling route. Another interesting fact: unlike other Balkan countries, there is less meat on the menu, a lot of fresh and pickled vegetables, homemade cheese, eggs, and fish. And language shouldn’t be an obstacle either: young people speak English perfectly, older people… Well, if necessary, you will use pantomime. On the road, we met three ladies on gravel bikes from England, and they confirmed just that: that neither language nor vegetarianism is a problem.

 

Roads? Be prepared for everything

The roads… Hmm, the roads will be very diverse: from perfect, new asphalt through a mountain pass to macadam, on which you’ll be forced to push the bike uphill, while the traffic in cities like Tirana or Shkoder might be a little bit chaotic. The final decision on the route will be made after a complete analysis and in a way that makes connections with Montenegro and North Macedonia logical and simple.

Albania, we are already looking forward to meeting again!

Trans Dinarica – Albania photo gallery