How many paved roads and how many macadams can I expect on the Trans Dinarica cycling route?

What is the road-gravel ratio on Trans Dinarica? Does it run only on paved roads? How much macadam can I expect? This information also indirectly answers the question of what bike should you use to embark on (in our opinion) one of the most beautiful cycling routes in Europe. Let’s look to the data we have so far.

 

Cyclists on the Trans Dinarica route in Albania.

 

When planning and researching the Trans Dinarica bike trail, we were guided by two main ideas: to ride away from established, busy routes and the crowded tourist spots, and at the same time to make the route accessible to as many cyclists as possible. This perfect ratio is difficult to catch on every stage: sometimes you will not meet anyone for the whole day except for a surprised shepherd, and sometimes you will have to inhale some smelly exhaust from buses and trucks, which in the Balkans do not necessarily meet high ecological standards (it’s getting better… slowly). However, at this moment we can already offer you a fairly accurate answer regarding the surface under your wheels.

 

Expect about 75% road and 25% gravel

Roughly speaking, we can say that about three-quarters of the entire cycling route is asphalted, but of course the ratio varies from stage to stage. So far, we have also recorded a stage with as much as 99% macadam (that’s in Croatian part of Trans Dinarica). Let’s add a subjective opinion that you have the feeling that there is more gravel when cycling – which is logical, since you ride slower on macadam.

When we talk about unpaved surfaces, this mostly means well-maintained, hard macadam roads, which can also be passable by a normal car. There are also a few stages that contain sections with poorer macadam with larger stones. These will be marked in the navigation packages.

 

Cyclists on the Trans Dinarica route in Albania. Gravel road.

 

Detailed info on the final map and in GPS navigation packages

In the Trans Dinarica map and GPS navigation packages, which will be available from the month of July 2024, you will get all the data with detailed ratios for each stage of the route. However, we do not expect major deviations up or down – so you can already plan to buy or prepare a bike for your next unforgettable cycling adventure.

 

Gallery with some photos of different roads

Guided cycling tours on the Trans Dinarica will be organized by local tourist agencies

The Trans Dinarica will not be only for brave people who are ready to face the road alone. This time briefly about how the organization of GUIDED Trans Dinarica bike tours will take place in the near future.

 

Cyclists on Trans Dinarica on Trebević, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

In the previous article on Trans Dinarica GPS navigation packages, we already hinted that the Trans Dinarica cycling route could also be explored in an organized way in the future, i.e. with the help of local tourist agencies. We very much understand this repeatedly expressed wish – after all, not all of you can travel to the Balkans with your bicycle, and have time and will to research the possibilities of accommodation, food, luggage transport …

In addition, sometimes it is nice to travel in the company of a local who presents his country with love and rich knowledge about history, geography, and cuisine. This is precisely why we want guided Trans Dinarica bike tours (or supported bike tours) to be organized at a certain level. We don’t want the experience of traveling through some really beautiful country to be ruined by someone who only sees tourists as walking (riding in that case) cash machines.

Travel agencies that want to be presented on our website, will have to sign the ‘green pledge’ and commit to the sustainable operation and quality of their tours. After certification, they will then get access to the route plan, which will enable them to create a product – a cycling experience in their country.

 

Locals will prepare the content of the Trans Dinarica guided bike tours

How exactly will they outline their product, how many days or stages will it consist of, whether it will offer bike/e-bike rental (these are the most common questions we receive in our email), a support van, one or two tourist guides; where their guest will eat, and which tourist attractions will they see on the way … This will be left to the locals, who know their roads better than we do. But with the feedback from the locals, we will ensure that the basic route receives corrections and improvements, which means a better experience even for those who will embark on the journey in a self-guided way.

 

A room in a simple wooden house along the Trans Dinarica.

 

Local travel agencies, please get in touch with us

Representatives of travel agencies who would like to be part of this story can contact us via e-mail trail@goodplace.si. In the meantime, all of you who are waiting for their offer will have to wait a little.

Trans Dinarica GPS navigation packages: what will they contain and how will they be available

For those of you ready to jump on the bike, let us briefly explain the form the Trans Dinarica GPS navigation packages — with GPS or GPX tracks and Points of Interest, or POIs — will take. We want to be clear about the tools available when cycling through the eight countries of the Western Balkans.

 

Cyclists on gravel bikes checking the navigational data for the Trans Dinarica cycle route.

 

1. The Trans Dinarica route will exist in digital format only.

Trans Dinarica cycling route will only be available in digital format. This Balkan cycling route will not be marked on-site. Can you imagine how many signs would be needed to physically mark approximately 5,000 kilometers of trails? So, don’t expect signs at crossroads.

 

2. The general Trans Dinarica map and data.

The general map of the entire Trans Dinarica route across all countries will be available free of charge. Each stage will be presented with an official pdf map available for free download, showing route track, vertical profile, and basic technical info about the length and elevation. This way, you will be able to see where the route leads and use it to navigate on a bicycle yourself – with some ingenuity and more clicking, of course. But, to make the life of an adventurer easier … (see point 3)

 

3. Extensive Trans Dinarica GPS navigation packages.

Navigation packages for each of the individual countries will be available for a small fee; for Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Serbia. The price of the package is expected to be 2 EUR for one stage, which should bring about 20 EUR for one country. There are discounts planned for everyone who chooses to buy packages for more than one country and an even bigger discount for the bravest – for those who choose to buy the navigation package for the entire Trans Dinarica.

These fees are for the route’s sustainability. The fees will be used to offset the cost of keeping the navigation packages accurate and so that the trail is updated with local businesses that offer accommodations, food, and services. In short, we are committed to making a positive impact on communities across the region. You can find some idea about why we believe the cycle route has a positive effect on the local community in this story: Why do I believe in Trans Dinarica?

 

4. For the navigation, you’ll be using the Ride with GPS mobile app (or others).

After a thorough research of the possibilities, we decided that the navigational package will be available on the Ride with GPS platform, the excellent performance of which we have already tested in practice. A mobile app allows active turn-by-turn navigation without an internet connection after preloading the entire map. The process is fast, error-free, with plenty of display options and help along the way. For those in favor of special GPS navigational devices like Garmin, Wahoo, Hammerhead, etc., the navigational package, once purchased, will offer the possibility of downloading GPS data for active navigation with those devices, too. The Ride with GPS app enables the export of tracks in various formats (gpx, tcx, fit, …). We’re sure you’ll enjoy it.

 

Cases of using a mobile app Ride with GPS for navigation on Trans Dinarica.

 

What will the country-specific navigation package contain?

  • GPS track for the whole country.
  • Surface data (paved, unpaved).
  • Information on the height difference (altitude/climbs).
  • Useful POIs (warnings about important route characteristics, accommodations, inns, shops, bicycle workshops, natural and cultural heritage, …).
  • Descriptions of individual stages (interesting sites along the way, difficulty of cycling, specifics regarding accommodation …).
  • Information about the so-called hubs that you can use for easier logistics (connecting routes to major cities with airports, bus, and rail connections).

In short, the navigation package will be informative enough that you should have no problems planning a cycling trip and navigating through an unknown country. This still means that you will be cycling in the Balkans in a ‘self-guided’ way, i.e. on your own. Please do not count on someone from our team to help you look for a place to stay in the middle of the Bosnian mountains at 9 pm.

 

Cyclists on a wooden bridge in Albania, riding the Trans Dinarica cycle route.

 

What you are most interested in: WHEN?

Both the general Trans Dinarica map and the detailed GPS navigation packages will be available in July 2024.

 

What about guided Trans Dinarica cycling tours?

Just a bit of information for those, who are interested in guided/supported cycling tours along the Trans Dinarica: we are already in contact with local tourist agencies that will organize tours with full support (local guide, organized accommodation, luggage transport). This way of experiencing Trans Dinarica will likely be available already in 2024.

 

For now, we invite you to sign up for our e-newsletter, and we will inform you when the Trans Dinarica GPS navigation packages are ready.

Cycling the Trans Dinarica with an e-bike? Yes, it’s doable (using common sense)

Cycling the Trans Dinarica bike trail with an e-bike is a thrilling adventure through the diverse landscapes of the Balkans. Contrary to perceptions of a rugged wilderness, our scouting expeditions have revealed ample modern amenities, ensuring the feasibility of e-biking across this scenic trail. While the region may not have the polished reputation of Switzerland, our scouting expeditions have shown that every village is equipped with electricity, ensuring a smooth experience for e-bikers. This revelation was particularly reassuring as we easily charged our computers and cameras, essential tools for documenting our journey, despite not using e-bikes ourselves.

 

A screen of an e-bike, showing battery status and range in kilometres.

 

We often mention how wild – in the good sense of the word – the Balkans countries are. Which, when compared to, let’s say, Western Europe, is very true. But on the other hand, you must understand that the journey through the Balkans is not a journey into prehistoric times. So far, on our scouting expeditions, we have only slept once in a small hotel where the main source of electricity was a diesel generator.

 

220 volt sockets are always available. If not at the tent, maybe in a nearby bar

We had no experience with electric bikes (we use gravel bikes for scouting), but we charged four laptops and four smartphones, two GPS devices, a video camera, a photo camera, a drone, an action camera, a smart watch and some extra portable batteries every single night. Therefore, we can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that an electric bicycle could also be charged on your cycling adventure along the Balkans. Two-hole 230-volt sockets are used in the countries along the way, the same as in most of the rest of Europe.

Considering the capabilities of modern e-bikes, which can easily cover two 50 kms stages, we can say: yes, you can also cycle the Trans Dinarica with an e-bike. Of course, each e-bike owner must keep in mind what his legs and battery pack can do. When navigation packages are available with information on length, elevation, and the road/gravel ratio, you will estimate how long an electric cable you will need on the way (or which e-bike mode you will use, ECO, TOURING or TURBO). Ah, you have a spare battery? Then there should be no problem at all.

 

At least two ‘e-cyclists’ have already completed one of the most demanding stages

 

Two cyclists on gravel bikes checking the Trans Dinarica Cycle Route along the Toyota Hilux driver in Albania.

And one more anecdote from the field: on the most remote part of the Trans Dinarica route so far, in the valley of the Lumi i Thethit river, Albania, we helped ourselves along the way with an off-road Toyota Hilux, as our van could not handle this part of the journey. On the way we met two young cyclists on e-bikes, seemingly rather poorly equipped; you could see from far that these were not world bike packers. Later, we met again and found out that they had rented e-bikes in Shkodra and had done four of ‘our’ stages in two days. On this stretch, they were moving faster then we did in Toyota! Youth is madness. Thumb up!

 

Here, two proofs that electricity in the Balkans DOES exist 🙂

 

The Trans Dinarica cycling route: It takes more than a village

Work, desire, and passion are needed to create a cycling route across the Western Balkans.

 

Trans Dinarica Cycle Route Team on scouting trip in Albania.

 

It is easy to say 2024 is Trans Dinarica’s year. The first cycling route connecting the entire Western Balkans Region is due to be completed, with a trail map and POI info, in July 2024. But as we prepare to get out on the road and finish up the fieldwork in the coming months — finalizing the bike trail linking Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Serbia — it’s important to look back on the progress made, the unseen work performed, and the lessons learned that brought us to this point. Everyone remembers a ribbon-cutting or the launch of a route when it opens. Few remember the late hours, the creative tension, the challenges, the solutions, the lows, and the many highs that happened to seemingly make a route “an immediate success.”

 

From idea to the full navigational pack

The work on any bike trail starts, romantically, with an idea and hope. Practically, a route can only be completed after enough encouragement and funding come together so that the creation of a product as vast and far reaching as the Trans Dinarica bike trail, traversing eight countries, can begin to take form. For that, our crew of development specialists got lucky.

The initial and main support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its “Economic Development, Governance, and Enterprise Growth in Europe and Eurasia,” or EDGE, project. From the beginning EDGE saw the potential of a cycling route that focuses on communities and promotes sustainability across the region. Last fall, the Albanian office of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) provided assistance and investment for the stages crossing Albania. Their knowledge of cycling and how it can act as a catalyst in their country was key. Finally, RECONOMY, a regional program of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), implemented by Helvetas, saw the value of the route and has provided valuable support.

 

What has this encouragement and funding meant to the success of the Trans Dinarica trail? 

First, it meant we could start virtually planning the route. Then it meant we could take the time needed to communicate with experts in each of the countries to make sure our version of the Trans Dinarica was moving in a logical direction according to the judgment of those who know best: local cyclists. After we created a proper plan — and before we set out on the trail to guarantee every kilometer of its course — the support from organizations like those above meant we could afford to host educational workshops focused on residents within the Western Balkans and all along the itinerary. 

These workshops — held virtually — are among the most important work we do. The sessions provide information about the route and help inspire local operators, business owners, government officials, journalists, storytellers, and tourism professionals to make use of this itinerary. The workshops also act as a networking thread between thousands of villages, parks, nature reserves, cafes, hotels, restaurants, tour guides, bike shops, and enterprises we can’t even imagine yet. (In total, there will be more than two dozen workshops by the fall of 2024.)

 

Cyclists on gravel bikes checking the navigational data for the Trans Dinarica cycle route.

 

Checking the roads on field

After creating a virtual plan and then communicating with locals along the route, our team geared up to head into the fieldwork to check every kilometer of the trail. We searched the proposed path to make sure the ascents and descents were doable for intermediate cyclists. We made sure there were places to sleep and eat on every stage. And, we found the most logical course that included the best possible points of interest so travelers could truly experience the heritage of the Western Balkans. We ensured that the Trans Dinarica cycling route was not just a bike path, but a journey through the heart of the Balkans, offering an immersive experience in the region’s rich heritage.

At every point along the way, our crew did what we could to promote the Trans Dinarica … without making the endeavor seem too desperate. We believed — and believe — in the route and wanted others to as well. We knew it was a good “story” and trusted that the right journalists, editors, and publications would find their way to us. What we couldn’t have known was that several of them would list the bike trail as one of 2024’s best experiences.

 

Attracting media’s attention

First, Lonely Planet put the Trans Dinarica cycling trail on its Best in Travel list. Then, Time Out, the Daily Mail, and Outside magazine proclaimed the new bicycle trail one of the year’s most important destinations and adventures. Finally, CNN, one the world’s largest news organizations, named the route to its “Where to go in 2024: The best places to visit” list. According to the famous media outlet: “Riders can enjoy Albania’s and Croatia’s spectacular coastlines, Kosovo’s national parks, Montenegro’s rugged mountains and lush woodland and sparkling rivers throughout Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia.”

Which leads us to now, the beginning of 2024: the year of Trans Dinarica. In the spring, our crew will head back into the field to finish the route. As we do so, we will share our progress and make sure adventurers around the world know how special this region truly is. Our most sincere hope is that the route will become a catalyst for sustainable travel and community-based tourism through the Western Balkans.

 

Keep an eye on this space and the Trans Dinarica website for updates, merchandise, and navigation information. Send us your thoughts and questions. We would love to stay in touch.

Cycling on Trans Dinarica: What about stray and shepherd dogs and wild animals?

This is another question that fills our e-mail boxes: Which animals might we meet while cycling in the Balkans and can they be dangerous? Put simply, there are a lot of wild animals on the Balkan Peninsula, including brown bears, wolves, foxes, deer, and wild boars. The Trans Dinarica runs most of its route through mountainous and less populated areas with exceptional biodiversity.

Two cyclists watch a herd of goats crossing the road in Albania's section of Trans Dinarica cycle route.

It is also true that many shepherds in these lands help protect their animals in an old-fashioned but effective way – with dogs. ‘Tornjaks’, ‘sharplanins’, and ‘Karst shepherds’ are wonderful, big, and brave animals, but in principle, they are not dangerous to humans. However, they are carrying out their mission – guarding their ‘family’ (and the shepherd) – so caution and common sense apply. They might not understand you well if you ride your bike at full speed among the sheep …

Bears, wolves? We haven’t met any … yet

What can we say from experience? On our research journey, we never once met a bear or a wolf, at most a roe deer (in Serbia), a rabbit (in Albania) and a deer (in Slovenia). But that doesn’t mean bears and wolves haven’t met (seen or at least smelled) us. Wolves are considered not to be dangerous to humans, but bears are dangerous if surprised or frightened, especially a female bear with cubs. If you meet a bear, do not run, or climb a tree (bears are better at running and climbing), but leave his territory as calmly as possible. In the case of camping in the wilderness, do not leave leftover food around the tent, the bear will smell it kilometers away.

You are much more likely to meet a shepherd with his sheepdogs (off-leash of course), this happened to us several times while exploring the Trans Dinarica, especially in Albania. Greet the shepherd nicely by raising your hands from a distance, get off your bike, and somehow agree if you can continue your journey in the direction (which may cross his flock). Do not try to pet the dogs, because these are not some spoiled city poodles, but beasts capable of warding off bears and wolves. In principle, these are calm, unobtrusive dogs.

A shepherd dog lies in the middle of the road in Albania on the Trans Dinarica cycling route.

Feeding a stray dog can have consequences

Yes, it is also very likely that you will also meet a stray dog, especially in cities, but sometimes also somewhere in the middle of nowhere. From what we’ve seen, they’ll (terrified) move away on their own, or maybe at the most, they’ll come begging for their bite while you’re dining on your burek. But you can expect that if you give them food, they will follow you for kilometers (yes, it happened to us). In this case, expect a heartbreaking goodbye sooner or later.

So: enjoy cycling in the Balkans without fear and with common sense. You are far more likely to bring home a scratch from your own clumsiness than from an animal. And yes, first aid should be in the bag in any case. Good luck!

The furriest gallery of Trans Dinarica:

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

Our next Trans Dinarica expedition: Albania!

These days, our team is preparing for this year’s first autumn Trans Dinarica research expedition. After exploring Serbia and part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we now await the beautiful and somewhat lesser-known country where the route will reach its southernmost point: Albania.

A twisty, empty road in Albania.

The fun will start in Theth National Park on the border with Montenegro. We continue south towards the Adriatic Sea and Tomorri Mountain National Park. Then we will turn our bikes east towards the Prespan National Park between Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespan. The route then crosses the border to North Macedonia … but we’ll have to save that country for next time.

All of us involved in this project have been to Albania several times, but we still have exciting surprises waiting for us, so we will also have a local cyclist and an excellent expert on the terrain with us. For those interested, please follow the expedition on our social channels: Instagram and Facebook. Stay tuned and thanks for being a part of the journey.

Tips for cycling the Trans Dinarica: language, currency, alcohol, wild camping …

Traveling through the Balkans, especially off-the-beaten-path areas like the Trans Dinarica cycling route, offers a wild and unparalleled bike tour experience.

While these Balkan countries might seem daunting for solo travelers, the locals, in our experience, are incredibly welcoming and always ready to assist. Even if they don’t speak your language.

To give you a glimpse of what awaits, we’ve prepared some essential tips for those eager to ride this beautiful journey.

 

A cyclist meeting a local shepherd on the Trans Dinarica cycle route.

 

1. Languages

In most of the Trans Dinarica countries, the language comes from Slavic roots (the exceptions are Albania and Kosovo). Knowing Croatian allows you to communicate in Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia. However, it is important to note that Macedonian is slightly different from the other ex-Yugoslavian languages.

 

Some useful words:

Hvala = Thank you
Dobar dan = Hello / Good day
Doviđenja = Goodbye
Molim = Please
Oprostite = Sorry / Excuse me
Voda = Water
Pivo = Beer
Vino = Wine
Hrana = Food

 

The good thing about traveling the Western Balkans is that almost all young people speak English, especially in the cities. In more remote villages, gestures might be your best friend, but modern tools like Google Translate can bridge any communication gaps.

 

2. Currencies

Money is quite varied in the area. Slovenia and Croatia use euros because they are in the European Union (EU). Montenegro and Kosovo are not members of EU, but you can still use euros there. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, you will need to provide convertible marks (many times it is also possible to pay with euros (1 EUR is 1.95 KM), in Serbia Serbian dinars, in Macedonia Macedonian denar, and in Albania Albanian lek.

 

Don’t count on being able to pay with credit cards everywhere (especially not in bars, restaurants, small hotels/accommodations). When withdrawing cash, stick to ATMs of verified banks and avoid ‘tourist ATMs’ like Euronet (bad exchange rates, high fees, high pre-set withdrawal amounts.)

 

In general, it is recommended that you choose to charge in local currency at ATMs, which means that the conversion will be done by the bank that issued your card.

 

3. Meeting farmers, shepherds

If you come across a shepherd with a herd of sheep or cows, stop and if necessary, get off your bike and, at least with a facial expression, ask if you can continue. Bicycles are not as big as cars, and not as loud as motorcycles, but still: let the locals know that you respect their animals, their work, and their way of life.

 

In the end, this kindness may lead you to an interesting conversation, coffee, rakija, or maybe even an unplanned overnight stay. If shepherd dogs are guarding the herd, do not try to pet them – these are not pets, but guardians (also from wolves and bears).

 

This rule applies when traveling in any part of the world, but such interactions will be slightly more common in the Western Balkans.

 

The cyclist got off his bike to wait for the flock of sheep to cross the road.

 

4. Bicycle services, parts

Except in larger cities (Sarajevo, Podgorica, Split, …) do not expect specialized shops for bicycles and sports equipment. That’s why it’s important to always have the essentials – basic tools, air pump, set for patching tires, spare tubes, and at least one tire – with you on your bike.

People in the Western Balkans are masters of improvisation, but your gravel bike probably won’t fit a tractor tube.

 

5. Theft

The advice to take care of your belongings is the same as anywhere else in the world. The good thing about bicycles is that you can always put them in a garage, stairwell or woodshed overnight. Lock the bikes and take the bags with you to the room.

You know the saying: Opportunity makes a thief.

 

6. Alcohol

In some Muslim-majority regions, you won’t get alcohol in restaurants. Don’t be surprised if you must drink yogurt or Coca-Cola with your burek (by the way, the ‘Yugoslav Coca-Cola’ is called Cockta – it’s caffeine-free but tastes great).

 

 

7. Wild camping

The Trans Dinarica cycling route spans diverse territories, each with its own camping regulations, so we won’t speculate on what is right and what is not.

But we will note two things:

 

#1

The prices for overnight stays/camps are moderate, sometimes even ridiculously cheap on most of the Trans Dinarica.

 

#2

If you are already thinking of spreading the sleeping bag somewhere in the bush, first try to find the owner and ask him. Maybe he will allow you (or maybe he won’t), maybe he will even invite you to his house to stay warm.

 

Local accomodation on the Trans Dinarica.

 

8. Garbage

Certainly, the blackest stain along the Trans Dinarica is litter. Some people simply have not yet accepted that this is not right and that it is ugly and inappropriate to Mother Nature.

This should not surprise a traveler, and even less should it be the reason that we litter ourselves! If we see you throw away a piece of chocolate paper into nature, we’ll puncture your tires with our own hands.

 

For now, that wraps up our tips for navigating the Trans Dinarica bike tour. We will be happy if you contact us with additional questions so that we can complete this article.

What time of the year should I cycle the Trans Dinarica? A few words about the weather in the Balkans.

Dear cyclists, we are glad that you are showing such interest in the new long-distance cycling route. The questions keep coming and one of the frequent topics is “Which month is the best to cycle the Trans Dinarica?” The answer will be a bit unclear, the way the weather is, but we’ll try to at least roughly indicate when you should take time for your next cycling adventure.

If you want a short answer to ‘When to cycle the Trans Dinarica?’ (and at the same time cover the whole route), the answer would be: from May to September. But since the route stretches for 4,000 kilometers along the Balkan Peninsula, where mountains rise over 2,000 meters not far from the coast of the Adriatic Sea (with a mild Mediterranean climate), the answer is not so simple. In Montenegro, on the extraordinary mountain plateau Durmitor, we were caught by snow already at the beginning of May, the same can happen in the mountainous part of Bosnia and Herzegovina or Albania.

On the other hand, parts of the route in the south of Slovenia, through most of Croatia, in the west of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and parts of Albania and Macedonia are perfectly fine even in March or November, while we don’t imagine cycling in these places in July or August when temperatures rise above 30 degrees Celsius. Then it is better to tackle the mountainous, forested part of the Balkans, where you can refresh yourself in streams, rivers, and lakes.

You also must understand that the weather is changing year after year: in Slovenia, for example, 2022 was hot and dry, and a year later we have a lot, even too much rain. Not to mention the fact that cyclists have different criteria for what is (too) cold, what is (too) hot, and how many rainy kilometers we are prepared to cover.

We advise you to look at the average temperatures of the area before your trip and then monitor the weather forecast daily. In any case, pack both – a swimsuit and a rain jacket. It’s all part of the adventure.

Food on Trans Dinarica: strong, meaty, but also fresh and local (tips for hungry cyclists)

A very important component of traveling (anywhere in the world) is tasting local specialties. This is especially true for the Balkans, where Eastern, Central European, and Mediterranean cuisine are mixed. It depends on where you are on this colorful peninsula.

A breakfast in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Are you counting the callories?

On the mainland, there is a lot of meat and freshwater fish, with various stews on the menu, while closer to the coast of the Adriatic Sea, of course, there will be more seafood next to the meat. The good thing about the food offering is that it’s very authentic – the locals just don’t accept Western fast food (because they have their own, although, of course, you’ll find a ‘happy clown’ in the bigger cities). Downside… Well, there isn’t a downside really, except … for vegans. Honestly: vegetarians will be fine, although the lost calories will have to be replaced mainly with cheese, spinach, or potato ‘burek’ (pie), while vegans, will have to be creative. Well, you can always order a ‘shopska salad’ without grated cheese, a ‘lepinja’ bread (which it shouldn’t be heated up on a plate next to the roast meat) and fresh vegetables and fruit. Don’t even try, they probably don’t know tofu and seitan. Although we were also positively surprised in Sarajevo, more precisely in the Bosnian restaurant Žara iz Duvara, where the owner tries to get the guests to try something other than cevapcici and burek.

Another good thing is that the ingredients for the food are often fresh, even so fresh that you may see from the terrace of the restaurant how the chef went to the tank to catch fresh trout, or that the owner of a family stay will gather most of the ingredients for dinner right in her garden.

When we explore the terrain, we usually have a hearty breakfast (it’s usually classic eggs, salami, cheese, bread, and some other fries, maybe peppers and tomatoes), then we spend the day with some yogurt, burek, preferably baked under the bell, and fresh fruit. For dinner we treat ourselves to something stronger; grilled meat, trout, and various soups are excellent, for example ‘pasulj’ (bean soup) or ‘begova corba’ (chicken soup).

  • Hint no. 1: Take time and don’t complicate too much.
  • Hint no. 2: Don’t let them get you full to their standards. If there are four at the table, there will probably be enough soup for a starter and then a mixed meat plate for two. You can still make up for it with dessert.
  • Hint no. 3: when the house offers it, eat something other than grilled meat, otherwise you may return from the Balkans, even after a cycling tour, with a few kilos more.

Dobar tek! (Bon Appetit)

The Trans Dinarica video trailer: crazy panoramas, dynamic cycling and friendly locals

The priority task of our research trips in the Western Balkans is to check roads, tracks, as well as accommodation and other important information for travelers on bicycles. But in addition, we have another mission: to show the whole world that this area is a first-class cycling destination; it’s just wild enough that cycling is a true adventure, and on the other hand, it’s developed and populated enough that we can count on a hot meal and a clean bed every day (which is actually all a cyclist really needs).

Today we are premiering a video trailer that presents the essence of Trans Dinarica in a minute. At this point, we would like to thank Matevž Hribar for recording on field various video devices, patient cyclists who may have had to cycle to the same road several times for the sake of good footage, and finally the Karata Film studio for their support with advice, equipment and professional editing.

We hope you like it.

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What kind of bicycle for the Trans Dinarica? Gravel, touring or MTB?

We get asked frequently if you can explore the Western Balkans with a loaded touring bike, or if you might need something more off-road oriented. Here is the short answer:

Our plan is that the Trans Dinarica routes will appeal to the widest possible audience of cyclists and will therefore be accessible by almost any bicycle. Trekking or touring bikes, some call them hybrid or fitness bikes, will be very useful, and an enduro or cross-country bike can also be an excellent choice. We would only advise against folding bikes, downhill bikes, and road racing bikes. Although, you know, where there’s a will, there’s a way 🙂

We use gravel bikes for routing because they are fast on the road and relatively good on macadams. Above all, they are an excellent compromise because we don’t need a lot of luggage for our research work – a support van helps us with that.

As far as luggage (and weight) is concerned, we would advise you to take only the most essential things with you, as you will pass by the market or store almost every day (every other day for sure). What is necessary and how many extra kilograms should be carried on bicycles, opinions differ so much that it is difficult to draw a line between what is an acceptable weight and what is decidedly too much. Just be aware that sometimes roads like this await you:

How much asphalt and gravel is there on the way?

We will only be able to announce what the final ratio between the road and gravel will be after the end of the research (in 2024), but we can already say that it is necessary to be prepared for some not-really-perfect gravel roads out there. It would be a shame to limit ourselves to only well-maintained roads. When you turn off left or right, an adventure wonderland awaits you.

We can’t wait to hit the road again!

Serbia’s Section of the Trans Dinarica Cycle Route is Complete

The Serbian stages of the new Trans Dinarica Cycle Route have been researched, laid out, and are now ready for cyclists to discover more about this beautiful Western Balkan country.

Trans Dinarica Cycling Route - Serbia, Uvac river

Starting near the town of Tutin, in the far south of Serbia, the route pedals through the mountainous Sandžak Region and then continues north and west past UNESCO sites and protected areas such as the Tara National Park along the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina. From Tutin, Serbia’s Trans Dinarica heads to Novi Pazar before heading northwest to Sjenica and the Special Nature Reserve Uvac. The trail then rolls toward the resort town of Zlatibor and the beautiful, ethno-architecture tourism center in and around Mokra Gora, perched in the Dinaric Alps. The route finishes its Serbian section along the banks of the Drina River in the town of Bajina Bašta.

The Serbian stages of the Trans Dinarica include seven main stages (with several alternate possibilities) and nearly 350 kilometers with around 800 meters of daily elevation change. The route travels across both paved and unpaved stretches — providing both seasoned and new cyclists diversity and access to communities throughout the region.

The Trans Dinarica is the first and only cycle route to connect all eight countries of the Western Balkans. The route — linking Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia — visits national parks, UNESCO sites, villages, and diverse points of interest. A cultural corridor as well as a bicycle itinerary, the Trans Dinarica provides a way to discover the region and its traditions with slow-travel intention. The route creates a main backbone bicycle trail for the entire Western Balkans and encourages local travel operators to utilize the Trans Dinarica as a responsible tourism engine.

The process of the Trans Dinarica’s creation in Serbia actually began in early 2022 when the GoodPlace team, a Slovenia-based NGO that creates sustainably minded trails and routes, began working with country experts to create a virtual blueprint. The next step was to test this blueprint “on the ground” to make sure, among other considerations, that all the stages — surfaces, inclines, distances — met the team’s high expectations of safety and navigation ease. After traveling to Serbia in May and June 2023, the route is ready to be enjoyed by cyclists.

Live from Serbia’s section of Trans Dinarica: We love it. Honestly.

Dear cyclists, adventure lovers … and Western Balkans devotees:

It is with great pleasure that — after many months of office research, studying maps, dissecting the terrain, browsing through memory, and coordinating routes and sites with local experts — we are officially working from the field along the Trans Dinarica Cycle Route: the first cycling route to connect all eight countries of the Western Balkans.

Our trail development fieldwork began along the Serbian and Bosnian sections of Trans Dinarica, and, after a few days, we can report the following brief impressions:

  • Although we have all visited Serbia many times, the country, its south and west, stunned us. It’s hard to say what’s more exceptional: the nature or the hospitable locals.
  • The Trans Dinarica is exactly what we wanted: bicycle exploration of these incredible countries on forest paths and quiet roads as possible, and at the same time getting to know the local culture, history, and cuisine.
  • The type of tourism mentioned in the previous point (yes, even cycling is tourism) is exactly what the Trans Dinarica intends to present: An authentic, pure, original, enriching, inspiring window into beautiful culture.

Keep up with us for more updates on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We also invite you to sign up for our email newsletters, in which we will inform you about the continuing development of Trans Dinarica. The final result — a cycling route through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Serbia — will be ready in July 2024.

We can’t wait to see you on the Trans Dinarica.

Gallery from the last few days: