This is taken from our recent week long cycling holiday in Croatia where we cycled on the Adriatic coast from Dubrovnik to Trogir just north of Split.
I’m writing this up mainly to tell you about my experience because I have read many other people’s write ups about Croatia. And all have said the same about cycling past Split, i.e. what a horror that it is! The reason I say it’s a horror, is that there’s not really an alternative and the area around Split is very busy, because Spilt is a big city by Croatian standards.
I have divided it up in 3 areas, a bit about the route we took around Split, a bit about cycling in Croatia and a bit about what to expect from the roads (with a little caution).
Now this is what we did when we cycled north and past Split, but bear in mind that we by luck arrived on a Sunday. So I do not know how this “short cut” would be traffic wise on a weekday, but I’m sure that the “ring road” wouldn’t be a place I would have enjoyed to cycle.
The maps I could find of the Split area was either not detailed enough or just of the old town. So no clear route around Split and since Split and surounding area is nearly 200.000 inhabitants you will get lots of traffic. And the coastal road also becomes a ring road, come motorway past past Split, not a road you want to endure on a fully loaded touring bicycle.
We arrived in Omis and headed inland up and over the mountains a bit of a hill compared to the rolling Coastal road. But it took us off the road which for sure would become busier the closer you get to Split. This will also take you down a lovely long downhill, bypassing Split to the east.
This took us into and past Zronovica, Kučine and Mravince and down onto the ring road again, north of Split. But we had cut out lots of the coastal-road-come-ring-road and motorway. We then had to join the busy and not so nice road but only for a short while and again it was Sunday so not so busy. A mile later and past a 100km/h sign, gulp, but again we were given plenty of room so not so bad. We found a turning to Kaśtel Sućurac which lead us onto the old road and away from the ring/coastal road. Though right through an industrial area with clear signs of heavy traffic on a weekday. This road takes you past the many Kaśtels dotted on the coast between Split and Trogir. Since Trogir is a pretty town, the route there will have traffic, shops, etc, but is still better than the alternative.
I would say if you are touring on the Adriatic coastal road in Croatia and want to explore the sights in Split, you should stop outside and take public transport into Split, which looked like it covered the Split region very well and can’t be that expensive even for a tourer on a budget.
Coming from north to south :
Stop in Trogir and make sure that you spend some time here! It’s a town not to be missed. There are quite a few campsites nearby, either on the mainland or the island of Čiovo. And, from Trogir, you can either take the bus direct into Split which should take around 45min – 1 hour, or you can take a ferry.
Coming from south to north :
Stop in Omis, there are a few campsites nearby on the coast either to the north or south of town. Again there is a bus going into Split, I expect it would take around an hour too.
Honestly, and this is my personal opinion, I would say you can miss Split out. It’s too full of tourists and does lack the charm and atmosphere that Trogir and Dubrovnik have lots of. So, if you can bypass Split as much you can either by island hopping past it or taking the bus service which runs all over Croatia.
Cycling in cities and towns in Croatia
Generally, I was very surprised that we got so much space when other road users passed us. We quite often got a friendly toot letting us know that they were coming past. Yes, the Adriatic coastal road is busy with coaches and lorries at rush hours and in and around towns, for example when we passed Makarska at lunch time. But that is normal anywhere in the world. Even with the busy bits on this road, it’s well worth cycle touring there because of the amazing views you get, simply stunning.
I did not find cycling in Croatia any different than elsewhere I have cycled. If you are used to cycling in a town or city, then Croatia is not really any different.
I didn’t see many other locals cycling other than a few roadies. Though I quite often saw a cheap mountain bike standing in someone’s garden. Most old towns, like Dubrovnik, Omis and Trogir, have cobblestones all over and very narrow streets and full of cafes, bars and restaurants and locals and tourist on foot, so cycling there will be impossible. But outside the old part of these towns it is just like everywhere else.
I found that Croatia is not really used to people cycling, when you ask for direction you get “you drive …” and when you point out to them that you are on a bicycle and can’t take the motorway they still continue with “well you drive …”. That aside, Croatia is definitely a place I will come back to for more cycle touring, and would also highly recommend others to visit Croatia on your bicycle. It can only become better, but do visit it sooner rather than later.
None of the towns we were in didn’t have a cycle infrastructure as in cycle lanes etc. Though I talked to one of the staff at the Hotel Trogirski Dvori Trogir who told me that in Zagreb, cycle lanes are being built.
The Adriatic coastal road is nice and wide and the surface are of a very good quality. I can only speak for the Coastal road since we cycle from Dubrovnik to Trogir just north of Split. We did dip inland and onto one of the islands for a short period, but that was all within the Greater Split area. So I can’t really comment on the road quality elsewhere.
Yes, the coastal road is busy because it is the main road north to south and visa versa. Though the motorway (E65) which is being built from Zragreb to Dubrovnick via Split will take a good proportion of the through traffic of the Adriatic coastal road.
A clear sign of that was just north of Ploce, which is served by the motorway from the north on its way south. Shortly after the motorway turn off, the traffic quietened down and again near Omis. I do not know when the motorway will reach Dubrovnik but when it does I’m sure that the Adriatic road will be much more pleasant to do your Croatian cycle touring on.
This will make touring in Croatia so much more enjoyable. The Croats are not used to see cycle tourists and we got stared at quite often, but also a lifted hat or a friendly toot wishing us a good journey. I didn’t see a bicycle shop other than the one I hunted down on the net in Split. But what I saw was there was plenty of places that rented bicycles, or rather what looked like cheap MTBs. The advertising for cycling I have seen on and off line is mainly for mountain biking, though I did see a few roadies. A few clearly locals out for a spin but most of them were “credit card” tourers or on a cycling holiday package tour.
OK, now to the cautionary part, but this should not stop you from touring in Croatia at all. Just remember Croatia has its own high way code which is different, just like any other country. But it didn’t seem that different to the one in the UK.
But the only thing that threw me a few times is that when you are coming up to a T-junction on what seams to be the major road passing what clearly looks like a minor road. That is not always the case sometimes the side road is the main road and have the right of way crossing the major road.