Regular readers of Lifestyle Fifty will know that we’ve just returned from a trip of a lifetime to Europe during which we visited 12 different countries, and went on a fantastic island hopping cycle cruise in Croatia with the Katarina Line.
And now that the weather is cold, wet and windy in South West Australia, you’ll have to forgive me because I’m wallowing in my memories of warm sunny climes and adventure.
Cycle and Cruise the Adriatic
I’d like to take you along with me on a cycle cruise around the islands of central and southern Dalmatia in Croatia, and offer 10 good reasons why you might like to consider a bicycling holiday.
First and foremost I think you’ll agree that an active holiday is much healthier than eating and drinking your way around a destination. Although don’t get me wrong, there was time for that too! But having been out in the fresh air and bicycling, we felt we had deserved our indulgences. Getting bicycling fit isn’t difficult, and on the cruise our bike tour leader gave us easy and more difficult bike route options most days.
1. Croatia is stunning and it’s not an expensive holiday destination. Above is Milna, our first port of call on the cruise. Restaurants lined the harbour and after lunch followed by a cycle ride and a swim we were free to scout around the interesting town for somewhere to eat dinner.
The best way to get to know the Croatian countryside is on foot or by bike. Think fields and fields of lavendar on the island of Hvar, and roadsides peppered with poppies on Brac in season, and a sea at times so blue you’d think it was studded with saphires. A cycle cruise offers the best of both worlds; land and sea. You get to cruise from island to island, swim in the sea in season and cycle along country roads or little used lanes that you might not otherwise discover.
2. An active holiday which includes cycling every day is a great way to stay fit and yet still be able to enjoy the finer things in life – think Mediterranean cuisine – core ingredients used in Dalmatia are olive oil, wine, and everything from the sea; fish, crabs, mussels, octupus and cuttlefish are popular while lamb on a spit is a delicacy.
Peka is a delicious traditional dish with meat and vegetables slow roasted in a cast iron dome which is cooked over coals. With this we loved sipping the king of Croatian red wines, Plavac Mali. The food in Croatia is fresh, simple and without much complication. But if you want to indulge on a holiday like this, then you’ll need to be fighting the flab at the same time, because eat well you will!
The chef on the Dalmatinac did us proud … lunch and dinners were 3 or 4 courses … below we had stuffed octopus for lunch one day.
3. We booked with the Katarina Line and the crew of the Dalmatinac were awesome (top chef too!). Booking on a cruise means that you don’t have to worry about food or cooking or finding restaurants when you are tired, although either lunch or dinner each day was at our own cost off the boat. Meals on the boat were 3 or 4 courses, and breakfast consisted of cereals, toast and fruit, although a cooked breakfast cost extra.
4. A cruise around the beautiful islands of southern Dalmatia is part and parcel of the cycle tour. So you are not paying to catch ferries, or indeed having to research when ferries depart and return from the islands – and island hopping is not actually that easy if you want to hop from one island to another independently.
5. Booking the tour from Australia was easy. The administration staff were always helpful and available to answer my email questions. Crew on the boat were super helpful. Our bike guide was friendly, competent, knew the routes well and catered for different bicycling standards. The Captain was experienced and never for one moment gave us reason to be afraid – even when one day in April the winds were huge and the sea particularly squally.
6. Big or small, every island in Dalmatia is special. Some are verdant, some are rocky and some will be busy during high season. The beaches are generally sandy, pebbled or rocky but always spectacular – think 500m long Zlatni rat Beach stretching like a finger into the sea at Bol on Brac Island. On the cycle/cruise you get to see several islands and explore them first hand.
For more detailed information on the cycling route, please check out my post on ZigaZag: Top Cycle Cruise in Croatia (I’ll be publishing this post on 17th July 2014)
7. Starting in Split on the mainland, visiting the islands of Brac, Hvar, Korcula, Peljesac and small ancient towns like Omis along the southerly Adriatic coast gave us a wonderful overview of Croatia’s cultural heritage. If you don’t want to cycle everyday, you don’t have to, and some days you may prefer to explore on foot or just laze on the boat and read.
A cycle cruise lets you discover so much in just one week. We loved cycling along cobbled streets between ancient buildings in places where cars can’t go – and these out of the way experiences will leave you in no doubt that Croatia has retained huge chunks of living history.
8. Cycling on the islands in Croatia is wonderful because there are not many cars – and we didn’t see a single truck on the roads. In Korcula (above) claimed to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, we cycled around and wandered in the ancient city marveling at the lack of hustle and bustle. We might have had a cleansing ale or two as well!
9. Being on a cycle cruise means you get to meet like-minded travellers. 11 cabins, sleeping 22 people meant there was a good chance that perhaps we wouldn’t all get on, or perhaps passengers would be much younger than us and wanting to PARTYYYY all night! But not so – we found that everyone on the cruise was fit, ready to cycle, up for adventure and interested in discovering more about the history and culture of Croatia – just as we were. Ages ranged from 29 to one person over 70!
10. The great outdoors does wonders for your well-being. At night we were tired, but pleasantly so, and ready for a few glasses of wine or beer with our meal before happily sinking into our bunk beds for a night of being rocked to sleep by the gentle sway of the boat in harbour.
Disclaimer: My trip was courtesy of the Katarina Line.
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Until next time,