Cycling Croatian National Parks

This cycling / biking adventure holiday is all about Croatia’s inland mountain regions and national parks. Nestled between the Adriatic coast and the continental part of the country lies the greenest rustic area filled with spectacular forests, verdant valleys and clear rivers and lakes. Relishing the smell of fresh air, we’ll enjoy a scenic ride each day, exploring five of the oldest national parks and their surroundings: Plitvice Lakes, Risnjak, Krka, Paklenica and Northern Velebit.

Risnjak National Park is situated in the heart of Gorski kotar, the most mountainous and heavily forested region of Croatia. Next to it, there is Velebit Mountain Nature Park and Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – a spectacular chain of sixteen turquoise lakes linked together with cascading falls and travertine pools. Paklenica Canyon is a well known hiking / walking, trekking and climbing national park while Krka River National Park is a home to 250 different bird and other wildlife species. Our stopover between the parks are the nature reserves of the green Mreznica, Krupa and Zrmanja rivers, rivers with numerous waterfalls offering breathtaking landscape filled with green forests, meadows, hills and rustic villages.

This is an easy to moderate bicycle tour with full vehicle support that can carry passengers, luggage and bicycles during bad weather or on more difficult sections for clients not fit for moderate climbs. We use modern multi-gear touring bicycles, paved roads with no or very little car traffic and mostly downhill or flat sections. The climbs will be few and short, easy to walk along your bike.

The combination of activity, nature, scenery and cultural immersion makes this holiday not only a unique and unforgettable experience, but also a very healthy way of life. The areas that we travel have no big cities, hotels or tourist resorts. Unpolluted forest and oxygen rich mountain air, clear rivers and healthy farm food will make you feel very well and fit both during and after you holiday.

Short Itinerary:

Day 1 – Sat: Arrival in Zvecaj
Day 2 – Sun: Risnjak National Park and Kupa River Valley
Day 3 – Mon: North Velebit National Park
Day 4 – Tue: Countryside and Barac Caves
Day 5 – Wed: The 16 Lakes Route
Day 6 – Thu: Paklenica hiking / walking and cycling / biking
Day 7 – Fri: Krka cycling / biking
Day 8 – Sat: Departure day

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 – Sat:Arrival in Zvecaj
Zvecaj is a small village by the Mreznica River, not far from the highway connecting the Croatian capital city of Zagreb with the harbour of Rijeka. We will meet you at the airport, railway station or in the harbour and take you there unless you are driving yourself.
“The Green Corner“ (Zeleni kut) is a well known restaurant and a small family owned hotel overlooking the green Mreznica River and its waterfall. Each room has its own bathroom, most of them a sunny balcony as well. It was built above an old mill which now supplies electric power. The hotel serves traditional Croatian specialties using fresh water fish from its own fishing ponds, home made cheese, ham and sausages as well as local farm grown vegetables and fruit.
The group usually gets together around mid-day, which will give us enough time to choose and test the bicycles on a short tour of the villages, forests and rivers of the area.
You will have a chance to taste some forest strawberries or blackberries, raspberries or cherries, or roasted corn and chestnuts – depending on the season of your trip. The self-operated ferry will take you and your bikes back across the river in time for a shower and afternoon glass of wine or beer.
At 8:00pm we will meet on the terrace overlooking the river for a welcome drink, dinner and brief orientation, where we will have the chance to discuss the upcoming holiday and get to know our guides and fellow travelers.
Meals: D

Day 2 – Sun: Risnjak National Park and Kupa River Valley
On our first day of biking, we’ll start exploring Risnjak National Park. The pristine park covers an area of 63,5 km2 including the Risnjak and Snježnik ranges, as well as the source area of the Kupa River which is beyond doubt one of the most beautiful places in Gorski Kotar. The Kupa River forms a natural border between Croatia and Slovenia. It springs from a karstic well at the Park’s lowest point, forming a turquoise pond some 200 m long and 30 m wide. This natural phenomenon is one of the deepest and strongest sources in Croatia, which remains a mystery for scientists. The Kupa flows through a picturesque valley, also known as the mysterious valley of butterflies – more than 500 species of butterflies inhabit the area! We’ll start the tour from our hotel and bike towards Razloge, a little village not far from the source. The route leads through little villages and forest paths, where the fresh clean air will renew your senses. Once in Razloge, we’ll descend to the Kupa source and enjoy a picnic at this magical spot. You will most certainly feel the desire to take a swim in transparent clear water, but the 7 Degrees Celsius temperature will keep you on the bank. After the break, back on the road along the river, again through the impressive scenery of Risnjak National Park and its surroundings. The bridge crossing the Cabranka River by Zamost is also a border crossing to Slovenia. After a short passport procedure, we will bike along the Slovenian bank of the green Kupa river to Brod, where we will cross back to Croatia. Here we will have time to relax and freshen up with a swim or a cold drink and to hike to Zeleni Vir waterfall and Vrazji Prolaz Canyon (the Devil’s Passage) before returning back to our hotel for dinner.
Meals: B and D (picnic lunch on your own); Cycling: easy/moderate, 3-4 hours

Day 3 – Mon: North Velebit National Park
After breakfast, we’ll load our bikes and luggage and drive to Croatia’s youngest national park – Northern Velebit National Park, 800 meters above sea level. After a short walk in  Krasno village and the park area, we will descend by bikes to the Valley of Gacka River, world famous for excellent trout fishing. A stop for lunch will be made by its source, surrounded by numerous old wooden mills. From here, we continue our cycling/ biking tour towards the UNESCO World Heritage Site –  Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Accommodation in the park is provided by the families of Korana Village, a small romantic place hidden away in a valley by the Korana River. The houses are small, traditional dwellings with simple rooms in an idyllic setting. You will have a private room/apartment with a bathroom. The peaceful atmosphere makes the village an ideal base from which to explore the surrounding area – Korana Village has no pubs, restaurants, shops, schools, not even a church – it’s just a village as small and wonderful as it can be, an ideal setting for a fairy tale.
Meals: B and D (picnic lunch on your own); Cycling: easy/moderate, 2-3 hours

Day 4 – Tue: Countryside and Baraceve Caves
Today is all about exploring the lovely pastoral Croatian countryside by bicycle. We cycle on roads that are nearly traffic free through forests, between hills and across green fields. Cycling / biking through traditional villages, we reach Barac Caves, where we stop for a guided underground tour of the cave’s fascinating limestone formations. According to local legend, a man named Barac fought heroically and defeated a raging Turkish giant near these caves, which were thereafter named in his honor. After visiting the caves there will be time for an optional visit and walk in the national park (small lakes and waterfalls) before going back to Korana Village in time to enjoy traditional Croatian barbecue.
Meals: B and D (picnic lunch on your own); Cycling: easy/moderate: 2 – 3 hours

Day 5 – Wed: The 16 Lakes Route
For those who chose a 5-day trip, this is the end of your holiday. You are welcome to schedule your homeward transport for any time.
The rest of the group continues the trip. Visiting the most beautiful and stunning national park of Croatia – Plitvice Lakes National Park – used to be possible only walking or hiking around its 16 lakes, numerous waterfalls fed by both the Black and White Rivers, and seemingly endless forests. The park – an area of breathtaking views, stunning sceneries and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – finally opened its doors to bicycle lovers in 2009.
Our route today takes us out of Korana Village for the day, towards the village Poljanak and the stream Plitvice. Not far from the small wooden bridge the streams form the highest waterfall – the 70 m Veliki Slap. The following area has numerous view points connected by hiking / walking paths. They provide stunning views and great landscapes for photographers, including the biggest lake Kozjak and the highest peak Medvjedjak in the distance. Next, the most beautiful part of the ride starts – the descent to Proscansko Lake and following the River Matica to Plitvicki Ljeskovac, further along the remote road to Black River source and around Prosce Lake to Labudovac. After the rest and picnic here we bike into the forest to Suputovo Vrelo ending in Jezerce Village. From this point we take a slightly busier road, about 7km long, that leads us back to our village just in time to enjoy a quick swim before dinner.
Meals: B and D (picnic lunch on your own), Cycling: easy/moderate, 3-4 hours

Day 6 – Thu: Paklenica hiking / walking and cycling / biking
After saying goodbye to our village hosts we continue south to the narrow Wild West-like canyons of Zrmanja and Krupa Rivers. We visit the medieval Krupa Monastery on route. Built in 1317 by monks from Bosnia, it is the oldest orthodox monastery in Croatia.
We continue to Paklenica National Park, part of a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and a favorite hiking / walking and climbing destination. Lying on the southeast slopes of the Velebit Mountains near the coast and cut by two awe-inspiring gorges, Mala Paklenica and Velika, Paklenica’s scenery is one of the most pristine in the whole Mediterranean. The lofty peaks making up this range offer huge views of both coastal and mountain scenery. There are several wonderful hikes through beech and black pine forests to choose from. The most popular is the trail leading to Borisov Dom, a mountain hut popular among mountaineers. After descending all the way to the sea we drive to Skradin for the evening.
Meals: B and D (picnic lunch on your own); Cycling: easy/moderate, 1.5 hours, Hiking: easy/moderate, 4   hours

Day 7 – Fri: Krka cycling / biking
The last day of the journey takes us to Krka River National Park with its fantastic karst formations and travertine waterfalls. We explore the park’s extensive waterways and complex history dating back to late 10th century and first Croatian kings. One of the options is a visit to Skradinski Buk waterfall, the place where the second hydro plant in the world was built, just a few years after the one on Niagara Falls. We will bike to the shores of Visovac Lake where the boat will take us to Visovac island and its Franciscan monastery. After exploring the monastery and museum, the boat will take us to the southern banks of the lake to continue our biking tour. Optionally, we can visit the St. Archangel the Orthodox monastery, situated in the upper Krka Canyon. After cycling / biking, we return to the hotel and enjoy a late afternoon in the old town before the final evening dinner and a celebration of an amazing adventure.
Meals: B and D (picnic lunch on your own), Cycling: easy/moderate, 3 hours

Day 8 – Sat: Departure day
Depart from Skradin to the airport and flight home. You are welcome to schedule your homeward transport for any time. If you decide to spend more time in Croatia, our guides will be happy to recommend other beautiful places to visit – especially those you won’t find in tourist guide books.
Meals: B

Note on the itinerary:
This itinerary and the duration of the activities are subject to change due to group abilities and preferences, weather, water levels, special events of interest, etc. Huck Finn Guides and Trip Leaders will do their utmost to ensure the best possible experience for their clients without compromising safety at any time. This may mean changing the original itinerary to avoid discomfort or risk which could be caused by exceptional situations. Huck Finn reserves the right to alter the itinerary without prior notice.

2012 Prices and Departure dates

Cycling Croatian National Parks – Departure dates 2012
MAY 5 12 19 26 -
JUN 2 9 16 23 30
JUL - 7 14 21 28
AUG 4 11 18 25 -
SEP 1 8 15 22 29
OCT 6 13 20 - -

Other dates on request

Cycling Croatian National Parks – Prices 2012
EUR
Apartments – Double rooms 8-day 5-day
High season 740,00 560,00
Intermediate season 670,00 520,00
Low season 560,00 460,00
Children 12-14 years, 10% reduction
High season 665,00 504,00
Intermediate season 603,00 468,00
Low season 504,00 414,00
Single rooms, 20% supplement
High season 888,00 672,00
Intermediate season 804,00 624,00
Low season 672,00 552,00

High season – July 14 – August 24, 2012
Intermediate season – June 9 – July 13, August 25 – September 14, 2012
Low season – April 21 – June 8, September 15 – October 5, 2012

All prices are per person, in EUR.

Prices include:

  • 7 nights in double/twin rooms
  • 2 meals per day (dinner day 1-breakfast day 8 )
  • use of bicycles
  • 6 days organized activities
  • NP Risnjak, NP Plitvice and NP Paklenica entrance fees
  • local taxes and river permits
  • Saturday transfers from/to Zagreb or Rijeka airport
  • skilled English speaking guide and assistance
  • ground transportation
  • basic insurance

Not Included:

  • international airfare to/from Croatia
  • items of a personal nature and optional gratuities to your guide(s)
  • optional trip on day 5
  • beverages and lunches or picnics as noted in itinerary

Optional trips on Day 5 are NOT included in price and can be booked and paid on spot – the additional charge of approx 50€ per person is payable on site, and is dependent on suitable weather conditions. The price is based on a min. of 4 participants.

  • Maximum number of participants: 16 guests per group. Larger groups on request.
  • Minimum age: 8 years if accompanied by parent(s).
  • Children discount: valid for children 8-14 years of age if accompanied by an adult. One child enjoying discount shares parents’ room; two or more children can have their own room.
  • Rooms: Zeleni kut hotel offers rooms from 1 to 4 beds.

Single use rooms are available upon request, with 20% surcharge. Sharing a room with another person is possible.

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you in choosing your equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, this will help you and the field staff. In addition to your usual clothing you should consider bringing along some other items which will make your activities more enjoyable. Required gear for paddling and cycling is provided. 
Clothing:

  • Few lightweight, casual, easily washable items for travel and daily wear
  • Hiking shorts, synthetic
  • T-shirts (at least 1 synthetic)
  • Swimmwear
  • Brimmed sun hat

Outerwear:

  • Lightweight rain jacket, waterproof and breathable

Footwear:

  • Lightweight hiking shoes
  • Water shoes for kayaking/ rafting (stiff sole sandals)

Travel Accessories:

  • Water bottle or hydration pack
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock and lip balm
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Small backpack

Optional Accessories:

  • Camera (waterproof), film/memory cards and spare batteries

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