Photo by Vedran Metelko / Zadar Region Tourist Board

Wheels of History

Everyone who likes cycling knows very well that this is a very fun and healthy experience. As we turn the pedals, we leave behind everything we know and rush towards the unknown, crossing miles and miles, all the while enjoying the fresh air and places we would never have seen otherwise. Sometimes bike paths take us in an unexpected direction, for instance, into history. And then, along the way, we learn a lot about history and archaeology, about the people who used to live in this region, but also about ourselves.

All Roads Lead to Veliki Brijun

The legend says that the Brijuni were created from the remains of paradise. Once you step onto this beautiful archipelago and take a look around, it will be clear to you how this legend came about. There is another legend, one that is shared amongst the cyclists who come to Veliki Brijun to take a spin on the bicycle trails. Apart from being easy and suitable for families with children, you can see and visit several exceptionally attractive archaeological sites – the Christian church, Basilica of St. Mary, a Byzantine castrum, the remains of a Temple of Venus and a first century Roman villa. The archaeological adventure on bike ends with swimming on the beautiful beach in the Saluga Bay.

Apoxyomenos’s New Home on Lošinj

If you want to spice up an archaeological tour with a bit more adrenaline, it’s time to come to Lošinj. This forested and healing island with 2600 hours of sunshine throughout the year will welcome you with its pleasant climate and amazingly beautiful natural landscapes criss-crossed with attractive cycling paths, including the one which will be used for the MTB downhill world cup track. But enough about adrenaline. It’s time for the archaeological part of the tour. And it is connected to the bronze statue of Apoxyomenos, the most famous antique athlete whose perfect proportions, thanks to a random dive of a tourist, can be admired in the Lošinj Museum. Take a spin on the island of vitality, enjoy the views, explore, but do not forget to visit the museum – because this is an archaeological mission, after all.

Through Historic Lika on Bicycle

Although Lika seems to be made for an a(ttra)ctive holiday during all four seasons, those who vacation on a bicycle will nonetheless find summer to be the most comfortable for spending time in this verdant expanse. You can start your extensive archaeological and cycling explorations in Gospić or Otočac, located in the Gacka River valley. We would recommend first visiting the Museum of Lika in Gospić to find out all about the Illyrian tribe of the Iapodes, and then afterwards, visiting the Cerovac Caves and Donje Pazarište where the remains of their culture were discovered. The “Staza velikana 2” trail will take you through the birthplace of two famous Croatians, Nikola Tesla and Ante Starčević.

If you start from Otočac, you will have just as good a time as on the trails around Gospić. You will go through the Gacka River valley, visit several archaeological sites, see the mills on the Gacka spring and enjoy the natural beauties of one of the coldest and cleanest Croatian rivers.

From Antiquity to the Middle Ages

At first glance, it might seem to you that this is just another recreational cycling route, but after the first turn, you will realize that you are in an archaeological cycling heaven. One of the interesting routes starts in the ancient Liburnian port of Drage near Pakoštane. In Vrana you will see Maškovića Han, a caravanserai from the 17th century, followed by the remains of the medieval town of Vrana, once ruled by the Knights Templar, and finally an archaeological site with the remains of the ancient Liburnian city of Asseria, a once famous sculpture centre. Exciting, isn’t it?

Royal Route from Zadar to Nin

Riding the circular route between the two royal cities – Zadar and Nin – could prove to be a special experience. This dynamic and demanding route is intended for MTB cyclists. Archaeology buffs should certainly visit the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Antique Glass in Zadar.

After getting to know the Zadar attractions, new ones await you, on two wheels.  Riding through the fields and olive groves will provide you with vistas of Nin, the salt fields and Mount Velebit, which will be more than enough of a reward for slightly greater efforts.


The History Trail on Bicycle

Terms such as archaeology or history always have a different ring to them in your ears. This time it could sound like a superb cycling event. Namely, the trail you will ride is called the “History Trail”. It starts in Skradin, once an ancient settlement of Scardona, with plenty to see and discover – from the remains of the Roman waterways through frescos and mosaics to numerous stone monuments. At the lower flow of the Krka river, on the island of Stipanac there are the Gavran’s Courts, along with the fort of Sonkovići with St. Mark’s church. Fill your water cans at the inexhaustible water spring, mentioned way back in the Roman times, and continue to Pećana and Vrbica where there is a Palaeolithic cemetery and a Neolithic settlement. Finally visit Bribirska glavica, the most important Croatian archaeological site.

If this is not enough, leave your bicycle safely stowed away and take a walk around the Krka National Park

Stari Grad Field – the Oldest Bike Trail you will Ride

Due to the colour, taste and smell, mostly of lavender, a day spent on a recreational bike ride through the Stari Grad field at the time of the jematva or grape harvest is truly an unforgettable experience. Surely you wonder why and what does this have to do with archaeology and history? Well, you see, the trail you’re riding on is 24 centuries old and probably the oldest path on which you have pedalled so far. Otherwise, the Stari Grad field is the largest fertile plain on the Adriatic islands, with special emphasis on the word cyclists always find interesting – plain. The field is under the protection of UNESCO because it was subdivided and measured by an unknown Greek surveyor in order to divide the land fairly among the settlers from the Greek island of Paros.

On the Trails of the Ancient Romans

Coming to Split without going to the Split Archaeological Museum, founded back in 1820, which is why it is considered the oldest museum in Croatia, would be a huge omission. It would be like, for instance, taking a bike, without bringing a saddle or handlebars. The Dalmatian area has a plethora of cultural goods from different historical periods, especially from the antiquity.

The preserved remains of Roman roads are an attractive destination for cyclists because they can follow the tracks of the Roman roads and discover different attractions along the way, such as the remains of early Christian necropolises, Roman camps, sacral buildings and numerous fortifications. Fans of the “Game of Thrones” who are excessively in shape can climb to the Fortress of Klis and check out the places where this popular series is being filmed.

Discovering Monuments and Stećak Tombstones on Forgotten Roads

Although the bike routes through the upper villages of the Dubrovnik Littoral, because of the hilly terrain and steep climbs, are not used so much for biking, these roads can be a nice alternative to the roads along the coast. Authentic villages, pristine nature and beautiful views of the Elaphite Islands are just some of the good reasons to go cycling on these forgotten roads.

And your insatiable archaeological soul will be satisfied by tours of churches and cemeteries where there are medieval stećci and tombstones, as well as the thematic cycling route “Stećci of the Dubrovnik Littoral”, which begins in Slano and passes through six of the most valuable sites.

By Bicycle to Narona

Near Metković there is a place called Vid or Narona, as the ancient Romans called it, with the remains of an Augusteum, a Roman temple devoted to divine Augustus. 17 marble statues of the emperor and the imperial family were found in the temple, in life size and larger than life. They thought of everything in Metković, so if you do not have a bicycle, you can get one there, and if you do have one, you know how it goes – slowly and with pleasure, go over the Neretva Valley, along the Modro Lake to the ancient Narona. A little further away from Vid there is place called Gabela, where, according to a Mexican adventurer, the famous Troy was located.

Bicycling along the Sava River to the Antique Andautonia

Regardless of which part of the city of Zagreb you come from, the important thing for this bike route is to start from the end of the northern embankment of the Sava river. Ready and steady you will continue along the waterfalls of the Sava river and the 11 lakes to the Domovinski Bridge and then continue to Šćitarjevo and the Andautonia Archaeological Park, an ancient Roman settlement and municipium built on the route of the Roman Siscia -Petuvio (Sisak-Ptuj) road. Once you have satisfied your archaeological soul, you can go back the same way or choose one of the alternative routes that offer new surprises and challenges. In any case, you can’t go wrong. The north is in the direction of Mount Medvednica.

Discovering Žumberak and the Trail of Princes

Those in better shape will do everything they normally do on a bicycle, while on this occasion, those who find inclines somewhat more challenging will rent an electric bicycle that rides like an ordinary mountain bike, but with one difference – it has a battery that helps turn the pedals when it comes to the more demanding sections. The Žumberak area is truly unique – with preserved, authentic villages at high altitudes, with unforgettable views stretching to the Kupa River in the south, with karst fields and a rich cultural heritage. In the Budinjak Archaeological Park, reached by the Trail of Princes educational trail, a bowl-shaped prince’s helmet was found, the only such fully preserved helmet of the Central European Hallstatt culture, the Libno group.

By Boat and Bicycle through the Vukovar Region

EuroVelo 6, the Danube bicycle route passes through Vukovar, so that in addition to river traffic, every year there is an increasing number of cycling tourist traffic, and consequently, the number of overnight stays.

In this eastern Croatian baroque beauty, it is worthwhile to visit the Municipal Museum in the Eltz Manor and the archaeological sites of the Vučedol culture in the museum of the same name, which is buried in the hill, and which stands out by the fact that it is located right at the site of the archaeological remains. It is an extremely advanced culture of the early copper age, named after the locality where it was found. On the way to Vučedol you can see everything that makes this region special – from natural to historical sites. On your way back, park your bike, jump into a boat and get to know the city by observing it from the Danube.

When you cover all the suggested routes, a new sequel awaits you, because you are Indiana Jones on a bike. There is no rest for you – one archaeological adventure follows another, and another… You already know how it goes, don’t you?