The EuroVelo routes have so much appeal with the opportunity to be in multiple countries and experience different cultures on two wheels. Some of the less discovered places and cultures in Europe lie along the EuroVelo 8 Mediterranean Route in the Balkan peninsula.
Southeastern Europe–aka the Balkan Peninsula–is a beautiful, wild terrain. The people are kind and extravagant in their hospitality except for the occasional curmudgeon. And if your experience is anything like those that have gone before, then your bicycle touring adventure along the Mediterranean Route will offer unique, unforgettable adventures. So plan a bike journey through the #NewBalkans.
Greece and the EuroVelo 8
Starting your adventure in one of the key centers of Western history is a good start (or end if you do it in reverse). Enjoy the paradoxes of this urban center at the beginning or end of your EuroVelo journey. The roads out of the city are busy with traffic but pretty flat. It is a good start for getting legs into touring shape.
Well outside of Athens, the roads are less congested with a good shoulder most of the way. (The toll roads also have a good shoulder lane, but the speeds there make riding dangerous.) Going up further into Greece you’ll wind your way through olive groves with century plus old olive trees and quaint Greek villages. White Orthodox churches with blue roofs are scattered across the countryside offering contrast with the blue waters of the Gulf of Elisina.
You’ll wind your way further north to the towering cliffs of Meteora with monasteries on top. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, you may want to spend a bit of time taking in this unique phenomenon of nature.
Further north lies the little known and poorly marked Pindus National Park. Though there isn’t much signage, you’ll know it when you see it. It is an undiscovered treasure where, unfortunately, wild camping is not legal.
Albania and the EuroVelo 8
Albania is rich with culture, beauty, and unique experiences. It has the highest mountain peaks in the Balkans and vast plains. These combine to make for some epic beauty and sunsets.
The capital city, Tirana, is a booming urban center that has horses, bicycles, and the newest luxury cars in the streets. The same is true of the skyline but in the shape of buildings.
Heading still further north, Lake Skoder (Lake Skadar in Montenegro) stretches across the country border into Montenegro. It mirrors the mountains making both the water and surroundings more spectacular.
Montenegro and the EuroVelo 8
Crossing the Montenegrin border, you quickly come to the outskirts of the capital city, Podgorica. Here you find the largest single-owner-continuous-vineyard in all of Europe. The Vranac grape grows in this vineyard. Famous for its dark color, the Vranac variety is unique to Montenegro. Welcome to the unique beauty of the Med and the Mediterranean Route.
Leaving Podgorica you’ll wind back along Lake Skadar. This road is narrow and traveled, but motorists will work with you. This section of road is passable with but not ideal for trailers, however.
After Virpazar, a toll road will veer off to the left. You need to take the right which means a major reduction in traffic, a slight increase in road widith, and a climb. This is slow riding but the scenery is spectacular. Once you crest this ridge of mountains, you’ll be looking out on the coastline of the Adriatic. These waters will be your companion most of the rest of your time in the Balkans on this route.
On the coastline you’ll see amazingly beautiful coastal towns like Budva and Herceg Novi. In between these two you’ll see the fjords that make Kotor and its bay a distinctive place to go and another UNESCO site. Both the mountains that go down to the water’s edge and the old town are impressive.
In Croatia the roads will widen and the terrain will flatten a good bit. Early in your time moving northward into the country you’ll pass Dubrovnik. It is the most famous old town on the Balkan side of the Adriatic. It is the King’s Landing. Literally. This is where HBO shoots the King’s Landing scenes for Game of Thrones. It is filled with tourists in the summer, but there is a good reason for it.
Traveling further north you’ll run into a number of other worthwhile coastal towns. These include Split, Zadar, and Rijeka. Each beautiful and special in its own way.
While there is so much beauty to see in Croatia, one of the best things you’ll see often are the sunsets reflecting off the Adriatic. Not sure why, but the colors of Croatian sunsets are distinct and forever. You’ll remember their rays long after your time in the country.
Plan your trip. Ride your adventure. And then let us know about your venture. We would love to share your EuroVelo 8 story with the bicycle touring community. Have a safe, life-changing journey!
For more info, maps, and .gpx files for your GPS, go to our EuroVelo 8 resources page.