During this Eastern European cycling tour, small challenges and amazing rewards combine to create the trip of a lifetime. The rich natural beauty and cultural diversity of the Balkans provides the kind of variety you rarely find on European rides, and the fascinating route provides the opportunity to visit five very different countries. Starting in Macedonia, we'll ride over the Dinaric Alps into Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. The largely uncrowded roads allow for glorious views, and you'll have the chance to experience the area's rich culture and sample the local cuisine, including cheese, honey, smoked ham, and olives. Don't miss this unforgettable trip that will leave you challenged, fulfilled, and inspired.
Cycle the ancient Via Egnatia road, built by Romans in the 2nd century B.C.
Visit remote villages and walled cities, including five UNESCO Cultural and Natural Heritage sites
Marvel at natural wonders like the majestic Ohrid and Skadar lakes, and the Dinaric Alps
Upon arriving at Skopje airport, meet your MT Sobek trip leader outside of customs and transfer to the hotel. Take a guided city tour that includes the Memorial House of Mother Teresa, Macedonia Square, the Stone Bridge, the Ottoman-era Old Town, and the city walls of Kale. In the evening, meet the group for a welcome dinner.
After a 45-minute transfer to Mavrovo National Park start cycling to the village of Galicnik, at 4,921 feet. Only inhabited during summer, it's known for its stone houses, its tasty sharp sheep cheese, and its fruit brandy. In the afternoon, cycle down to Mavrovo Lake to visit the St. Jovan Bigorski monastery, with the old wooden icons carved by the Myak masters. Cycle another 20 minutes to the village of Jance. There's a possibility for taking a single trail up on the highlands, for a distance of 3 miles.
Transfer to the village of Dzepiste, with stunning views of Debar Lake. Bike along the Drim River, pass the village of Trebenista, and traverse parts of the ancient Roman Via Egnatia road, built in the 2nd century B.C. After lunch in a village, arrive in Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the namesake lake. Enjoy a walking tour of the old town highlights, like St. Sofia Cathedral and the Roman Amphitheatre. (It's possible to take a 2-mile gravel road in the fields along the village road.)
Wake early to catch the beautiful sunrise over the lake, then cycle past Vila Biljana (the former Presidential villa of Tito), the "Bay of Bones" archaeological settlement, St. Naum Monastery - the birthplace of Cyrillic script - and the springs of Crn Drim River, one of the main sources of the lake. Lunch in a restaurant in the lagoon by St. Naum, and then cycle across the border to Pogradec, a small fishing town in Albania. This late afternoon, transfer to the village of Korce.
Leave Korce and climb steadily into the heart of the Grammoz mountain range on the borders of Albania and Greece, a landscape of barren rock interspersed with wildflowers. Climb over the Barmash Pass (5,771') to the village of Germenj, lying in its own tranquil valley. The combination of stunning scenery, quiet roads, and a feeling of isolation make today's ride one of the highlights of the tour. Spend the night in wooden bungalows in Germenj.
Climb out from Germenj to a high grassy plateau surrounded by soaring peaks. Once at the source of the Vjosa River, descend through its spectacular gorge to Leskovik. Continue down to the Greek-speaking village of Carshove before following the route to Permet, on a bluff high above the river. Then take a short but dramatic transfer to the historic town of Gjirokaster, another UNESCO Heritage site, home to stunning Ottoman architecture - including 18th- and 19th-century buildings and an Ottoman citadel believed to be the second largest in the Balkans.
For the next two days, take a break from cycling and visit another UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as the capital of Albania. First, see splendid Berat, the best preserved and perhaps most beautiful town in Albania. Explore the cobbled alleys between the white-walled houses and visit the citadel high above town. Then set off for Tirana, the capital of Albania and its largest city.
Spend some time exploring Tirana before heading off for Shkoder town and its beautiful fortress on the border between Albania and Montenegro. After lunch in Shkoder, head into Montenegro, taking a road along the northern slopes of the Rumi mountains with magnificent views of the lake and mountains in the distance. Jump in a small boat to visit Skadar National Park, with its many water birds and isolated fishing villages, and end the day in the village of Virpazar.
Today, cycle the ancient route connecting the Adriatic coast with the hinterlands, visiting an old fishing village at the edge of Skadar Lake along the way. Climb to Cetinje, the former royal capital, for lunch and visit one of the many museums. Take one more climb to Lovcen National Park. A striking shrine to Montenegro's most famous son, Petar II Petrovic Njegos, peers down from its heights, with views stretching as far as Albania and Croatia. Stay in the park's center, Ivanova Korita, for some well-deserved stargazing.
Take a panoramic tour that follows the old Austrian road once connecting Cetinje, the village of Njegusi, and Kotor. Start with a visit to the Njegos Mausoleum, then cycle downhill to the old town of Kotor. Take a short detour to the village of Njegusi, birthplace of the famous 19th-century Montenegrin ruler and poet, Petar II Petrovic Njegos. After lunch, cycle the Ladder of Kotor, with 26 serpentines and stunning views to the bay. Finish in the old town of Kotor with a short walk along the old walls at sunset.
Cycling the Bay of Kotor is a breathtaking ride, with views of the Dinaric Alps, the cobalt blue waters of the Adriatic, and medieval villages with waterfront views. Bike through a bird reserve and olive groves, and, weather permitting, take a small motor boat to Herceg Novi, one of the bay's best-kept secrets with its sparkling seaside location, walled fortress, and old town.
Enter Bosnia via the backroads over the Orijen mountain range, where few cars venture. Stop in the meadows and meet one of the region's many beekeepers, where you have an opportunity to try the delicate honey with some pungent cheese. Then head down to Trebinje, Bosnia's most southern city, neatly tucked on the Trebisnica River in the quiet foothills of the Dinarics. Spend the night sampling some of the region's wine and slow food with a family just outside of Trebinje, known for preserving and serving traditional food.
Cross over the border into Croatia and head to the Konavle Valley, known for its pine and cypress forests, vineyards, olive groves, and old watermills. Today's ride leads along quiet and narrow asphalt roads dotted with small villages. It's a perfect end to the trip, with great riding, delicious local fare, and an opportunity for a late-afternoon swim in the clear-blue waters of the Adriatic. End the day with a short transfer to the hotel in Dubrovnik and dinner in its bustling old town.
After breakfast, transfer to Dubrovnik's international airport.
MT Sobek is the only American tour operator offering a cycling trip along this route. Visit 5 countries with 5 different cultures by bike!
Cyclists are treated half- to full-day biking routes accompanied by seasoned MT Sobek guides of the Balkans - all expert in long-distance bike touring.
In just two weeks' time, witness the Balkan region's rich and complex cultural history, featuring five UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Our expert guides and trip leaders are truly the key to our trips' success. Many are locals who live in-country year-round; others have made it their second home—all are passionate, enthusiastic and endlessly knowledgeable. Meet a few of the guides that might be on your trip.
Cycling up to 8 hours per day on asphalt roads, with some gravel sections. Stops at ancient sites, remote villages, traditional farms, and pristine nature parks.
A diverse mix of fantastic lodgings, from rustic bungalows and inns to Ottoman-era, Baroque-style and modern luxury hotels, featuring standard to deluxe amenities.
Temperatures during this trip in May and June are ideal for cycling. Mornings are cool, days are warm, then it cools off again in the evening.
Your trip leader will meet you in the arrivals hall of the Skopje airport (SKP) between 9AM and 9:45AM, and again between 12:30PM and 1:00PM for later arrivals.
Yes, we can provide helmets, if you do not wish to bring one. Please let us know in advance if you will need a helmet. Helmets are required for all participants.
Yes, we can provide water bottles, if you do not wish to bring your own. Please let us know in advance if you will need a water bottle.
No, we do not provide SPD pedals. If you would like to bring your own pedals with your shoes, our guides will be happy to help you put the pedals on your bike.
Yes, you can bring your own bike, but we discourage it. It can be difficult and expensive to travel with your bike. If you are bringing your own bike, please let us know and please also tell us if your bike box is a hard or soft case.
Make any of our trips a custom adventure or start from scratch. Take two itineraries and match them up to create a unique third. Add extras and extensions and more...if you can imagine it, we can make it happen!
"I would highly recommend this awesome five-country bike adventure for the experienced cyclists. It will outperform your expectations."
MT Sobek Guest, Cycling in the Balkans
"I've taken six MT Sobek trips and they have all exceeded my expectations. The staff, the food, the logistics and the communications have always been exceptional. Thank you for being my "go to" adventure travel company!"
MT Sobek Guest