The ritual begins. The boat docks. Bikes are lined up. Water bottles filled. Helmets on. And then we all gather around our guide who gives us a short rundown on today's itinerary, which as tough as it seems involves a balanced mix of cycling, coffee, culture, swimming, ice cream and relaxation on yet another remote island in this archipelago just off the Croatian coast.
Croatia, a country embattled by conflict for many years, is now a tourist mecca for thousands of travellers and for a very good reason. Great hospitality, a stunning coastline, and some 1,200 islands laying just off the coast in the beautiful and inviting Adriatic Sea have made it a popular destination for Europeans for years, and now the rest of the world is getting to enjoy it.
Tempted and teased by several island hopping companies whose glossy brochure highlights the party scene on the tourist-heavy islands of Hvar and Brac, we choose a different option, and that being to explore the less populated islands to the north of Split. And the best way to explore these small and remote islands, is by a trusty bicycle running alongside coastal paths and lightly used roads.
With constant sunshine, the days seem to blend into each other. A ride in the morning takes us past beaches, people, historical and cultural items, cafes and bars. The willpower to ride without constant breaks is weak, and a coffee with a local Dalmatian sweet delicacy becomes not only a daily treat but an opportunity to watch the locals go about their business.
Beach side paths
By lunchtime we are back at our boat, and our bikes are safely stowed away. A quick dip at the local beach or perhaps off the back of the boat is followed by lunch on the boat and an afternoon cruise to another remote island that TripAdvisor has yet to discover. Perhaps the hardest part of the tour was about to come with a decision required : another short bike ride around the small island, a walk, a dip in a natural salt lake, a beach swim or a pre-dinner drink at the local café bar to sample some of the local beverages.
Time for a dip
A visit to the magnificent Krka National Park and its stunning 7 waterfalls offers a change of scenery with a pleasant walk, followed by a swim and yet another Dalmatian delicacy. It's tourist season and the Park is popular, and with the warm sun beating down, the waters are an effective magnet for all comers looking for some relief from the summer sun.
Krka National Park
Guided walking tours of the larger towns of Zadar and Sibenik are offered and eagerly taken, particularly in the early evening after the sun has lost some of its bite. Rich with history, tall with bell-towers, stunning with views, and overwhelming with delicacies and flavoured ice cream, these towns are popular destinations for tourists of all nationalities and denominations.
All too quickly, our boat returns to Trogir, another historic town in central Dalmatia surrounded by walls of history which are now a significant tourist magnet. A quick trip around this small town reveals another blend of history and beauty before we return to the boat, our home for the last week, for a final celebratory meal together, before bidding farewell to our newly discovered friends.
Our tour has ended, but the memories will last for a long time. The Bicycle Cruise National Parks of Dalmatia Plus
offered by islandhopping.com
was our tour, with tours running from May to October each year. Further details on the tour including highlights, pre-requisites and booking details are available from the Island Hopping website.
Another day come to an end