The word Balkan comes from Turkish, meaning “chain of wooded mountains.” Had the ancient Turks ridden mountain bikes, they might have come up with another word for “wooded mountains with killer mountain biking.”
The Balkan countries of Slovenia and Croatia are just that sort of place, with the Slovenian Alps and Istrian mountains of Croatia providing the spectacular backdrop for this adventure.
Forested singletrack meets old-world-charm on this ride through history in one of the most fascinating areas of Europe. The Balkans were long a crossroads for cultures from all over Europe and Asia — now they’re a crossroads for travellers looking for something beyond the typical European experience.
Since the end of the Balkan war in the 90s, Slovenia and Croatia have been two of the hottest travel destinations in Europe, and it’s easy to see why: Slovenia is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with beautifully preserved wilderness and stunning mountain peaks as far as the eye can see, while Croatia’s coastline is quickly becoming a playground for the world’s gliteratt. The Istrian mountains are home to olive groves, vineyards, charming medieval towns and beautiful mountain bike trails.
Is This Ride For You?
You like tight, forested singletrack that opens up to spectacular views. You can handle moderately rooty and rocky singletrack. You can pedal for an average of 4.5 hours per day, multiple days in a row and can handle one fairly big day of climbing 1300 m. You’re into history and visiting 1000-year-old medieval towns and villages. You love exploring other cultures, and enjoy authentic culinary experiences.
Day 1. Arrive, Transfer to our Alpine Lodge in Jamnica
Welcome to Slovenia!
After we pick you up (3:00 p.m. from Hotel Park or 4:00 p.m. from Ljubljana Joze Pucnik Airport) we’ll transfer to our alpine lodge in the Karawanke Range of northern Slovenia, near the Austrian border, located approximately 2.5 hours north-east of Ljubljana.
Our home for the first 3‑nights is a charming Austrian-style guesthouse on an organic farm, high in the mountains. “Sound of Music” scenery surrounds us on all sides, as do miles and miles of singletrack.
Dixi is our local host here. We’ll dine on fresh food from Dixi’s farm tonight while reviewing what this incredible week of adventure has in store.
Day 2. Jamaica Mountain Bike Park
We’ll rise and shine to enjoy a home cooked group breakfast.
Our first day starts off with a short climb, overlooking green fields and spectacular peaks. The Jamnica ride takes you to the hills surrounding Dixi’s base. It features singletrack, fire roads and some dirt roads. Smooth singletrack, abandoned tractor trails, awesome views and manageable climbs make it the perfect warmup for the days ahead.
A lunch will be ready at a tourist farm around midday.
After lunch, we’ll start off with a little climbing, taking us to remarkable singletrack for a perfect end to the day.
After riding, we’ll return to our alpine lodge for another delicious meal prepared fresh from the farm.
Day 3. Lift-Accessed Riding in the Karawanke Range
Across the valley from our alpine lodge is a network of gorgeous singletrack, accessed by cable car.
We’ll start with a fun trail straight from our base, followed by a 1 hour ride on fire roads (with a wee bit of pavement — but it will be worth it!) that takes us into Austria to the slopes of Peca Mountain.
We’ll load ourselves and our bikes in a cable car, which will take us all the way up to 1700 m above sea level, where we reach the highest point of the day. We’ll enjoy a short rest to take in the spectacular views from the mountain hut, before we descend down on riveting singletrack back to Slovenia.
Lunch will be served at an authentic mountain hut, situated near the church of Saint Helena. Sitting on the terrace, perched on the edge of scenic vistas, we’ll enjoy a meal of traditional miners’ food.
After lunch, we’ll start down some epic ridge singletrack which will take us down to the valley.
From there, we’ll shuttle back to our lodge for a hearty dinner.
Day 4. Underground Riding and Drive to Vipava Valley
In the morning, we’ll load up the van and start our journey to the south.
Above the mining village Crna, we’ll start with few km’s of gravel road uphill, with a beautiful meadow on top. The descent is a combination of road changing to breathtaking narrow singletrack down to the valley. After a short technical section, we pop out on a gorgeous meadow trail with marvellous views of the village of Crna wrapped in the surrounding valleys. Back to the forest, 100 meters of steep technical climbing take us out again to see the mountains peaks in the area.
The final leg of the ride takes is to an open hill ridge trail down to the town of Crna. This final descent is truly breathtaking.
Next up, the underground centuries-old mine!
We’ll load up the van with our gear, then head to the mine entrance. Our local guide will outfit us with headlamps and take us into the bowels of the earth, along an 8‑kilometre long mineshaft. It’s an otherworldly experience, and one of the coolest things you’ll ever do on a mountain bike!
After the ride, we will stop for lunch in Mezica, then head to southern Slovenia, where we’ll check into our mountainside farm house in the town Sinjivrh where we’ll also enjoy dinner.
Day 5. Vipava Valley, Enter Croatia
After breakfast in the village of Sinji Vrh, we’ll experience one of the trip’s most stunning trails.
We’ll head up the Vipaya Valley (the Valley of the Wind) for a grueling but scenic climb to a spectacular lookout over the Postojna Valley. The descent is rocky, fun, and long.
We’ll stop for lunch at a beautiful riverside restaurant in the village of Vipava, then sample some local wines at a nearby wine tasting shop.
After a little more riding this afternoon, we’ll hop in the van and cross the border into Croatia, arriving at the beautiful hilltop town of Motovun where we’ll check into our rooms and head out for dinner.
Day 6. Groznjan and Boat Trip to Rovinj
After breakfast, we’ll transfer from our hotel to a town called Groznjan.
Groznjan is a unique, small, Medieval town, today known for its arts and music culture, boasting upwards of 20 art galleries.
We’ll gear up and start our ride straight from town. Todays ride will cover some of the trails used in the local Enduro and XC races. These immaculate trails flow through small trees and the meadows of Istria.
After riding, we’ll pack up the shuttle and head out for Lim Fjord, about a 1 hour drive.
We’ll have a well deserved lunch upon arrival in Lim Fjord, before hoping in a boat to Rovinj where we’ll check into our rooms and head out for dinner.
Please Note: The boat ride to Rovinj is weather dependent.
Day 7. Premature Trails
This morning, we’ll enjoy our breakfast in the village of Rovinj.
For the last day of our Ride, we will bike to the scenic end of the Istrian Peninsula. Kamenjak Peninsula is a natural resort, offering scenic singletrack in wild Mediterranean nature. While riding, we can take a few stops to dip into fresh Mediterranean water, and — for the brave — cliff jumping will be possible at several spots.
We’ll stop for lunch in Premantura.
Tonight, we’ll head back to Rovinj for our final dinner where we’ll celebrate our week of adventure!
Day 8. Return to Ljubljana
After our final group breakfast, we’ll load up the van and head back to Ljubljana Joze Pucnik Airport by 2:00 p.m.
High five your new riding pals and say your goodbyes until next time. Sob, weep, waaaaa!