Having completed several EuroVelo routes in Western Europe, my partner and I decided it was time to increase the level of adventure on our next cycling trip. We were looking for more of a physical challenge, i.e. a longer route with more elevation gain than we had done before. At the same time, we were also looking to discover new cultures. With this goal in mind, we then added other requirements to find our route: it had to take place in a region that was not too expensive, had good weather and boasted both mountains and coastline. After a bit of searching, we had no doubt that in the summer of 2022 we would set course for the Balkans.
It was a done deal. I set to work to plan our itinerary. It was difficult to find someone who had done exactly what we wanted, so I created the route from scratch, looking for inspiration from blogs, forums and other adventurers on komoot. This Collection is the result: 21 stages totalling approximately 1,000 kilometres (621 mi) through seven countries. In total, to be able to enjoy the sites at leisure and have enough rest days, we spent a month on this route.
The Balkan Peninsula is a fascinating and relatively unknown region of Europe. Its varied landscapes are as rich as the myriad cultures, ethnicities and religions of its inhabitants. Although this route covers seven countries, it only offers glimpses of Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Greece. Most of the stages take place in Albania, a wonderful country to explore by bike because of its scenic beauty and the generosity of its people.
In terms of scenery, this route offers a bit of everything: the sunny and idyllic Adriatic and Ionian coasts, the fascinating Bay of Kotor, the huge lakes of Shkodër and Ohrid, the high mountains of northern Albania and the deep canyons and valleys of the Drin and Vjosa rivers. There are also interesting towns and villages steeped in history and diverse influences, such as Shkodër, Gjakova, Ohrid, Korçë and Girokastra. Beyond the large population centres, the most charming places for me were the small villages and the chance encounters in the countryside with locals, their eagerness to engage in conversation and find out what made you want to cycle through their land.
Transfers to and from the start and return points of the route are easy. Both Dubrovnik and Corfu have airports with good connections to other European cities. Regarding accommodation and food supplies, most of the days end in towns or cities where you find several hotels, restaurants and shops, otherwise, I specify in each stage. We travelled with tents, although campsites are scarce in the more remote areas. Along each section, even in the more rural areas, you will pass through villages where you can buy food. However, always carry enough food and water, just in case.
I also recommend that you do this route between late spring and early autumn. If you do it in summer, like me, protect yourself from the sun, do the stages as early as possible and don't hesitate to change the itinerary in case of extreme temperatures.
I hope you enjoy this region as much as I did.
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: January 13, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
This Balkan adventure begins in Gruda, Croatia, which is easily accessible by taxi from Dubrovnik Airport. It is a short first stage and without major unevenness, to warm up the engines. A first day in which you will cross the first border of many!
A large part of this section can be done by national…
Today one of the toughest and most spectacular sections of this entire Collection awaits you. And it is that this stage takes you into the majestic Bay of Kotor, one of the most impressive landscapes in Europe.
Shortly after starting the Route, you must take the ferry from Kamenari to Lepetane. From here…
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This third stage is a true marvel. Although not many kilometers are covered, you have to save a lot of unevenness. However, the terrain is very comfortable, since the entire section is carried out on a paved road in good condition.
As for the landscape, today you will enter the Shkodër Lake National Park…
After a couple of stages with a lot of unevenness, this section offers you a breather. Although not for that reason it is lacking in emotions. After all, today it's time to cross into a new country: Albania.
The first part of the stage runs through a thick and beautiful forest covered with moss and ferns…
Most of this stage borders Lake Koman. The stage is memorable for three reasons: the beautiful views of the lake, the high mountains that surround it and the poor condition of the road. Think that every adventure has its challenges.
The section itself does not pose great difficulties, but you do have…
The adventure continues with this stage that includes a spectacular ferry ride, as well as a brief visit to a new country: Kosovo.
The first 35 kilometers of the Route you can park your bike at the ferry, sit back and simply enjoy the views as you cross the crystal clear waters of the Drin River.
After this brief visit to Kosovo, it is time to return to Albania, once again crossing the mountains that form the natural border between the two countries. An ascent of about 300 meters of elevation awaits you, but the road is very quiet and the views of the mountains help you enjoy the climb.
Although Peshkopi is barely 70 kilometers from Kukes, doing this journey in a single stage would mean saving an accumulated difference in altitude of almost 2,000 meters. For this reason, I suggest you divide this section into two shorter stages and spend the night near Lusen.
From the first 10 kilometers…
The ascent continues in this stage in which you have to conquer more than 1100 meters of positive slope. The reward is that today you will reach the highest point of this entire Collection and the views of the mountains are spectacular.
After reaching the top, it's time to enjoy the long descent that…
This beautiful stretch takes you to a new country: North Macedonia. The first part of the Route runs almost entirely along the water's edge, between rivers and lakes.
After a first ascent, around kilometer 20, you will cross the border into Macedonian lands. You will notice how the landscape slowly changes…
This fantastic stage is the last one in North Macedonia and skirts the eastern side of Lake Ohrid, one of the deepest and oldest lakes in all of Europe. In addition to amazing nature, you will also discover the town of Ohrid, declared a World Heritage Site for its magnificent cultural heritage.
This short and easy section has no difficulty other than overcoming the initial ascent that will take you from the shores of Lake Ohrid and the farmlands around Pogradec to a height of almost 900 meters.
Once this small challenge has been conquered, the rest of the stage runs along the national road through…
Today I propose a short stage. I feel that, during a long journey, the days are necessary in which fewer kilometers are covered and the legs are given a little respite. If you prefer to continue on your way, you can also spend the night in the village of Ersekë.
This section is carried out almost exclusively…
The Route continues towards the south of Albania, entering increasingly mountainous terrain. It is a short stage, with a fairly well distributed unevenness and almost exclusively on paved roads.
About kilometer 30 of the Route, the ascent to the Barmash pass awaits you through a winding road. It is not…
The first stretch of this stage runs through a lush pine and fir forest, gently descending. Leaving this sector, the road continues between mountains and meadows, offering you the first views of the majestic Nemërçkë mountain range.
In the town of Leskovik, on kilometer 15 of the Route, you can make a…
After leaving Permet behind, the Route follows the course of the Viosa River, which as it passes through Këlcyrë forms a spectacular gorge with large rocky walls.
About kilometer 33 of the route, the course makes a 90 degree turn to the south. From this moment on, the traffic increases considerably on…
At this stage, the landscape changes radically. Today you will leave the mountains behind and discover the Mediterranean coast of Albania.
To do this, first you have the challenge of conquering the ascent of 300 meters of unevenness to the Muzina mountain pass. The reward is that on the way down you can…
After having enjoyed Ksamil, it's time to return along the same road to Sarandë. From here, the Route follows the route of the EuroVelo 8 that runs along the so-called Albanian Riviera to the city of Vlorë. You will ride on SH8, one of the most popular roads among cyclists in Albania for its incredible…
If, like me, in the previous stage you decided to go on an adventure and ride your bike down to the beach to stay at the campsite, I'm afraid you won't like the first part of this day. You will have to push the bike uphill for three kilometers to the road. If not, I envy you right now!
The Route continues…
This is the last leg in Albania, so enjoy the last few kilometers on the iconic SH8 road!
This section leaves behind the beautiful and endless beach of Borsh and continues north to the city of Himarë. About kilometer 15 of the Route, you will pass Porto Palermo, a beautiful bay and an important military…
Bike Touring Collection by Puglia
Bike Touring Collection by Anna_Orsatti
Bike Touring Collection by Kohle, Wind & Wasser-Tour
Hiking Collection by komoot