Our guides updated the tour map daily so we could see our progress in getting to know Dalmatia by boat and bike

Beware: Tap Dancers

Jim toured this castle in Stari Grad

We completed our Croatia bike journey back in Split, where it began, after a couple stops on the wonderful island of Brač. As you can see from the map, we really covered a lot of this incredible Dalmatian coast. We almost can’t believe how many picturesque harbor towns we saw — not to mention all the villages we biked through as we crossed over the center of each island. It’s been a fantastic way to get to know this beautiful country better.

We also enjoyed getting to know a bunch of nice people over the two weeks. They all shared our love of getting on a bike, visiting new places, trying new foods, learning about the (excellent) wines, and picking up a bit of the local language.

And now, of course, we are happy to get back to our own independent travel. We won’t get to bike anymore, but we sure do like picking our own accommodations, researching great places to eat, and, well, not ever being in a “group.”

From Split we’ll take a direct three-hour flight to Oslo and start what feels like a whole new trip. We’ve got about four weeks is Norway and Sweden, which will feature guest appearances by several beloved friends. We’ll also welcome a change in climate as the average daily high temperature drops by about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Here we go!

Arriving in Bol, on the island of Brač, yet another picture-perfect harbor town

Kelly and Mark shared a special bond as the only two Sullivans on board

Afternoon swim break at the Golden Horn, one of Croatia’s best known beaches, near Bol on the island of Brač

Headed out to dinner with Ethyl and our guides Senad and Luka

Dinner at a barbecue place in Bol

Many days included a ritual of anchoring the boat in a nice bay so everyone could jump off for a swim. This always felt wonderful in the scorching heat of the day.

Chrissy and Mark

Saying farewell, from left, Jim, Mark, Kelly, JD, Chrissy, Kevin, Ethyl, Molly

Toasting our trip with Mike and Tara from Vancouver

Jelsa, one of several stops on the island of Hvar, was one of our favorite towns. And of course Jim wouldn’t let Mark go past this thing without posing.

Kelly and Kevin and Jim

We had an unbelievable sunset in Postira on the island of Brač

This is our third trip to Dubrovnik and yet the very first picture we’ve had from inside the old town. Buzz Bar was great for both the Negronis and the people watching.

Day Eight was a leisure day in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is certainly one of the beautiful, ancient cities in the Mediterranean and worthy of a great day of sight seeing. But we’ve already been here, twice, so we didn’t need a lot of sight seeing. We went into the old town for dinner twice – arrival day and the day off – but didn’t need to do more. So instead of sight seeing we spent a very relaxed day at the beach. Sunbeds, umbrella, water, lunch – a pretty lazy day.

One crazy coincidence, though. The boat was tied up in the port area, a mile or two from the old city. As we were walking into town we noticed that when we were first in Dubrovnik nine years ago we’d stayed not far from the port and walked the same route into town. As we were taking a selfie some random tourist offered to take our picture for us … and we realized it was exactly the same place we’d taken a picture nine years earlier. See for yourself!

Walking from the boat into old town Dubrovnik. We were in exactly this spot nine years ago.

And here we are nine years ago. That tree over Mark’s right shoulder is so recognizable. And fortunately we haven’t changed a bit in nine years either!

Then it was back to biking. Over the next couple of days we biked on the islands of Šipan, Mljet, and then again on Hvar, the other end of where we’d biked earlier on the trip. The first ride was pretty low-key, nothing too challenging, but the next day the tour guides for some reason changed plans and put us on the island of Mljet. The ride wasn’t long, just an out-and-back, but the return route was on a crazy steep hill; most of us on push bikes (as opposed to e-bikes) had to walk up a considerable portion of it.

And then a long ride on Hvar that was pretty tough, some 34 miles with three tough climbs. Of course three tough climbs means lots of long downhills, too, but it’s the long climbs that really get to you. Add to that some brutal heat. To be honest, it’s just too hot to enjoy the biking these days, well up into the 90s on the long ride on Hvar. Which also makes meals on the boat when we’re not at sea pretty unbearable, too. Ugh.

I haven’t had a lot of beer over the last several years but after biking 20 or 30 miles with big hills and in intense heat, this is about the most welcome sight in the world.

The good news about the biking here is the fantastic wine: between wine bars that we find in little towns and a wine tasting we did in Trstenik on the Peljašic peninsula we’re discovering really great wines. And as long as I’m talking about what we love, the opportunity to bike into and spend time in lots of little towns – some really little but still either cute or outright beautiful – has been great.

This local white wine on Trstenik was really good, and cost all of about $2.25!

On the down side, of course, is the heat, the hills, and … COVID! Yup, four of our ship mates have tested positive over the last few days. Nobody has been sick beyond just a little tired and cough and so on, but that’s certainly not ideal. The good news is that after those four cases several days ago no one else has gotten sick. We spend an enormous amount of time outside, either biking or on deck, and those who’ve tested positive stay separate. So far at least that’s working.

Now back to biking. We’d appreciate it if this heat wave would break, but not much sign of it in the forecasts.

Most of the people on our tour spent their rest day in Dubrovnik kayaking. We spent it resting at Coral Beach.

One of perhaps a million cute little port towns here on the Dalmatian Coast. That island on the left seems unreal.

Getting to know our ship/bike mates has been a lot of fun. Here are John & Pam joining us for a glass of wine in Trstenik.

And Mark on a break with Cindy and Cheryl

Early morning view in Šipan

Evening port in Šipan

On most days we anchor in a harbor or cove of some sort for a swim. This is what it looks like.

And this is what it looks like when you’re biking uphill and have to watch for wild boars

We spent one evening tied up in the tiny, tiny town of Trstenik, population 116

On the island of Mljet we biked to the little town of Okuklje. It was a lovely stop but the ride back up was insanely steep.

On the road to Lastovo, overlooking Zaklopatica, which looks like a really lovely port town. It always amazes me that we bike that whole elevation from the sea.

We’re half way through our two-week bike trip and, as Mark already noted, the days have a distinct regularity. Get up, have breakfast, bike from sea level to the top of some hill, bike back to sea level. Usually a swim or two somewhere in there, often while the boat just anchors at sea, which can be fabulous.

One change that we’ve made is that Mark & I typically figure out the route on our Google Maps and head off on our own before the rest of the group. That gives us the chance to bike on our own – with Mark on his e-bike far in front – and avoid the regular stops to regroup and all that. Big improvement.

We started Day Five on the island of Lastovo, one of the smaller inhabited Adriatic islands in Croatia. It’s also further out in the Adriatic than most islands so during the years of the Cold War Yugoslavia used it pretty much exclusively as a key military base barred to foreign nationals; even Yugoslavs were discouraged from coming to the island. As a result the island suffered economic stagnation and depopulation. It’s been reopened now for some 30 years, but it still has the feel of a place that time has kind of passed by. Which actually makes for some pretty good biking as the 18 miles we did across the island saw little traffic but some great vistas.

Our boat, the Romantica, tied up to a little pier in Lastovo

After the ride, over lunch, we sailed to the island of Korčula, one of Croatia’s premier tourist islands. The next morning we set off on a serious ride, by far the most difficult so far: 38 miles from west to east including not one but two big climbs. Definitely some rewarding views but I was exhausted. The good news was that there was a nice beach waiting for us at the end of the ride that included a cafè with cold beer. It may well have been the first beer I’ve had in four or five years and oh heavens was it good.

In the town of Korčula we discovered this great wine bar up a little alley with a beautiful view of the sea and a great cooling breeze. The white wine is a Grk (that’s right, no vowel) an obscure grape grown only in a small area of this island. It was honestly one of the best glasses of wine I’ve ever had.

Finally, the next morning over breakfast we cruised to the town of Prapratno on the mainland and bike on to Slano, less than 20 miles northwest of Dubrovnik. After the previous day’s 38 miles, this 17-mile ride seemed like a breeze. On the way we passed the town of Ston, which claims the second-longest stone walls in the world after the Great Wall of China. That may be true but having been to the Great Wall, well, you just shouldn’t make that comparison. It’s worth noting that the stop in Ston to see the not-as-great wall (honestly impressive but not a Great Wall) was our third stop of the day after just four kilometers. From there Mark & I took off on our own again.

From here it’s down to Dubrovnik for a rest day before we head back up the coast for week two.

Our friends Ethyl, Molly, and Chrissy enjoying Korčula

There are a lot of views like this

And this

Occasionally we find ourselves on tiny roads surrounded by vineyards

Mark took this shot of me biking away from Ston

Mark getting ready to enjoy a great seafood for two appetizer in Korčula

And me at the same dinner. Normally we have dinner onboard but in this case we had a free night in the city. Mark did the research to find a great restaurant, and with a reservation we scored this perfect table right on the sea.

One last shot of Korčula. There’s a reason it’s one of Croatia’s top tourist destinations and a place I could easily imagine coming back for a few days.