Just like in the fairy tale, Velebit is the Cinderella to its more famous sisters: the Adriatic coast, Dubrovnik, and Plitvice and Krka National Parks. It often gets overlooked. Most of the tourists only see its slopes from the highway, on their way to Dalmatia. But, as in fairy tales, if you look close enough, you too can discover the magic of Velebit.
By Zlatko Tomšić
A team led by Željko Klepić organizes Heart of Velebit – St. Rok MTB Tour. Željko now lives in Zagreb, but he was born in Lovinac and spent his whole life exploring the mountain Velebit. This small town now hosts the starting points of all his tours. His motivation for organizing these tours is to share his love of Velebit with others. In order to achieve this, he enlisted the help of local authorities, businesses, the tourist board, neighbors, and friends and managed to create a charming event.
The Heart of Velebit – Saint Rok MTB Tour is a great weekend getaway. There are three full days of cycling, exploring, and enjoying the nature, food, and culture. Each participant can choose from one, two, or three-day packages. In total, there are six routes to choose from. The routes range from novice to expert levels.
All routes are mostly dirt tracks and gravel fire roads, so there are no distractions from oncoming traffic (except for some sheep and an occasional donkey). This is not a major tourist destination. People who love an authentic and traditional experience will be in their element. Culture, architecture, food, hospitality – everything is real and in touch with nature, in the same manner as it has been for generations. You will be far away from famous mass-participation events with thousands of participants.
The tours are led by experienced guides. Within small groups of cyclist and at a leisurely pace, you will discover one of Croatia’s best-kept secrets, the Velebit – the mountain where three colors meet; green on the mountainside facing the inland, the grey rocky side facing the sea, and the endless blue of the sky and the Adriatic. The scenery is breathtaking.
The routes start at just below 600 meters above sea level and go as high as 1000 meters. From the highest point, you can see peaks that are over 1700 meters above sea level and all are within hiking distance. If you look back, there are green forests and karst lakes and ahead of you is a thousand-meter drop all the way down to the Adriatic, which is as blue as a summer sky and littered with islands.
Organizers thought about after ride activities too. Participants can experience the famous zip line, enjoy local delicacies, enjoy music next to a campfire, and take part in traditional folk games.
In 2019, the event takes place from May 24 until May 26.