If you are looking for a cycling region of Croatia which has it all, look no further than Central Dalmatia, a tourist paradise which has a wealth of diversity and challenge for cyclists of all levels. The regional tourist board has worked hard in recent years to promote cycling tourism as one of its key year-round activities, and there are now almost 3,000km of marked trails, with much more to come in 2017, as well as dedicated bike maps for inland Dalmatia and the islands of Brac and Hvar. The whole region will be covered by the end of 2017.
Where to start with this paradise? Perhaps in the heart, the Dalmatian capital of Split, one of Europe's hottest destinations after years of being known simply as 'the Gateway to the Dalmatian islands'. With its very own UNESCO World Heritage Site in Diocletian's Palace, Split is a city which has it all - culture, gourmet, beaches, nightlife and enviable neighbouring attractions. For the cyclist in town, don't miss exploring the lungs of the city, Marjan hill, which also offers the best views of this gorgeous city.
Gateway to the islands it may be, but whichever way you turn, there is magic. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old town of Trogir, is just up the coast, a little further along than the seven castles of Kastela which are also home to the original Zinfandel, while a little to the south is the Split Riviera which was named in 2016 as the best 12-month destination in Croatia.
Or head inland for what is perhaps the most underrated and rarely explored part of Croatia, the region of Zagora. Pass by the mighty Klis Fortress, now a famous Game of Thrones filming location, into a region which is rich in nature, heritage, gastronomy, and tradition. Don't miss the Alka knight town of Sinj and its fascinating new museum, the unique Red and Blue Lakes of Imotski, the 600 year-old mills at Grab, or the divine source of the Cetina river.
Or island hop. There are four magnificent islands which are yours to discover - timeless Solta, heavenly Vis, and the two main cycling islands, Brac and Hvar, both of which has developed trail and maps. Brac, home of Croatia's most famous beach at Zlatni Rat, as well as the source of some of the stone in The White House in Washington, also has a famous cycling patron, and former London Mayor Boris Johnson's endorsement of Brac as a cycling destination had more than 1.6 million hits soon after its release.
Or island hop on to Hvar, the lavender island, the sunniest in all Europe, and an island with its very own UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stari Grad Plain. Olive groves, vineyards, historic towns and villages, all laced with spectacular views - no wonder Hvar was recently included in Duvine's list of top 10 coastal cycling destinations in Europe.
Exciting new projects such as Medpaths and the Dinaric Trail are really opening up Central Dalmatia as a cycling destination, and there are a growing number of cycling-themed events coming to the region, which can only add to the appeal. The big one of course is the Tour of Croatia, but others, such as Cetina Adventure and the new Dalmacija Ultra Trail are showcasing the region as a stunning adrenaline destination nationally and internationally.
For an overview of the region and its cycling, visit www.dalmatia-bike.com, the official regional tourist board website.