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The cycling route "Trans Dinarica" takes you through 8 countries

In 2024, cyclists can start planning their "long distance" trips along the new route connecting eight Balkan countries. Trans Dinarica, which will be launched in 2024, is the first cycling route connecting the Western Balkans. The moderately difficult 3,364 km (2,090 mile) trail stretches through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia, and spotlights mountain ranges, the Adriatic Sea, numerous lakes and rivers, while prioritizes sustainable exploration of UNESCO sites, national parks and villages.

The Western Balkans exudes a stunning beauty that combines harsh landscapes with cultural richness. High mountains, covered with lush greenery, attract attention. The peaks, often shrouded in mist, evoke an ethereal aura. Rivers wind their way through the valleys, reflecting the azure sky above, leading to ancient towns with stone streets and houses with terracotta roofs.

Far from the mountains, along the Adriatic coast, there are pristine beaches with crystal clear waters, inviting those who visit to relax on its shores. Sunsets paint the sky with shades of pink and gold, casting an enchanting glow over the entire landscape. From country to country in the Western Balkans, made up of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia, the landscape is constantly changing, inviting you to discover the natural beauty and rich heritage of each country.

Despite their ever-changing landscapes, all eight countries share a common thread of resilience, hospitality and a deep sense of identity shaped by their complex histories and stunning landscapes – an element that Jan Klavora wanted to show when he came up with the idea of a bicycle route that will connect all eight unique countries. But from a monumental idea to bringing it to life, how does one create a route of such magnitude?

Inspired by the launch of the Via Dinarica, a 1,200 km long hiking trail that runs through the Dinaric Alps, encompassing several counties, Klavora, the mastermind of this great undertaking, says: "I immediately thought it would also make a great long distance mountain bike route“.

That was in 2017. Today, seven years later, the 3,364-kilometer route is almost ready to be discovered after many painstaking hours of creating this impressive multi-stage journey through different landscapes, cultures and terrains.

I'm really excited to finally see people riding this route as it's been an idea of mine for a long time,” remarked Jan, reflecting on the arduous but rewarding journey of reviving Trans Dinarica. "We already have more than 4,000 people on the list for the navigation package, coming from the US, Germany, Australia and the UK. It's important to have a clear vision from the beginning - constantly thinking about how we want it to look in the end and how everything should look exactly. Fortunately, we had a lot of experience building other products that helped.”

Good Trail is what Klavora is all about, a company he founded that creates adventure tourism itineraries for destinations around the world together with a passionate group of experts, including a travel journalist and consultant Alexa Cravera and cartographer Matica Klanjščeka – both of whom were a vital part of the creation of the Trans Dinarica route. Previous projects included Trans Slovenia, the Green Pannonian Route of Slovenia, the Kočev Circular Cycling Route and Trans Croatia.

Trans Dinarica, however, is the team's biggest project so far. After Klavora talked with the creators of Via Dinarica, he started talking with numerous people who will be involved in the project, from various stakeholders and sponsors to local experts. "You have to find out if the idea in your head will actually work", He said. After the agreement, virtual route planning is the first step in realizing the idea.

We find the best cyclists in specific regions and also do workshops with different experts to create a virtual route", he added. These workshops with the local community are said to deepen the cyclist's relationship with the destination by providing authentic experiences – a key component to the creation of this cycling route. After the route is virtually drawn, the Good Trail team sets out on the trail themselves, taking a van, bicycles, a photographer and a cameraman who will check every meter of the route. During this time on the track, all the navigation details are recorded, such as surface types, technical difficulties, track conditions, points of interest, garbage places, accommodation, water stations and so on, which the team's cartographer, Klanjšček, will then input into the GPS map.

Marketing and promotion of the route takes place in the office, led by Craver as a travel journalist. On top of that, Klavora modestly stated that he is doing "anything and everything" to bring his vision to life. Although the three men are the visionaries of the project, they also mention all the other people involved over the years who have helped complete this extraordinary route across the Western Balkans, highlighting what a team effort it is to put something like this together.

It's clear that creating a route that goes through eight countries is no small feat, but while it's a big challenge for the team working behind the scenes, they didn't want the route to be just for extreme bike tourers. Instead, the route is for cyclists of all abilities. Of course, some parts of the route will be more demanding than others - you can't escape the mountains of the Western Balkans - but not every stage is so demanding. "We wanted to achieve this kind of bullseye 50 km per day,” rekao je Craver. “We really wanted to make it accessible to everyone who wants to travel by bike, not just those extreme riders.”

The 3,364 km long route consists of 80 stages, each about 50 km long, and is ideal for use on a Gravel or mountain (MTB) bike. The route starts in western Slovenia and crosses into Croatia before following the corridor of National Parks as it continues south towards its endpoint near Lake Orchid – one of the oldest lakes in the world – on the border of Albania and North Macedonia. Whether people want to ride the entire 3,364km route in one go or explore each country one by one, the route offers the perfect balance of challenging climbs, peaceful scenery and culture.

The scenery is one of the main reasons why cycling in this region is so magical, and spectacular scenery abounds throughout the route. Klanjšček emphasized this: "There is no particular part of the route that I like, of course there are sections that are more beautiful than others in terms of natural scenery, but there is literally too much variety to choose from.”

Craver reiterated how beautiful these eight countries are, a part of the world that he said has been "neglected." He added: "We all know about the Balkans, it's certainly not a complete secret, but people don't often travel to the intimate areas of the Balkans where the communities are remote. Not in the same way that people explored these areas in France or Spain.”

Beyond the thrill of the adventure lies a deeper purpose – building local communities along the route. Crevar explained the transformative effect that Trans Dinarica wants to enable. "Cyclists are hungry and slow. We need food and safe places", he said. "We're not in the car, you can't just keep going. So at the end of each day you will stay in the village where you left off, you know, you don't continue. This is important for these villages because most locals are used to people just continuing to the main town where there are many hotels and restaurants, but if you are in a village you have to make do with what you have.

Then, over the next few years, decades, those villages will adapt and figure out ways to offer more. There could be a man who offers trips from the countryside, someone who learns to fix bicycles or offers more than a cup of coffee - he will serve lunch or dinner, for example. Creating that is by far the most important thing to me.”

Trans Dinarica, therefore, is not just a destination - it is a journey, creating bonds with fellow travelers, experiencing the warmth of hospitality in remote villages and discovering hidden gems off the beaten track. It's about embracing the spirit of exploration and embarking on an adventure like no other.

As the Good Trail team prepares to present their Trans Dinarica cycling route to the world, it stands as a testament to the strength of collaboration, vision and unwavering determination of Klavora, Craver and Klanjšček. Their planning for this route will not only see riders taking a physical journey, but also a profound journey of discovery and connection.

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