There is no doubt, Herzegovina is currently the most developed cycling destination in the region and a desirable vacation spot for cyclists from around the world. What is it that attracts tens of thousands to this southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina every year?
Toni Zorić, president of the association “HerzegovinaBike”, says that the answer is very simple: “You can find everything in Herzegovina. It is very close to the sea, and thus the Eurovelo 8 route that stretches along the Adriatic coast, and which is connected by our pearl” Ćirina narrow gauge railway “.
Let’s go in order, the association “HerzegovinaBike” was founded as an association for the promotion of cycling, where they specialize in cycling, and since its registration until today, this association has developed over 2,000km of bike trails in order to offer cycling tourism and attract a large number of cyclists world to Bosnia and Herzegovina. By looking at their website, which is really special, we find the foundations of the statement of the president of this association. Certainly the most complete cycling offer (in two languages) with a large number of bike paths, excellent photos, arrangements, destinations to visit and local farms that this association suggests cyclists to visit in order to spend the night or taste local cuisine and gastronomic offer.
Can you introduce us to the idea of HerzegovinaBike?
“Association for the Promotion of Cycling” HerzegovinaBike “is conceptually conceived as an association that should develop the world’s increasingly popular sport of cycling and present Herzegovina, and Bosnia and Herzegovina as an excellent cycling destination, and be the center of cycling and cycling in general, all in one place. From the very beginning, this idea was recognized by the “Federal Ministry of Tourism and Environment”, where through their support we managed to lay the foundations of the Association and today 10 years after its founding we can see how much the team behind the name “HerzegovinaBike” has done a great job. a country that did not know cycling as a form of movement at all, together with our partners we managed to make one of the most desirable cycling tourist destinations “, said Zorić.
Who is behind the name HerzegovinaBike?
“Well, you see, everything started from Mostar with the establishment of the cycling club in Mostar, which brought together cyclists from Mostar, but also people from other parts of Herzegovina where cycling was not developed. I always liked watching things in a slightly wider spectrum and then I sat down with these people and told them that I am glad that they are here in Mostar with us, but also suggested that we spread this story, that they all establish a club in their place of residence, and that together we spread this positive story that promotes Herzegovina as a country. This story lives on today, after 10 years we have 16 clubs in Herzegovina from Tomislavgrad in Hercegbosna County, all the way to Trebinje in eastern Herzegovina.All these associations are gathered under the name “Cluster HerzegovinaBike” and have a common goal, and it is Herzegovina – the biggest cycling tourist destination “.
Truly a commendable and by no means easy job. How much support did you have in your goals?
“Somehow I like to say that the project” Ćira’s narrow-gauge railway “took the cycling tourism offer of Herzegovina to the next level. In fact, I think that all our efforts have actually started to come to light and through this project we have shown ourselves as a healthy and reliable partner. we can boast of numerous collaborations with resource ministries, as well as numerous agencies, such as JICA, REDAH, EU Info Center, UNDP, USAID, and the Government Office for EU Integration, with which we are currently developing the “Cycling Rural” project.
“Our first big collaboration was actually with REDAH (Regional Development Agency for Economic Development) with which we developed a bicycle path project along the former Ćira narrow-gauge railway from Mostar to Dubrovnik, and further to Trebinje in order to promote and expand the cycling tourism offer in Herzegovina. indeed a fantastic project that promoted Herzegovina to the whole world and a project from which we ourselves learned a lot, and we learned what we own and appreciate what we own.Many big media visited Herzegovina and wrote about the tourist capacities of Herzegovina because of Ćira , such as the British magazine “The Guardian“, the American “New York Times” and many others, while Lonely Planet ranked Herzegovina as the fourth most desirable cycling tourist destination in the world “.
“Furthermore, through this project we understood the term” cycling guide “, ie we had a trail as a tourist offer, but we needed people to ride with tourists and present our country to them in the best light. From 2015 until today, we have educated over 60 cycling guides, people who do this business, enjoy it and make a living from cycling and tourism in general.Then we worked with Redah on the project “Bike Friendly Standard” where the goal was to introduce local businessmen, owners of restaurants and accommodation facilities to the needs of cyclists, introduce them to the concept of cyclists as guests and what it takes to make their facility meet the requirements for cyclists, and finally get a license “Bike Friendly Standard. Today in Herzegovina we have a large number of restaurants that meet these requirements and turn to cycling and accept guests from all over the world “.
Insight into your website we see a really wide offer, how many trails are presented there?
“Herzegovina as a region consists of four counties: Herzegovina-Neretva County (HNŽ), West Herzegovina County (ŽZH), Hercegbosanska County (HBŽ) and East Herzegovina (RS), where we currently have over 2,000 km of bike paths for the purpose of cycling tourism in Herzegovina. is the biggest job done in ZZH through the project “Cycling Rural” where we presented the cycling tourist offer of western Herzegovina through 1,300 km of bike paths, ie tourists driving through rural parts of western Herzegovina, get to know the lives and customs of people who live here, and of course local cuisine All our work started from HNŽ with the trail “Ćirina uskotračne pruge” in the length of 180 km, and it is important to mention that the project “Ćiro Heritage” is underway, ie another 100 km of cycling offer on the stretch from Počitelj, touring through Stolac Radimlje, Daorson, Boljune, all the way to Hutovo selo, connecting to the existing trail along the Ćira railway. The smallest work has been done in HBŽ and East Herzegovina, but it will certainly not remain so, since our goal is to cover the whole of Herzegovina and its tourist capacities. It is worth mentioning that the “Ćiro 2″ project is currently underway on the section from Ravno, via Trebinje, Nikšić (Montenegro) all the way to Herceg Novi, so that in the years ahead we will be able to cycle along the Ćiro railway line from Mostar all the way to Herceg Novi. in Montenegro. There is still a lot of work ahead of us, but we hope for many positive projects and great experiences. ”
How much did the corona affect cycling tourism in Herzegovina?
“I was just waiting for you to ask that question (laughs). Well, of course it affected, like everything else in the world. In previous years, we had so many cyclists on the Ćira railway that we just couldn’t believe how many cyclists come from around the world. to Herzegovina and tour it by bike.We always looked for a guide more and simply tourism in Herzegovina flourished.But on the other hand this stalemate helped us regroup, complete some big projects, redesign our website and expand the cycling offer to be ready to welcome the end of this pandemic and the arrival of new tourists to Herzegovina “.
What is the next challenge ahead of you? What is the next thing HerzegovinaBike will present to us?
“Well, it is certain that we will finish the started projects on” Ćiro “tracks, and then our web team will post it all on our website and present a new cycling offer, and our goal is to do a good job in Eastern Herzegovina, as well as HBŽ. At the moment, Trebinje is one of the pearls of Herzegovina, which is favored by the proximity of Dubrovnik and excellent tourist offer, so it attracts a large number of cyclists.”
Herzegovina is a special place for cycling because the weather conditions are excellent and you can find flat terrain or climb some of the largest peaks of the mountain, the peak Pločno 2.228mnv. Furthermore, many professional cyclists from the northern regions come to Herzegovina during the winter preparations due to favorable weather conditions to train and prepare for the next season.
We want to point out that Herzegovina offers cyclists of different abilities and desires good opportunities, and all this is accompanied by an excellent gastronomic offer for which Herzegovina is known, as well as natural beauty. We believe that many will agree that Herzegovina is the perfect place to ride a bike, which opens up new opportunities for tourist offers.
The fact that many foreign cyclists choose Herzegovina as their next big destination is not just a happy coincidence and confirms the above.
As Tony said: “You can find everything in Herzegovina.”