Mountain Biking in Mljet National Park

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As soon as we stepped off the 2 hour ferry from Dubrovnik, the quaint and comfortable beauty of Mljet island smacked us in the face.

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Look at that water. Seriously.

A tiny throng of local people had smooshed  themselves onto the metal ferry exit plank, with handwritten signs offering rooms, zimmer, camere, or sobe, pick your language poison. They were hard to ignore.

We gently pushed past them and onto terra firma. No thank you, ne hvala, we didn’t need a room to stay in the tiny ferry town of Polače.

No, Jessi and I were determined to take the day to explore one of Croatia’s most beautiful national parks. And we were going to find some mountain bikes.

Our ride.
Our ride.

Why Mljet? And how do you pronounce that, again?

Of the many islands off Croatia’s southern coast, Mljet (pronounced mee-YET) stood out to us, especially after we had such a great experience exploring Plitvice Lakes National Park. This lush, green island with its rustic wooden shops and small selection of restaurants really was a breath of fresh air after busy Dubrovnik.

And we were determined to knock the wind out of our poor little lungs. The park was too large for us to explore on foot, but we definitely wanted to feel the wind in our faces. Mountain biking in Mljet National Park seemed like the perfect solution.

So, where do we find our bikes?

Luckily for us, we took no more than ten steps from the ferry dock when we were approached by people offering not rooms, but mountain bikes.

Jessi and I looked at each other.

“Let’s get breakfast first.”

Seacoast Breakfast

Fueled by octopus-and-egg griddle, bread and jam, we were ready to get some exercise. One thing I really love about Croatia is its diverse and creative use of seafood. Here we had some scrambled eggs, red peppers, and octopus. Delish!

Octopus for breakfast? Now, you can!

 

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Just steps from our breakfast spot were lines and lines of mountain bikes on racks.

When it came to choosing our mountain bikes, we were torn between two helpful but persistent bike renters. Apparently they could see the gleam of bicycles in our eyes, so we split up and rented a bike from each woman. Bike rentals were 35 kuna (USD$5, 4 Euros).

Time to hit the road at the gate of the park!

Traveling to Mljet National Park’s lakes

The walking trail from Polače to the two lakes of Mljet National Park takes about 40 minutes. By bike, theoretically it takes about 15 minutes.

A helpful map of the island and the National Park on its western tip.
A helpful map of the island and the National Park on its western tip.

I say theoretically because the main park trail climbs up and up a broad hill, which is one hell of a bike ride. The view is breathtaking, and it’s well worth the exercise, but keep in mind you will sweat like crazy! And it may take a bit longer than 15 minutes if you decide to stop and rest.

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Little lake and big lake

About half an hour into our huffing and puffing, with plenty of breaks for water, we found ourselves at the two salt water lakes of Mljet: Big Lake (Veliko Jezero) and Little Lake (Malo Jezero). A little bridge – Mali Most – connects both of the lakes, and swimmers can travel from one lake to the other through a rocky tunnel with a brisk current. You can swim through it from little lake to big, and view the island in the middle of the big lake, but the current will really suck you in. It’s not dangerous, just a bit fast, so use caution. Yes, that is bike grease on my hands!

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Jessi takes a dip.
Jessi takes a dip.
Thumbs up! I promise, we are wearing bathing suits!
Thumbs up! I promise, we are wearing bathing suits!
Beautiful turquoise waters.
Beautiful turquoise waters.

There is a ranger station at Mali Most, a small rocky beach with picnic tables, and another spot to rent bikes—though not to return the ones from Polače.

We stuck to the calmer Malo Jezero, the little lake, which has the most unimaginable, cool and comfortable, super clear water. It is like swimming in a relaxing turquoise bath, and after a long bike ride we couldn’t think of a better reward.

The bike ride back was, thankfully, all downhill from there.

Well.

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For the most part.

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Why mountain biking in Mljet National Park ignites our wanderlust:

  • It is simply breathtaking.
  • It’s great, drop-dead exercise.
  • The swimming is spectacular.
  • Local food with a seafood flair.

Mljet Fun Facts:

  • Mljet comes from the Greek word mileta, or ‘honey’
  • Bikes can be rented at several spots throughout the island, including the main towns of PolačePomena, and at the ranger station at Mali Most.
  • The lakes are so bright blue because of the underlying limestone rock and clear waters, gaining their blue from a little bit of the hue of the sky.

Geekery in Mljet National Park:

  • Not sure if this is geekery or indecency, but we found this sign amusing. It warns that naturism (nude bathing) isn’t allowed at Mljet National Park, but someone had crossed out the word for ‘not’ in Croatian–rendering the sign to say that nude bathing is allowed. Vandalism no-no’s aside, we have to give them a few points for snarky creativity.
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Nudizam JE dozvoljen? If you SAY so…

Care to take a dip in Mljet’s lakes? Where have you gone off-road mountain biking? 

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  • Looks like a lot of fun. I am just getting into biking and would like to add these types of tourist activities to my future travels.

  • I have longed to visit Croatia for years but I never would have thought of going mountain biking at a national Park. What a great idea and neat way to explore. Your breakfast is certainly unique and what a combination.

  • Excellent! I’ve heard about this area, looks like you really enjoyed. 🙂

  • What a gorgeous place! That lake looks perfect for a swim. I’m not sure I’d be able to stomach the octopus for breakfast beforehand though…

  • Looks gorgeous! I’ve only spent a couple of days in Croatia so far but the more I see of it the more I want to, and this is definitely one to add to the list now.

    • Awesome, glad Mljet is on your list!

  • This looks like a beautiful spot, especially the lake at the end! Will try to catch the link up next week.

    • Woohoo, glad you can join us 🙂

  • Amazing! The parks in Croatia have always been at the top of my list. It was on our plan to go there last year on our backpacking trip, but it was raining like crazy in Croatia with no signs of letting up. But I’ll get there some day!! 🙂

    • We got caught in a little rain, too! It wasn’t a downpour, though–we understand avoiding the torrential rain!

  • What a great bike ride that rewards you with a swim! What a beautiful place it is! Can’t wait to go there someday.

    • We hope you can make it to Mljet! Man, I think my legs are STILL feeling that bike ride, hah.

  • Not sure about the Octopus for breakfast but the rest sounds great! Love the idea of being able to swim between the lakes-fun!

    • It was a rocky tunnel with quick current, which involved a lot of slipping and sliding and giggling like little kids. So much fun 🙂

  • Did you talk to people about what they thought about the war, and Yugoslav attacks on Croatia? My friends still talk about it.

    • We did indeed. Between talking to friends here in the States who lived in the area, or talking to our awesome apartment hosts in Dubrovnik, to visiting the incredibly moving memorial and fort museum on Mt. Srđ, it was very powerful to listen to all the stories from not that long ago. Jessi grew up with a lot of refugees from former Yugoslavia, especially from Croatia, since so many people resettled in Cleveland, Ohio. We visited Mostar in BiH, too. Watching footage of the Mostar bridge destruction was like getting kicked in the guts.

  • What a fun way to spend the day and enjoy the outdoors and water recreation!

    • I’m daydreaming about going back, now!

  • Octopus for breakfast – who knew! Looks like a fun day.

    • I could really get used to the Mediterranean diet!

  • What a great way to explore the park on bikes. We haven’t been to Dubrovnik yet but it’s on my list. Last summer we went to Split.

    • We didn’t get the chance to go to Split, so that’s one of our “next times”!