Motorcycle Touring Club Europe
MTCE Tour 2023: The Balkans

MTCE Tour 2023: The Balkans

Seven sections - six countries. Seven sections - six countries
The MTCE had an awesome tour on The Balkans from May 1414 to May 23rd, 2023.
The tour went through one of the wildest areas in Europe. Gorgeous nature from the coast to the mountains; a turbulent history for several thousand years. Whatever the participants were looking for, they had been captivated by the area and its fantastic ambience.
The tour started in Slovenia near Trieste and ended at Lake Prespa in North Macedonia at a nice beach resort. The group split here, some toured back home, others took a ferry from Albania or Greece to Italy, and some just headed to Greece for further adventures. Relaxing some more days at the beach before sitting on the bike again was a good option as well for some tour participants.


Adriatic Highway
Albanian mountains
Section 1: Trieste - Gospić
 From the coast into the wild mountains.
We crossed the Istrian peninsula on small back roads until we met the Mediterranean Sea at the Kvarner Bay. Now we followed the famous Adriatic Highway, definitely one of the most spectacular coastal roads in Europe. We left the coast south of Senj and climbed up the Oltari pass in the Velebit mountains, the largest mountain range in Croatia. Small roads guided us through the protected nature park to our stage stop: Gospić in the mountainous and sparsely populated region of Lika, Croatia.
Section 2: Gospić - Sinj
 Gems of the Adriatic Highway.
Once again wanted to enjoy the breathtaking Jadranska Magistrala, the Adriatic Highway. Therefore we had to cross the Velebit mountains again at the Stara Vrata pass. From Karlobag we followed the marvellous coastal road down to the Novigradsko Bay. We cruised through the hilly back country to Peruća Lake, the second largest artificial lake in Croatia. The dam was blown up during the Croatian War of Independence in Janury 1993. It took by May 1996 until the works to repair the dam were completed.
We ended up in Sinj in the heart of the Dalmatian hinterland. The town is surrounded by four mountains which give Sinj a specific submediterranean climate.
Section 3: Sinj - Sarajewo
 Milestones of history.
We crossed the karstified Dinaric Alps and headed for Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the foot of the mountains we passed through Lipa which is conspicuous by its refugee camp that burned down in winter 2020. We came to Lipsko Lake and followed the Busko Blato Lipa Canal to Busko Blato Lake. Through the limestone canyon of the river Doljanka, which is high up to 1,200 m, we reached the town of Jablanica and rode along the artificial lake with the same name. Eventually we arrived in Sarajevo, the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Sarajevo is the political, financial, social and cultural centre of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We had a day off here to explore this outstanding town.
Section 4: Sarajewo - Nikšic
 The deep crack in the earth.
After our break in Sarajevo we left the city on the M5 and entered the Republika Srpska after passing a couple of tunnels and climbing some hills at the town of Pale. We left the main road in order to cross the Hranjen pass. The road meanders through valleys and over hills to Cajnice at the border to Montenegro. We crossed the border at the Metaljka pass and entered the realm of the black mountains.
Highlight of the day was the Tara River Gorge, the largest and deepest canyon in Europe. It is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Durmitor National Park. The canyon stretches over 82 kilometres and is up to 1,300 meters.
After crossing some passes of the Durmitor we ended up eventually in Nikšic where you can still see the ancient remains of a settlement of the 4th century.
Section 5: Nikšic - Shkodër
 Highlights of the South.
This section bristled with highlights as well. We passed the Orjen on gorgeous roads, a part of the karstified Dinaric Alps, in order to reach the breathtaking Bay of Kotor. The bay is nearly 30 kilometres long. It is surrounded by a high and very steep mountainside. The fjord-like bay cuts more than 1000 meters deep into the mountains of Orjen und Lovćen. The Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
We visited the town of Kotor at the banks of the bay and climbed up the Lovćen mountains subsequently in order to head for the next natural spectacle: Lake Skadar. It is the largest lake in Southern Europe, divided from the Adriatic Sea by the up to 1600 meters high peaks of the Rumija mountains. We rode on a mountain road along the lake with awesome views until we reached our destination for the day: the city of Shkodër in northern Albania. This 2400 years old town at the foothills of the Albanian Alps is traditionally the cultural centre of northern Albania.
Tara River Canyon
Gjirokastër Fortress
Section 6: Shkodër - Kukës
 Mountains made for motor cycling.
On this day we experienced parts of the legendary Rruga shtetërore SH5, what might be translated by national road SH5. It winds in countless turns through numerous valleys and over many passes to Kukës, our destination for today, close to the border to the Republic of Kosovo. On the way we made a detour to Lake Koman where we took the ferry along the spectacular gorges of this reservoir.
Kukës and its surrounding area is dominated by mountainous and high terrain. The city extends strategically within the Albanian Alps and is trapped on four sides by numerous two-thousanders. We had day off here to relax a little bit or to give the mountain goats of us a chance for some off-road experience.
Section 7: Kukës - Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa
 The deep old lakes.
We followed the Black Drin river southbound from Kukës to the Korab Mountains. The Korab massif is the fourth highest peak in the Balkans and the highest peak of Albania and North Macedonia. We crossed the border to this country and head for Debar Lake. This lake is the second-biggest artificial lake in the country, set in the tranquility of Macedonia's western forests. We still followed the Black Drin to one of the oldest lakes of the world - Lake Ohrid. It is also one of Europe's deepest lakes, with a unique aquatic ecosystem of worldwide importance, with more than 200 endemic species. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by various nature reserves.
We visited the picturesque city of Ohrid, once referred to as a "Jerusalem of the Balkans" due to its 365 churches, one for each day of the year. After riding along the banks of the lake, we crossed the Galicica Mountains in the Galicica National Park, holding many relicts and endemic flora. Views of the lakes and neighbouring mountains are spectacular. Eventually we arrived our final destination: an enchanted beach resort at the Great Prespa Lake.


Forum  For more details login on the forum meeting pages. MTCE Tour 2023: The Balkans

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