When searching for new riding destinations, climate becomes a strong point of our ‘pros&cons’ list. OK, it’s true that modern motorcycle equipment offers superb protection and we’re now able to ride through the rain or cold for a long period of time. But, if we are able to plan our vacation upon the climate and choose when/where to ride, the trip will most likely offer more fun, more comfort and better riding. That said, we prepared a guide that will help you determine the best time to tour Croatia- a small country with three different climate zones!
Not to scare you- even though Croatia has three climate zones, the weather in general doesn’t dramatically change when traveling from north to south- but it does get warmer the more south you go. If starting your motorcycle tour in the capital, Zagreb, and heading to Dubrovnik, you’ll feel the change as approaching the Adriatic sea- that has a moderating influence that keeps winters warmer and summers cooler then interior part of Croatia.
So, what are the climate zones?
- Continental zone
- Mediterranean zone
- Snowy forest
‘Where’ are the climate zones?
- Continental- north and central Croatia
- Mediterranean – Adriatic coast
- Snowy forest- Croatia’s highest peaks
From World Ski Cup in Zagreb, Sljeme
North and central part of Croatia that include Zagreb, Slavonia, Međimurje and Zagorje, is separated from Adriatic coast by mountains and therefore has pretty different climate. Winters get cold and it usually snows, with January temperatures ranging from -2°C (28°F) to 0°C (32°F). July in the other hand stands for summer, with average temperatures around 22°C (72°F), but lately strong heat waves have become more frequent and temperatures above 30°C (86°F) are most likely to occur in July-August.
Areas along the Adriatic coast, including all the islands, have a pleasantly mild Mediterranean climate with high number of dry, sunny days. This means a lot to us motorcycle riders; so we’ll get into details with this area.
Total length of the mainland’s coastline is approx. 1.800km (1.100mi). Starting from Istria and Kvarner in the north, to Dalmatia in the south- the area enjoys the same climate, although it is usually warmer (+2°F/+36°F) and drier in the south.
Best time to tour Croatia = best temperatures for a motorcycle tour in Croatia
Summer brings us average temperatures from 22°C (72°F) to 25°C (77°F), with tendency of strong heat waves throughout July and August (temperatures above 30°C /86°F). This is one of the reasons why we in MotoTrip, avoid running motorcycle tours in Croatia during the peak of summer. In April, average temperature is 13°C (55°F), in May 18°C (65°F), in June 21°C (70°F). September is usually the same as June 21°C (70°F). In October it is still beautiful with average of 17°C (63°F) but with the end of October, winter starts to approach with higher number of rainy days.
Winter in the Adriatic area, opposite to the interior, doesn’t bring snow- it’s a rare occurrence along the coast. Average temperatures drop to 6°C (43°F), with 2°C (36°F) in the north (Istria and Kvarner) and 9°C (48°F) in the south (Dalmatia). But, if you’re thinking of riding in the south through the winter (because the temperatures allow), check the latest weather forecast as seriously strong winds are often to occur- we explained more below.
It’s a rule that summer is the driest season; with winter being the rainiest one, having almost double amount of rainfall. Through the summer, islands (especially the ones further away from the mainland) are the driest and it’s almost certain you’ll skip rain if visiting Vis, Brač, Hvar etc. in the peak of summer. From late October to early January, rainfall is significantly high; and lowers from January to till the summer.
Croatia’s sunniest island and area in general, is Island of Hvar. We wrote about it before and you can check out the article here. It receives over 2.700 hours of sun through the year; and that’s a minimum of 113 days! Split, Vela Luka and Dubrovnik are also very close. Generally speaking, you won’t miss the sun and most likely at least a day or two of clear blue skies throughout the summer, so don’t forget to pack up some sunscreen!
There are many types of winds in Croatia (Bura, Maestral, Tramuntana, Sirocco, Jugo, Ostro..) but we’ll stick to three important ones when riding a motorcycle. Earlier we mentioned that during winter, a seriously strong wind is likely to occur- its name is ‘Bura’ and it is a cold Adriatic wind (also possible during summer season). It blows in gusts, from the coastal mountains towards the sea- with speeds up to 220km/h (135mi/h)! Most frequently, it occurs in the Velebit mountain range and is a reason for road closures when it becomes the strongest (called ‘dark bura’). It can also be felt all over Dalmatia and Istria. During summer, dark bura is really rare; summer is the time of ‘light bura’- has all the effects of the dark one, but is less powerful- light bura during summer usually brings a bit of freshness and clears up the sky- which is always good. Further on, we have south-easterly ‘Jugo’- a warm Adriatic wind that usually brings clouds and rain, so the air pressure drops- it can be a reason of your unexpected headache (couldn’t be the wine..) Last, a pleasant one- westerly ‘Maestral’, blows in from the sea and brings the freshness into the air- always a welcomed one.
Yes- you can swim in the Adriatic sea.. And you can do it throughout the year- if you’re OK with 12°C (54°F) in the winter. That way, you can really say that you took a swim in the sea, and did some skiing within just several hours! From April to July, the sea temperature rises up to 26°C (80°F) which means Adriatic sea is more then enjoyable for swimming, even in October when it still has enough warmth from the summer. So, no matter when you arrive, bring on the bathing suit!
Croatia’s highest peaks
At high points, it is possible to find the snow cover even in summer; but it usually melts down before the high season. So if you arrive in July or August, no matter where you intend to go, don’t be afraid of snow- but in pre/post season (April, May, October) it is possible to find some high roads and mountains covered in snow.
Bottom line, when to arrive?
Although high season (July, August) almost promises bringing good weather, it also brings a lot of tourists meaning you’ll be riding behind a lot of cars, campers, trailers etc. Lately we’ve experienced strong heat waves too, and you don’t want to ride half naked- because riding at temperatures around 35°C (95°F) makes you consider exactly that.
But, in case high season is the only period you’re able to visit Croatia, don’t give up- simply plan a route (or contact us for Custom tour planning) that avoids the most touristy places and you’ll still be able to do some great riding!