If you are going cycling on Pag or planning any outdoors activity there, you’ll probably meet Alan Crljenko, a cycling and hiking guide. Alan is a nature lover and knows every corner of the island of Pag.
Alan, how did your love for hiking, walking and cycling even begin?
I started hiking after I lost almost 30 kilograms thanks to walking. I had the intent of helping my damaged spine and changing the lifestyle I was having at the time. Later, I tried to further push myself by going to the gym, which, luckily, helped me a lot. It wasn’t soon after that I joined a group of friends from Pag who started hiking.
Of course, all this was new and unknown to me at the time, but my curiosity and the desire for adventure made me fall in love with mountains and hiking.
Later, I got a MTB bike (yes, another love), which I enjoyed riding because, in addition to hiking and mountaineering, I could also see the abundance of wonders of nature around us.
A bicycle is an excellent vehicle for exploring nature because it is fast enough to ride through a large area, but it is also slow enough that the eye, even from the corner of it, can see and notice all those important details that are impossible to see from a car.
Of course, no car will ever pass through those narrow and most interesting paths where bicycles can go without any problems.
Also, the great value that both cycling and hiking bring to our lives are – people.
By engaging in these activities I met many good, dear and wonderful people who helped me with their advice, knowledge and experience when I needed it. I also did the same for others when they needed some advice about climbing a certain mountain or anything connected to cycling and hiking on the island of Pag.
This is how I met you, dear Klara and Krešimir, and I helped you as much as I could in bringing Bikademy to the island of Pag, in the area of the Tourism board of the City of Pag, the Tourism board of Kolan Municipality and the Tourism Board of Povljana Municipality.
Many such acquaintances have turned into beautiful friendships, which makes me very happy.
You have visited many European peaks and mountains. Which ones can you single out?
Many think of the Dolomites.
Yes, the Dolomites are beautiful because they are different from other mountains. But, the photos of our Velebit in winter, our Dinara or Kamešnica, are in no way behind those Dolomite postcards, even though their peaks are much lower than the Dolomite ones.
On the other hand, I have climbed many, much higher European mountains and peaks compared to the Dolomites, which do not have the ‘strength’ of the Dolomites, nor, for example, our Velebit.
Standing on those ‘low’ peaks of Velebit in the middle of winter while everything around me is covered in snow and ice and looking down at the sparkling blue Adriatic Sea and its pearls, our islands, is such a special experience. That’s something the Dolomites could never have.
Of course, beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and if I ever visit Cerro Torre in Patagonia, I would probably say that those mountains are more beautiful than the Dolomites.
You are one of the active collaborators of the Pag Outdoor tourist product. How many visitors already recognize it?
I have been a collaborator on the Pag Outdoor since its very beginning.
This project, which is a joint project of all the island’s tourist boards that started at the end of 2020, was recognized by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports as an incredibly valuable project for the island of Pag.
As part of that project, in 2021 and 2022, I built several hiking trails in the area of the City of Pag, and the trail that I built before the start of the project, in 2019, the trail “Sveti Jure”, was subsequently included. My friend and colleague Alen Fabijanić was an immense help on some of the difficult parts during the laying out the “Sveti Jure” trail.
It all started at the end of 2018 with the accidental encounter with Vesna Karavanić, the director of the Tourist Board of the City of Pag, who recognized my idea of building hiking trails in the area of the city of Pag, and gladly accepted it.
The trails that I built in the area of the city of Pag were financed by the Tourist Board of the City of Pag and with the great support of Vesna.
These trails are the “Sveti Jure” trail with a branch to Stara Draga, the “Mikula” trail and the “Zaton” trail branching to the Gloubera cave.
The entire island’s hiking and cycling trails for the Pag Outdoor project were built and marked with the permission of the Tourist Boards and local governments. So today the island of Pag is connected with many official hiking and cycling trails, in addition to those already existing for a long time, such as the official HPS hiking trail that leads to the highest peak of the island of Pag, Sveti Vid.
I believe that the future holds many new official trails for the island of Pag as part of this excellent project.
The Pag Outdoor project is recognized throughout Croatia and Europe, and not only on the island.
On the tours that we guide for the Tourist Board of the City of Pag, myself and fellow guides, members of the Sports Tourism Association “Pag MareMonti”, people come not only from all of Europe, but the world as well.
However, what personally always delights me is hiking and kayaking tours with people who have had their own cottages on the island of Pag for 20-30 years. Many of them had no idea the beauty they were surrounded with because they’d never seen it in this way. Their beaming and amazed faces at the end of each tour are a great indicator of the value of this project.
On our Facebook profile of the Sports Tourism Association “Pag MareMonti”, which is run by the guides, and which is active for the purpose of promoting active tourism on the island of Pag, one can only read words of great praise, happiness and satisfaction from all of the participants on the tours.
Therefore, all the Tourist Boards of this beautiful island should be congratulated on Pag Outdoor, especially because they believe that by joining and uniting, they can take such a large and valuable project for the island of Pag to a very high level of presenting the island of Pag as an excellent and very recognizable outdoor destination.
What routes or locations in Pag can you recommend for cycling?
All of it.
Pag is such a beautiful island for cycling, and there are many cycling paths on the island. From the easy ones for families, to those where only the most physically fit will get to enjoy.
Of course, all these routes can be combined and adjusted to the preferences of the individual.
What is your favorite place in Pag, if you go by bike?
Although all the cycling paths on the island of Pag are beautiful – from Lun down to Fortica – as locals always like to emphasize in the lyrics of Pag musician Branko Barbir, I like to ride two routes the most.
The first one is an old, mostly macadam road that leads from the city of Pag towards Novalja, and passes through a protected century-old holm oak forest (Dubrava-Hanzine area). It continues through beautiful landscapes where our ancestors had vineyards, passes under the cliffs of the highest peak on the island of Pag, Sveti Vid, and emerges above the Sveti Duh area on the island’s main road, where it joins the macadam road that enters Kolansko polje.
Kolanjsko polje is one of the island’s open-air monuments to all the hard workers who, thanks to their hard work, lived off the land and with the land. Exploring it by bike is an easy but wonderful adventure.
The route continues from the town of Kolan to the town of Šimuni, once a small fishing village where, even today, many people live from another field, the blue one, which all of us Croats are proud to call – mare nostrum croaticum.
From Šimuni, we take the main island road back to the town of Pag, the place of our departure.
The second route, with two more fields, is the route that leads from Pag to Povljana, Vlašići and Smokvica along the old macadam road. It passes by the Old Town, the place where the old town of Pag once stood, and leads along the saltworks, one of the symbols of the town of Pag. That huge saltwark is also an open-air monument to our ancestors who worked hard, in the great heat and under the scorching sun, to collect the sea salt. In the last two years, “Solana Pag” has organized tours of the satworks with a professional guide. It’s an experience that I would definitely recommend.
The path continues towards Veliko Blato, a lake and a protected ornithological reserve of wetland birds, where you can enjoy watching these feathered friends of ours, and continues towards the picturesque towns of Vlašići and Smokvica and then leads to the town of Povljana.
Prior to reaching Povljana, you should also explore the fourth field on these routes, the beautiful Povljansko polje, which is also one of the symbols of endurance, tenacity and steadfastness of the islanders.
Then we return from Povljana to our starting point, the town of Pag.
Active exploration of the island, whether by cycling, hiking, walking or kayaking, will not leave anyone indifferent, and I personally believe that almost everyone who visits this wonderful island and engages in outdoor activities will return to its incredible nature and rich history.
All these, as our great Tin Ujević would say, small places of my heart, will become a big part of your hearts.
Do you have a final message for our readers?
Dear readers of this interview, if you haven’t yet, and you’re physically able, start doing anything, regardless of whether it’s hiking, cycling, swimming, soccer, tennis, handball, basketball, kung-fu, walking, running, kayaking, working out in the gym or any other sports activity you can think of.
After all, put on some good music and dance in your apartment or house. Once a wise man wrote; “Life is movement, and movement is art.”
Start exploring all of this natural beauty given to us.