Cycling hotels are a relatively new concept in Croatia, and the recent visit by Bahrain Merida to Pharos bayhill hvar hotel was a chance to see how Hvar’s first bike hotel fared, as it hosted one of the world’s top cycling teams for its winter training.
Not being a cyclist, I was curious to learn more about this relatively new concept in Croatian tourism – the bike hotel.
Cycling is one of the great potential growth areas of tourism in Croatia, and there are great efforts being made by various regions – Medjimurje, Istria and Central Dalmatia stand out – to promote Croatia as a cycling destination and move one more step to the goal of turning the country into a 12-month tourist destination.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I accepted an invitation to come back to Hvar to join the Bahrain Merida winter training camp. What are the particular qualities and facilities which a bike hotel needs to host, for example, a professional cycling team of 75 people, of which 28 are riders, ten masseurs and another ten mechanics? A diverse bunch to cater to.
Over the course of my two days with the team, I got chatting with several of them, getting their impressions of Hvar, the hotel and cycling in Croatia. I was surprised at just how many Croatian and Slovenian nationals were in the team, which gave an added perspective, and many had been coming to Hvar longer than me.
As I understood, the original plan had been to host the Bahrain Merida team in Hotel Riva, Suncani Hvar’s stylish waterfront 4-star hotel in the centre of the town’s exclusive riva. While that would have looked great for the promo photos, this was a serious training camp for a professional team, and practicality over beauty was the order of the day. If there was a stunning waterfront view to accompany a well-equipped hotel, so much the better.
One of the sporting directors explained to me that the most important things for the team included adequate parking, plentiful bike storage, space for the mechanics to work, space for the team to work out, excellent food, massage facilities and an ample meeting room. Idyllic locations were a bonus, but if the hotel could provide these basic needs, then the team would be more than happy.
Hotel Riva is a gorgeous hotel, and there are few finer locations on the island, but it is a little less practical regarding parking and space for mechanics. Pharos, with lovely views of its own set back from the sea, is a lot more practical from that respect, and the two Bahrain Merida buses and numerous support vehicles were very happily parked up in front of the hotel and close to the riders and all the facilities.
There was a significant press presence during my stay, as some of the world’s top cycling journalists came to Hvar to follow the winter training programme – it should be an excellent global promotion for cycling both on Hvar and in Croatia.
One thing that was very much appreciated was the massage facilities, and the cyclists were able to enjoy their daily massages in rooms other than those they were sleeping in. A small, but apparently much appreciated detail.
There was adequate bike storage, both inside and out.
And the proximity of everything was a huge plus.
While Riva may be chic, Pharos has its own Millennial style, and it seemed to me to be a perfect fit for these cycling stars.
The mechanics were certainly happy, acres of space in which they could play with their impressive toolboxes.
And while the bike hotel architects possibly did not have THIS in mind (see above) when they designed the hotel, some were taking the concept of a bike hotel to the next level.
A little internal storage by the hotel entrance.
And it would be remiss of me not to mention the food, which was absolutely excellent. The hotel had their own chefs, but also gave the kitchen over to the Bahrain Merida chefs, who cooked for the team, while the rest of us enjoyed Suncani Hvar cuisine. Lots of contented faces at dinner.
A quick mention of the Bahrain Merida support bus, which carried the equipment (the team were on the other bus). Fully equipped, with kitchen and washing machine behind the driver’s cab.
And ample storage for the mass of bikes and other equipment.
Hotel Amfora is just around the corner, and while it is undergoing renovations ahead of Hvar’s big 150th anniversary next year, there are excellent gym facilities there as well.
Pharos is ideally placed to take advantage of other facilities in the town, and the team enjoyed a little football on the nearby 5-a-side pitch.
One reason I thought Hvar in winter might come a little unstuck was with connectivity, but I was told by one of the logistics guys that this had surprisingly not been too much of a problem. The final decision to come had been taken in late October, and everyone arrived without problem at the beginning of December. There were enough connections to Split by air. If there was one wish he had, it would be for better ferry connections from Italy.
The overriding impression I received from all I spoke to – the hotel more than passed the test and, crucially, there is every intention of coming back.
To learn more about Pharos bayhill hvar hotel for your cycling trip, visit the official website.