Croatia is a travel hit in the world! It was hard not to notice many articles being published around the blogs, renowned travel magazines suggesting locations one should visit in Croatia and a total hype being built around my beautiful home country. And now it is confirmed – the year 2016 was the best year for Croatian tourism.
I wanted to start a year in that tone so I asked fellow travel bloggers about their experiences in Croatia. How can you get a better feedback than to ask a traveler directly about the places they visited, what they liked the most and what maybe was not that good?
If you are deciding which places to visit in 2017 or planning your Croatian adventure, definitely continue reading!
Favorite Stop on the Mediterranean Cruise
The final (and my favorite) stop on a Royal Caribbean cruise around the Mediterranean four years ago was Split in Croatia. From the moment I could see the shore from the ship, I found Split to be an incredibly beautiful city. Set among the 1700-year-old ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, Split was best viewed by climbing the Bell Tower of St. Domnius for a picturesque, 360° view of the city below.
The historic narrow streets (fantastically pedestrian only) were busy and vibrant in the high season as I wandered them, perused markets and consumed coffee and gelato along the Riva. Croatia is underrated as a destination – gorgeous to visit with beautiful beaches and the value of the local currency (kuna) makes it economical to visit. One day was simply not enough and I will return.
Croatian coast exceeded our expectations
Traveling up the Dalmatian coast in Croatia for ten days remains one of my finest travel memories. Even though I had high expectations prior to the trip, Croatia managed to exceed them. The stone walls and orange roof of Dubrovnik had wowed us; cycling around the Mljet National Park was an epic adventure, coupled with dips in the gorgeous lagoon.
Then we went onto the historic Split and sat under the Peristyle of a former Roman Emperor that lived thousands of years ago, sipping a cocktail and swaying to live music. We swam against the current of the Skradinski waterfall in the Krka National Park, grabbing each other in case one of us got wash away during our group photo. We took a boat trip to Hvar, admiring the stunning Adriatic Sea from the Spanish Fort. We braved the rain to Plitvice and was rewarded by the misty, out-of-this-world sceneries.
Last but not least, we visited Zadar, with its Roman Old Town blended with the modern seafront, watching as the sun set over the horizon and the Sun Salutation started glowing with the Sea Organ humming in the background. Our trip to Croatia had truly been a dream, one that I would never forget.
Active holidays in Paklenica National Park
My visit to Croatia involved traveling to the Paklenica National Park which is known for climbing and hiking. The park is near Zadar and an easy place to get to via public bus. Within the park, you can easily stay in one of the comfortable mountain guesthouses where meals are included while you’re afforded with such lovely mountain views.
I hiked up the highest peak of the Velebit mountain range which took 11 hours. The effort was worthwhile as I was spoiled by the spectacular mountain ranges. While most tourists spend their time in the cities by the port, spending time in the mountains of Paklenica is definitely an authentic way get to know Croatia. No need to do a tough hike like I did or rock climb as you can easily do a restful stay at the mountain guesthouses and enjoy nature without the crowd – a definite must do in Croatia.
A day trip to Elafiti Island from Dubrovnik
If you are staying in Dubrovnik there is one day trip I can highly recommend you take and that is to visit the Elafiti Islands. The Elafiti Islands are an archipelago of 13 large and small islands only 4 to 8 nautical miles west of Dubrovnik. We hired a boat and skipper for the day to take us on a sailing trip around the islands. We stopped at each of the 3 inhabited islands – Kolocep, Lopud, and Sipan.
We spent most of our time on Lopud which has a beautiful beach and a shallow bay to swim in. Get there by golf buggy as the bay is found on the opposite side of the island to the harbor and the path is rather steep. The golf buggy drivers are waiting to take you to the beach for a small charge. Once there we hired a sunbed and umbrella for a few hours.
Enjoy the views as you sail through the beautiful Adriatic waters. It is a beautiful trip and an unforgettable experience!
Fun on a Marco Polo’s Island
Marco! Polo! Not just a fun game for the pool, but also a famous explorer! Korcula Island is actually where he was born! I took a ferry from Split for a week of scuba diving! The diving was interesting, but the water wasn’t as clear like it was in the Caymans (Where I learned) or as much wildlife as the Great Barrier Reef, but I did see my first octopus! I’d say the most interesting part of the dives was a floating restaurant that had sunk! Of course, all I could think about were dinglehoppers like in The Little Mermaid.
The island was small and easily navigable. You could rent scooters to go zipping around the island. It was possible to get water taxis to take your across the Bay, or you could just walk it. The land was basically a U-shaped bay, and the walk took maybe 20-30 minutes. Along the way were fun little shops, restaurants, and even a little grocery store! Hindsight, I might go down to just 3 or 4 days of diving and explore the island more, but it was a lovely time on a not well-known island.
Magical Plitvice Lakes
Ah, Croatia! I don’t know how to begin how much the country beguiled me. In all honesty, I’ve read tons of articles about Croatia and its growing popularity, and I was questioning if it is that beautiful in there. I gave it a try nevertheless, and I was in Zagreb at first, such an underrated city by the way, and I took a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park – just wow.
I was blown away at how beautiful the landscapes and nature of the country and as well how nice the locals are! Apart from these, Plitvice Lakes is like a dream, which I didn’t know I have, come true – the place is magical, and I was in awe of its beauty. No words can describe it! Also, have I not mentioned about Croatian food? No? Well, it is delish. I will surely come back that’s for sure, and it will be soon.
Croatia is much more than sun and sea!
Croatia has long been in our hearts; it’s such a beautiful and diverse country. We’ve explored the coastline, traveled into Istria, discovered waterfalls in national parks and have sought out lesser-visited destinations in the interior. Our most recent trip took us to Zagreb, the capital city, and Osijek, a city in the eastern region of Slavonia.
It wasn’t our first trip to the thriving city of Zagreb, but it was our first time to the award-winning Advent in Zagreb celebration. The month-long festivities occupied squares and lanes all around the city. Holiday fare – sausages, fritules and piping hot mulled wine – were served from wooden huts and musicians and DJs took to the stages to provide a merry soundtrack.
When we weren’t perusing the Christmas markets, we were retracing our steps to some of the best sights of the city, like St. Mark’s Church, the Zagreb Cathedral, Maksimir Park, and the Dolac market. We were excited to see that the craft beer scene, which just started taking off in Croatia a few years ago, was alive and well. We sampled local brews at newly opened establishments and visited a few of our long-favorite spots.
Unlike Zagreb, it was our first time visiting the city of Osijek and the Slavonia region. Located near the borders of Hungary and Serbia, Osijek is the 4th largest city in Croatia but sees fewer visitors than the cities on the coast. The reason for our wintertime visit was to attend the Osijek Advent festival. The event in Osijek felt more intimate than in Zagreb, like a small-town affair. There were nightly musical performances, plenty of mulled wine and wood burning stoves to keep attendees warm on the crisp nights.
During the day, we spent time sightseeing and biking through the city and then went further afield to discover the surrounding area. We got a good dose of nature in the swamplands of Kopacki Rit, tasted locally produced wine from the wineries in the village of Zmajevac and experienced rural life on a farm in the small town of Bilje. The scenery was stunning, but the real highlight for us was the local cuisine – and we ate our fair share of it! The hearty meals were rich in flavors – and traditions. Among our favorites were River Fish Stew, Goulash, locally raised cured meats and cheeses and farm-fresh roasted turkey and pork.
We look forward to a return trip to the Slavonia region to see the beautiful landscapes in another season!
Have YOU been to Croatia? Which place was your favorite?
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