Last updated 13 November 2020
As I said in my previous post, Croatia was a very beautiful country and so much of it was memorable. With that in mind, we’ve tried to narrow it down to these few highlights of our stay.
Zagreb was a very pleasant surprise. I’m not quite sure what we’d heard about it before we arrived, but we weren’t expecting much. Instead we found a bustling city in the midst of celebrating Croatia’s ascension into the EU, which we weren’t expecting but decided to join in anyway. We also found some nice restaurants and bars and I especially liked the park with cool, green grass and wonderful, shady trees.
Zadar had beautiful, clear water, a white old town, and a wonderful sunset… seriously. I wasn’t expecting it to live up the hype, but Hitchcock was right. Sitting by the sea organ and watching the sun go down was a lovely experience. The old town was small and full, but quite pleasant, and there are some interesting Roman ruins, including the remains of the forum which was uncovered during WWII.
Krka was very full, but swimming beneath the waterfall was amazing, and we also enjoyed seeing Skradin, a pretty town near the national park.
We did a day trip to the Krka Falls from Zadar, which was very easy – there is a direct bus to Skrakin, although everything online says that there isn’t – and a lovely lady who worked at the bus station helped us to find the right buses.
Trogir was a perfect little historical town. It really was tiny, but it was also full of lovely restaurants and bars. It is vaguely reminiscent of Venice with narrow, twisting streets which make it almost possible to get lost in a place this small. This was my favourite coastal town, and I think it’s worth staying in for a day or two. Walking along the harbour at night was magical with a purple sunset and an almost tropical vibe. Personally, I would do a day trip to Split from here, rather than the other way round.
We did a boat cruise through the Adriatic in a gulet boat. It was small and peaceful, only sleeping 12 people and three crew. To be honest, we found a full week on a boat slightly too long, but it was a wonderful way to see the Dalmatian coast. As we discovered in Zadar, the coastline is rocky, and swimming from the boat is probably the best way to enjoy the Adriatic.
We also saw quite a few islands, albeit for a short amount of time. If we were to do it again, we’d pick another time of year, as the islands were VERY full in July. As we ‘island hopped’ it was hard to get a sense of identity from the places we visited. Don’t get me wrong, the Croatian Islands were beautiful but we were craving some back story or context.
Aside from Korcula, which was our favourite, the one place that stood out was Palmizana (sounds like the cheese) because we stumbled across a restaurant which was run by a local family. Matt seemed interested in the history and the waitress provided him with a somewhat large book about the history of the family, who were the original settlers on the island. It was great to read about them, the struggles they went through when their land was taken away and how they fit into mishmash of settlements through the region.
It would have been good to know more about the history of the islands, and ultimately, it was our fault that we didn’t (no internet on the boat and not enough initial research, as usual). However, Croatia didn’t feel like a place that wanted to promote its history. Instead the focus seems to be on the sun, sea and a having a good time.
As expected, Dubrovnik’s scenery was absolutely breath-taking. We stayed in Lapad and really enjoyed the location. It was a short bus ride or a 30-minute walk to the old town, which we visited a couple of times, and we were very close to the beach, restaurants and clifftop walks. Dubrovnik was expensive, but Lapad was slightly cheaper than the old town, while still being very lively. Walking down a path from a cliff and swimming off the rocks was also lots of fun.
Overall, we enjoyed Croatia. It was more expensive than we were expecting, especially along the coast south of Trogir. We also found service slow (even when compared to other countries in the region) and the quality of food wasn’t as high as other places we have been.
In terms of transport, we took buses from Zagreb, eventually ending in Dubrovnik, and we generally found them fine, although they tended to leave early and arrive late… they were also quite full, so if you’re travelling in the summer, it’s probably best to reserve a seat and sit down early – if you get up, put something on your chair so it is free when you get back.
We found people were nice and very accommodating and English was widely spoken, although if you wander too far off the beaten path you may get some odd looks. In general Croatia was very accessible and a trip here would be wonderful break from everyday life. It’s one of those places where you have to be flexible, take the opportunity to relax and just have fun.