Have you been to Spain or Portugal too many times? Are you looking for something different? Are you a Game of Thrones fan? According to travel blogger Katerina Landecka, and her partner Petra, Croatia is the place to go!
Croatia is one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe and we finally decided to pay it a visit this September. We weren’t sure what to expect but after driving through much of Croatia we can say that it really is an interesting country!
These are our top five picks not to be missed on your next trip:
This charming city located in the south of Croatia is called ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’ for a reason. The Old Town, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will bring you back in time – get lost in its narrow streets and admire the beautiful buildings, explore various churches, museums, galleries or shops.
The highlight is a walk along the city walls, including great views of the city and the Adriatic. After (or before) the walk you can take a break in one of the cosy restaurants offering local food (try pasticada or peka). If you miss the beach, head to Banje or Lapad to get some vitamin sea.
Tip: Buy the Dubrovnik Card to get free entries to some of the main attractions, free use of local transport and further discounts. Order the card online and collect it at one of the Tourist Board Offices in Dubrovnik to save an additional 10 percent.
- Hvar Island
No trip to Croatia would be complete without visiting one of the islands in the Adriatic Sea. We chose Hvar – the most popular and sunniest of the Croatian islands – and we didn’t regret it. There is so much to see, you can drive from one side of the island to another in just about an hour. Rent a car or scooter to explore the island’s hidden beaches, lavender fields, olive groves, vineyards and picturesque villages.
Don’t miss the area known as the Stari Grad Plain, which is on the World Heritage List. Visit Hvar Town with its pretty harbour and Old Town, and walk up to the fortress for amazing views of the city.
Tip: The Pakleni (or Paklinski) Islands, which are located just off Hvar Town, are perfect for a one-day trip. Take the taxi boat to Parmizana on the Sveti Klement Island and enjoy the hike through the pine forest to Vlaka, followed by a well-deserved break on one of the beaches.
- Plitvice Lakes
This National Park, also included in the World Heritage List, is a great destination for outdoor lovers and you can see most of it in one day. Follow one of the trails to explore this fascinating system of 16 interlinked lakes, waterfalls and caves surrounded by forest.
Each of the lakes has a different colour, from dark blue to turquoise, green or grey, depending on the amount of sunlight and minerals in the water. The water is so clear that you can see the fish and vegetation in the lakes.
Tip: Plitvice is a very busy site so try to avoid weekends and arrive early if possible. The climate is colder than on the coast so wear appropriate clothes and shoes. Bring some food and drinks because there aren’t many opportunities to buy it in the park. You can choose from four paths depending on your abilities and time but we found trail H to be the best – it allows you to see most of the National Park on foot and use the free bus and boat service too.
Buzzing Split seems to be different from other Croatian cities. Walking around its historic centre (yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is built around the remains of the Diocletian’s Palace, feels like being in ancient Rome, while the main seafront promenade Riva looks like a seaside resort on the French Riviera.
Split is also a great base if you are planning any sailing trips in the Adriatic Sea or taking a ferry to some of the islands.
Tip: Fancy a day on the beach near the city? Head to the beach at Bacvice – you can walk there from the city centre of Split. The sandy beach with shallow waters is perfect for children, while parents will appreciate happy hours in many reasonably-priced restaurants along the shore.
With the Adriatic coastline as the main attraction of Croatia, its vibrant capital Zagreb, which is becoming an emerging city-break destination, definitely deserves more attention. The city centre is compact and you can explore it in one day.
While the city might seem modest in comparison with other European capitals, there is something for everyone – the medieval Upper Town, lively local markets (the Dolac Market is a must see), quiet parks, various museums, galleries, shops, restaurants and cafes, cultural events, nightlife and much more.
Tip: Don’t miss the changing of the guard next to St Mark’s Church every day at noon.
When to Go
The best time to visit Croatia is June or September when the crowds are gone, the weather is still good and prices lower. You shouldn’t expect endless sandy beaches, because most of them are pebbled, rocky or even concrete. But it is the dramatic coast with the stunning views, the Adriatic Sea and its crystal-clear waters, diverse landscape, picturesque medieval towns and friendly local people that make Croatia well worth a visit.
For more travel inspiration from Katerina, visit her travel blog, https://travelfromsquareone.com/, Like her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TravelFromSquareOne/, and follow her on Pinterest, www.pinterest.ie/travelsquareone/.