When you talk to someone about going to Croatia, they tend to fall into one of two groups – they’ve never been or have been and love it/would go back tomorrow. We’re in the latter group and if you fall into the first group, you need to have a read of this!
Croatia is an East European country with its long coast running along the Adriatic Sea. See Italy on the map? That coastline across the sea to the top right? That’s Croatia – split into two by Bosnia and Herzegovina meaning that if you want to stay in the north but visit the south by land, you have to go through another country to get there. Croatia hasn’t caved to using the Euro so make sure you take Kuna with you. Off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia are over a thousand islands which is how the breed of dog known as Dalmatians got their name as their spots are like the islands. Most recently the island known as Vis was where the film Mamma Mia Here We Go Again was shot (the film pretends to be in Greece but it’s not!).
We went to Croatia for one week not really knowing what to expect. We were overwhelmed at the beauty and offerings that this little Balkan state as to offer. In May, the weather was hot enough to spend time on the pebbled beaches and enjoy open air cafes and restaurants but not so hot that you are walking around walled cities with that unpleasant trickle of sweat making it’s way down your spine.
Croatia has many airports – we flew into Split as we were staying in a small coastal village called Baška Voda, a little over an hours drive away. We had arranged a transfer in advance so our first experience of Croatian countryside was the coastal road to our self-catering accommodation. What a view! The azure sea and the nearby islands had Tara clicking away on her camera for the entire journey and we immediately knew we were in for a fabulous week away.
We stayed at Ivana House Apartments on Put Kapelica (www.apartmani-ivana.hr).
It was raining (!) when we arrived and the hosts met us at the roadside with umbrellas to shelter us and our bags as we made our way to the reception area. Throughout the stay, they were friendly and helpful even giving us a shot of grappa the following morning when we met our holiday rep and gifting us some lovely lavender soap at the end of our stay. The apartment itself was clean and comfortable with a small balcony and a beautiful view of the sea over the rooftops. Ivana House Apartments gets 4.5 from Trip Advisor from 48 reviews and provides free parking if you decide to drive yourself and free Wi-Fi for uploading all the fabulous pictures you will take. If you like to experience local transport, the main bus stop is only a short distance away on the main coast road. The only downside is that the apartments are at the top of a hill which means going into Baška Voda is OK but coming back up again could be a struggle if you have heavy bags or sore feet!
Baška Voda itself is a small village sheltered by Mountain Biokovo and you can walk from one end to the other in less than half an hour. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in character, delicious restaurants and fabulous sunsets.
Beaches in Croatia are pebbly (as opposed to sandy) and edge onto the clearest bluest sea we’ve ever seen. After a hard day of exploring, it was relaxing to sit and listen to the sounds of the waves. We would recommend taking water shoes to save the soles of your feet from being damaged on small pointy stones both in and out of the water. Delicious bakeries on the main street provided lovely baked goods for breakfast and/or lunch picnics and the restaurants have menus to satisfy any appetite. We love fresh fish and there was plenty on offer that had been caught that day.
Only 28km from Baska Voda is a little gem of a village called Omiš. We had clocked it on our way from the airport to the hotel and ventured back on the local bus.
Set between the Adriatic Sea and mountains, Omiš is home to coffee houses, steep cliffs and a harbour. From the harbour you take a sedate boat trip up the river into the mountains up to Radmans Mills where, for the more adventurous, you can go rafting or canoeing or even zipline over the canyon…. and no, we didn’t do that but it was eye opening watching the zipliners go overhead whilst enjoying some fabulous Croatian coffee! Did we mention the coffee in Croatia yet? It’s awesome – rich, strong and powerful. A cappuccino is served in an espresso sized cup and packs a powerful punch. We’ve struggled to find anything as smooth and flavoursome since.
The big must-see in Split is the Diocletian’s Palace which dates back to the 4th century. The grounds house more than 200 buildings including a cathedral and under its courtyards are numerous market style shops, bars, cafes and even hotels and houses.
Split is a labyrinth of streets ripe for exploring, another beautiful harbour and Games of Thrones memorabilia. A historical city, guided tours will help you to understand the stories and significance of important buildings as well as taking in places where the TV show, Game of Thrones, was filmed. For us, the best part of being in a new city is to explore on your own, down winding side streets and finding beautiful buildings.
Whilst we’re taking about Game of Thrones, it would be remiss not to talk about Dubrovnik where King’s Landing was filmed – Fort Lovrijenac is instantly recognisable to fans as the Red Keep.
This walled city is so much more than just a Game of Thrones set though. The city is split into old and new towns so be prepared to climb steps – lots and lots of steps – and your reward will be amazing views along with quirky limestone streets, independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Walk the walls of the old town for an unusual view of the city or climb to the cable car station to be taken up Mount Srd to the viewpoint where you can see over the Old Town harbour.
Turn through 180 degrees and be in awe at the size of the mountain range that protects the city. There is a restaurant at the top but we took a picnic and sat in the sunshine enjoying the views and absorbing the atmosphere of the area. You can also see small boats taking people over the some of the many islands that dot the coast of Croatia. We didn’t have chance to do that on this trip but it’s on the list for next time!
Just 13km down the coast from Baska Voda is the small town of Makarska which is also sheltered by Mountain Biokovo.
Makarska is known for its Riviera beaches, promenade and nightlife. The main square – known as Kačić Square – is a hub of activity with cafes and restaurants. Ferries sail between the harbour and nearby Brač Island while the area is an ideal base for walkers of all levels. For the less adventurous, there are a number of museums including the Shell Museum, City Museum and the Museum of Fish, Mollusks and Crustaceans…..
Krka National Park
When people talk about visiting a national park in Croatia, they are often referring to Plitviče Lakes National Park which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. However, it’s also in Central Croatia which was a little too far for us to visit on this trip so we had a day out to the second most visited national park instead – Krka National Park – and we were not disappointed.
Just 10km inland from Šibenik, in Lozovac, a series of seven waterfalls and two thirds of the River Krka flow through the Park. The Park has plenty of wooden walkways to stroll amongst the trees and catch sight of the beautiful falls and local nature. There are places where you can even go into the water to cool off so make sure you take some bathing gear with you! Within the Park too are the Krka Monastery – built above Roman catacombs – and the 15th Century Franciscan Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy.
The Park covers overs 142 square kilometres so if you have time, take advantage of the boat trip that is included in the entrance ticket to see much of the park without wearing out the shoe leather. Entrance prices range dependant of the time of year with November to March being the cheapest at 30 kn (around £3.60 at today’s exchange rate) up to 200kn in July/August (around £24) for an adult while a child’s ticket ranges from 20kn up to 120kn (£2.40 up to £14.50 approx.) with under 7’s going free. Tickets also include presentations and demonstrations as well as access to the whole park including Skradinski buk (longest waterfall in the Park), Roški slap (another of the main waterfalls) and Oziđana pećina cave (situated above Roški slap for amazing views over the Park); the previously mentioned boat trip on the route Skradin (not during November to March) and bus transport between Lozovac and Skradinski buk if you don’t want to walk or boat your way between the two. More information can be found at http://www.np-krka.hr
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip to Croatia. While we were there, we used public transport which was easy and cheap, however don’t be afraid to get a car while there as the roads are not busy and are easily navigated. If you’ve driven in Spain or Italy, you’ll have no problem. We’ll definitely be hiring a car next time as it’s the best way to find little gems of villages en route. Croatia is still relatively undiscovered and under-rated – visit now before the secret gets out!