From courteous “What is there to see” to the most extreme “where is it”, those are the kinds of responses you elicit from people, when you tell them about your last visit to this beautiful place. I would not say, this one is a hidden gem of a place waiting to be explored or a cheaper way of exploring Europe (which it is). It is much more than that.
It is a complete package in itself. It has everything to cater to beach bums, outdoor suckers, history buffs, adrenaline junkies, foodies, and culture vultures. Quite literally, there’s something for everyone! If you like touring vineyards, dining in artsy cafes, swimming in clear water, trekking in national parks, exploring medieval towns, watching beautiful people, dwelling into history behind city walls, climbing up on forts, sailing in the Adriatic sea, then this is the place for you. Here are my top picks, which should be part of every itinerary for Croatia.
Wine tour in Istria Peninsula For Foodies
Istria is a tooth shaped peninsula on the western corner of Croatia, so it is exposed to the winds from the east and the west. This is good for the vines and makes for great wine. The Istrian peninsula is a gentle land of rolling hills, olive groves, babbling brooks, and small vineyards (it has uncanny resemblance to Italy). Famously fertile, over 110 small-scale wineries and 145 olive oil producers have sprung up across the region in the last 20 years, developing its reputation as Croatia’s best corner for foodies. It is easy to plan a wine tasting trip, given high density of wineries, comprehensive network of biking and hiking trails and proper signage.
The Extra Mile : Go for trufle hunting. If you really want to experience forest to table concept. Book a truffle foraging trip, spend an hour in the woods with a hunter and his dogs, dig out few truffles and then return to the restaurant to savour them. Season starts in September and typically lasts through January.
Trekking in Plitvice National park. For Outdoor Suckers
It is arguably the most beautiful national park in the world. It’s comprised of 16 cascading lakes, separated by natural (travertine) dams and connected by a succession of waterfalls, giving it a beautiful terraced appearance. Surrounding it all to form a gentle pocket are mountains covered in dense woods. The lakes float crystal water, which changes colours from crystal clear to azure, to turquoise. This along with crisp clean air, truly is a feast for your senses. It is crisscrossed by wooden boardwalks and can be covered only on foot, they do have boats and bus to ferry you from one point to another, when you want to jump the route. Clicking an awe inspiring shot is easy when the place brims with beauty.
The Extra Mile : Do it again. Its an experience of lifetime and second time is much more fun. Simple reason is, now you know the obvious and you are able to appreciate the nuances like water is icy cold, park is inhabited by interesting birds and animal, there is option for cannoing in the park.
Strolling in Diocletian Palace in Split. For History Buffs and Culture Vultures
Split is the unofficial “capital” of Dalmatia. It is the economic hub of the eastern Adriatic. Wandering the historic centre of Split you can still clearly see the Roman walls, squares, and temples from the time of retired Roman emperor Diocletian. It is hard to imagine Croatia without Emperor’s palace as it would be Rome without Roman Coliseum or Cairo without Great Pyramids of Giza. There are not many cities in the world that can be proud such as Split of almost two millennium history. The difference is that this history is not just a written record but fully present in nowadays Split. Wandering aimlessly around the palace is one of Split’s essential experiences. There is no ticket office or protocol – you just stroll in. Split’s seaside promenade, known informally as the Riva. It’s the place where people go to enjoy coffee and be seen. The cafés and shops here are built onto the south side of the old palace walls.
The Extra Mile : Make a day trip to Trogir, less than hour drive from Split. The Greeks, the Romans and the Venetians all contributed to make Trogir the wonderful medieval city that it is. UNESCO also recognised it’s history and culture giving the town world heritage status in 1997. Its golden age is visible everywhere.
Island hopping in Hvar. For Beach bums and Party animals
Hvar is one of the most beautiful island, we have every seen. It has everything you can ask for. Parties (Even an edition of Ultra Music Festival), multi cuisine restaurants, hilltop forts, greenery and clear water to swim. It’s the most luxurious island, and the sunniest place in the country. The island of Hvar is home to spectacularly beautiful landscapes, punctuated by pine forests, fields of lavender and scenic olive groves. Apart from enjoying Hvar, you can rent a boat for full day for island hopping. Places to be covered are :- 1.) Stiniva Bay on Island Vis 2.) Green Cave 3.) Blue Cave 4.) Pakleni Islands.
The Extra Mile : Party at Hula Hula. Hula Hula, a rustic wooden beach bar is an amazing place for winding down and partying. Crystal clear sea, beautiful beaches, magical sunsets have only helped the cause. The place organises after beach parties that start every day at 5 pm and last until sunset. In 2011, Hula Hula beach bar hosted Beyonce and Jay-Z, so that might be an additional reason to check it out.
Watch sunset from the rooftop bar of in Korcula For relaxing
Reputed to be the birthplace of Marco Polo, the beautiful island of Korčula has a fascinating past. It is ideal for carefree meandering, as you can cover the whole of old town in one hour on foot. Just around the corner, you will find one of the most interesting rooftop bars in the world. The bar is lodged in a turret and is built on a crumbling city wall. To get to the rooftop, you have to climb a steep wooden ladder, wriggle through a trapdoor and voilá! You have the unhindered view of sunset. Your drinks are hauled up using a rope pulley. Drinks are not particularly exotic and bar doesnt offer the bird’s eye view of the town but the view of sunset and the sheer drop to the sea is thrilling nonetheless and enough to give you a high, literally.
The Extra Mile : Do a day trip to Mijelt Island. Over 70% of the island is covered by forest; the western half is a protected national park. Mljet is the epitome of pristine, unspoiled nature. This is the perfect place to recharge the batteries in between your cultural and historic sightseeing in Croatia. While visiting Mljet your time can be spent bicycling around the island, enjoying extensive walking trails, relaxing on the crystal-clear seashores, and going swimming in the warm, saltwater lakes.
6.) Climb the City walls of old town in Dubrovnik For History Buff
Welcome to the old town of Dubrovnik- the pearl of the Adriatic, Lord Byron’s paradise, and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Ask anyone what you should do in Dubrovnik and this will be the first thing they say. It is touristy but for a reason. Admission is 90 Kuna and it takes at least an hour or two to make the most of this 1.2 mile loop. You get memorable views in all direction. Viewing Dubrovnik from the walls gives you the chance to see the damage from the war up and close. Dubrovnik was sieged from late 1991 through early 1992, and the city was in ruins. It was painstakingly rebuilt, but you wouldn’t know it unless you were looking for the two-toned roofs. You can either take a tour or do it yourself.
The Extra Mile : Do the Game of Thrones Tour. King’s Landing, home of the kingdom’s capital city and the Iron Throne, has been filmed in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, a fitting choice with its seaside locale, atmospheric city walls, imposing forts, medieval town and bloody past. Dubrovnik also doubled as the location of Qarth, an ancient port city featured in the second season of “Game of Thrones.”