Coastal Croatia! August 2018
This was a mega-trip for me. If you read about my Amsterdam trip on the former blog post, you then know I used that city as a long layover stop on our way to Croatia. Why? Because currently there are no direct flights from the US to Croatia, and instead of just connecting in a city, it was a good way to break up the long flight to Croatia. Plus any excuse to go to Amsterdam amirite? My friends and I did the first weekend in Amsterdam, and flew from there to Dubrovnik Sunday morning.
Day 1 Dubrovnik: That was a tough travel day. We got very little sleep (because, Amsterdam), and had to wake up at 4:30am to head to the airport to make our 6:30am flight. The flight was about 2 hrs (once we got through about an hour of delays), we landed/went through passport control/baggage claim for bags (we flew Easyjet, which only lets you carry on one bag) and then had arranged with our Airbnb to have a van come and pick us up and take us to the place. Unfortunately, even with asking several times to check in early, the place was not ready on our arrival, so we had to sit outside on a patio for a good hour. The minute the house was clean, it was power nap time. Then, after a good snooze, we explored Dubrovnik. The house was actually in an amazing location, right outside the entrance to the city walls, and across the street from the cable car which took you up the mountain for some awesome views of the city. This was definitely the place to be. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the narrow streets of the walled city- up the steps, down the steps. Such a cool place, I took about a million photos. We found a literal hole in the wall, Mala Buza Bar, which was a doorway from one of the walls, that led to outside the wall, where a bar was set up with seating. Amazing views, great place to have a glass of wine, watch the sunset, and watch cliffdivers jump from the city walls into the ocean. Our first dinner in Croatia was at Restaurant Kopun, which had amazing pastas. Give me all the truffle tagliatelle, topped off with shots of Ouzo (I think it was Ouzo?) or something like that. This dinner was on the expensive side for sure but worth it, after this long ass day we needed all the carbs.
Day 2 Dubrovnik: Extremely hungover, we decided we should all hike up the mountain to catch some views instead of pay the kuna for the tram ride. This turned out to be a great idea. It was a challenging hike, steady incline for about an hour, but so worth it. Great views of the islands, the town, everything. The trailhead was off the side of the road, we had to walk about 15mins to it to begin from our place (wasn't hard to find though with the help of google maps). After our hike we grabbed a quick take-out lunch at Yummi's, which was a block from our place and perfect lunch type food (sandwiches, salads, on the lighter side stuff that will fill you up). Next up we took a 15 min ferry ride from the port to Lokrum - an island close by that is a Nature Reserve. Perfect for swimming and checking out Game of Thrones shooting locations (they had a throne there? I don't watch the show but got a photo anyways). Also had a natural pool called the Dead Sea, Charlotte's Well, Botanical Gardens, some cute bars, rocks to lay out on, wild peacocks, and the biggest bunnies I've ever seen. Packed day- after it was back to the city, happy hour/sunset watch at Mala Buza Bar, then dinner at Proto. Man this place was SO good- maybe the most expensive meal of the trip, but the seafood and pastas were worth every kuna. After dinner we checked out a bar outside the city walls- Artbar, which was super fun and funky, great way to spend our last night in Dubrovnik.
So when you go to Dubrovnik I recommend: hiking the cable car mountain (and if you are running short on time just take it back down), Lokrum island, Proto and Kopun for dinner, Mala Buza Bar for drinks.
Day 3 Split: Travel day! We got a late start due to picking up rental cars this day from the airport. It's a cluster there, give yourself extra hours if you decide to rent a car in Croatia. We drove from Dubrovnik to Split- took us about 3 hours. It's actually a beautiful ride, the countryside in Croatia is just gorgeous, and I had no idea it would be so mountainous. Most of the ride is along the coast too on a one lane road, which is so pretty. It was like the PCH of Eastern Europe. At one point you actually pass through Bosnia, so there is a passport check stop. Bosnia only lasts about 15mins of the ride though, then back into Croatia. I also thought the driving in Croatia (even in the cities) was much easier than other countries I've visited (Lisbon was a nightmare for example). So if you are thinking of renting a car in Croatia do not be afraid. By the time we got to our Airbnb (which was not exactly in city center of Split, more like 20mins outside, felt like the burbs a little) we were tired and hungry so we stocked up on food at the local Konzum supermarket, ordered some really good pizzas from Bepina to go, and hung out at the place for a chill night.
Day 4 Split: Boat day! I booked in advance a private boat tour of some of the nearby islands through a company called Waterworld Croatia my friend had recommended. This was maybe my favorite day of the entire trip. We did the Route 1: Beaches Bays and Cultures tour. We met our boat guy in the port of Split- and from there hit up Trogir, the Blue Lagoon for a swimming stop, Maslinica, lunch at a dockside restaurant in Solta, then swimming around a shipwreck nearby (really fun, the guy selling mojitos on a boat was clutch), Milna for a wine tasting, one last swim, then back to the port. That kept us busy all day. If you go to Split definitely do this trip, or one of their trip options. It came to around $130 a person, for our own boat for 10hrs. Totally worth it- and that included the wine tasting (lunch we paid for separately) That night we had dinner at Kitchen 5 in the town of Split (highly recommend, reasonably priced and again more amazing pasta). Drinks followed at La Bodega and some bar that was outdoors and projecting videos off the wall. There does not seem to be a lack of bars/clubs in Split, if you want to party this is your place (much more than Dubrovnik).
Day 5 Split: Chill day. What can I say we had been going nonstop and needed a rest. Our Airbnb had a pool and a outdoor old school wood burning oven, so that meant swimming, napping, and then making pizzas for dinner. Always build in a rest day folks, it's never a bad idea.
So when you go to Split I recommend: Staying in a place in the port city or walking distance to it (our Airbnb was great and all-especially that pool and brick oven-however we didn't get to see much of Split due to the fact we were a little far out). Hit up Waterworld Croatia's website and book a boat tour of the islands. Also, they have uber boat, which I didn't get to experience but it would be a great way to get to some islands like Hvar, Vis, etc that are all close by if you don't want to dedicate a whole day on a boat. The island access and the clubs seem to be the major reasons why people visit Split. Kitchen 5 was great for dinner, and Split is known for their pizza (great excuse to sample it all).
Day 6: Krka Waterfalls and Zadar: Travel Day! Left our Airbnb around noon and drove straight to the Krka Waterfalls National Park (took about an hour from Split). We parked at the Skradin stop, and bought tickets for the extremely slow ferry (they leave every 15-30mins and take about 45mins), and took it to the first stop where the major falls were. Then it was photo-time, swimming, had lunch, and walked back to the car (only took 40mins, not bad at all, I would have walked there too if I had known this was an option because the ferry was SO slow). We even stopped at the a little beach for one last quick dip before driving to Zadar. The ride to Zadar was another hour from Krka NP. Airbnb check in, then dinner in yet another walled city. We stayed right across the pedestrian bridge into the city, so another great location very walkable. Zadar was like a smaller, plainer, beige colored, more local, flater version of Dubrovnik. Don't get me wrong it was really cool - just different- didn't feel touristy at all, and a little rougher around the edges especially when you went beyond the walled city. Why did I pick Zadar to end our trip? It seemed to be the closest city with a scene going on to the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which was high on my list of doing. Our first night we had dinner at Konoba Mario- which was a local italian joint that had really good pizza and pasta and was just dirt cheap. From there we got some gelato and Eva (needed) checked out the Sea Organ (a sound art object which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps) and the Monument to the Sun (outdoor solar powered floor that lights up at night). Just some local Zadar attractions that will kill a half hour of your time.
Day 7: Plitvice Lakes National Park and Zadar: Man we really made the most of this day. Woke up super early and drove to Plitvice Lakes NP. It was like the worst day of the trip weather wise, rainy and chilly (at least at the park). It took us a little under 2 hours to drive there, and we parked at Entrance 1. Now this weather, although less than ideal, I think really helped us, because we had no trouble getting a parking spot (parking payment- it's about $1/hr-you pay when you leave) and it only took us 5 mins to get entrance tickets. And the first hour and a half was fine, it was barely raining. However after our coffee stop halfway through route A, it really started to pour, so it did cut our time a little short there. We spent a little over 2.5 hours there, and I think on route A we saw all the major highlights. What a ridiculously beautiful park, just magical with all the waterfalls and that Banff blue water. Headed back to Zadar, and it was actually sunny and beautiful there! We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out local Kolovare Beach (about a 20min walk from our place- outside the walled city). This had a random high dive and salt water pool, jetski rentals, a couple of basic food spots, and a floating "Wipeout" obstacle course in the Ocean that cost about $6 to play on for a half hour. Minus the jet skis, we did all of these things- so fun. Dinner that night was at Bruschetta in the city (great pizzas and bruschetta obvs but do not get the Pistachio Pesto pasta it was gross) and did some bar hopping in the club section of the city. Apparently no one dances? Strange.
This was our last night in Zadar. Day 8 we checked out, drove to the Split airport (took about 1.5hrs) and headed back to Amsterdam for our final night of vacay.
So when you go to Zadar I recommend: Plitvice Lakes NP (go early, park at Entrance 1), Stay as close to the walled city as you can in Zadar, check out Kovolare beach if you are into some daredevil shit, dinner at Konoba Mario and Bruschetta (both are extremely cheap and good! Stick to pizza at Bruschetta) Watch the sunset by the Sea Organ and when it goes down check out the Monument to the Sun. Also if you are into ruins there are a few right in the city center- this city is historical AF. Zadar, not known for it's pizza like Split, but it should be, nom nom
All in all I think this was the perfect week to visit Croatia, and almost the perfect itinerary. Here are some tips/pros/cons/etc of what we did on our trip:
-The weather was, for the most part, really nice (a few thunderstorms 2 nights, but the days were 80's and sunny, and the ocean was just the right temperature to swim comfortably)
-If I could change anything, it would have been the Split part of the trip. Our Airbnb, while baller with pool, was too far from the main city and we just didn't have enough time to really see and enjoy the area. I would have booked something in the city so we didn't have to uber back and forth and could walk around more, maybe even uber boated to an island, it just would have opened up more options being in the city of Split.
-Airbnbs in Croatia: be aware, if you are traveling with multiple people, most places have a small, visible water tank in each bathroom. Once that tank of water has been used, the water is cold. Most of us experienced some very cold showers regularly. Also, many places advertise that they have air-conditioning, but with most places that ended up being one remote controlled wall unit in one room to cool the whole place. So if you like to sleep in the cold (like myself) that was not happening.
Cost Breakdown Per Person:
Airbnbs: $450 (!!!)
Rental Cars (2): $32
Waterworld Croatia Boat trip: $130
Krka parking and tickets: $40
Plitvice NP parking and tickets: $20
Total cost: around $700