I’ve got another great guest post from Nicole Noel, a lifestyle blogger at HighStyleLife. She is passionate about travelling and healthy living. She loves exploring new things and sharing her ideas with others. You can find her on twitter and FB.
Tucked in between Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean lies a country that hides beautiful natural wonders, amazing coastline that attracts A-list celebrities, around thousand of different islands with breathtaking scenery, and finger licking gourmand specialties. With locals being incredibly laid-back and welcoming, it is literally paradise on earth. Croatia is the name of this Adriatic queen and it has a distinctive charm that beats the exotic destinations such as Bahamas or Tahiti. With its rich history and close connections to Italy, it will make you fall in love with its melodic language and different dialects (have you ever heard the Dalmatian accent?), with incredible wines and cuisine, and its sea that I swear has rejuvenating properties. Croatia selflessly invites you to adopt that special mindset I’m convinced only people that live by the sea cultivate. Here are its highlights that shouldn’t be missed.
Dubrovnik, the pearl of Adriatic
Dubrovnik is an architectural mosaic made of very well-preserved Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings. When I first stepped on the cobbled streets of the Old Town, it felt as if I’ve traveled through time. The Old Town was founded in the 7th century by refugees from Epidaurus in Greece and it seems as if the time froze between these p walls. Start your day at the Gundulić Square and enjoy the market brimming with fresh food and goods. Don’t miss out on purchasing local olive oil: it is exquisite. Take a coffee break at Stradun, the city’s vibrant center, where you can admire the 15th century white limestone structures and a gorgeous pedestrian zone.
I was stunned by the Rector’s Palace and thrilled to hear it has been turned into a Cultural History Museum. Make sure to take a tour around the walls (price is around €4) and enjoy the view of the city and the shimmering Adriatic Sea. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll be happy to hear there are actual tours that guide you through the filming locations! Visit the Mount Srd via cable car (€8) to soak in the panoramic view, and then go to the Banje beach and unwind. I happened to visit during the beginning of August, so I caught the Dubrovnik Summer Festival and there are no words to describe the atmosphere on the streets.
Split, a gateway to paradise
Located in central Dalmatia, Split is a true treat for those who seek to relax during the day and then party in the night. It is a vibrant city that’s shockingly suitable for a variety of people with different traveling habits. It is also a gateway to paradise as there are many tours that take you to the hidden Croatian islands. Ferry boats can take you to the islands of Hvar and Brač: unfortunately, I never went but my friend did and he said it’s completely surreal. Important info for party lovers: 2-hour bus ride can take you from Split to the island of Pag: Noavalja and Zrće beach, which have a reputation for memorable parties, but there are also amazing dining opportunities. Pag’s trademark is cheese, as well as specific kind of white wine. As for Split, it’s like an open-air museum: the center of the city is actually surrounded by the remains of Diocletian’s Palace (around 1700 years old) and it’s crowded with people and packed with bars and restaurants. While you there, visit the Cathedral Sveti Duje: it used to be a home to the mausoleum of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.
You can climb to the top for amazing photo opportunities or just to soak in the view. I got a bit dizzy, but it was totally worth it! Split offers you an opportunity to discover Roman history and culture: before the city developed, there was a Roman province located here and you can explore the artifacts at the Archeological Museum. Climb the Marjan Hill and then descend to the seafront promenade. I’ve expected much higher prices on the Riva: turns out they’re affordable. For instance, you can get an amazing full meal for about €8! Craft beers are around €3, while tasty coffee is around €1! I’ve also enjoyed a ballet show at the Croatian National Theater.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, an amazing natural wonder
There are daily trips organized from Split to the Plitvice National Park: it takes about two and a half hours to get there and the entrance fee is around €18, although I’ve heard it gets higher during peak season. There are many wooden paths and eight hiking routes you can take to discover turquoise-colored lakes, but you can also go off-the-beaten paths. Speaking from experience, these unpaved routes lead to the most beautiful lakes and waterfalls, so if you’re feeling adventurous – check out the park’s map, snoop around on your own, too. There are different legends attached to the names of lakes: for example, the Gypsy lake got its name because allegedly – a Gypsy drowned here while fishing; Gavan’s lake allegedly hides a treasure that belonged to a man named Gavan.
Istria’s two gems: Pula and Poreč
Istria resembles Tuscany in so many ways: the climate, the cheerful people, the mixture of Croatian and Italian language, the joie de vivre. Pula is my number one. You can feel the history with every step you make. The city center is dominated by the intact Roman coliseum (it’s the sixth largest in the world!) which is now used as a venue for cultural events. You can’t help but wonder who sat at your seat 2000 years ago while you watch a modern simulation of the gladiator fights or enjoy a concert under the starry sky. Take a walk down the Roman Forum, visit the Triumphal Arch of Sergius and the Temple of August. In addition to rich Roman history, the city has a sort of urban-punk spirit, especially during the Monteparadizo Festival.
Poreč is a quiet little town that has its charm. During my visit, most of the town smelled of lavender and it was very soothing. If you want to enjoy beautiful rocks and intact nature, organize a trip to Cape Kamenjak. The sea is like nowhere else in Croatia and you can also dive off cliffs or soak in the sun on the rocks.
Zagreb, a youthful capital
When I visited Zagreb, the first thing that struck me is how vivid the city is. While sightseeing is nice, I preferred to soak in the city spirit by wandering around. Streets are crowded with young people, and there are plenty of places to hang out. It’s easy to connect with others given the fact that there are a lot of hostels that are also bars, so you can meet people from all over the world. I was attended the Inmusic festival which isn’t as big as EXIT in Serbia or Sziget in Hungary, but it was an amazing experience.
I have traveled quite a bit but never have I felt this welcome in a foreign country. I was a bit skeptical at the beginning, thinking the locals seek to strip me off my money. The truth is – Croatians are simply very nice and it seems as if they didn’t get the memo about setting tourist traps. They honestly can with their rich offer, but they choose not to. This fact knocked me off my feet and made me fall in love with Croatia.