The cover picture was taken in Zadar at the Sea Organ site, August 2016. « Zadar sunset from the Sea Organ seafront steps ».
I am persuaded that one does not need to see everything that is said to be a must-see, do what is said to be a must-do when traveling. It has not been my approach so far and I am pretty happy with it. I have come out with a lot of beautiful surprises this way. You don’t need to do all to have a memorable time.
There are at least two advantages having that approach: we free ourselves from the unnecessary pressure and go with the flow what allows us to enjoy – indeed – our trip and therefore we allow ourselves to explore and discover most often beyond the well-know, we allow ourselves to be more open to the mystery, we invite the scary unknown in the experience. We get to see the hidden gems or what might not be in the travel guidebooks and websites, we let in the emotions, sometimes the “true side” of a place reveals, we learn and make it unforgettable. Plus, you are able to share these uncommon and little discoveries of yours with your world which is probably one of the best way to stand out with some unique pictures.
Croatia is one of the trendy European destinations. I had the opportunity to go there for a week, recently, thanks to my Croatian friend that I met in London. A perfect timing and fit as I was interested in visiting, during summer, an European country new to me. I do not regret it!
Divided into six tourist areas from the coastal Istria, Kvarner, Dalmatia, to the inland Central Croatia, Zaghreb, Slavonia; this destination has a lot to offer, not to mention the sun there. Stunning landscapes from turquoise water beaches of the Adriatic to breathtaking cliffs, waterfalls, lakes and national parks (Plitvice), moreover Roman heritage and influence (Pula), quaint cities (Rovinj) and Unesco sites (Old Dubrovnik, Split), the thousand islands (Hvar, said to be the “Croatian Saint-Tropez”), spas resorts (Slavonia) as well as a diversity of related activities such as diving, sailing, nightlife, shopping, wildlife observation. Oh my God! Where to begin!
You get it. It was clearly impossible to do all. Some factors influenced me beforehand, fortunately! I liked the pretty sight of the Adriatic coastline when I was researching and my friend is from this part. Ideal deal. So, I suggest a balance of must-see/crowded and more confidential, family kind of atmosphere sites to relax.The following itinerary includes Istria, Kvarner, Dalmatia. Let’s get it started!
- Start your trip in Northeastern Italy by the border with Croatia.
When you get the opportunity to do two countries in one trip it is always interesting and you get more knowledge. I landed in Venice because the flight was cheap from Paris. I learnt to travel from there to Croatia and I got to see a little bit of Venice and Trieste. Also, I was curious about crossing the border by car!
Some details: round-trip flight Paris-Venice was 80€ with Easyjet via Skyscanner.net. 12,90€ for the train ticket Venice Mestre – Trieste Central. Get the ticket on the spot.
Train tickets at Venice Mestre train station. Headed to Trieste
- Discover Rijeka.
Located in the Kvarner Bay, I found this harbor city extremely cute. Enjoy shopping in the city center and grab a cup of tea or coffee at the lovely Cukarikafe Bar. See Some details below.
Some details: Cukarikafe Bar Trg Jurja Klovica 4, 51000, Rijeka, Croatia. Tezenis for nice swimsuit, good prices: Korzo 11, 51000, Rijeka, Croatia.
- Go on a self night-tour in the pretty Opatija.
About 20 minutes from Rijeka by car. Consider parking in a touristy city at night. Why at night? Still dynamic, lively, however less crowded. You can enjoy a nice atmosphere and stroll; also stand out with night pictures of this famous city of the Istria peninsula, popular international seaside resort in the 19th century. Opatija is the oldest tourist resort in Croatia.
The well-known “Maiden with the seagull”, true symbol of Opatija and Kvarner region.
- Go on a road trip from Rijeka to Pag Island.
A beautiful journey made of panoramic view with cliffs, pits and stunning blue of the Adriatic sea and coastline beautiful towns. On the road, you can make short stops to enjoy.
Some details: leave early as the road trip is about 4 hours including the ferry journey with a car 150 kunas = 20€ from Prizna to Pag (duration:15/20 mn), breaks and traffic jam. You might need to check here for the ferry.
- Get food at the bakery.
I tasted and liked these spinach and cheese, ham and cheese kind of “rolls”. Very convenient during road trips. Plus, those as well as pastries, doughnuts are about 7 kunas (less than 1€).
- Experience Pag Island in different ways.
We are now in Dalmatia. At first Pag is this surprising dry island without vegetation. Then, it is definitely a lot of fun! Simply relax at the beach Zubovici Beach – Novalja. Leave the land and explore the sea boating around, scuba diving. Go for strolls in the villages’ streets. Party at Zrce Beach, it is THE place for nightlife, clubbing (spring break). Enjoy a waffle or a crepe in this bustling area between 10PM and 1 AM!
- Taste the local cheese.
I learnt about the Paški sir ! “Sir” in Croatian is cheese. The star in Pag Island and outside the country! I just love cheese, that’s a fact. Period. Tasted and approved, that one had me like…waw! A bit salty though. If you want to know why, ask the locals, they are going to tell you the story about the production process! Worth it!
- Experience the Sea Organ in Zadar and much more.
I have got a crush on Zadar. To me it is a combination of the ambiance and places like Montmartre in Paris and Venice with the charming pedestrian and narrow streets. I am a sucker for a lot of things related to art, with this little artistic touch it is even more interesting.
No wonder that Zadar received the prestigious title “Best European destination 2016” from European Best Destinations, the European Tourist organization in Brussels.
Indeed, Zadar is home to remarkable public art installations along the seafront. Go get an ice cream at Slad while strolling in the heart of the town to discover the Roman ruins; on your way to the fascinating Sea Organ and its related attraction Greeting to the Sun. Take a seat on the seafront steps and just open your ears.The only thing I can say is just experience it, I cannot reveal too much! Except that there are usually a lot of people! Added to this, the sunset is simply the best I’ve watched so far in Europe. Last but not least, there are food and beverage carts on the spot. Food to die for! Fresh fish and seafood, I had a delicious shrimp risotto at Harbor Cookhouse & Club (See Some details below).
Trust me, you want to try this Kinder flavor ice cream at Slad ice cream shop! In Zadar. See Some details below.
Some details : about 1 hour and a half from Novalja (Pag Island) to Zadar. Adresses : Harbor Cookhouse & Club, Obala Kneza Branimira 6/a 23000 Zadar. Slad Ice cream shop, Mihovila klaića 4,23000 Zadar.
Some general recommendations to make a trip to Croatia even more memorable; on a side note that can always be used anywhere else:
- Think in “Kuna”, the Croatian currency, as Croatia has recently joined the European Union. 1€ is about 7.5 kunas, 1£ is about 8.7 kunas and $1 is about 6.5 kunas.
- Go with friends, family or make friends there if solo traveler. Of course splitting the costs is one of the big advantages; moreover some activities might be more enjoyable with great company. I am pretty sure you agree that a road trip or a boat trip feels better with them.
- Do not get stuck in one city/place, there is much to see out there! My opinion though.The car is certainly the best option.
- Stay with the local people. For some people, it has become a golden rule and a traveling style. To me, it depends the destination, my mood and the kind of experience I’m looking for at the moment. However since I’m interested in meeting the locals I would often go for it. In Croatia I stayed with them and I would definitely encourage to do so. The advantage is that they can fairly advise you where to go, what to do and you get to know the local food.
- Learn Croatian ideally with Croatians. I stress it “with Croatians”. Yes, because first of all it is more fun and secondly I must keep it real here; as a French native it is a challenging language. Reading and speaking with the right pronunciation requires their help. For example, I learnt to say “Can I have a glass of water” > “Mogu li dobiti čašu vode?”. How would I know how to say it the right way without them!
- Come back for more!
I would like to address special thanks to my friends Tam, Stefana and their family. And you, what did you like about the suggestions? How do you make your trip to Croatia memorable? Feel free to get in touch with me if you need more details about flights, journeys and activities.