We covered a lot of ground in our 3 weeks in Croatia. While sailing from Split to Dubrovnik we got a chance to experience a lot of the islands and towns along the Dalmatian Coast, and later a road trip from Split to Zagreb allowed us to experience some of Croatia’s inland destinations.
We fell absolutely in love with Croatia, pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to navigate the country, get insight into local culture, and by all the beautiful destinations we discovered during our time there (among other things).
Narrowing down the list of all the cities and towns we visited was hard, but in the end, a few destinations stood out as our all time favourites!
Even in the shoulder season (we visited in mid-September), Dubrovnik was packed! Hoards of tourists were bumping shoulders in the city, patiently forming lines to walk along the famous Dubrovnik Walls, or snap a photo at one of the many lookouts along the way. Restaurants, shops, and other attractions were crowded, but that didn’t stop us from loving the majestic views of the great city of Dubrovnik.
Its Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, was full of beautiful churches, monasteries, palaces, fountains, and was so much fun to explore. The views from the ancient city walls were incredible and the feeling of amazement that washed over us as we sailed towards the city in our sailboat was simply unforgettable.
The island of Mljet was an unexpected surprise. We first docked in the town of Pomena, one of the 2 towns on the island and spent a lovely evening eating delicious food at Konoba Galija while watching a beautiful sunset right off the dock. The following day, we rented a car and set off to explore the Mljet National Park and the rest of the island, which turned into one of the most amazing days we had in our entire 3 weeks in Croatia. The drive was spectacular, the views from a number of lookouts were breathtaking, but the most incredible stop was the Odysseus Cave.
It took a bit of time to hike down to the cave and descend to its base, but once there the views of the cave and of the underwater world beneath it were spectacular. The cave opened up into the ocean and offered some amazing cliff diving.
Korcula Town was another little gem that we had stumbled upon thanks to the recommendation from a few fellow sailors. Known for being the real birthplace of Marco Polo (ummm… maybe! The evidence is very questionable!) Korcula’s historic medieval Old Town is set on an oval-shaped point on the northeastern tip of the island. The town is a collection of tiny winding cobblestone alleyways full of unique shops and restaurants, dominated by the Gothic-Renaissance style of St Mark’s Cathedral.
We fell in love with Korcula’s laid back attitude, indulged in some delicious meals at Konoba Mareta, and enjoyed the spectacular views of the Adriatic Sea and the nearby islands.
Diocletian Palace in Split
Being the second largest city in Croatia and the largest city in Dalmatia, we expected Split to be a highlight, but had no idea that it would end up standing out in memory that much. In the heart of Split is the Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient palace built by the Roman Emperor Diocletian back in 300AD. The palace is one of the most famous and complete architectural structures in all of Croatia and we felt its greatness the second we stepped inside its walls.
The palace is not an abandoned historical marvel, nor is it a museum, instead it’s a living and breathing part of the city, packed with people (a lot of people), shops, and restaurants. It is said that over 220 businesses operate inside the palace and over 3,000 residents call it their home. I’m sure the locals probably hate the tourist crowds, but how cool would it be to live inside a palace?
Sibenik is the 3rd largest city in Dalmatia, yet one that remains fairly unknown to the majority of travelers visiting Croatia. If it wasn’t the gateway for Krka National Park, we probably would’ve missed it as well. But a quick stopover in Sibenik en route to the park allowed us to spend some time exploring this beautiful historic town.
The biggest attraction in Šibenik, the Cathedral of St. James, was, of course, on the UNESCO World Heritage list. (At times, it really felt like every town in Croatia was or had a UNESCO Heritage Site). But it wasn’t the cathedral itself that made a lasting impression on our visit of Sibenik. Maybe it was the incredibly friendly host from Apartment Heli that welcomed us into town, or the beautiful sunset overlooking the islands across the bay, or the narrow limestone alleyways that made the town feel snug and homey, or the laid back vibe at the cafes and restaurants along the waterfront. It’s a city you only need a day or two to see, but one that’s definitely worth a stop.
Krka National Park
From the boat ride into the park to the refreshing dip in Skradinski buk, the lowest of the three sets of waterfalls formed along the Krka river, Krka National Park had all the elements of a perfect day out. We walked along the trails, marveled at the views inside the park, enjoyed home made snacks sold along the footpath, and joined the locals for a simple picnic on the grass.
Plitvice National Park
Plitvice was one of the destinations we looked forward to visiting the most in Croatia. And even though it was a bit too crowded for our liking, the park was spectacular and was definitely worth a visit.
We spent a day winding around a chain of hiking trails that hug all 16 lakes within the park, enjoying the waterfalls, and taking in the best of the park’s views!
It’s official, we are moving to Zagreb… is what you’ll one day read on our Facebook page! Who knew that Croatia’s capital was so cool, hip, and incredibly liveable? We certainly didn’t! Compared to the rest of European capitals, Zagreb is significantly cheaper, yet it definitely has that European charm!
We loved the lifestyle and culture in Zagreb, its young unpretentious and laid back attitude. The city is full of parks and green spaces and is constantly buzzing with outdoor events and activities. There are open air farmers markets, art displays, festivals, and a strong cafe culture. Pick a patio (there are tons of them all around the city), sit back, relax, have a pint of local craft beer, sip away at a tiny cup of coffee (that’s how they like it in Zagreb), or enjoy a cup of hot tea (luckily they don’t shy away from tea either) and enjoy European living for less!