Waking up in Hvar was like waking up in the most lovely tropical dream ever. But my journey to Croatia didn’t begin or end in Hvar…so for the sake of an itinerary, let’s start at the start. We were in Croatia in September, which is just off season to the busy July/Aug. This was good for hotel rates and overall crowds, but not as great for night club scenes, etc. We wanted to see all we could in a week, so our time was packed. Here was our basic/busy itinerary:
- Day 1 – arrive in Zagreb, drive to Plitvice Lakes area, spend the night
- Day 2 – hike Plitvice Lakes, drive to Split
- Day 3 – leave Split to Hvar by ferry
- Day 4 – leave Hvar by ferry to split, drive to Dubrovnik
- Day 5 – tour Dubrovnik
- Day 6 – leave Dubronik, back to Zagreb, tour Zagreb
- Day 7 – leave Zagreb for return journey (with a day in Paris for fun)
We arrived in Zagreb, Croatia, better known as “the big city”, and the country’s capital city. Croatia is a boomerang shaped country, and for those who don’t know it, Zagreb is inland in the crook of the boomerang. We had every intention of exploring Zagreb, but not that day. Instead we hopped in a little Opal Aero and headed towards the Plitvice Lakes UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This part of Croatia is full of hotels and restaurants off the road, and we enjoyed a delicious and hearty meal of cheese, fruits, bread, chicken, grilled vegetables (a staple in Croatia, and seasoned deliciously), and eggplant crepes.
We drove on and stopped for the night just before Plitvice Lakes, and stayed at Camp Tourist (which we were a bit nervous about, but turned out to be pretty nice accommodations in our furnished cabin). We dined at a local restaurant and had a taste of Croatian wine (a Babic) which was an amazing treat the whole trip.
The Next Morning, we hiked Plitvice doing a 2 – 3 hour hike, which was just lovely. It took us through some amazing scenery and sites. And was a great and healthy way to kick off the trip. Plitvice is absolutely stunning, and no swimming is allowed, so it is a pristine site as well.
After our hike, we drove on to Split and spent the night in an Apartment by the beach, which in September is totally dead. In retrospect, I would have stayed in town by the harbor; you live and learn these things. We decided to grab a meal near our Apartment, at this little local pizza spot.
Split’s harbor-front is lovely, and bustling with all the city life, especially in the off season like Sept. It is beautiful and a great departure point for Hvar and other islands.
We boarded our ferry to Hvar expecting some great views, but it was totally enclosed (no outside area to stand), and the journey was rocky, which made it a tough one. But in about 2 hours we reached the lovely island of Hvar! Hvar is known for being a famous partying/celebrity-watching/beaching island, and the views from any point were spectacular. The island still has pieces of its old heritage as well, which makes it a great site to visit. We ate dinner at the #1 trip advisor spot in town, Dalmatino, and had a delicious meal of seafood risotto and other delights.
The next morning, we woke up early and hit the beach by our hotel, the lavish resort Amfora. I would stay here again, but ensure I had more time to enjoy it all. We basically had a few hours for the rocky beach and a quick dip in the pool. A note about the rocky beach – We loved it. Not only was it clean (no sand all over), the water was crystal clear and amazing to swim in. Not at all what I expected. We just made sure to wear water shoes on the beach at all times.
After our dips in Hvar, we had to head back to the ferry, and grabbed a Slodoled (Croatian Ice Cream) on the way. Side note on Slodoled – I love it. Its like Whipped cream meets ice cream, super delicious and light. I would love a recipe if someone has one!
Upon arriving in Split, we embarked on our drive to Dubrovnik. Because it was still daylight, we decided to take the scenic route to drive to Dubrovnik. This is a pretty slow route, but it follows the cliffs and the ocean most of the way, and the views are breath-taking. We also had a chance to stop at some road-side stops and grab Croatian olives (delicious), olive oil, and ate some fresh figs. There are tons of roadside vendors selling homemade fruit “wine” and brandy, and other delights great for any foodie traveler.
When we arrived in Dubrovnik, we were totally excited upon entering the Old Town part of the city where we stayed. This felt like going to Disney Land, as it was totally walled in, white stone, and clean (they wash the streets). Its obviously for tourists, but was so beautiful. We stayed at the Celenga Apartments, and a note here, while we were comfy, we had to drag our suitcases up 3 flights of stairs, so pack light!
We ventured out in Dubrovnik and sampled some local specialities like oysters and black risotto at Kamenice, which was recommended by a local. It was delicious, though I prefer Pacific and Atlantic Oysters I think. Here we also learned a bit more about Croatian Wine, especially about regions and the best wines (i.e. Plavac Hvar, Plavac Dignac). I loved the Plavac Hvar varieties especially.
The next morning, we grabbed breakfast and headed to walk the walls of the old city. This was an awe-inspiring experience – 1. to know the city was built so strategically, and 2. to see the amazing views and vistas.
After walking the walls for a few hours, we headed back into town for a wine break at the highly rated D’vino Wine Bar. This is a great gem, and something every wine producing city should have…let people taste wines and learn about them while on a trip. The atmosphere was cute and lovely, and learned a bit more about Croatian wines, and purchased a few bottles.
We then explored the coastal areas of the city, which we thought would be cold after a rain, but instead we parked at a nearby beach club and had a few drinks on the sand at Banjo Beach for the sunset..
After an exhausting and exciting day, we headed to dinner near our hotel, and enjoyed a decadent meal and some more delicious wine. The next day, we woke up and headed to breakfast and then the airport for our flight back to Zagreb.
When we finally arrived in Zagreb, we had time to unload and then head to see the city. Though its more commercial, there were some cool gems our awesome cabbie pointed out, like the Zagreb Cathedral, the St. Mark’s Cathedral with its cool Gothic-style tiles, and lovely stone gate.
We wandered on and got lucky to have a seat at Trilogija (the #1 Trip Advisor Restaurant) and had a lovely meal with our first bit of white wines from Croatia.
After a lovely last dinner in Croatia, we headed to have our last Slodoled, and ended up in a busy bar area grabbing drinks at a very busy coffee house/bar. After a few hours of people-watching and chatting, we headed home to rest before the flight.
Whew! It was a long trip for a week, but a lovely one. If I had to do it again, I would have spent more time in Croatia, slowed the pace a bit, explored some of the lovely wine regions and spent more time at the beach. Still, it can be done in a week, and is a truly wonderful country to visit! Croatia – definitely a haute travel location to add to your list!