Croatia, Kayla's Column

That Time Croatia Stole My Heart

In late June 2017 I got to visit a new country (yippee!). If you didn’t catch it in the title, it was Croatia! While Tyler wasn’t able to join this trip, I was lucky to be able to travel with friends and discover why Croatia is so much more than a few scenes in Game of Thrones. I wasn’t sure what to expect…it was my first time in Eastern Europe and I honestly didn’t know much about Croatia before the opportunity came about, but WOW was I blown away by the beauty and culture!

Just your average drive to Dubrovnik

The first several days in Croatia were full of productive business meetings, made even sweeter by the location — Dubrovnik! Famous for it’s Old Town enclosed in stone walls and towers, Dubrovnik truly makes you feel like you’re in another world. As soon as the business trip came to a close, first on the agenda was the “Wall Walk”. Yep, you can walk the entirety of the walls that surround Old Town!

Dubrovnik City Walls

Honestly…it’s insane.

Next on the agenda was a drive to Split, one of the larger cities in Croatia. To make things even better, we got to drive a few hours along the coast, taking in amazing views of the Adriatic Sea and charming little towns all along the way. We had limited time in Split, but still managed to visit Diocletian’s Palace, a fortresslike complex in the city-center, built by the Roman emperor in the 4th century. Today it’s filled with restaurants and cafes, where nobody sits indoors, but rather at cafe tables or on the stone steps found around ever corner.

Diocletian’s Palace…above the bustling, music and cafe filled, culturally rich maze within

The next morning we hopped on a ferry bound for Hvar Town. Nestled between an old fortress and the sea, the small town was unique in it’s own way. Seemingly endless cobblestone footpaths and stairs weave throughout the haphazard buildings and instill a sense of adventure (if not the feeling of being lost!). We had a great afternoon laying in the sun, swimming in the bay, and strolling along the marina, but I think one of the things I enjoyed the most was wandering through the town, eagerly awaiting the beautiful view, building, or piece of history that was around the next corner.

Hvar Town

The next day we reluctantly left Hvar and drove a couple hours inland from Split to Krka National Park. Once again, I was in awe at what Croatia had to offer! Perhaps having no expectations going in made each destination that much better, but truthfully, I think Croatia is simply underrated. Krka National Park’s most popular attraction is a series of cascading waterfalls that weave through the park and widen in areas that naturally make for awesome views. Part of the Krka River, the self-guided tour of the falls also included some neat history about traditional watermills. But the coolest part about the park is that you can actually swim up to the waterfalls! To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would do it, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity once I saw it. Just look!

Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park

After Krka, we made our way back to Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia. True to form in Croatia, Zagreb had it’s own version of history, beauty, cafe culture, and amazing food. I haven’t even talked about food yet, but it was equally enjoyable — mediterranean dishes of fish, pasta, pizza and more. Favorites dishes have to be: prawns simmered in feta cheese sauce and a gnocchi in a cheese sauce (I can’t remember the cheeses, but they were irresistibly good!). Also, PSA: If you ever find yourself at a gas station with a cafe off the toll road in Croatia, treat yourself to a salami or prosciutto sandwich, trust me, it’s worth it!

Downtown Zagreb

Months later, I’m still dreaming about Croatia. It was truly an unforgettable experience and somewhere I’m eager to return to — take me back to sun, sea, and castles! Good thing I have the excuse that Tyler hasn’t been there yet. 😉

P.S. If you want to see a lot of Croatia in one week, borrow our itinerary, you won’t be disappointed. 

Day 1: Fly to Zagreb and drive to Dubrovnik (or fly to Dubrovnik)

Day 2: Explore Old Town Dubrovnik

  • Do the City Wall Walk, tickets are required, but it’s worth it!

Day 3: Explore Old Town Dubrovnik some more (and the other bay areas are nice too!)

  • Best restaurant we discovered in Dubrovnik: Atlantic Kitchen
Paella at Atlantic Kitchen

Day 4: Drive to Split (along the coast of course!)

  • Town we wished we had stopped at: Omiš (just google it, it’s picturesque)

Day 5: Catch a ferry to Hvar Town

  • Grab a sandwich and some drinks and lay in the sun by the marina!
  • Climb the winding staircases and venture down the cobblestone streets to find the town cemetery (if you’re fascinated, like me)
Best idea ever!

Day 6: Get the ferry back to Split and then drive to Krka National Park

  • Have dinner in the little town of Skradin (and save the park for the next day)
  • Hotel recommendation: Vrata Krke Hotel

Day 7: Explore Krka National Park, then drive back to Zagreb

Other tips:

  • Driving to and from Dubrovnik, there is a border crossing for Bosnia and Herzegovina (make sure your rental car can go through)
  • Skip hotels — Croatia is full of apartment rentals — they are affordable, clean, and spacious!
  • Pick up a local SIM card at the airport when you arrive (for roughly $10 you’ll get 4G for a week)
  • Enjoy the laid back vibes in Croatia! 🙂


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