Not wanting to bore you guys with a non-ending article, I decided to split the itinerary through Slovenia and Croatia I did last summer into two artciles, so here goes Part II: a week starting in Zagreb and making our way South to Split (find part I here).
Day 7 – Surprising Zagreb!
I was really impressed with Zagreb, I loved the city. What was at first meant to be a stopover actually turned out to be one of my favorite destinations throughout the trip!
In the morning, as we were staying a little off the touristic area (but very conveniently by the train station), we took the tram to the center and started with the Dolac market which opens everyday early in the morning and shuts at 3 pm (1pm on Sundays!). I just really like markets but we didn’t really have anything to buy as we had shopped the night before and planned on eating out for lunch. Overall, we just didn’t find anything to drool over 🙂
We then walked around the historical neighborhood nearby, along Kaptol street, seeing the outside of the beautiful Kaptol, the Saint Francis of Assisi Monastery and the Cathedral, which was undergoing building works at the time. We also walked around the Ribnjak park for a little while but by then, we were hungry and started hunting for food!
We were told that Tkalciceva street was the best for that and indeed it is full of restaurants and bars, going from the most touristic to the quirkiest! We found a really really good Sri Lankan place called the Sri Lankan Curry Bowl and enjoyed some of their signature dishes on the terrace (I know, so much for trying the local cuisine… It looked sooo good though!). We had a Khottu, typical and flavorful street food, wich was delicious and only cost 48HRK (£5.70/$7.70) as well as a Deviled Dish, a sort of curry which was about the same price!
Afterwards, I really wanted to visit one of Zagreb’s weird museums and there were a lot on offer. Between the Museum of Torture, the Museum of Broken Relationships or the Museum of Illusions, it was hard to choose! We settled on the Museum of Broken Relationships in the end as on top of being really original, it also led us up to the Upper town! We spent about an hour and a half in this bizarre museum which exhibits objects representative of people’s relationships that were sent in after they ended, along with a more or less explicative note. It was a little sad obviously, but I thought it was a really interesting concept and made me wonder, what would I send in if my relationship was to end?
Coming out of the museum, we wandered along the charming street of the Upper town until finding Zagreb’s most famous landmark: Saint Mark’s Church or Crkva sv. Marka. It was really beautiful, and quite romantic as a couple were taking their wedding pictures there as we visited. Still in need of some comfort after the museum, we walked back down to the center and indulged in some sweet treats at The Cookie Factory!
There we also found one of the pieces of Zagreb’s hidden solar system puzzle: The Space Hunt. This game started after sculptor Davor Preis created a real-scale solar system in the city, placing the planets using Ivan Kožarić’s sculpture of the Sun, on Bogovićeva street, as the center. People started trying to find all of the planets hidden in the city and this had now become a fun tourist attraction too, so look it up if you’d like to find out more 🙂
After all this walking, we fancied a little break so we headed back to our flat for dinner and to chill, passing by the National Theater and the green areas around it.
To experience a bit of Zagreb’s night-life, we looked up some cool bars where we could try Rakija – a typical Croatian fruit liquor. The research led us to a bar with a lovely terrace, which I believe was called Mojo bar, but I am unsure now. All I know is that it was around the Draškoviceva tram stop and that there were a few other busy bars there! I guess that was the effect of beer, wine and the infamous Rakija…
Finally, we headed back to our flat for the night, ready to wake up rather early and very excited for the next day’s adventure!
Day 8 – The Plitvice National Park
This morning, we exited the flat early with our luggage and picnics in order to get the bus to somewhere I insisted on going to so much when planning this trip: the Plitvice National Park.
This breathtaking park is located in central Croatia and is famous for its 16 interconnected crystal clear lakes and many waterfalls. To get there, we took a bus from Zagreb station, which took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get us to Plitvice Jezera, park entrance number 2! The ticket for this ride costs about £10 or $13.
From there, the first thing we did was to make sure to buy our tickets to Zadar, which we were heading to after our day in the park. This is also a 2 hours journey and pretty much the same price as the bus from Zagreb. The next step we took before starting our visit was to store our luggage and I have great news for anyone planning to visit with their luggage: you CAN store it at the park entrance and for FREE! You can just ask for the key to the storage space at the park entrance, throw your bag in there and return the it.
BUT, be careful, this is not a supervised storage, just a big room with everyone’s luggage, so we took our laptops out as well as any valuables, and I’d recommend you to do so too!
After taking this precaution, we bought our ticket for the park. The price varies depending on which time of the year you choose to visit, changing between 45 to 160 Kunas for students (£5.30/$6.50 to £19/$25.60) and between 55 to 250 Kunas full price (£6.50/$8.80 to £29.60/$40).
Inside the park, there’s various trails you can follow, I can’t remember exactly which one we did, but I remember we did it the opposite way to what was indicated to avoid the crowds. We stayed in the park about 5 to 6 hours, so I think we must’ve done either trail H or C. I definitely remember spending most of our time at the Upper Lakes but I was so impressed that I just walked along the trails not really looking at the map. A description of all the trails can be found here though!
Overall, the park was beautiful and I’d recommend anyone travelling Croatia to stop there. The scenery was like nothing I’d ever seen before and even the crowds couldn’t take the amazement away. But, yes, there are crowds and for this reason, I think it could get frustrating to spend too long there, we were very happy with our 6 hours in the park. I’m saying this because a lot of the trail include walking on narrow boardwalks, very pretty and romantic but also making crowds quite noticeable!
After getting our luggage back and buying some nice chestnut honey at a little stand outside the park entrance, we were on the bus and headed to our next stop: Zadar!
We got to our Airbnb in the afternoon and just went for a little stroll and some food shopping as we were pretty exhausted, ending up by the Kolovare beach for a pretty sunset.
Day 9 – Strolling through Zadar and getting a tan on!
It’s time for us to discover Zadar and its landmarks. Discovering Zadar in a day is pretty easy as most attractions are located on this bit of land:
The classic stroll through Old Zadar would include the old gate to the city, a walk along the defence walls, the Saint Anastasia’s Cathedral, discovering the Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun, two very original pieces by artist Nikola Bašić, viewing the Saint Donat’s Church and getting lost in the historical streets of the area!
We had ice-cream on Narodni Trg, and also tried some Maraschino liquor, very popular in this part of Croatia. Overall, I thought Zadar was a nice, relaxed city, but in my opinion, you can see what there is to see in a day!
For dinner, we fancied tasting the local cuisine and after looking up a few places, we agreed on Konoba Skobla, a typical Dalmatian restaurant where I tasted a wonderful Pašticada.
Pašticada is traditional dish, usually prepared for special occasions. It consists of marinated beef then stewed for hours over slow heat and is normally served with homemade gnocchi. My boyfriend had some fish soup and a some fresh grilled fish and he was also very happy.
We then enjoyed the cooler air of the night and the romantic setting to go listen to the Sea Organ play and sit on its steps before calling it a day.
Day 10 – An early swim before conquering Split!
Feeling like we’d experimented what Zadar had to offer, we decided we would be taking a late morning bus to our final destination: Split. We woke up pretty early to pack everything and enjoy a morning swim by the lovely Sea Organ before leaving! We left our stuff on the stairs and jumped in, enjoying the fresh water and seeing boats pass…
After checking out of our Airbnb, we napped during the two hour bus to Split before discovering our home there. As soon as we got there, we went to the pizza place nextdoors and had a giant pizza! Excited to discover Split, we then walked to the Old Town, which was maybe a 20 minutes walk from where we stayed.
Overall, Split was my favorite city by far due to its unique setting in the former Palace of Emperor Diocletian! It is a labyrinth of cobbled streets, Google maps was of almost no use while touring the city because half of the streets weren’t mapped and even the tourist office had some difficulties directing us to the bar we were looking for at some point. And we didn’t manage to find it again after having been – I’m convinced it vanished!
We spent the afternoon discovering the city by foot, climbing up the Cathedral tower to take in the view (and unsuccessfully try to map the city out), discovering the vaults, the gates and the beautiful little paved streets of this ancient Palace. It was sooo beautiful and mysterious, honestly one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited!
After this lovely afternoon, we headed to the supermarket before cooking and staying in for a chill night at home.
Day 11 – A day trip to Trogir and a little of Split’s nightlife!
Today, we decided to visit another beautiful medieval city: Trogir. This little 15th century town is the perfect stress-free day-trip from Split, reachable in less than an hour by public transport. To do so, take bus 37 from Sukoisanska street which is located about 1.5km from Split’s center. Trogir is known for its beautiful stone façades and picturesque little streets which granted it the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Things to do there include strolling the streets and discovering the historical buildings such as the San Lorenzo Cathedral or the fortified castle, enjoying the beach and trying the famous lavender ice-cream.
After getting back to Split, we decided to enjoy a new of Split’s many aspects: its nightlife!
Split is full of cool bars, from cocktail places to beer pubs and gardens, you’ll find anything you fancy. There are also many companies organizing pub crawls in the city, one of them is easily findable: they hold green umbrellas and stand in front of the cathedral at 9PM. We didn’t personally do it but sounded like a fun option!
Day 12 – A day in beautiful Krka
Another early morning bus and another National Park were on the schedule for today as we decided we would visit Krka National Park, located about 1h and 15mins from Split by bus! Bus leave frequently from the main bus station to Skradin, on of the park’s entrances. The ticket there costs 75 Kunas, or £9/$12.
Once you reach Skradin, you will easily find the selling point to buy your return ticket as well as the park entrance. The cost of the tickets varies between 20 and 120 KN (£2.80/$3.15 to £14.2/$19) for students and 30 to 200 KN for adults (£3.55/$4.75 to £23.70/$31.50), depending on the season. If you come from Skradin, this includes the boat ride to the actual park and back which was pretty nice!
While you wait for your boat, there are a few cafes as well as fairly touristy shop you can check out, but the boats are quite regular!
We only had the traditional tickets which grant you entrance to the park and allow you to walk around, but there are extra excursions you can book to visit the monasteries and churches located on little islands within the park if you have more time 🙂
Overall, following the trails that allow you to see the main sights of the park is about 2 km only but it takes quite a while to get around due to the crowds, the amazing photo opportunities and the various historical and cultural displays you’ll get to see during your visit!
The park is beautiful and I really enjoyed it. Morevoer, you can take a dip in the turquoise water near the waterfall, which wasn’t an option in Plitvice, great news if you’re travelling with kids! Another nice thing is that we saw some pretty cool birds and some frogs/toads while visiting Krka, which I don’t remember happening in Plitvice.
Here are some photos to give you an idea of the beautiful things you will see:
Please don’t be disappointed or misled by these images: Krka was beautiful, sadly, the weather was rainy and cloudy during our visit, making the colors look dimmer than in real life!
Despite the weather, we did want to enjoy the opportunity to swim near the impressive falls of Skradinski Buk so we did that for about an hour or so before taking the boat back to Skradin and having a hot drink there, then boarding our bus back to Split and calling it a day!
Tip: Obvious but necessary, don’t forget to bring your swimsuit!
Day 13 – A trip to the city of Mereen (Klis) and an evening on the beach
For anyone who considers themselves a fan, or even a viewer, of Game of Thrones, Croatia is a really fun destination as it is home to many of the series’ filming location. For example, the city of Split and its Palace are actually where the city of Mereen sets in the show, its vaults were used to film Daenerys’s Throne Room scenes as well as the Dragon Keep. Trogir, which we previously visited was also the settings used for the city of Qarth. Dubrovnik is very famously the home of King’s landing.
So today, we visited a location we probably would’ve never heard of if it wasn’t for the show: the fortress of Klis, which you can see on the following picture taken from the show!
If you’re interested in seeing this fortress, it is the easiest and cheapest half-day trip from Split! Actually, Klis is accessible in less than an hour by public bus number 22 leaving from the HNK, tbe National Theater. This bus drops you off at the bottom of the fortress, and it is then a 15 mins climb to get to the top.
Klis remains really unknown, despite being a Game of Thrones set location, it hasn’t suffered, or benefitted, from all the tourism the series seems to have created. This made it one of the most surprising attractions we’ve seen in Croatia, due to how free, unprotected and underdeveloped it was: the “ticket office” was a tiny and messy room where a grumpy man asked us for a 40 Kuna fee (about £5/$6.30), there was not one safety barrier in sight (I would advise you to be extremely cautious if visiting with kids, by the way, you can literally fall off the top!) and most of the place seem abandonned honestly. But it was pretty and calm, easy and cheap to get to, it felt fun to visit a Game of Thrones location and also had a nice view of Split so I was happy we went!
After spending a little while exploring the site and visiting a small museum to learn about its history, we headed back to Split and to the beaches for the evening and walking around town for a bit!
Day 14 – An amazing day on the sea!
For our last day in Croatia and to celebrate the end of this amazing trip, we felt like doing something special! Having travelled on the cheap for most of these two weeks, we decided we could allow ourself to a day tour of the islands and the Blue Cave, a perfect opportunity to enjoy the beach, the sun and the sea before flying back to cold and rainy England 😦
There are so many companies offering this tour in town, all for a similar price and itinerary, that I couldn’t tell you which one we took (I also didn’t know I would be writing this then, but will make sure to write down this information from now on). I remember that ours wasn’t on a speed boat, that it went to 5 islands including Hvar and included the ticket to the Blue Cave. It was honestly great, we were probably lucky with the company – there were about 10 people on our boat, the tour was on time and followed the program and they made sure we had a great time, speeding up on the waves, slowing down to see dolphins and finding the best spots for us to swim!
The tour lasted the whole day and I thought it was a great way to visit the gorgeous Dalmatian coast. Here are some of the beautiful things we saw that day!
If you have the funds, I’d definitely recommend taking one of these tours, they are sold everywhere along the Riva promenade in Split and cost about £90/$120. It was nice just being able to relax and take in the sea breeze for our last day.
After getting back on land, exhausted, we strolled through Split for one last time, amazed by this labyrinthical palace, before finally accepting that this was the end of our trip…
Afterthoughts and advice.
Plitvice or Krka?
If you don’t have time to visit both parks or simply don’t want to, you’re probably wondering: Which one should I choose?
Having seen both, if I were to visit one again, it would be Plitvice, and here’s why:
- The park is bigger and offers a wider variety of trails – I’m sure you could spend longer there.
- Maybe it was due to the fact I visited Plitvice first, but I remember it as honestly breathtaking and beautifully preserved, more than I remember Krka being so.
- The photo opportunities were endless and the different trails meant that if your time there was thought out correctly, you could find some virtually empty places where you could shoot amazing photos without worrying about the crowds.
- The color of the water was out of this world: it was so pure and clear! Then again, this might be due to the better weather we experienced in Plitvice, but I also coudn’t help but think that the fact thousands of tourists covered in sunscreen and perfumes were not allowed to near the water must’ve definitely played a role in the beauty of the park.
More time? Here are some ways you could extend the trip!
- Sadly, we were too short on time to reach Dubrovnik, probably Croatia’s most famous city, and another Game of Throne location. Yet this is probably the most logical extension of a Croatian trip. From Split you can reach the “Pearl of the Adriatic” either by plane, the fastest way or by ferry or bus.
- If you plan on continuing your trip Southwards by bus, the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina is pretty much on the way, so you might as well stop there to see the country’s most touristic attraction: the Stari bridge.
- Spending some time in the Dalmatian archipelagoes: even though we were only able to see the islands through a day tour, you could easily spend more time there enjoying the beach and discovering these beautiful islands further! The Pakleni islands are said to be beautiful and I have heard it is fairly easy to island hop there using water taxis. Brač is also said to be beautiful and home to wonderful beaches.
My thoughts overall.
This trip was my first self-organized road-trip, I had been to cities with friends before but had never actually travelled through a country this way without my family.
Honestly, I know Croatia is getting more and more attention, but in case you are still reluctant to go, GO! The country has so much to offer and due to its size and efficient transport systems, it is honestly such a great place for a realxed trip. Moreover, it remains really affordable.
As someone who didn’t speak the language, I didn’t feel isolated either, unlike I did in Brazil for example, where I felt that not speaking Portuguese was a handicap. Croatians will make a real effort to speak to you and try to help you if they can and everyone spoke decent English where we went, which felt really nice.
The highlight of the trip for me were the Plitvice National Park and the city of Split. Both these places were unique and had such a distinct atmosphere to them, that I recommend you visit at least once in your lifetime. I know for sure that I’ll be ready to head back in a few years already!
This is the end of this article, I hope that you will be able to find some useful tips and trip inspiration in it. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you thought or if I forgot anything! Keep on travelling xx