Croatia is set to be a popular destination this year more than ever, what with the good exchange rate by being kuna instead of euros, as well as it favour along Game of Thrones fans for the filming location.It has been on my hit list for over seven years, ever since I first went InterRailing at eighteen. After finding flights over at Skyscanner for £18 return, before I knew it I was clicking 'confirm' and was off to Croatia (despite a small hiccup when I stupidly decided to get a new job that started on the day I flew out. Luckily they were kind enough to wait).
We settled on a week, flying into Zadar and out of Split. There is so much to do in between that we knew we could cram a lot of Croatia in.
First up was Plitviče Lakes. As our first full day, this was actually the day I had been looking forward to most. The beautiful images all over the internet couldn't prepare me for the beautiful UNESCO site. Deep green lakes that were so clear they looked like mirrors, stunning waterfalls and hikes through the mountains; it felt like something out of Neverland and was one of the highlights of the trip.
We then settled into Zadar for the day. Where it proceeded to rain heavily for the full 24 hours. Not quite what we had expected from our holiday (something my suitcase reflected, being optimistically full of shorts and bikinis). Nevertheless, we donned our waterproofs and made the best of it. This meant patisserie hopping as Zadar has them in abundance, sitting inside with gigantic thick burgers and litres of homemade Croatian wine which was potent but cheap. A day indoors meant testing our brains at the Museum of Illusions, easily losing a few hours. Braving the last of the rain, a visit to Zadar wouldn't be complete without listening to the eery sea organ and bright lights of the Greeting to the Sun as dusk settled.
We tried to escape the rain by heading to Split, but it was still chasing us to provide our holiday with another rainy day. Luckily the beautiful white stone gleamed even in the wet and still found the palace to be pretty impressive in the overcast shadow, as well as stumbling onto a crazy Croatian wedding complete with flags and flares. Our last day we spent in Split couldn't have been more different. With the sun beaming down, we decided on a hike up Park Suma to get the best views of the city and to experience the rush from the steep climbs. Otherwise, a climb to the Bell Tower gave us the alternative view which was just as impressive. The rest of our time was spent with food; delicious hipster wraps at Skinny Cow with a shot of Russian rum as a chaser, delectable cakes with queues out the door at Lukas and a final night dinner of octopus and gnocchi at The Olive Tree.
No trip to Croatia is complete without some island-hopping; something that is remarkably easy once you get the hang of it. With some great places to explore, we settled in Hvar as our first venture out to the sea. By being just offseason, it wasgloriously quiet and empty which I've been reassured isn't the case just a few months later. Of course, this came with a few downsides due to some recommended restaurants and bars being shut for a few more weeks still. But the sleepy town made up for it with the clear skies and rewarding walks up the fortress. Whilst just a few days, we ended up meeting the same people at the same food spots so we knew they must be good; Fig Cafe for its famous eggs and seasonal platters is a must, as is Alviž for its huge brick oven pizza. Ending on a stay at the spa Adriana Hotel meant a swim in the heated seat water rooftop pool when the water outside was still too cold to venture to.
With a spare day in Split before our flight, we decided on a day trip to the island of Brač; whilst only a couple of hours to ourselves there, it was full of windsurfer-watching on the famous Zlatni Rat beach and seafood risottos on the harbour front.
It's crazy to think how much you can fit in when exploring Croatia, as every journey we did was only ever a couple of hours and never over ten pounds. We noticed so much, such as how many patisseries there are everywhere (one on every road, practically), how everyone seems to have a lazy coffee for breakfast instead of food, the number of tiny dogs roaming around, and how kind Croatians are and willing to help. We went in cautiously but we were never scammed by inflated prices or sneaky bread bowls alongside dinner. No heckling and no hassling made it a peaceful break from other intense European holidays.
With a full seven full days of beaches, cities and nature barely anything (coming into just under £350 for everything), Croatia has found a place in my heart I didn't know I still had room for when it came to travelling.