Adriatic Sea’s blue beaches, Dalmatian coast islands with bright limestone cliffs over grown with lavender shrubbery and cypress trees, Balkan cultures, towns with medieval fortresses and fresh caught Tuna served everyday – very typical Croatia – very easy to drive – and very reason why we went to Croatia – and we drove the entire country up and down during summer.
Croatia seemed like a conglomeration of Italian and Greek cultures, but in fact, it has a very unique cultural mix of Slavic and Austro Hungarians that is ingrained in it’s unique hospitality and openness to welcome travelers and tourists after recent history of wars. The country is getting ready to receive tourists in bulk and they must!
The best way to see and experience Croatia is by road and especially by self driving it – the roads are mostly curvy due to Dinaric Alps low mountain ranges – but very well marked and safety levels are extremely high – Ferries will take you across with your car to other islands i.e. Hvar, where the roads are equally good. Stop at road side grills called Rostilja to have fresh caught Tuna, beef, pork, mussels and calamari or visit a road side vendor for the juiciest plums and peaches with Paski sir (sheep milk cheese).
THE ROUTE AND PLACES
We flew into Zagreb airport, rented a car and immediately started driving towards the Dalmatian coast as we were planning on covering Zagreb towards the end of our journey …which was a big mistake…took us 5 hours to reach Plitvice Lakes National Park instead of just 2 hours…as we had to stop frequently to nap due to jet lag. We finally reached our resort inside the Plitvice Lakes NP and relaxed with a nice dinner and local wine.
Stop -1 Plitvice Lakes National Park
Spent 1 full day and 2 nights, very sufficient amount of time. We stayed inside the park which had added benefit of walking to the lakes and treks. Hiked the entire rim of the park and it was phenomenal when weather was clear. Falls create pools and pools create falls, like a cascade.
Stop -2 Zadar
A town within fortress and the entire market is inside the walled city, great place to eat some fresh seafood. If days are less then skip it and keep more days for Hvar to relax and Dubrovnik to see, as it gets better.
Stop – 3 Split
Similar type of town as in Zadar, but bigger and more lively with lots of tourists – Top things to do – Diocletian’s Palace, market on marble stone walls and pathways, bars and restaurants to hang out. But this is the landing place for ferry to Hvar. We spent entire day here before getting on a ferry the next day morning to Hvar.
Stop – 4 Hvar
Unlimited Dalmatian coast views, unlimited beauty and unlimited things to do in Hvar. We stayed on a resort on a cove facing the Adriatic sea, with windjammers surfing the coast. Top Things to do in Hvar – Cursing on different highways on the Hvar island, Wine tours, island hopping on a boat (using a tour company), visiting lavender and olive farms, deep sea Tuna fishing, but basically just relax in the beauty. Hvar also has some very good food scene, especially pasta with any fresh seafood.
Stop – 5 Dubrovnik
We used a VRBO to stay inside the old walled city and it was very lively, the window opened into the main town square on one side and ocean on the other side. The famous Buza Bar was less than 15 steps away. The old city has a very medieval feeling to it with restaurants everywhere. Top Things do in Dubrovnik – Island hopping (Lokrum, etc. a must!), Off course walking on the walls of the city, getting on the cable car to the top of a near by hill and viewing the walled city – the view of old Dubrovnik walled city was as if from a story book, a day trip to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina, a day trip to Kotor in Montenegro (a must).
We spent 4 full days and 5 nights in Dubrovnik and then crossed over into Bosnia & Herzegovina for our onward journey on the road to Mostar and Sarajevo which lead us back to Zagreb via Bosnia.
Stop – 6 Zagreb
Spent 1 full day in Zagreb and I think it was enough, the old town is very typical of an eastern European and Yugoslavia era with trams and pastel concrete buildings out of a Hollywood clandestine movie . We visited the Museum of Broken Relationships in the morning and spent the rest of the day at Jelacic Square which was very lively and relaxing the night before flying back home.