Ever wondered how it feels when your whole body flutters at the sight of something? If you did, then traveling to Croatia might be the right decision to find answers.
Croatia is the quintessential Mediterranean destination swooning over the heavenly Adriatic Sea coastline. So you’ve little to no chance but to fall in love with clear, blue waves, orange-clad roof tiles, larger-than-life mountains, and tunnels (gotta love them!).
This country stole my heart in just 5 days, and now I want you to lose yours too.
In this post, I’ll convince you to do that by highlighting the best places to see, things to do, and experiences to absorb in Dalmatia region of Croatia (where I was), all in one week.
Let’s start with the basics.
Croatia (known as Hrvastka in the native tongue) is an Eastern European country along the sapphire Adriatic Sea. It shares a border with Hungary, Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The national language is Hrvastki.
Dalmatia is one of the four historical regions in Croatia along the Adriatic Sea. Its coastline encompasses many harbors and bays, which easily prove just how seductive nature can be.
Best way to reach?
Depends on where you’re coming from. My itinerary focused on Dalmatia with Split as the base. And if you want to explore Dalmatian coast on a budget, then you’ll have a stopover in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital and biggest city.
I entered Croatia from Budapest on a local bus (that refused to depart Zagreb for 5 hrs). Croatia Airlines is also a great option with cheap flights to the many destinations. There are also train connections between Zagreb and Split, though I didn’t find a cheaper alternative at the time, and they usually take longer to reach.
Dubrovnik (or King’s Landing for GoT nerds out there) is best reached via car, ferry, or bus from Split; the flights are expensive and shouldn’t even be considered. Because, and I can’t stress this enough, the drive through Dalmatian coastline is drop-dead gorgeous. It would be a crime to not experience it.
So GET A CAR! You wouldn’t wanna miss it for anything.
I went with Avis because cheaper rates and good service make me a happy traveler.
Thing to remember: If you want to go to Dubrovnik via road from other destinations, you’ll need to cross through Bosnia & Herzegovina and re-enter Croatia.
Currency: Kuna (HRK), a little less expensive cousin of Euro.
1 Kuna = 0.13 Euro OR
1 Euro = 7.51 Kuna
(indicates exchange rates as of October 27, 2017)
BTW, most of the shops either don’t accept Euro or pay change in Kuna. This sucked because guess what – the public toilets in Croatia also had a fee for all relieving purposes. (Though, a toilet fee is kind of everywhere in Europe!)
Not an appealing development after a 9hr long ride, where my bus with onboard toilet closed it for the whole journey.
The point is, carry a few hundred Kuna with you beforehand.
Where to go in Dalmatia?
Dalmatia occupies Southern Croatia and goes all the way from Rijeka to Dubrovnik. It has mild climate year round, with dry summers and plentiful rain in autumn and winter and sees little snow.
This one-week itinerary takes you through:
Split, the largest city in Dalmatia and second largest in Croatia, is the perfect base to explore Dalmatian beauty and lifestyle. The ancient port is the love child of Croatian and Venetian history (with a hint of Roman), enwrapped in coastal mountains overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
Head over to Riva Promenade to get a glimpse of this bustling, modern city leading you into a Roman empire overrun with marbled backstreets and alleyways. Split’s Old Town is a time travel machine, built with intricate, superlative architecture.
Diocletian Palace, Cathedral of Saint Domnius, and Jupiterov hram are a treat to the eyes. And if you’re lucky you’ll catch an epic performance by local artists in the process.
Split’s proximity to some of the most bewitching Croatian islands makes the Dalmatian city a top destination for travelers alike.
And who doesn’t have an island hopping craze?
Head over to Brač (45mins), Hvar (2hrs), Šolta (1hr), or Vis (2hrs) to paint yourself blue with bright sky and crystal, clear water.
5 km away from Vis, lies the otherworldly natural phenomenon, called Blue Grotto (and known as the Blue Cave) on Biševo Island. The Blue Cave tour has become one of the most sought-after attractions in Croatia (peak season: June – September).
Local companies offer many options including Blue Cave Tour, 5 Islands Tour, 6 Islands Tour, Hvar-Vis-Blue Cave Tour. Usually, they range from 5 – 10 hours and cost around €100 per person.
I couldn’t do the tour at the time as the shallow tide made it harder to sail to the Blue Cave.
But if you don’t want to wait for 30 or so mins. in long lines to enter the Blue Cave, you can always skip over to experience the Green Cave of Vis.
Trogir, a medieval UNESCO marvel, is 30 km away from Split. The island town weaves marbled pathways of a wondrous past with flair.
Even though you can easily cover the whole town on foot within an hour, every minute here feels like a year (well spent, if I might add).
Trogir attractions to see: Town Hall, Town Loggia, Grand Cipiko Palace, St. Nicholas’s Convent, Kamerlengo Castle, Small Loggia, St. Sebastian’s Church, Trogir Museum, and Okrug Gornji (for beach bums).
Šibenik, a vibrant coastal town is black sheep of the Adriatic coastline. Located 80 km away from Split, this gem is often ignored by travelers.
The narrow alleys and backstreets give way into a spectacular show of Croatian heritage, rather than Roman or Greek. The town is one of the main access points to Krka National Park and the Kornati Islands, but it also glows amidst a thriving culture beside lazy waters.
The main Šibenik attraction is Cathedral Sveti Jakov, built back to 1434, which is a World Heritage Site. Others include Medieval Monastery Mediterranean Garden, St. Michael’s Fortress, City Museum, and St. Francis’ Church.
Croatia waterfalls are famous and for a damn good reason. You know those suspended waterfalls in Avatar, how they sparkled in the movie? Croatia shows a glimpse of that shine on earth.
Plitvice and Krka National Park are two famous tourist destinations when it comes to Croatia waterfalls.
The enchanting Krka is just ahead of Šibenik, within 10 km. The sheer amount of natural waterfalls and gorges is massive. Which just fills your heart up.
Skradinski Buk falls, a collection of 17 waterfalls, is the main highlight of Krka. You can hear the song of emerald-green river along an hour-long boardwalk taking you through fascinating flora and fauna.
The best way to see Krka is taking a boat trip through the park. The small island of Visovac (where God lives, I’m sure!) and Roški Slap are other main attractions.
July – August: 180 HRK (adult)/ 110 HRK (children aged 7-18)
April – June/September – October: 110 HRK (adult)/ 80 HRK (children aged 7-18)
November – March: 30 HRK (adult)/ 20 HRK (children aged 7-18)
Children under 7 have free entry throughout the year.
All you need to do is get in, start the car, drive through E65 and D8 highways, and keep your eyes peeled to the road on the way to Dubrovnik. The 230 km journey won’t give you any time or warning to recover from the sultry Dalmatian coastline.
And without realizing, you’ll be amidst a slice of heaven as the curves and tunnels blind you before you open your eyes to a world that’s been light years away.
I couldn’t help but stretch the 3-hour journey into a 5.5 one. I made sure to stop at every vista point on the way.
Live your day at a slower pace, because you wouldn’t want to regret passing by this view animatedly.
Quick reminder – You’ll need to cross into Bosnia & Herzegovina and re-enter Croatia (and pay tolls) on this route.
If you manage to survive the road trip, you’ll stumble upon the grandeur that is Dubrovnik. The tourist magnet is the epitome of Adriatic charm. Once you win the battle of securing a public parking spot, you’ll soon find your feet leading you toward the Old Town.
But drowning in Dubrovnik’s white limestone streets, vivid alleys, and enthralling stone buildings comes at a price… of your legs. Either by forcing you to walk up and down close to 100 steps or a steep hill to get inside the Old Town.
And the reward is exciting. The Old City Walls (another string of steps), Stradun street, The Square of the Loggia, Fort Lovrijenac, The Rector’s Palace, Franciscan Monastery & Museum are the main Dubrovnik attractions.
As you inhale the salty sea waves walking on top of the ancient city walls, you see an enormity building up in you.
Lokrum is a nearby island that not only lets you drink in Dubrovnik’s hypnotic existence but also walk alongside free-roaming peacocks who are too busy to give a damn about you.
Head back to Split against the gorgeous Dalmatian coastline backdrop. Be in awe the second time. Already miss the road trip the moment you enter Split.
Start planning the next Croatia trip in your head.
. . . .
Croatia is where nature completely takes over your body. It’s refreshing, to be surrounded by raw, untouched landscape that’s waiting for you to see it, feel it, become a part of it.
Do yourself a favor and head to the Dalmatia region right now (or as soon as possible).
Want to add something I missed or babble about your Croatia trip with me? Drop them all in the comment section.