1. If you want Zagreb’s Upper Town to yourself for wandering, it is deserted at 2 a.m. There is nothing more magical than having the city in your hands to breathe in. Even if nothing is open, to walk on the old streets, to see the gothic buildings, it is an amazing experience. Bonus points if you have someone with you to share the moment. And even more bonus points if the person is a cutie. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

2. For a trip back in time and an eerily beautiful moment of peace, wander around Zagreb’s Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s grounds. It is quiet — a great place to do some writing, thinking, or relaxing.  The unconventional tourist.

3. Plitvice Lakes National Park is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The bluegreen water, the waterfalls that lightly mist you as you walk by, the winding wooden paths — every turn is something new and more beautiful than the next. It’s about two hours from Zadar and Zagreb and a great day trip. Should you want to stay longer, there are a few hotels in the park. The prettiest day trip ever.

4. Don’t get lost. Or take the wrong bus. And, if you do, hope for the bus driver I had in Zadar. Quite possibly one of the kindest souls I have ever met. Remember — if you’re not sure what bus to take, or if the gate number is the seat number of vice-versa, ask. Croatian’s are remarkably wonderful and helpful. English isn’t a common in Croatia, but the closer you are to the tourist areas, the better chance you have. If someone doesn’t speak English, they will help direct you the best they can. I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers.

5. Take the time to stop in Zadar. If you are time crunched while traveling Croatia, it is a great starting point to kick of Adriatic coastal adventures.  There are a lot of ferries from the city, as well as tours of the surrounding islands. While visiting the old city, be sure to head to the water and swing by the Sea Organ. It’s haunting melodies still play in my mind. Plus, the grilled corn is delicious. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

6. Spend at least two days in Split. Climb to the top of the cathedral in the old city for captivating views of the entire city and Adriatic. Every nook and cranny in the main square has something wonderful. Next to the Lacoste shop is a great little food stop with delicious breakfasts cooked fresh while you wait. The egg sandwich is mouth-watering. This could be heaven.

7. While in Split, make sure you hit the beach. The one with the sand. It’s outside the old city and perfect for swimming, sunning and people watching. Plus,  if you have the right company, it will change your life. Instantaneous enlightenment on the Adriatic.

8. If you want to bare it all in Croatia, you can. There are plenty of nudie beaches up and down the coast to run around sans your skivvies. Just  mind where you jump. Birthday suits and Split.

9. An hour ferry trip from Split is Hvar, an upscale island covered in lavender. Hvar’s beaches are rocky and pebble-y. It’s not too bad, but if you want smooth sand, venture to a surrounding island. Renting a little motor boat won’t cost too much, and you can negotiate. Rocky, rocky, pebble-y, pebble-y.

10. A bathroom can lead to another bathroom. And, it is possible to shimmy from one bathing suit into another without revealing anything. Well, almost. Booze, boobs and a beach bar.

11. The sea is not free of dangers. Those little black spiky things in the water? They are not your friends. In fact, Sea Urchin are the devil. No, seriously. There’s WHAT in the water?

12. Never say “goodbye” to the travelers you meet. You never know, you may just cross paths with them again. It’s not “goodbye,” it’s “see you soon.”

13. The bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik is a MUST. Yes, you hug the cliffs, but you also see some of the most stunning sights on the Adriatic. The city of stairs.

14. Dubrovnik is a city of stairs. Be prepared. The city of stairs.

15. Opening yourself to new people, new places and new opportunities can change your entire world. A BRIEF intermission: My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

Do you have questions about Croatia? Tips you want to share? Be sure to leave a comment.

20 comments

  1. Woo hoo. If there is just one person I convinced to visit Croatia, then mission accomplished. You can’t miss the stairs in Dubrovnik. Just walk down the main “street” and look to your left or right. They tower over you and go on and on and up and up. Also — don’t forget — there are many gems north of of Zadar and inland! During my next trip I plan on spending a month in the country and exploring the places I have yet to see, and revisiting some of my favorites (everywhere).

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  2. I will second, third and fourth you on Plitvice. It’s incredible there, like the land before time.

    I wish I’d spent more time inland on my trip. I really liked Zagreb even though I was only there for a night and the scenery on the train ride was beautiful. Really I just love the Balkans as a whole, I miss them.

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  3. A friend of mine recommend me about this marvelous place and was first in doubt if I would go there, good thing I read your blog, you just justified my friend’s recommendation. I am excited to see and wander this place!

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  4. Hi!

    I’m looking at just over a week in Croatia with my friend – We are flying in to Zadar (From Pisa) and are facing either the option to travel up the coast seeing things on the way to Zagreb and then flying out of Pula. OR travelling down to passing all the islands and flying out of Split.
    Which would you recomend? It’s just not feasible to fit all of it in so that is the two options we are facing!
    I have to say the National Park is drawing me in alot! But also we have to bear in mind we will be travelling on a budget so maybe the more backpacker-esque Split dalmation area would be better?
    I don’t know!! Advice please! Thank you! 🙂

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    1. Hey there — my advice to you is to do the park and then take the bus to Zadar and work your way down the coast. Zagreb is a great city, but if you want to island hop, etc., Zagreb is far off course. Croatia is pretty inexpensive no matter what you do … if you are with friends, I would suggest splitting a room in a sobe (a pension). You can typically talk down the price and it is nicer than a hostel dorm room. But, if it a choice of going to Plitvice and Zagreb or the coast, hands down, you should go to the coast. 🙂 Hope that helps!

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  5. My husband and I just bought tickets to Croatia for a trip in September – your blog posts make me even more excited than I already am! It sounds (and looks) like you had an awesome time. As a side note, you should take a trip up here to Alaska. It’s an adventure unlike any other! 🙂

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    1. Thank you! I actually have been to Alaska — twice! I LOVE that state. It just blows me away. I spent most of my time in Anchorage, but it was just so cool. Midnight sun. Camping on the Turnagan Arm … just fantastic!

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  6. I am going to Croatia in June for 3+ weeks. Reading all your posts is making me even more excited. And giving me some great ideas. I plan on flying into Zagreb and leaving from Dubrovnik. I figured I would be able to get all the highlights in & doing a bit of island hopping. At first I was going to rent my own wheels but after reading more & more I think buses and the odd train and ferries will be my transport.

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    1. Oooh!! I want to come with you to Croatia!! The trains are not really the major mode of transport in Croatia — there are no tracks from Split to Dubrovnik. But, the ferry system and the buses are both great. Let me know if you need any help planning your trip! Croatia is one of my favorite countries in the world!

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  7. hey D!

    i’ve been reading some of your blogs about croatia and they are getting me super excited about my trip there next month!
    my plan is to arrive in zagreb, go right to split. Spend 3 days in the Split area. See Hvar and also see Trogir for part of one day. I’m going in to Plitvice for a day and a half. And then down to dubrovnik and I’ll be there for two full days before leaving Croatia.
    do you have a favorite hostel/place to stay in split, plitvice or dubrovnik?
    thanks!

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