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.