Bonjour à tous!
Croatia is a fantastic place to go in the summertime. Of course, many tourists love to visit the classics like Dubrovnik (the place with all the pretty red roofs right on the ocean). However, there are many other beautiful places within Croatia that I think are well-worth visiting. As someone who has a partially Croatian heritage, I also really appreciated the chance to go there and gain and greater understanding of what it is like there.
When I went to Croatia, I actually went on a tour with a Czech tour group, as I was living in Prague, and this was a lot cheaper than a lot of English-speaking tours. The downside to this? I didn’t always understand what the tour guide was saying – however, I had Mr Czech by my side to translate some things for me. So, let me tell you about my experience and the places I went to that I recommend!
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park is a stunning place to visit at any time of the year. However, I was lucky enough to be able to visit in summer, when it was absolutely incredible. The Czech tour bus picked us up from a bus station in Prague. From there we headed down to Croatia through several other countries overnight.
The thing that surprised me when we arrived at around 7am in the morning, was that we hadn’t arrived at a hotel: no, no, when I set foot down from that bus, we were in Plitvice! I brushed my teeth and put in my eye contacts in the loos, and then away we were on the Plitvice tour! I probably would’ve known that this was going to occur if I’d understood the Czech program, but, tired as I was, the walking tour around the park was really refreshing. The views of nature are pretty hard to beat. I definitely recommend going here if you’re headed to Croatia.
Sveti Filip i Jakov & Biograd na Moru
Following the Plitvice tour, we were finally taken to our hotel where we could have a proper rest! The little town where we were staying was called Sveti Filip i Jakov. We stayed at the Hotel Alba, which was really close to the ocean. I got to hear a lot of different languages whilst I was walking around, as there were a fair new (non-English speaking) tourists around. Tourism provides a fair portion of Croatia’s GDP, especially during the summer months.
There were a lot of little shops that sold jewelry, hats and other beach requirements. The beaches are pebbled, so it’s important to have weird special shoe things to wear so that your feet don’t get hurt. I managed to buy these shoe things right by the water from a little shop. The water is beautiful and inviting, and there are also a heap of activities you can pay to do on the water.
It was so exciting to go to the fantastic little restaurants as well, as I got to hear Croatian being spoken and read it on the menus. This place was also where Mr Czech and I overheard some kids from our tour speaking to each other in half-English, half-Czech, and we thought it was really cute and funny. It turned out that their Mum was Czech and their Dad was American!
Biograd na Moru was the town nearby which we decided to discover one day. Although bigger than Sveti Filip i Jakov, it was also quite quaint. We went on a boat tour on one of the days, and the boat took us out to a couple of different islands. The bottom picture is taken of a cute little house on the waterfront of one of the islands.
Krka Falls National Park
Another day, another national park! Krka Falls is beautiful and it is famous for: you guessed it: the waterfalls! The falls truly are absolutely stunning. There is a body of water at the bottom of one of them where you can even swim! I tried to swim in there, and I did a little bit. I was a bit afraid, though, because there were lots of large rocks underfoot. My legs kept banging on them because I couldn’t see them. That was a bit scary for an Aussie who is used to swimming in the ocean (ironic, I know). However, lots of others around really seemed to enjoy it!
The hikes around the park show off different parts of the natural environment in Croatia. It was also really cool to see some real-life white swans! We don’t have them in Australia, and they were so cute, especially the baby ones. The colours are awe-inspiring. Go to Krka!
I absolutely adored Šibenik. It is a stunning little town on the water, and it has an ancient mysterious historical vibe which reminded me a lot of Italy. This approximation turned out to be relatively correct, as it is the oldest native Croatian town on the sea’s shores. It wasn’t surprising that I felt it resembled Italy a little bit because it was conquered and ruled by the Republic of Venice for many years throughout history, as well as being under the authority of many different entities over time.
This place was utterly gorgeous. You can walk around the tiny little streets with vines growing along the walls, and perhaps even get an ice-cream at the local gelati store. I had my first real Croatian cevapcici (a sort of Croatian-style sausage-like food) at a restaurant here, and they were delicious! As you can see, the architecture is absolutely to be adored. You can also just sit by the shore front and watch the boats on the water. It is quite an idyllic place.
Paklenica National Park
Paklenica National Park is known for its beautiful views high up on the mountains, and for being in the 1963 film Winnetou. Now, I only know about this “Winnetou” because people kept talking about the fact that scenes from the film were shot here. I had never heard of it before, but apparently a lot of Europeans have. It also felt a little bit Lord of the Rings/Outlander style, which my inner nerd appreciated.
All film related info aside, it was gorgeous place for a day hike. The other really cool thing about Paklenica is that you can climb to the top of a certain mountain and there is a whole cave system there. The climb is a bit arduous, and it does zig-zag a lot. However, the cave system was really cool. They have guides there to take you through, and they tell you a bit of the history as well. It felt so crazy to be high up in the mountain, only to be going into a cave!
As the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia, Zadar is a gorgeous gem along the coastline. Its earliest evidence of human life is from the Stone Age, and it is a city packed with history and beautiful architecture. One of my favourite places in Zadar was actually the Archaeological Museum. Now, I’ve been to museums. And I’ve been to museums in Europe. But this was something different. It could’ve just been the right timing, but this was the place where it really clicked for me that the Romans were just like us. They had skincare routines and looked after their hair; they exercised to keep fit! In my minds eye, I’d always just seen them as constantly at war and not really bothering to think about fitness. The historical artifacts and information available at that museum were well-worth the visit.
Zadar is also the home of the sea organ, which you may have seen on numerous viral Facebook posts. There really is nothing like sitting there and listening to the ocean play music. This town is probably the most touristy place I went to, but it was still really enjoyable. The winding streets were filled with little shops, and there were beautiful gardens filled with colourful flowers.
As well as checking out all of these awesome sites, you should take some time out to relax! A summer holiday in Croatia is the perfect place to unwind, lay on the beach, read, swim… the list goes on. Take a break, and enjoy!