Croatian Treasures

I recently read somewhere that if a place is worth visiting, you should be able to list at least ten things you can do while you are there. Hmmm…. Interesting thought.  Let’s give it a go.

Let’s assume you’re planning your first ever trip to Croatia. You’ve bought your plane tickets, your kids are excited at the prospect of having endless fun in the sun, and you’re thinking hard of things you might do…. OK – I admit it: I did pick an easy target for my test case. It’s no secret that Croatia is one of my favourite places in Europe, so this should not be difficult….. 🙂

Step into Medieval Croatia

DSC02646.JPGNumber One: Absolute top of my list is Dubrovnik. This age-old walled city is full of charm, narrow streets, restaurants, jazz bars and ice-cream parlours. A leisurely walk around the ancient city walls will take no more than1.5 hour and will provide you with some of the most breathtaking views in Europe. There are several lovely museums in Dubrovnik, but sadly, none of them are particularly child-friendly. However kids of all ages will love the traditional changing of the guards and there are rock pools and small beaches dotted around the walls which will keep them entertained without too much difficulty. Add to that the odd ‘pirate-ship’ that drops off its motley crew on the quayside, and they’ll be fine.

Number Two: If you get tired of the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik (believe me, it gets extremely busy during July and August), you have several options. The small island of Lokrum is a mere 15 minute boat trip away. Once upon a time the playground of Austrian Royalty, the remains of their ‘humble’ abode have been beautifully restored and make a picturesque restaurant, complete with subtropical plants and wild peacocks. Beaches and rock pools will keep the whole family happy, and you return to Dubrovnik refreshed and ready to face the crowds once more.

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Number Three: Slightly further afield (about 45 minutes by boat) is the sleepy port of Cavtat, where you can sip white wine at one of the quay-side restaurants while jealously observing how the wealthiest on this planet spend their days. It seems as if the worlds’ most luxurious boats are all tucked away out sight in Cavtat’s little harbour.

Number Four: If you are feeling in need of more relaxation, the Elafiti Islands, 45 minutes north-west, provide even more opportunities for a stroll and peace and quiet. You will find lovely walks, hear nothing but the loud chirping of crickets and discover lots of quiet beaches.

Dive into the aquamarine….

DSC02995.JPGNumber Five: For the ultimate in tranquillity, visit (or even better, stay overnight) on the island of Mljet. This was the playground of Jacques Cousteau and his ship the Calypso. Diver-extraordinaire, Cousteau knew that Mljet was one of the finest locations for diving and snorkeling and the only place in Europe where coral reefs could be found. Mljet is just about manageable as a day-trip, and the lack of accommodation means that most visitors leave the island by 5.00pm, which is lucky for those of us who like to stay there…. 🙂 Mljet has the most lovely interlocking lagoons, where salt and fresh water mingle freely – and much of the island is a nature reserve. It oozes peace and is a true haven of tranquillity. Rent a bike locally and cycle to your hearts’ content, and get out the swimming trunks for a dive and a snorkel in the aquamarine lagoons, or use the services of the local diving school.

Track down Marco Polo

DSC03142.JPGNumber Six: Leaving Mljet, travel north to track down Marco Polo, or at least look up the island of Korçula, where he was born. DePolo families still live on this island and its capital (conveniently called Korçula) is a miniature version of Dubrovnik and utterly beguiling. A long line of outdoor restaurants sit atop the city walls and offer glorious views across the Adriatic Sea to the mainland.

Next in line: Three World Heritage Sites

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Number Seven: I’m running out of numbers already, and we haven’t even got to Split yet – where the 2000-year old Diocletian Palace is waiting to be explored. This surely must be the only Roman Palace that is lived in by locals. In Roman days, the Adriatic Sea came right upto the walls of the Palace, but over time a quayside was built to extend from the Palace walls, creating a wonderful promenade filled with restaurants and café’s.  Controversially, its ancient and well-worn marble flagstones were replaced some 5 years ago, but it is still a great place to stroll and take in the sunset over the Adriatic.

Number Eight: Just north of Split lies the world heritage site of Trogir, yet another historic town, which combines the splendour of Split’s diocletian Palace with its small-town charms. Steeped in history, it will enchant even the most travel-weary.

plitvice-lakes-1.jpgNumber Nine: By now I have told you enough of Croatia’s coastline – and I only have two items left…. So inland we go, to the Plitvica Lakes. This vast nature reserve is home to a large number of extraordinary waterfalls, amidst forests and lakes. It is a true walkers’ paradise, and if you’re very lucky you can find some simple accommodation within the reserve, for that extra special overnight stay. Though very hard to spot, look out for bears, wild boar and wolves, and keep an eye out for otters and a wide variety of birdlife.

Wake up to life in Zagreb

IMG_4057.JPGNumber Ten: It would be unfair not to give a special mention also to Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city, which over the years I have come to love.  Its old town is charming, with its steeply inclined cobbled streets and its beautifully painted buildings. Wander around its city streets, take in its elegant fashion and shoe shops and rest your feet at one of its many grand café’s. It’s worth getting up very early in the morning and having coffee overlooking the main square. It is only then that you realise how industrious the Croatian people are. At 6.30 the trams are full to bursting with people going to work, and it is as busy as any other EU city during the ‘normal’ rush hour from 8.00 onwards.

Croatia is always full of surprises. Every time I go back I learn something new and discover some new treasure. I have skimped here – 10 things to do was a bit too easy! I shall have to re-visit Croatia, both in person and here on my blog – there are still so many things to tell you. But most of all, I’d like you to consider visiting it for yourself – you will not be disappointed and more importantly – the kids will love it… 🙂

Annemieke Waite is a freelance travel writer, specialising in travel for families and young people to EU destinations.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Renata
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    This is wonderful :). I enjoyed reading it, thank you for reminding me that I leave actually in such a nice country. And Plitvice Lakes are my favorit spot. But, I want to invite you to come to Varazdin next time, it is the pearl of the Northwest Croatia :)!

  2. Aleida Brinkman
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Soon as I can I will go …… sounds great !!!!

  3. Annemieke Waite
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Renata! I’d love to visit Varazdin next time we’re in Croatia. You know I need very little persuading… 🙂

  4. Alison Paton
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful Croatia! your writing is so spot on Annemieke – I hope to go back there very soon!

  5. An Huts
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful country, lovely people, great Riva and lots of sunshine. Paradise on earth!

  6. Alison Paton
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Blissful reading this again – I will try and pass on to more friends – but really just want to go back there myself – those Islands!

  7. June Waterer
    Posted July 11, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Hi Annemieke

    Hope u and all ur family are keeping well. Must have taken quite a time to put all of this together.

    Wonderful site
    I am planning trip to Croatia and spoke to Alison and she gave me your website. Flights from Bristol are to Split not Dubrovnik so hoping to go to Split. Im going with my friend from Ireland and she will come here first. Ali said that Dubrovnik is better to go with husbands as its very romantic. I noticed that Split is no 7 on your list and Dub is of course no 1.
    Of course it a lot easier to go to Split due to the flights. Ali said Split is lovely and we can still visit the islands. What do you think?

    Take care

    Ciao June

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