Last year I had a blast visiting Croatia from north to center in just 6 days. I didn’t actually consider it for a summer trip before this proposal showed up, but it was unexpectedly beautiful. The coastline is definitely worth a road trip if you have to go from one place to another – although it will take you longer than driving the highway. Chances are that you will be on the coast all the time, so take the road trip as an opportunity for more inspiring views. Most of the tourism in Croatia is based on coastal resorts and island related activities and you can guess why.
Zagreb, the capital city
I started this in Zagreb, the capital city, and I couldn’t miss the chance to visit it. As we had less than a day, I decided to take a walking tour so we cover the most important areas and have the local insight.
Not going into details, this city was built from two town hills, Gornji Grad (Upper Town) and Donji Grad (Lower Town). You can start your sightseeing with the classics, St. Mark Church and square, Parliament, the medieval Lotrscak Tower (check it for the amazing city views), the modern Museum of Broken Relationships, the old Stone Gate and renovated gothic Cathedral. Take time to go down to the local markets, wine shops, sidewalk pubs, random streets and parks.
A brief note about Istria goodies
If you have time and you don’t have to drive: the northern part of the country, the Istria region is host to wineries and fact: the wine is great! You can buy local wine in Zagreb or even supermarkets or restaurants, but nothing beats a visit to the vineyards and a wine taste. I’m saying this from previous experience.
The second note worth mentioning: here they grow white truffles, so it’s a good opportunity to order risotto, pasta or whatever else with truffles.
Camping Bijela Uvala in Porec
When you start to do your research for Croatia, you start to realize the number of campings available. I knew this is an expensive country, but I never imagined I would see so many campings and camper vans. Especially as these are not cheap at all. Actually, I think the most expensive meal I had in Croatia was at the camp. One of the curiosities is the huge campings the locals seem to pick for their summer holidays – this one felt like an entire village to me.
We visited this amazing ancient city for a few hours, as a stop in our road trip. This is the largest city in the region and it has a well preserved roman Colosseum, as well as a nice old city center. It’s looking so much like old Italian cities, which is no wonder as most of Croatia looks like Italy. Could this be the reason I loved it so much? Historical fact: Istria region was part of Italy til mid of 20th century.
Before reaching Rijeka, make sure to open your eyes wide enough to admire Opatija.
It was pretty crowded when we passed by and we had to drive quite slowly, but you won’t regret seeing fancy villas in this coastal resort. I jumped to my guide and found this is a 19th-century resort inspired by Habsburgs, considered the birthplace of Croatian coastal tourism.
Kanica, a small village between Sibenik and Split
We spent a few days chilling low profile in this amazing small village. Not a resort yet, homeowners seem to live there, on those narrow streets and surrounded by plants, vine and figs. The Adriatic Sea at their window, what a life! We had an airbnb villa there and sort of stayed with the owners. We barely saw each other and they barely spoke English, but they tried hard to communicate with us whenever needed and this family was such a welcoming host.
Krka National Park
Not as famous as Plitvice National Park, Krka is also a stunning national park, which was closer to our accommodation. The river running through the park, the waterfalls, the biodiversity and the alleys that pass through various panoramic views make it a must-see place. For me, it was the first time to bath in a waterfall and I felt quite awkward to be with so many people in the same pool. Another great place to see if you reach Krka National Park is a small monastery, isolated on a tiny island in the river called Visovac. We were there for the sunset and it was quiet, so definitely worth it.
…and back to Zagreb for another city walk (on our own).
On a final note, if you want wonderful nature, clear waters and water activities this is the place for you. This is also a location for foodies and culture lovers. Plan this accordingly if you want to put Croatia in your to visit countries cause this will be an expensive holiday. My recommendation is to eat less out in the city and make your own at home with local food bought from the local markets, as much as possible.
Some of my friends continued their holiday on an island, while I had to get to Budapest for the Sziget Festival. From what I heard, Croatian small islands should be on your travel list!