Why you need to visit Croatia
In 2016, I went interrailing for a month.
We visited so many places including Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Ljubljana, Lake Bled and Vienna. But the place we stayed the longest, and I think (it's tough, I loved everywhere for their own reasons) my favourite country we visited was Croatia. I didn't really know what to expect of the country, it's not a place that's often talked about. Maybe it was because I went with so few expectations that I adored it, but really, I'm itching to go back and explore more.
Croatia was unexpectedly beautiful.
Our little tour of Croatia began in the capital, Zagreb, where we spent one night in an Airbnb. We arrived quite late and our train left at a ridiculously early time the next day, so in all honesty, I don't think we saw much of this city in daylight at all. But I can say it felt safe, we went out for some food and a drink and I didn't feel uncomfortable at all being in a strange city at night. I wish we could have spent a little bit longer here actually!
We caught the train from Zagreb to Split. Out of all the train journeys in our month of interrailing, this was probably the worst. It was a long journey anyway, but the train breaking down made it EVEN longer. I think it took about 10 hours in total! But it was one of the most scenic routes I think I've ever travelled by train.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Split for around 5 days, exploring the city, relaxing on the beaches after a busy few weeks travelling, and taking day trips to Dubrovnik and KRKA national park.
On the day we visited Dubrovnik, we travelled via bus passing through Bosnia. Ferry is also an option, but for timings and cost we ended up choosing the coach. It was reasonable value and well worth it to get to see Dubrovnik.
We also got the bus to KRKA national park, as part of a pre-arranged tour. Also highly, highly recommend. More on that below.
After Split, we got the train back to Zagreb, and then on to Ljubljana.
I've always wanted to go back to Croatia to see more of the country, here's why I think you might love it too:
Why you need to visit Croatia:
I'm going to talk about the weather first, because I'm British and seemingly, that's what we do.
We travelled in July/August and the weather was glorious. The summers get pretty hot there, so it's a great choice for a summer holiday but there's lots of other stuff to do too, like National Parks, ziplining, boat tours, snorkelling and sea kayaking. You'll get decent weather (high 20s) in the shoulder seasons too and significantly fewer tourists. But if you're not after beaches, then there's no problem with travelling year round. Dubrovnik especially will very rarely see snow - though you may find that there aren't as many attractions and restaurants open in Winter.
If you're a Game of Thrones fan, you'll love Dubrovnik - it's the real-life King's Landing. A lot of the Kings Landing scenes were filmed in the walled city of Dubrovnik, and you'll recognise a lot of the filming spots as you wander around the Old Town - the Jesuit Staircase (or the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor in King's Landing) where Cersei began her walk of shame and Ploče Gate (used as the Red Keep Gate). You'll recognise a lot of the streets just wandering around as filming locations.
Aside from Game of Thrones though, Dubrovnik's Old Town is an absolutely beautiful city in its own right. There's an abundance of fascinating architecture, every street is just as interesting as last. There's a lot of attractions, the crystal blue sea and coastline, and if you like seafood, this will be your dream destination.
Relatively good value
Excluding the Old Town in Dubrovnik, where you will find prices double what they should be, Croatia as a whole is a relatively good value place to visit.
Our Airbnb was incredibly cheap, especially compared to the likes of Amsterdam and Berlin, and eating and drinking out you'll get plenty for your cash.
Croatia use the kuna, and you get just over 8 kuna for £1. A cappuccino will set you back around 10kn (£1.20) and a mid-range bottle of wine around 35kn (£4.30).
KRKA National Park
This was one of our aforementioned day trips from Split. It wasn’t too far to travel - just over an hour - and we went with a group on a coach. I'd recommend going via an arranged tour, you don't need to worry about entrance tickets or working out public transport as that's all sorted - the only downside is you can't miss the coach! So even if you want to spend longer at the waterfalls, you can't. But I think the trip allowed plenty of time to wander around the park and have a swim in the lake.
It can get very, very busy by the waterfalls, so again I'd recommend going maybe May or September to avoid the crowds, or arrive really early, but you can still have an amazing time regardless.
Take your swimsuit and a towel and definitely go for a swim. It's pretty safe to leave your belongings on the bank but I'd leave wads of cash or your most expensive belongings at home just in case.
There's a 2km walking trail which goes in one direction around part of the park which is so beautiful. It's the main one and a must-do, and it takes you to a lake with a waterfall where you can swim. There's also a number of other trails and walks you can do. For the sheer beauty of this national park and the low price it costs to go, you should definitely add this place onto your list.
Krka is not the only national park in Croatia though, there's a few! Croatian has such a stunning landscape - make sure you visit at least one if not more.
Split was our base for our stay in Croatia. It's pretty easy to get to anywhere you want to go in Croatia from here and it's such a lovely city so I would highly recommend it!
Diocletian's Palace is the most popular sight in Split - for good reason. It's magnificent. If you stay in Split, you must get up and visit at 6 or 7am one day as you'll have the whole place to yourself and it's magical.
As well as this, you have the Riva promenade, lined with palm trees and boats, the old town, great nightlife, lots of activities, shopping cafes and the beaches. It's a beautiful, historical city.
I would also recommend climbing up Marjan Hill. The views over the city are so worth it.
If you haven't gathered by now, Croatia is beautiful. The dreamy coastline has pure, azure sea, pebbled and sandy beaches, palm trees, glistening white boats, and clear waters with schools of fish. There's islands, mountains, cobbled streets, cities, lakes and waterfalls.
I could talk relentlessly about the captivating landscape of Croatia but it's one of those things you just need to experience for yourself.
Another thing that made me love Croatia even more was how friendly the people are. We rented an Airbnb and the host went totally out of his way to make our stay amazing. He picked us up from the train station, and waited despite our train being hours late, had thoughtful touches in the apartment. He gave us advice, offered to drive us to the hospital when there was a minor medical scare among the group, and was generally lovely.
Croatia is a very safe country, and very welcoming too.
After writing this post, I am so tempted to book a flight and go back! There's a lot of Croatia I'm yet to explore and I know the country has more to offer. I had an amazing week there but I am eager to see more!
Have you visited Croatia before? Have I tempted you?