Practical Travel Tips: Croatia

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We haven’t been to Croatia in a while, but one of the things we are throwing around for next summer is to travel to Croatia, rent a boat and sail the Dalmatian coast.

Neema, from the blog Adventures of An African Dutchess, who last wrote about Douro Valley, Porto, Melbourne and Auckland, recently went to the Croatia and here are her practical tips.

This is the 2nd write up on Croatia. Rom Brafman also did a writeup of Croatia in 2016.

If you would like to write about your recent travel experiences on The Flight Deal, submit your pitch here.

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Stunning. Spectacular. Breathtaking. Gorgeous. Enchanting. Magical. That is Croatia. How do you describe a country that has more than 1000 islands, eight UNESCO historic towns, 2000+ wineries and vineyards, eight breathtaking National Parks and clear blue waters of the Adriatic Sea on the Dalmatian coast? And to the people of Croatia, thank you so much for your hospitality.

Car Rentals in Croatia

The excellent road network makes it easy for anyone to drive in Croatia. You will need your driver’s license and credit card to pick up the car. My only complaint was finding parking in cities, such as Split and Dubrovnik, in September. You can imagine how hard it is to find parking in the summer (check with your host to see if they have free parking). If you are visiting Croatia in July/August, book your car as early as possible (automatic cars are more expensive). Companies such as Active, Alamo, National Enterprise, Avant, and Budget are available at Zagreb airport. I used rentalcars.com and went with Alamo. You can drop off the car in another city without being charged the extra ‘one way’ fee (be sure to check with your car company). For 12 days, I paid around $300. Additional insurance, while not mandatory, is available and highly recommended. I went with Insurance4carHire.com and paid $100. I did not get a GPS since I rented wireless internet that I used throughout my trip for directions.

Be aware that it’s very expensive to hire a taxi/personal driver from one city to another. Tolls and gas were on the higher side as well and my wallet is still screaming. You can pay in Kunas, Euros or credit card. It was worth every penny, especially driving through the Dalmatian coast and stopping at towns such as Neum for a quick bite – gorgeous.

Pro tip: Visit here and Croatian Motorways website for more information on driving in Croatia and download the Croatian Auto Club (Hrvatski Auto Klub – HAK) App.

FYI: You will need your passport to cross Neum, a Bosnian border, as you drive from Split to Dubrovnik.

Viw of the Adriatic Sea in Trogir – Photo: (c) 2017 – Neema Okal of Adventures of An African Dutchess

Zagreb

People describe Zagreb as a flat city but I loved everything about the vibrant capital of Croatia and its proximity to other European countries. I was able to visit Slovenia less than 2 hours away. Daily Dolac (farmers market) located in Gornji Grad-Medveščak just a few meters from the main square (Ban Jelačić Square) is not to be missed as they are selling homemade goods, fruits and vegetables. Zagreb Cathedral is to the north of the square, always seen from afar, with wonderful interiors. See also, St. Mark’s Church with its beautiful roof, overlaid with the Zagreb coat of arms and Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. In the evening, walk along Ulica Ivana Tkalčića with lots of nice restaurants and after a nice diner, enjoy some some time listening to jazz at Bacchus Jazz Bar. For a beautiful view of the city from all directions, head to Zagreb 360, which is a panoramic observation deck.

Zadar

“It must be the most beautiful sunset in the world!” muttered Alfred Hitchcock sipping maraschino on the Zadar waterfront. And I had to see this for myself. It takes about 1hr 30 minutes to get to Zadar from Plitvice. Quirky, old (ancient), beautiful and hip would be how I describe Zadar. I love the famous Sea Organ, a working organ operated entirely by the water; in the evening, tourists and residents are all here to watch the sun go down and listen to unending music from this instrument. The main street running through the old town is the old Roman road, perfectly straight as are the laneways radiating out in all sectors of town lined with beautiful restaurants, shops and cafes. In the center of the town is the old Forum and the 9th century St. Donatus’ Church, built on the remnants of a Roman temple of Juno. Climb to the top of the St Anastasia Bell Tower in the middle of town for the best view in Zadar. Try Pet Bunara and Bruschetta Restaurant with excellent meals. And for a drink, go to Brazil Bar or La Bodega.

From Zadar, you can easily visit Kornati and Pag Island. I visited Pag, only a 1h 20 min bus ride, and loved it for its lace making, cheese and salt production. Kornati, on the other hand, is protected so it’s best visited through a tour group that you can find through TripAdvisor and Viator. Since there are several apartments to stay in Zadar, you can have it as base to visit Dalmatian cities: Sibenik, Primosten or Trogir.

Why Sibenik?

Season 5 of Game of Thrones was filmed at UNESCO protected St. James Cathedral, including the striking city hall of Sibenik. It’s a beautiful façade made up of columns and arches, a balustrade and a balcony. The ground floor is home to a wonderful local restaurant with the outside terrace providing an extraordinary view of the Cathedral of St. James republic square. They also used St. John fortress and the beautiful streets and alleys of this gorgeous Dalmatian town. Just 1 hour from Zadar, Sibenik has 24 churches and four fortresses with a youthful and lively atmosphere. Sibenik is really an exquisite and magnificent town with all the old stones that are almost falling apart but you can’t help but be allured by its beauty. Walk the charming stone streets and quaint squares and when done, dine at the famous Pelegrini restaurant and taste either their truffle or prosciutto pappardelle or the gnocchi…yum! If you have extra time, check out Krka National Park about 15 minutes by car.

Welcome to Trogir

Some call this lovely town the Little Venice of Dalmatia but I know it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Trogir, also called Trau by the Venetians, is one of those towns that reminded me why I love traveling. It has retained its many Romanesque and Renaissance buildings built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Besides enjoying some beach time at Medena, climb the top of St Lawrence’s Cathedral for magnificent views, visit Museum Of Sacred Art, Trogir Museum, Town Hall, Grand Cipiko Palace and Karmelengo Castle. Don’t forget to wander through this beautiful photogenic town and get capture instagram-worthy moments. And enjoy a delicious lunch along the beach promenade with beautiful views of the mainland.

Island of Hvar

The moment I got out of the ferry and stepped foot on the ancient town of Hvar, its waterfront lined with palm trees and seven old century walls, I knew this place would remain in my heart for a long time. It was cloudy when I arrived but it soon opened up and I was able to truly experience its magic. You will be greeted by the beautiful piazza that has the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, bordered by the palaces of Groda, and the cascading stone-built houses of Burag. Visit the fortress Fortica, the cathedral, theatre of Hvar and the beautiful Franciscan monastery. If you have time, take a boat excursion to some of the untouched bays or visit Parkleni Islands. I see why Hvar is known as a party destination. You can sip a beautiful cocktail at Carpe Diem, Hula Hula Hvar or have a glass or two of delicious wine at Zlatan Otok, an underwater tasting room located in Sveta Nedjelja. Hvar can be reached from Split by boat; it is about an 1 hour away by either private boat or public boat, which costs forty dollars return.

Omis

I am in love with this pirate town. Less than 1 hour from Split, this was my favorite Dalmatian Towns and glad I chose it over Makarska. Situated at the mouth of Cetina River that hugs the Adriatic Sea and surrounded by beautiful and massive gorges, the history of Omis be found everywhere along the Riviera. Stop at fortress of Mirabela, one of the most popular landmarks of Omiš. Old pirates of Omiš used Mirabela as a lookout over the Channel of Brač, so that rich merchant ships had no way of sailing along the coast of Omiš unnoticed. You can reach this fortress via a set of stairs that lead directly from the entrance to the Parish Church of St Michael — and you will have to pay 50 HRK. Be sure to look out for the red roofs of old town as you climb up. Climb the Fortica – from the center of town, there is a path that you can follow and you should be there in less than an hour. If beach vacation is not in your plans and you enjoy sport activities, Omis is the perfect place for ziplining, kayaking, canyoning, scuba diving, hiking, trekking, and off-course climbing.

Cetina River Meeting Adriatic Sea in Omis – Photo: (c) 2017 – Neema Okal of Adventures of An African Dutchess

Oysters in Ston

Famous for oysters, Ston, is just 1 hour 15 minutes from Dubrovnik and was a perfect place for me to spend half a day before getting to the walled city. Up very early to beat the heat, I went to hike the Ston walls about 3.1 miles – not too bad. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘European Walls of China.” The walls are open year round to visit (with longer opening hours in summer). Visit here for more information on the Walls of Ston website, including opening hours and ticket prices. If you have time to spare, go see how salt is harvested in Ston. I was then able to drive for 2 hours to Dubrovnik and enjoy all that the city offered.

Croatia blew me away with its raw beauty and the friendliness of the people. My favourite moments from my trip was seeing the most beautiful sunset in Zadar, tasting wine and olive oil in underground winery in Hvar, walking the walled city of Dubrovnik, taking beautiful pictures of the photogenic town of Trogir, and falling in love with Omis.

About the Author

I am a Kenyan-American who is adventurous, foodie, wine lover, shoe addict, photographer, yogi and a runner. I also consider myself extremely blessed child of God. I enjoy traveling on a cheap budget by subscribing to the Flight Deal and other deal websites. I spend my days dreaming and planning my next trip. I enjoy traveling as a local. I love sharing stories of the places I visit and I do so through photography. I currently work in the Bay Area as a Marketing Professional. My free time is spent catching up on my favorite TV shows, reading, running and yoga. You can follow me on Instagram and my blog Adventures of An African Dutchess.

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One Response to "Practical Travel Tips: Croatia"

  1. T. says:

    Very curious to hear all the details and practical tips about boat renting!

    Reply

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