Halfway into our 17-day vacation and we’re happy campers! Pun intended because we ended our tour de Croatia with camping near Plitvice National Park. As we entered the park, we were warned that the trails were poorly marked and that a good map was imperative. To avoid the crowds, we chose to hike the largest loop, seeing the entire park in one day. We definitely chose the path less travelled, literally, as we unintentionally got off trail towards the beginning of our hike! It was the best mistake we’ve made as we were able to see two waterfalls and a cave that those who stayed on course couldn’t. As we made our way through the thick weeds and up the rocky (at times difficult) climbs we found our way back on our intended trail. The views of Plitvice are like no other! The lakes are the coolest shade of azure-green due the minerals, algae, and light hitting the water. Thanks to our off-roading, we ended the day with a total of 19 miles under our belts. Our feet and joints could feel it and we no doubt looked forward to kicking back and relaxing!
To kick off our trip, we headed all the way South to Dubrovnik. We stopped to stay at a vineyard in Verona, Italy and have dinner before the ten hour drive the next day to our first destination. The drive was beautiful! Going by car really allowed us to see how the scenery changed the further we went, we of course stopped to admire it a few times along the way.
Walking the ancient city walls was one thing we were told should be on our to do list in Dubrovnik. Word of advice if you may go, arrive early as we did because by noon it looked less enjoyable. Most of the wall is the width of a sidewalk so it got crowded quickly. We were able to catch some amazing views of the city and sea! It was interesting to notice how different the view was and what you could see by walking more of the wall. As avid watchers of Game of Thrones, we were curious to see if we would recognize any spots where scenes were filmed! We did find a few but after walking over 109 flights in the heat we decided to forego our search and lay by the beach in Mlini (a small town outside of Dubrovnik).
After getting our fill of terracotta rooves and endless steps we made our way to the island of Hvar. Driving on the island was slightly stressful as the streets are extremely narrow with a massive drop off on the edge, sometimes with no guardrail! In Hvar city by day its relatively quiet but as the sun falls it livens, full of alleyways with people shopping, dining, and drinking. We could tell what time of day it was by stepping on our patio and listening to how loud the crowd was below. As a notorious city for nightlife we expected it to be rowdy. Between the island of Hvar and the neighboring islands, the number of beaches was endless. We spent most of the days catching rays with dinner, drinks, and dancing to follow!
We shared our favorite meal of Croatia in Dubrovnik at Azur. It was a cozy and secluded spot but still very lively. We stuck to a strategy of ordering different things and sharing it all so we could experience as many dishes as possible. We shared a seafood bowl and seared tuna at this spot and considered going back again before we left as it was just that tasty! We ventured outside of our comfort zone as we ordered in Hvar. Black risotto, a pasta dish made with squid ink, and a fish dish were among them. The risotto proved to be a hilarious meal as it stained our mouths and teeth black as night! A popular wine of the Dalmatian coast is made with Plavac Mali grapes and was a good complement to all of the dishes we shared as well.
We can safely say that the entire country of Croatia is beautiful as we feel we have travelled all over it! After visiting Hvar, we stopped by Zadar for lunch, checking out a sea organ on the coast. Holes are made in the pier and as the water rushes against them, it creates different tones as an organ does. After camping near Plitvice we travelled to Zagreb for the night, the capital of Croatia. Here we noticed a change in the architecture, trading the clay slabs for more of a gothic feel. We also noticed a change in the popular foods, moving away from seafood and going toward sausages and beef.
Exploring Croatia has been a trip! We’re so happy that we had the chance to see so much of the country and purposely saved some must-do things for the next time we visit. Now on to the next leg of our adventure.. Slovenia here we come! We will be heading to Ljubljana to stay and spend time with Andrew’s friend and are pumped to see the sights and share local experiences! To be continued..!