Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Coffees, Lakes and Game of Thrones: Croatia Chronicles

This summer my travels took me to the beautiful land of Croatia.

Beautiful blue lakes at Plitvice National Park


What language is spoken there?
Croatian but almost everyone can speak English to a remarkably good standard and signs and menus are usually in both languages.

What is the currency?
Kuna. At the moment, it's around 10 Kuna to the Pound

How do I get around?

Getting around is pretty easy whether it be by bus, tram or boat. Driving around Croatia is definitely something that I would recommend - the roads are are pleasant and easy to navigate and along the coast there are some fantastic views of across the Mediterranean.

We spent 12 days in total in Croatia moving from one end of the country to another. Here's how our adventure unravelled:


Zagreb


Zagreb Cathedral
The capital of Croatia and a great hub to connect to both international and regional cities. We chose Zagreb to connect us easily to Plitvice Lakes.

During the summer, the city is relatively quiet with everyone flocking to the coast, but there is still plenty to do and is the perfect place to chill on the cafe-lined streets with a coffee.

The street of Tkalciceva is lined with cafes, bars and restaurants that bustle on late into the night. We stayed at the top of this street at Taban Hostel - a pleasant enough hostel at a decent price but no air con (and it was hot!). We stayed at a different hotel later on in the visit the other side of town, The Garden Hotel which was much more pleasant. Strolls through the upper town to view the different churches, cathedral and funicular show the varied architecture of the city.

There are so many museums to explore - the Museum of Broken Relationships is a unique experience that is a very different museum to what you usually visit.


Plitvice Lakes

We booked our bus from Zagreb to Plitvice online - make sure you do this a day or so before you want to go because the buses fill up quickly and print out our tickets too!

The lakes are in a national park and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The lakes are a brilliant turquoise and are very pretty. We spent 2 days in the park which was a good amount of time to explore most of the lakes and we stayed in one of the hotels in the park which meant we didn't have to pay for 2 day entrances.

There are 4 hotels in the park and we stayed at Hotel Bellevue which wasn't a particularly charming institution but functional and we got a decent breakfast in the morning. By staying in the park we could also explore the lakes during the quieter times of day early in the morning and later into the evening.

You can visit the parks en-route to other parts of Croatia such as Split or Zadar.


Dubrovnik


The busy cruise hub made famous by Game of Thrones - this bustling city has it's hub in old walled town can see thousands of visitors a day.

Staying within the Old town can be hectic and be prepared to walk up lots of stairs in this quaint historic city. Highlights have to be walking along the city walls (do this early or late to avoid the hot sun) and going up the cable car to get some fantastic views over the city as well as the small island of Lokrum.

We also went on a Game of Thrones tour which was a fun walking tour for fans exploring lots of sites in the city as well as the Fort.

View from the cable car over Dubrovnik

Sites around Dubrovnik


Elaphiti Islands - a small group of islands with a regular boat surface connecting the port of Dubrovnik to Sipan, Lopud and Kolocep. You can also arrange a day trip to all 3 islands. The islands are an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city - we were supposed to spend 6 days on Sipan but on arriving there we changed our minds as things seemed just a bit too quiet for us and the beaches weren't that great!

Slano - a 30 minute drive north of Dubrovnik, a bay where we stayed for 6 nights at the 5 star Grand Admiral Hotel. With both an indoor and outdoor pool, private beach and gym we spent our days relaxing for the last stretch of our trip.

Mostar - a city in southern Bosnia. From Dubrovnik it takes around 2 hours to drive there if the border crossing is not that busy (it did take us over an hour to cross on the way there). Make sure you have the correct insurance if you are hiring a car and the car can be taken across the borders. The famous bridge in Mostar which was destroyed in the Balkan war has been restored and there are people who jump from the bridge into the river below.

You can also do day trips to Montenegro from Dubrovnik.

The famous Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia.

This was a fantastic trip that made me realise that there is so much to explore in Europe! I used to look far afield for great places to visit, but this trip together with my short Amsterdam break has fuelled a thirst to explore places closer to home!


Have you been to Croatia? Been to any of the above places? Let me know what you think in the comments below!



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