Two weeks in Croatia

Croatia has recently (at least in my eyes) become a hot destination for travel and understandably  so! The coastline is speckled with over a thousand islands and the interior is filled with gorgeous mountains and waterfalls. This country was truly a pleasure to visit, even if it was during the off-season for them.

Dubrovnik harbor

I first heard about Croatia last year following my parent's 30th anniversary trip. They, along with a few other friends, decided to spend a couple of weeks here exploring the coastline between Dubrovnik and Split, two of the more southern cities along the coast. Once I was over in Europe, I didn't really have any intention to visit this same area, but the stars aligned and there I was. 

A big part of my motivation to come this far south was that a good friend of mine from Northwestern is from Slovenia and has family all through Croatia so I figured I could knock out a couple of new countries over the course of a few weeks. Following my couple of days spent in Amsterdam, I hopped on a flight bound for Dubrovnik to spend the last three weeks of my time in Europe in Croatia, Slovenia, and Hungary, all conveniently located right next to each other and the last of which is providing the final departure location for my quickly approaching trip to Asia out of Budapest. 

I arrived in Dubrovnik in the afternoon on the 4th and spent a couple of days just exploring the city. Honestly, there isn't really a ton to do in Dubrovnik unless you like overcrowded and overpriced old towns along the Adriatic Sea....or if you're a Game of Thrones fan (it's the filming location for all of King's Landing in the series). I spent the better part of a morning walking around the Old Town, trying to see if I could spot exactly where Cersei Lannister's atonement (if you don't know what I'm talking about, click here) took place. I did find it, and I can say that there were just about as many people walking around with me as there were in that scene. Chaos...and to think this is the down season.

Harbor to catch the ferry to Korcula

Following some time spent downtown, I walked the long route back to my hostel and got caught in the rain on a beach along the way (how cliché). Thankfully there was a nice beach bar, which I found out the next day is actually quite popular based on the loads of people I saw swarming the beach) along the way so I stopped and had a beer before continuing on, still in the rain, all the way back to my hostel. 

My hostel in Dubrovnik was probably one of the nicest I've ever stayed in, providing free wine and treats upon arrival, a balcony overlooking the harbor, and clean accommodations, all for $11/night. Having just come from Amsterdam where I spent €35 (~$38) on a real dump of a hostel, the accommodation in Dubrovnik was a real treat. I didn't have plans to stay in Dubrovnik too long anyways as I wanted to maximize my time on the islands as much as I could, but this comfortable 2-night stay was pretty ideal given where I'd just come from in Amsterdam.

The next day I spent the morning walking around to some various beaches before loading onto a bus bound for Korcula, one of the first islands as you make your way north from Dubrovnik off the coast of Croatia. There are several options for getting out to the ferry, namely hitchhiking on a locals fishing boat, taking a ferry, or in my case, getting a bus/ferry combo. Surprising this last option was the cheapest and got me there in just about the same amount of time as the twice as expensive option the ferry. 

View of a Hvar church from across the water

Korcula is a very quiet island, especially during the time that I was there, and I spent the better part of two days wandering through the Old Town dominated by the church tower on top of a hill and walking along the coastal roads looking for a quick place to sneak in for a dip in the ocean (and yes, I was successful). 

Following Korcula, I made my way to Hvar, the next largest island north, by ferry. I planned to spend three days in Hvar and was very lucky to meet a great group of people at my hostel right away and ended up spending the following week with a group of five from Canada, the U.S. and England. We spent our time on Hvar exploring some of the beaches, hiking to the top of the castle on the island, and heading out to explore the nightlife. Typically Hvar is a big party island during the summer months, but as we hit it during the end of the high season, it was very quiet during our entire stay. 

Following Hvar we headed back to the mainland, and timed our departure just right so as to move in the midst of a torrential downpour the entire way to Split, where our ferry from the island was meant to land. 

Upon arriving in Split, we found that there really wasn't much to do aside from run to our hostel in the pouring rain. After arriving at the hostel, we settled in, dried off, and had a fun night out with some of the other people in the hostel also avoiding the rain. 

Hvar and the coastal island from above

The following morning it was still raining, so I boarded a bus with a friend from Canada, and we made our way further north up the Croatian coast to the small town of Sibenik. Sibenik didn't have much to offer, but our goal for heading there wasn't to see the town. Nearby is one of Croatia's national parks, Krka, famous for it's beautiful waterfalls. 

We made our way to Krka the following day and completely lucked out as the weather was absolutely amazing. It was the first day we'd seen blue skies in nearly a week, and due to all the rain the waterfalls and river were overflowing into the park grounds. Thankfully we were still able to see everything in the park, and the large amounts of water made the scenery of the park a bit different than pictures had shown, but stunning nonetheless. 

Following Sibenik and Krka, we continued even further north to Zadar, another coastal town with a beautiful old town. It was quiet, but nice to have another couple of days of some relaxation. 

My last stop in Croatia was in Zagreb with a good friend of mine from Northwestern. I arrived the in Zagreb to more rain and wandered around downtown for a bit before resigning to my hostel to make some dinner and watch a movie. The following days we roamed around Zagreb, enjoyed the nightlife, ate delicious Croatian dishes prepared by my friend's grandmas, and eventually made our way back to his homeland, Slovenia. 

All-in-all, Croatia was an amazing place to visit for two weeks. I'd definitely like to revisit it during the high season, enjoy the real island life, yacht week, and a few more of the national parks scattered throughout this beautiful country. There were a number of highlights from my time here, and summing it all up into one blog post is tough, but it's definitely another place to add to my list of "countries I've been to that I need to go back to again...someday."

Krka National Park