Our first stop on our Interrail trip was the wonderful Croatia, luckily for us we could fly there straight from our local airport in Newcastle. The flight is Newcastle to Dubrovnik but we knew we wanted to explore so much more of Croatia. So as soon as we landed in Dubrovnik we got the airport shuttle bus to Dubrovnik town and went to the local bus station, we paid about £1.50 and jumped on a 3 hours bus journey to split.
I must say even though the bus wasn’t the greatest I could have stayed on it all day, the views out of that window were something else! It was warm with the sun coming through the window and I sat there all cosy and gazed out the window for the whole 3 hours just watching the beautiful coastline whizz by. As soon as we arrived in Split we knew it was backpacker central, the bustling bus station filled with travellers filled me with excitement to explore. We had our lovely air BnB host come and pick us up from the bus station to take us to our apartment, not going to lie this was a little strange waiting for a random person we hadn’t met to pick us up. But this was our first time using air BnB so we just rolled with it, So glad we did as Ivona was amazing.
Ivona was a young cool Croatian girl who had lived in split her whole life, so she knew all the best places to eat and drink. To really experience Croatia like a local. She took us into our apartment which was a beautiful new building with a huge gorgeous balcony overlooking the sea. She got us all settled in then gave us some recommendations for that evening. She told us that her and her friends love to eat at Caffe-Restoran Dvor on special occasions as this was their favourite restaurant but warned us it was on the pricey side. She told us she would be out for drinks over the next few nights so to text her if we wanted to meet up for drinks with her and her friends and then she left us to it.
She sold Dvor to us so we got ready and wandered out to find it. It was about 10 minutes from our place on a local quiet street, we struggled to find it at first and with our stomachs grumbling we almost gave up. But when it comes to good food I can be surprisingly determined and thank god we didn’t give up because this place was amazing.
It was a beautiful villa with a tranquil garden and terrace all lit up by fairy lights in trees, it was dreamy. It was almost filled with locals and even though it was busy it still kept its famous relaxing ambience. We looked at the menu and almost died, £100 for a burger? It sure felt like a 5 star restaurant but we were travelling and we did have budgets to keep to. So after a quick wi-fi connection and google search we ended up on xe currency converter to find out that 100 Croatian Kuna was actually only £11. I don’t joke when I say I would have paid £100 for that meal, the waiters brought us wine and Croatian delicacies to try throughout the evening. We honestly had the nicest service and experience at Dvor. Well worth the money and with that being the most expensive meal we had in Croatia you can only imagine how well priced other restaurant’s are. It really was a magical first night.
We didn’t meet up with Ivona and friends unfortunately as we had jam-packed days and nights planned ahead. On Our first day in Split we had booked a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, for weeks before we went I researched the big debate.. Krka Falls or Plitvice Lakes? Many people argue over which is better and to be honest if we had time I would have done both. But we didn’t so we chose Plitvice. It won me over with its 16 interlinked lakes and a series of beautiful waterfalls set in a huge forest. I had ‘insta-stalked’ this place for months searching on hashtags and numerous travel accounts imagining walking over wooden footbridges and peter andre’ing it up in all the waterfalls.
BOY WERE WE WRONG! So first things first we needed to get up bright an early to get ready and get down to split harbour to meet our tour guide. It was a full day trip as it takes about 3 hours to get there and consist of a 3 hour trek through the park, lunch and a few viewpoints on the way back.
The tour website advises to take:
- Waterproof clothing
- Appropriate footwear
Being the typical Geordie’s we are we clearly decided to dress ‘appropriate’. I opted for a bikini (obviously) to get amongst it in the waterfalls. Even though they tell you, you can’t. I had heard of rebels jumping on in and swimming in them hence the bikini. Yes I think of myself as quite a rebel.
Of corse I didn’t just wear a bikini I made the decision to wear a crochet rat and boa dress, again I am just being smart it is summer and I will be so hot walking around for 3 hours. Which is also why I chose to wear my pretty river island summer sandals my feet would be way too hot in my trainers.
Now I have set the scene and painted the picture I am going to tell you what it was really like visiting the hidden gem of Europe. The place national geographic have made documentaries about. Firstly arriving to the tour bus full of people in north face hiking wear and trekking boots was a massive sign that we had really misunderstood what type of day we where about to embark on. The worried look on the guides face when he asked us where our waterproofs and food supply were? really set the scene for us. On route we stopped of for a stretch and a toilet break, we didn’t mess about we raided that mini mart. Bags of holiday crisps, kinder bueno and loads of Croatian strudel pastries. We now felt a little bit more prepared for the hike.
The sun shined through the windows of the bus warming our legs and keeping us cosy. The minute the bus reached the sign for Plitvice the sky grew darker and darker until we reached the car park. Light rain started drizzling as we walked towards the trams we all piled on ready to start the trek unsure of what to expect. Panick started creeping in as to how un prepared we were and how much I wished I had a coat, a jacket, anything!
We set off on the tram taking us higher and higher into the park until we reached the highest point. Of corse the moment we stepped off the tram the heavens opened I am talking full on monsoon, rain, wind, thunder and lighting. We sprinted to a teeny stall and bought a poncho before we started the trek. The only way out was down, down the muddy beaten paths and wooden bridges. Getting absolutely drenched to the bone. The only thing left to do other than cry was laugh, Laugh our absolute heads off and occasionally let out a girly scream. You would have thought Beyoncé was waiting at the exit the speed I was walking I was ahead of the race powering through, slipping and sliding on the muddy slopes. We would stop occasionally to attempt to take photos, I say ‘attempt’ as the gale force winds had everyone scared to let their cameras emerge from there ponchos. We manged to take a selfie or two under a shelter whilst waiting for a boat to cross the lake.
Even in the rain and thunder Plitvice lakes was incredible to look at there is no denying it. The crystal clear lakes and hundreds or waterfalls where truly something else.
We eventually made it to the end of our tour after laughing and almost crying 1000 times we actually made it. I have never felt so accomplished in all my life we sang, danced and cheered. The whole group was thrilled to have reached the end. Everybody clambered into the loo’s to heat up and dry off under the hand dryers. The gift shop was like a glowing beacon of hope. We scurried over the wet floor to dive in to see what clothing they had. We found XL fluffy hoodies branded with Plitvice lakes. We just needed them in our lives.
These hoodies made us so happy we just had to ask a stranger to take a pic of us in them.
We felt so slick on the way back on the bus.. as thanks to skins natural ability to dry and the fact we had bathing costumes for underwear. We where bone dry in under an hour. The rest of the guys on our tour were telling us how we ended up having the right idea as all of the pro hikers pretty much had to strip to their kegs on the bus home as saturated wasn’t even the words for their clothing.
All in all we ended up having a pretty great day, We met some amazing people from all over the world whom we felt we shared a lot with that day amongst the storm. It really was sad to part once we all arrived back in split. But I will gladly say it is on my list to return someday and to just hope and pray it would be that perfect summer weather to really see its true beauty in all its glory.
The next day we solely spent exploring split and the islands near by. We started off our day visiting ‘the little Venice’ of Croatia a little island known as Trogir. We were recommended this place by locals as our plans originally was to visit Hvar and the emerald pool. However the weather the previous day ‘Plitvice gate’ had the tour company worried about choppy sea, so they had cancelled our tour the day before. So once we were out and about and found the weather was great, we asked locals by the harbour what islands were worth visiting and they said ‘the little Venice’. Trogir is a small island with water and rivers running through it, so it is connected via bridges hence the relation to venice.
We loved Trogir!. Lined with island like palm trees and cobbled back streets it instantly had us itching to see more. It had a few beautiful churches, a stunning bell tower and rows of outdoor seating to sit back, relax and enjoy a beer to take in the surroundings. The terraces were filled with fabulous Italians all kitted out in amazing jewels and designer clothing. With Italy not being far from Croatia this has lots of Italians holidaying here in the summer months.
After spending a few hours in Trogir we headed back to Splits old town. In the heart of the old town lies the incredible Diocletian’s Palace an ancient palace built by the roman emperor. Local market stalls line the walls of the entire palace filled with jewels, keepsakes and local crafts. There are loads of places to eat and drink in old town, the seafront promenade is lined with outdoor seating to sit out and soak in the view of the harbour. These front bars are a little pricey but if you look up into the old walls you will come across the coolest little haunts. Terraces built into ruin, giving it a real rustic laid back vibe. We came across an amazing one just in time for a sunset beer.
This terrace was perfect yet it was so small you felt your beer was going to fall off the ledge and you had to crab walk sideways to get on and off the terrace. We left not long after this to get spruced up for dinner and drinks. The options for good food and drink were endless. We stayed within the walls of the palace as it was just too beautiful not too. I had the most amazing meal on this night, though being a little tipsy for dinner definitely gave me an even greater appetite. We stayed out late this night jumping from ruin bar to bar, our favourite of the night had to be Acedemia Ghetto Club we sat nuzzled into the wall outside drinking cocktails enjoying the cool atmosphere and deep house music late into the night.
The very next morning it was time to pack up our things and move onto Dubrovnik. We were very excited to get there as we had seen a small snippet of it when we had first arrived. We jumped the bus back to Dubrovnik centre ready to find our villa for the night we booked a place on air BnB in a little place called little Zaton. This was about 10 minutes away from old town via car/bus and what a dreamy little place it was. It was very peaceful, quiet and lined with small sailboats and pebble beaches. Little Zaton is a sea town hidden in the north of dubrovnik its blue lagoon like waters and mountain scenery really gave it that italian lake feel.
After we wandered the horse shoe shore of Zaton we took the local bus to old town, It was perfect weather by the time we got off the bus. That late afternoon sun made it totally bearable to walk around the castle grounds. Game of thrones fanatics gathered around the main castle known as St. Lawrence fortress they where extremely lucky that day as GOT film crew where actually filming scenes that very day. We hadn’t seen game of thrones so clearly didn’t understand the hype of it all. But quite cool to watch either way, Since we were not hardcore fans the numerous offers to be taken on a GOT tours around old town didn’t interest us. But young GOT obsessed boys didn’t give up on offering to take us on one. We kindly declined as there was just so much to see. Windy streets filled with quirky stalls and shops kept us entertained as well as the walk to the view-point to take typical traveller photos before the sun set.
All in all we loved Croatia, I would go back in a heart beat. There was still so much to see and do that we hadn’t covered in our busy few days and the weather hadn’t been our friend on our first day, so would kill to go back and see Plitvice in all its glory on a lush summers day.
I hope you have enjoyed our Croatian journey and hope it has inspired you to visit this wonderful place.. Stay tuned to hear all about our Italian adventures in my next blog posts.
Next stop… Rome