I have always heard Croatia is a fantastic holiday destination. The last few years tourists from the United States travelling to Croatia has dramatically increased. Since I always want to be able to offer firsthand knowledge to my clients I decided it was time for me to experience Croatia.
I put together a custom designed itinerary with the assistance of a Virtuoso on site destination expert based in Croatia. One of the advantages of being a Virtuoso consultant are the vast amount of worldwide resources I can tap into to provide expert assistance in planning my client’s journey.
On this trip I would be travelling with 3 other couples. We would have the same private driver and private guide for 10 days to experience the wonders of Croatia.
Our Journey started in Zagreb
The journey started in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital and main finance and political center. The city has a population of around 800,00. The old town is beautifully inspired by 18th and 19th century Austro- Hungarian architecture. It was a very easy city to walk around to explore the parks, cafes and museums.
Our guide showed us all the highlights and suggested an outstanding restaurant. I was not sure what to expect with Croatia cuisine but by the end of the trip I was very impressed. When it comes to dining our private guide and local tour company was a good source of information for restaurant and shopping suggestions.
After two nights in Zagreb our next stop would be the Plitvice Lakes with an overnight in Zadar. The lakes are a beautiful national park with picturesque waterfalls, lakes and hills. We did a hike around some of the terraced lakes and waterfalls located around a limestone canyon. The scenery was breathtaking and I would estimate we hiked around 4-5 miles during the excursion. It was quite a contrast from the urban environment the day before in Zagreb.
We overnighted in the City of Zadar, an ancient port city on the Dalmatian Coast. The city was an ex-Roman stronghold as evidenced with the Roman ruins around the old part of town. We enjoyed another great night of dining and local wine. The next day we had a 2-hour walking tour of the city before heading down the Dalmatian coast.
Our next stop we be Sibenik before arriving in Split. Our guide asked us if we wanted the driver to take the highway or the more scenic route along the ocean. The highway would save us 45 minutes travelling time but we all agreed we would go the coastal route along the ocean and we were very glad we did.
The scenery to the right of us were beautiful fishing villages, marinas and ocean front homes. Then if you looked to the left quite often you would see beautiful hills and small mountains. It was like this all the way to Dubrovnik.
We arrived in Sibenik at lunch time. Just about every day on the tour we had 2 to 4 hours free time to have lunch, shop, relax or explore. The value of a private tour is it will provide you flexibility if you want to spend more time at an interesting site, depart earlier or just relax and have a coffee at a café. After enjoying Sibenik and it’s wonderful Cathedral, Palaces all under UNESCO protection it was time to head to Split.
Split is the second largest city in Croatia with a population of around 250,000 located on the Adriatic Sea. It is truly beautiful and a great walking city as well. Our Five-star hotel was located across the street from the ocean and a short walk to the old town. The city features Roman structures dating back from 300AD. It features not only Roman History but over the years it was also influenced by the Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman and Austro Hungarian empires.
Visiting Locations featured in Game of Thrones
Being a big Game of Thrones fan I was thrilled to walk into one of the locations featured in the series in Diocletian’s Palace and the Kliss Fortress. I was also fortunate to visit a couple of locations in Dubrovnik as well.
After a leisurely morning in Split we embarked on a half day trip to the nearby historical island of Trogir which was enjoyed by all.
The following day we had our private motor speed boat and a crew of 2 take us on a full day journey to Bisevo Islands, Blue Cave and some smaller quaint islands in the Adriatic. The highlight of the trip was a visit to the beautiful island of Hvar. We walked around and enjoyed pizza, salads and wine at a local café. On the way back to Split we witnessed one of many beautiful sunsets on the Dalmatian coast.
The last few days we would overnight in Dubrovnik with a side trip to Kotor Montenegro. On the drive from Split to Dubrovnik we stopped in the small and quaint village of Ston for oyster tasting.
Our guide escorted us to a local restaurant in the town center. We feasted on platters of raw oysters, grilled oysters and steamed mussels. The seafood was excellent and the atmosphere sitting among the locals was very memorable.
After a breathtaking drive down the coast we arrived in the historic walled city of Dubrovnik. This city is the most prominent tourist city in Croatia. I fell in love with its historic charm and beauty. Walking along the old city was delightful. At night it had an enchanting atmosphere. Lots of restaurants, cafes, shops dotted the historic cobblestoned streets.
Our hotel, the Dubrovnik palace was built into a cliff with incredible sea views. It was truly a special place to stay. It was about a 15-minute walk to the old town or a $4 Uber ride.
Dinners in the old town restaurants with good friends was always enjoyable. Restaurants on the water, or in an alleyway of the old city was very special. One night our tour featured a restaurant in the mountains outside the city on a family’s farm. We were entertained by local musicians and dancers dressed in cultural Croatian costumes.
We had a full day trip to the country of Montenegro. On the way we passed into Bosnia and stretched our legs. Montenegro and Bosnia use Euros for their currency while Croatia used their local currency called the Kuna. The highlight of Montenegro was the scenic cities of Perast and Kotar. It was another great experience on this memorable journey.
Some final thoughts on Croatia
It was one of the most enjoyable countries to travel to. The scenery is spectacular with its walled historic cities and magnificent coastline.
The cuisine really surprised me how good it was. Seafood, Veal, Pastas, Lamb and Beef. Vegetarian options and good salads. The food is priced lower than most of Europe. As of this writing the same $120 per couple dinner in the USA is about $80 in Croatia (including a bottle of local wine).
The wines produced in Croatia are definitely a notch below Italy, France and Portugal. However, the quality of
locally grown food and meats are top notch.
Most people we encountered could speak English and seemed friendly.
Most of Croatia’s highlights can be explored in 10-14 days depending on your pace. It has been booming in popularity especially with the North American market. Now is the time go. Call me and I will be happy to set up a memorable custom designed tour.