After spending a week in Slovenia, Andy and I headed south and spent one week in Croatia. Our first stop was Plitvice Lakes, which are supposed to be incredibly gorgeous. But luck was not on our side. We only had one day there, and the skies decided that was the day to open up and dump a massive downpour on the region. Trudging through the rain and hoping to see the lakes and falls through the rainfall did not sound like fun, so we left first thing in the morning for Zadar, where we spent a few days before continuing on to Split.
We also didn’t make it to Dubrovnik. Luckily we’ve both been there already, but normally this is a city I’d highly recommend adding to your Croatia itinerary. But months of traveling too much were catching up to me, and my mind and body were yelling at me to go home, so we skipped it.
Here’s how we spent a little over one week in Croatia.
Our first day in Zadar was a bit stormy too, but at least we didn’t get rained on. It made for some dramatic skies, which I love taking pictures of, so that was fun. We mostly walked up and down the promenade that runs along the sea and tried not to get blown away. Even one street over, while walking by some old Roman buildings and ruins, the winds were blocked.
Zadar old town
Zadar is a good sized city, but the tourist sights are in the old town. This area was once ruled by the Romans, and later the Venetians, so there are lots of ruins and interesting architecture that gives it an Italian sort of feel. Aside from admiring the buildings, we also went to check out Zadar’s famous sea organ. The sea organ is a sort of musical instrument underneath the steps at the edge of the sea, and it makes music as the waves move through it.
Zadar from above
Next to the Roman Forum is the Church of St. Donatus dating back to the 9th century. It had a bell tower you could climb for a small fee, so we knew we found our spot for views of Zadar from above. It’s not super high, but it doesn’t need to be. As always, I loved the different perspective of being able to see Zadar’s old town from the top of the tower.
Where to stay in Zadar
The old town is not big, so it’s hard to pick a bad spot. While searching for hotels in Zadar, we mostly found apartments, so we booked one called Little Cosy Apartment. After eating out for over a week, it was nice to have a kitchen and cook a few meals. The bed wasn’t the best, but it was fine. The owner picked us up from the bus station and left us a bunch of fruit and a couple bottles of wine. If you’re looking for something simple with a kitchen, check out this place.
Split old town
Split also has Roman and Venetian history, and you can really see it in the architecture and the ruins in the old town. It’s gorgeous and easy to see why this is a popular city to visit in Croatia. Every day we were there, we saw cruise ship groups touring the city.
Andy and I wandered through narrow alleyways and cobbled streets, admiring hidden little corners and doorways as well as the buildings that were impossible to miss. Our hotel was just outside the old town, so we also walked around near one of the gates to check out the walls. We went down by the water a couple of times too to enjoy the view of the sea. It’s definitely a place for aimless strolls and soaking up the atmosphere.
Split from above
Diocletian’s Palace is one of the main sights to see in Split, and it has a tower you can climb for good views of Split from above. It felt a little scary because the windows that run up and down the tower are just blocked by a few pillars and the railing, so if you have a fear of heights or a fear of falling, this one might not be for you. But I quite enjoyed the views the whole way up and especially once I got to the top.
Where to stay in Split
In Split, we stayed at a little hotel called Luxury Rooms Nirvana just outside the old town. It was walking distance to all the sights and the main bus station and port. The woman who ran the place was friendly, but there is no front desk. That didn’t bother us, but it’s worth knowing. The bed was comfortable, the shower was great, and we had a cute little terrace where we could sit while eating breakfast or having a drink while watching the sun go down. I’d definitely recommend staying here when you visit Split.
Where to stay in Plitvice Lakes
First of all, I hate that I have zero pictures of the lakes and waterfalls to show you. I hate that we had to skip this wonderful place because of massive downpours. We’ll get back there someday. But we did really like the hotel we stayed at.
It was called Guesthouse Bor, and if you’re coming by bus from Zagreb, it’s the bus stop after the two Plitvice bus stops. It was in a very quiet location but still easy enough to get to the lakes. We walked along a trail through the woods that led to the park in order to get dinner the night we arrived. It was a cute, rustic place with a comfortable bed.
The guy who owned it was super helpful, and he told us he was planning on setting up a kitchen in the future. When we were there, he had a communal fridge for guests to use to store food from the nearby grocery store. If you’re looking for something small and not as commercial as some of the properties right at the park, I’d recommend this one.
This might not be the typical way to spend a week in Croatia, but we enjoyed our time there. I wish the weather had worked out better for us to see Plitvice. Andy and I would both like to visit Dubrovnik again someday. I think these are a must for a full Croatia itinerary, but Split and Zadar were wonderful and I’m glad we got to see them both.
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