Our travel expert Lawrence Solomon (ext 7292) recently returned from a trip to Croatia to visit historic cities, experience some fun excursions, and check-out hotels along the way. This was his experience:
Zagreb: Croatian capital city
Zagreb has an Old and New city. The fortified Upper Town, the city’s historical old centre, sits up on top a hill in the centre of town. Historic architecture offers beautiful vistas of the “new” city and all the wide open parks that the city is known for. The new city is very modern and rivals any Eastern European city. A great jump off city to get to the heart of the country and is situated in the north. I would recommend staying one night at the beginning of a trip and or one night at the end before flying back home.
Ljubljana: Slovenia’s Capital City
Okay, this city really surprised me. This has to be one of the most picturesque cities I’ve ever seen. The old city center was left untouched by the Communists and during the Yugoslav war 20 years ago. The picturesque Central open-air Market, the Three Bridges, the Baroque Town Hall and Robba’s Fountain are just a few of the many UNESCO heritage sites within the city. It was well worth the drive from Zagreb and really wished we had more time there.
Split: Croatia’s Sea Side City
A city tour of Split will uncover the secrets of the UNESCO protected Diocletian’s Palace and its cellars. This Roman emperor Diocletian spared no expense for the construction of a winter residence, importing the best quality marble, sphinx and columns from Italy. The original palace was modified by its new inhabitants during the Middle Ages, but making it even more beautiful and what it is today: the city’s living heart animated by the music from bars and cafes or by the everyday life of its residents. The city has a distinct Venetian feel to it within its buildings. A ton of little nook and cranny side streets with some outstanding and inexpensive restaurants and bars. An alternative walk would be on the old city’s seaside promenade. This is the best place to jump off and go to see the local islands in the Adriatic. (See the Hvar excursion below)
Dubrovnik: For Game of Thrones Fans
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, this is the city for you. A bunch of episodes and scenes were shot here. An absolutely magnificent city also called “the pearl of the Adriatic,” this city deserves a good few days to enjoy as it’s a must see at night. Again, another city loaded with UNESCO sites, a must do is the old city wall walk as is the cable car to the top of Mount Srdj for a great overview of the old centre. From the top, you can see Bosnia and Serbia and will then understand its strategic importance in the region. Dubrovnik was virtually leveled flat in the war 20 years ago. The city has literally been rebuilt exactly as it was prior to that brick by brick. Regardless of whether you are visiting Dubrovnik for the first time, there’s that sense of excitement and awe when you set eyes on the beauty of this old town. Immerse yourselves into the symphony of the city’s marble streets, baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic. Stunning. This is a great jump off point to go and see Kotor in Montenegro which just to the south. This can be a day trip from Dubrovnik as lots of local tour operators offer day and overnight trips.
Postojna Caves (Slovenia)
This 20-km long karst cave system with its web of underground passages, galleries and chambers is the largest cave of the “classic karst” and the most visited show cave in Europe. Note that the temperature drops to 9 or 10 degrees above zero within the cave system so make sure you take a sweater or jacket (even in summer) as there is an underground open-air train that really moves and will chill you to the bone…trust me, I forgot my jacket…lol.
Plitvice National Park
A well-known UNESCO World Heritage Site and national treasure, take a tour of the 16 crystal – blue lakes cascading into 92 spectacular waterfalls. Walk on the wooden promenades with magnificent views on the waters where every turn leads to breathtaking scenery and yet another waterfall. Surrounded by dense woods, Plitvice lakes are a natural phenomenon of rare and unique beauty.
Forget the Greek Islands. Forget Ibiza. The Dalmatian Islands are what you want! Fast and stable high-speed catamaran inter island ferries are amazing. The mainland to Hvar is about an hour and is an excursion within itself as you speed by island vista after island vista from Split which is a main hub for island ferries. This island is one of the largest ones. During the day, the rich and fabulous park their yachts in the ancient harbour and drink coffee all afternoon (literally) seaside. When dark comes, the island comes alive with youth and nightclubs like I’ve never seen outside of Ibiza. The hangover was remarkable. This is a great spot to stop and slowdown for a few days and enjoy the beach bum life as the pace is relaxed here.
All in all an outstanding destination that’s really just beginning to open up for us as Canadians. (I was planning my next itinerary there before I left Croatia to come home.) The people are very friendly and English is now the second language so it’s really easy to communicate and get around. Food and drink are both inexpensive ($3.00 pints!). If you have any questions about the country, cities, excursions or hotels, please call me and I’ll be happy to help get you to this fantastic country!