Following the infamous Inter-rail trip for Spring 2010, Croatia was next on the list. Croatia is a county I’ve always liked … but I’m unsure why. It probably has something to do with Davour Suker chipping Peter Schmiechael from the edge of 18 yard box during the 1996 European Championships. What a team they had!

Croatia FlagDuring my Inter-rail trip, in Vienna more precisely, I met a girl who showed me some pictures of one of the places she was planning on visiting once she reached Croatia. The place was called Plitvice, and the images she showed me blew my mind and at that point I knew I would be visiting in the near future. It turned out to be the very near future as I finished inter-railing in April, I was in Croatia by July, it didn’t take long at all. Accompanied by Esther, Ret and Dan we boarded a Whizz air flight to Split.

Originally the plan had been to stay in Split, at a friend of Rets, but that plan fell through so it was back to Hostels, not that I mind staying in hostels. Our first Hostel wasn’t really a hostel at all, more a guesthouse. We hired a car straight from Split airport and immediately drove up to the lakes of Plitvice. Minutes out of the airport we saw a crash and started to wonder if driving was a good idea, but Dan didn’t seem to have too many problems, and when it was my turn I soon got used to diving on the opposite site of the road. My ability to stall an automatic still perplexes Dan to this day.

PLITVICE

Our guesthouse called Plitvice House was pleasant, we had nice rooms and we were a stones throw away from the local restaurant. By the time we’d driven to the gueshouse it was fairly late in the day, as we simply ventured to said local restaurant and enjoy the unquantifiable pleasure of deep fried cheese.

The next morning after some much needed sleep, we set out for the lakes, the reason we had come to Plitvice, and the reason thousands of other tourists had too. After finding a parking spot we wandered to the national parks entrance, paid our entrance fee and began to explore.

First stop on the exploration trail was an ice cream, followed by a small boat ride across part of one of the lakes. We enjoyed the boat ride so much, that we took another straight after, this was our big mistake! As it turns out our tickets only covered a one way boat trip, we couldn’t get back, and we’d so missed so much of the lake area, the centre piece in fact. I was gutted! Still, the rest of what we saw was gob smacking. We walked around the lower lakes area taking in the many waterfalls. The heat made the trek a little bit sweaty, but it was a great days hiking.

plitsvice lakes map

Plitvice lakes and waterfalls

Plitvice lakes and waterfalls (click to enlarge)

plitvice lakes

Plitvice lakes and waterfalls (click to enlarge)

The next morning we left our little guesthouse and started the drive back towards the airport. We did make a little detour on the way though, stopping at a local swimming hole for an hour or so. The water was a little ‘fresh’, but the locals seemed to love it and so did we.

SPLIT

We dropped the car back at the airport in one piece and purchased some coach tickets to split town centre with relative ease. Our hostel (and this time it really was a hostel), Fiesta Siesta was just a short walk away down a few of the old towns cobbled streets. I loved that the hostel was tucked away in the old town, it was such an amazing location. The old town was epicly beautiful and offered multiple ice cream vendors, so ticked all the boxes for me. When lit up at night, the old town was something special!

The hostels reception was a bit random, and we somehow ended up in a room for 5, but the next night we were moved to our own private 4 bed. I had tactically booked the only hostel I could find in split with a bar, so we went the first evening downstairs and the bar and then later at one of the old towns many restaurants.

The next morning I awoke with a familiar yet horrible sweaty sensation. As I sat up my back pealed off the mattress and I gasped for water. It appears our hostel was a bit tight with the air con and it would turn off at 8 each morning. The rooms didn’t take long to heat up.

Split old town

Split old town

We decided a chill out day on the beach was in order and made our way along sea front, past the bus station and down to the beach. It was packed, FACT! I’m not sure why this socked us as it was the height of summer so the beach was also likely to be full to the brim, the choice of speedos over swimming shorts was rightly concerning however. A spot found, we burnt for a bit before tucking into some food at one of the water front bars. From there we watched the sun go down and the redness in our skin come out. The aftersun would be put to good use that night.

Above that same waterside bar was were all split nightclubs were located. That same evening we decided to check some out, although to be fair we never really got past 2nd gear drinking wise. There was some interesting podium dancing and a few too many tight t-shirts that were not befitting of those wearing them, but it wasn’t a stand out club night experience, in fact it was fairly tame. I cant see too many 18-30’s opening up in Split, but that’s probably just as well and it’d ruin the classic nature of the old town.

The next day we decided on another beach day, this time in the opposite direction and to a stone beach. The stone beach proved to be just as packed. It probably did my back the world of good lying on that beach, but I cant say I particularly enjoyed it. I much more enjoyed drawing pictures on my girlfriends back using the stones. She was not so amused however.

We frequented the trendy looking bar that sat alongside stone ridden beach for a bit, sipping overpriced beers whilst being asking not to get the seats wet. That night we went for a fancy dinner. It was the first time I’ve eaten a steak that’s not be well done. The redness was a little unerring, but it was actually pretty tasty. Esther ordered gnocchi which actually turned out to be used an expensive plate of melted blue cheese. It would make for nice morning breath!

Our final full day in Split was sent on a ‘booze cruise’. It wasn’t that boozy to be fair and was actually quite relaxing. The sea was fairly clam so we settled ourselves on deck, turned up the ipod and set sail. We stopped off at a few nice beaches and had a nice fish/chicken supper on board. Every time we stopped people would leap from the side of the boat whilst the music was blearing, it was pretty good fun. Later in the day a bit of a party got going, but we keep our distance as the guys starting the party seemed on intent on impressing the girls aboard with their sexual conquest stories. One story even contained sordid details (I shall spare you them) of how 1 guy caught Chlamydia off another guy because they both slept with the same girl. Lovely!

DUBROVNIK

The next morning we made our way to Dubrovnik via the hottest bus in the world. We did think about hiring another car, but the bus was just so much cheaper. I vowed that I would never do buses again after the 26hour bus from Prague to London, but in this case I crumbled under the weight of the car hire quotes. The one good thing that did come of the coach journey was the discovery of cheese flavoured Pom Bears. Very tasty.

Stepping off the sauna esq bus was a relief, we grabbed a cab to our hostel (another guesthouse) and were greeted by our host who was brilliant. He was an imposing character but very funny and very good at hosting. He sent me texts to confirm the booking and give me details, I couldn’t recommend the Family Stanos guesthouse enough. A great place to stay in Dubrovnik.

We were all put in the same room, but this time there was not a bunk bed in sight. The guesthouse was beautiful, ok the room was basic, but the house itself had an amazing view over the old town. There was a garden with a lovely cushioned seating area. The Stanos children would often play on the grass and we were just made to feel very welcome.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik from our window

It was awesome having such a great view over the old town, and the old town in Dubrovnik was even more gobsmacking (I may reconsider this adjective later) than Splits. Being so high above the old town only meant one thing though, STAIRS. Obviously it was ok walking down to the old town, but walking back up the stairs after a big fat dinner was a challenge and a half. By the end of our time in Dubrovnik we would all be sporting so seriously ripped calf muscles.

That first night we simply went for a nice meal and a stroll through the old town. It was early evening so some people were still heading back from the beach, and the streets were heaving. Restaurant owners took every opportunity to stop us and try get us to eat at their place, but the place we settled on looked like a popular choice amongst locals, maybe it was a locals place, maybe they didn’t take too kindly to tourists because we sat there for almost 30 mins without being served. We upped and left a bit disappointed but soon found an Irish bar to sit down in and get a drink.

The old town (bored of those two words yet?) was intricate to say the least, I loved it for that reason, it was like a little maze, but it almost meant that each shop, bar, restaurant was incredibly stuffy. A portable fan might be needed if you’re not good with heat.

We spent our first full day on the beach. I’m not sure we found the biggest beach in the area, but this beach was nicely located and was overlooked by a cool bar/club which served good food during the day. The beach though was plagued with litter. Not great for little ones. The small rocks around the corner were even worse, broken bottle and fag ends everywhere. It was sad to see as the rest of Dubrovnik was so beautiful.

Whilst in Dubrovnik we took in another boat trip. Cant say I’d recommend one whilst it’s the high of summer. The boat was far too overcrowded and it was a real battle to get a drink or your food. Add to that the fact that a small cruise liner refused to give us right of way and almost sank our boat, I think we were all a little relived to step off the boat at the end of the day. That said, we did stop off at some nice little beaches along the way and had chance to take in some sun and explore some random ruins.

After a couple of days in Dubrovnik we boarded the sweaty coach back to Split. Another night in Split where two random guys broke into our room looking for their mate, and then it was back to the airport for the flight home. Bye bye Croatia, you are one beautiful country!

General Tips:

  • Book car hire early and there is massive demand!
  • There is only a small (but improving) train service, car and bus are your best bet for seeing the country.
  • Croatia is hot, very hot, light clothing and lots of sun screen