the low down
What we did: We arrived in
Zagreb (the capital) by train and spent a few days there. Then
we left Croatia briefly and visited Ljubljiana, Slovenia, also
by train (see previous section).
After arriving back in Zagreb we took an overnight train to Split,
stayed a few days, and then headed out to the islands (see below).
Then we bussed down the coast, stopping for a night here and night
there, and finished up in Dubrovnik.
Overall: This country is beautiful.
Zagreb is a charming capital city, busting with interesting architecture.
And if you’re a water person or are into sailing, then Croatia
has lots to offer: an incredibly beautiful coast, warm water,
and plenty of beaches and islands to explore. It’s no wonder
the Italians descend on it in high season. We didn’t go
inland for hiking this time, but we’ve seen pictures and
heard a lot about Croatia’s lush interior, so there’s
plenty more to this country than we managed on this visit. All
the locals we spoke with said that this is their biggest year
for tourists since the end of the war.
at Komiza (on Vis Island)
Essentials: If you’re
coming during high-season, make sure you pack your own sunblock;
a bottle can cost as much as $40US. Bathing suits are also in
high-demand this time of year so there aren’t many to choose
from during the peak months.
Accomodations: Even in peak
season we were able to find a room without reservations. However,
most of the best oceanfront rooms are reserved in advance.
Food: Well... the food around
the country is mediocre at best. It draws upon the cuisines of
many of their neighboring countries. We were consistently disappointed
when eating in restaurants and cafes. Of special note were the
breads and pastries… the stuff we sampled was not very interesting.
That said, we were given (on multiple occasions) the yummiest
figs we’ve ever tasted!
People: Generally very friendly.
Most locals we met did not speak English and a good many of the
people renting rooms spoke Italian or German. We’ve read
in many places that the Croatians can be mean to tourists. While
we’re sure that this happens (as does in most countries
that become quickly popular), we didn’t experience this;
the vast majority of our interactions were very pleasant and friendly.
the old city
wall in Split
Standard of Living: It’s
good, but not great. Life hasn’t been the same for Croatians
since the war. We’ve heard from locals that things are getting
better, especially with the rise in tourism.
Exchange rate: $1 USD = 6
Daily budget: During the high-season
the cost of housing and food in some areas is more expensive than
Italy. Outside the tourist areas, goods/housing is cheaper but
definitely not cheap. An apartment/room for two cost us about
300 Kuna per night ($50 USD) while a roasted chicken at the grocery
store is about 30 Kuna and a meal at a pizzeria is about $15-$20
US. Many places will charge 30% more if you stay less than 3 nights.
What's fabulous: All of the
coastline and islands! The islands all have different personalities
and attractions. Some are very crowded and have a see-and-be-seen
feel while others are secluded locals-only types. They’re
both fun, and worth visiting. Zagreb, the inland capital, is also
a wonderful city, easy to explore, and beautiful.
Weather: During high-season
it’s perfect (in our opinion): sunny, hot and dry during
the day and cool and dry at night.
Getting around: There are
convenient trains from outside the county to Zagreb, and it’s
also an easy train ride from Zagreb to the coast. Then you can
take a multitude of buses up and down the coast, but it’s
a long north-south journey and traveling between the larger cities
takes several hours. Taking the ferry to nearby islands is easy,
but you may have to plan ahead since ferries to the less frequented
islands sometimes run only once or twice a week. Once you have
arrived in a city or town, you can pretty much manage on foot.
Having an apartment: It’s
especially convenient here because food isn’t cheap and
it’s not that good. Being able to cook for yourself is a
big bonus. Also, this country doesn’t eat more than a croissant
and coffee for breakfast so if you want to eat breakfast you’ll
have to make it yourself or pay a lot for an English breakfast.
|Specific places we visited/things we
Street in Zagreb
- Zagreb: Many people say it’s just like a small
Vienna, which isn’t especially helpful if you’ve
never been to Vienna. But based on the that description,
Vienna must be really nice. This is one of the nicest capital
cities we’ve visited, with especially beautiful architecture.
As a bonus, it’s small enough to explore on foot,
which is great.
- Split: Thhe major launching point to the islands. We stayed
for a couple of days, but if we were to do it again, we
probably wouldn’t bother. It makes more sense to either
spend more time in Zagreb or simply jump out to the islands
right away. There’s nothing wrong with Split, but
it simply wasn’t as interesting to us, and it was
pretty darn crowded with tourists. Ironically, it was one
of the most difficult places for us to find a satisfactory
- Jelsa (on Hvar Island): Two towns east of the hustle and
bustle of Hvar Town, it’s a small village with lots
of beauty. We spent a few days here completely relaxed,
sitting by the sea, soaking in the positive ions, and pondering
whether we should sell all our possessions and buy a little
shack here to live and fish. One of our favorite places.
- Hvar Town (on Hvar Island): A cosmopolitan (at least
relatively) resort city that is frequented by movie stars
and many, many beautiful Italians. It’s the kind of
place that stomps on a limited-wardrobe-traveler’s
self-esteem. Life centers around the restaurants and cafes
in the square next to the harbor, and the nearby beaches.
In high-season it is bursting at the seams. No reservations
were possible. Even though the rest of Croatia might be
pouring rain, Hvar has some sort of wind pattern that keeps
- Komiza (on Vis Island): Vis Island is more difficult to
get to so it’s much less touristed than the other
big islands. Komiza is a pleasant and very small town that’s
compact and quiet. Its center is just a strip of harbor
surrounded by some very small rock beaches. Even though
it’s high season there are lots of rooms available.
There’s one hotel on the beach, but we just stayed
in a private rental with a kitchenette.
- Vis Town (on Vis Island): Vis Town is a bigger than Komiza,
with more tourists, but still not very crowded. There are
more rooms for rent, but ours was farther from the town
center than the one we found in Komiza. We had a lot of
fun renting a tiny boat and exploring the nearby coast and
small islands, but all in all we probably liked Komiza better
because it was very homey and intimate.
- Brela: A small town on the northern border of what is
considered the “Makarska Riviera.” It’s
not as crowded and developed as Makarska and we think it’s
much nicer. The beach is long and skinny, and runs all along
the bay. The bus that goes down the coast drops you off
on the main road and then it’s about a 15 minute steep
descent to town. There isn’t anyone touting at the
bus station (in fact, there’s not really a station
at all for the bus that we took, though there is a small
one in town where buses to nearby towns stop) and it’s
not really a place set up for the backpacking type yet.
Most owners and pensions do not want to rent to you unless
you are staying for a week. We witnessed some of the most
beautiful pink, blue and purple sunsets we’ve ever
- Dubrovnik: The city on a hill. A very, very, very steep
hill that requires one to climb many, many, many stairs.
It was 519 stairs
(not steps!) from our guest house down to the area of restaurants/grocery.
Walking the city walls is nice. Life is centered all around
the Old Town. We took a day trip Lokrum, a sharp-rocked
beach in a nature preserve. Although the city was nice we
didn’t feel that we needed to spend much time here.
Lokrum isn’t that nice compared to the other islands
we visited; it’s mostly set up as a day trip for Dubrovnik
tourists, though we did stumble upon a nude beach if that’s
- Lokrum: A tiny island off the cost of Dubrovnik (10 minute
ferry ride). We spent most of our half-day here wandering
around trying to find a good beach. The place seems somewhat
magical, partially because it's like a little fairyland,
but mostly because it seems like whatever path we took,
we seemed to arrive right back at the nudist beach (which
is supposed to be the difficult one to find). Don't ask
how we managed to get lost on the smallest island in the
world, but we did. All in all, we think you can probably
skip this one if you've visited some of the other Croatian
Check out the croatia
gallery for pix of all the above!