We all have our bucket lists when it comes to travel, right? But you know that destination that has never crossed our mind? It can also surprise you. Croatia was one of those destinations. I never cared a lot about it, I didn’t know anything about it – until my sister booked a trip there and invited us to. She sent me five pictures of places that we would be visiting, and I was sold. We were there between August 29th and September 2nd, and I’ll tell you more about this trip on this post. But, as my sister got there before and visited a few different places before we arrived, I invited her to collaborate with this post and, thus, offer complete content with tips about Croatia. So, from day 1 to day 4, the text is hers, and then I take over.
What you need to know about Croatia
- Currency – Croatia’s official currency is the kuna. I recommend bringing some cash. Remember that many establishments do not accept euros. Also, if you’re in a group and plan to split the bill at restaurants, let the waiter know when ordering. It’s bizarre, but they can’t split the bill in the end.
- Weather – we were in Croatia between the end of August and the beginning of September. It was late summer, but it was still very hot. But because we were on the coast, there was always a breeze.
- Language – in most places, we had no difficulty speaking English to communicate – but in many restaurants, I found the description of the dishes on the menus to be very poor.
- Immigration – we landed in Dubrovnik, and immigration was super smooth, we were not asked anything at all.
Day 1 – Split – Zadar -Plitviče
On the first day of the trip, we flew early from Paris and arrived in Split, where we picked up the car (we booked in advance) and went straight to the road. That day, we would sleep near the Plitvice lakes. On the way, we made a detour to visit Zadar, and we had a lunch break in the city. We went from Split to Zadar by the toll-free route, which is longer, but allows us to know a little more about the country, passing close to the Adriatic coast.
Something very important when organize a trip to Croatia is to know that the main older towns are big… but these cities also have an area known as the Old Town, which is the oldest, walled part. We had the opportunity to visit the old cities of Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik, and Trogir.
For obvious traffic reasons, it is impossible to enter the walled town area by car. Therefore, there needs to be a minimum of organization if you decide to stay inside the old city – after all, it is necessary to walk with your luggage to the old city – and, if you are not a minimalist, this can become a big problem. Another essential point to consider, if you are traveling by car is to prepare to leave the car in a parking lot. They aren’t hard to find, but it’s pretty common for them to get crowded early and you can’t find a spot.
Arriving in Zadar, we left the car in the parking lot near the entrance to the old city and went straight to the restaurant 4 Kantunato have lunch – this was a friend’s recommendation. I had a quinoa patty with vegetables and hummus, and my husband, Nicholas, had pizza. Croatian cuisine is heavily influenced by Italian cuisine – geography and history explain. Fish and seafood are also very present. I’m a vegetarian, and I didn’t have many problems eating… in this meal, everything was perfect and the service was excellent. Zadar was the first city we visited in the country, and we were very impressed with the contrast of the super blue sky against the white stones used in the buildings, in the streets… it’s gorgeous… and also very hot!
We were short on time, as the idea was to drive to the Plitviče lake region, so we strolled around the old town for a while, stopping in the shade for some refreshments, as well as ice cream. We love to see the “Sea Organ”, which is basically a musical instrument… played by the sea! There are a set of marble steps at the water’s edge, and below them are the organ pipes… which create harmonic sounds as the waves move. It may seem silly to some people, but I really loved going there, even with the sun beating down on us.
After resting for a while, we took the car towards the lakes of Plitviče. From Zadar, it took us a little over two hours to get to the place where we stayed – a hostel in the village of Selište Drežničko, close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. We chose to stay in this location, specifically, because it is very close to entrance 1 of the national park. We won’t name the hostel here as we didn’t have a very good experience there, but it’s not hard to find accommodation in that area!
Anyway, despite the negatives of the accommodation, the location was very convenient.
Day 2 – Plitvice Lakes National Park & Split
On the second day of the trip, we woke up very early, had breakfast, put the luggage back in the car, packed our backpacks with sandwiches and water bottles, comfortable shoes, sunscreen, hat… and drove to the parking lot at the entrance 1 of the park. At 7 am we were there This is where you might be asking yourself: “but why start the day so early?”. Calm down, I’ll explain because the answer involves some practical reasons.
The first reason is that the national park is a very popular destination and we were there in August – the high season. This means that, even though we got there at 7am, we weren’t alone… at the same time, several cars arrived. As it was early, the parking lot was still relatively empty – so, it was an early bird advantage. The second good thing about starting this tour early is that it is much more pleasant (in my opinion) to visit tourist places when these places are not already crowded. In the case of the Plitviče lakes, this makes even more sense.
If you’ve never heard of this place, sit tight and I’ll tell you a little.
Plitvice Lakes National Park – or Plitvička jezera in Croatian, is a 20,000-hectare (295-sq.-km) park in the heart of the Balkans. The main feature of this park, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, is the 16 lakes located there. Can you imagine a place with 16 lakes? Okay, now, think that each of these lakes is on different levels, joined by waterfalls, that extend into a limestone canyon. At first, it may seem that everything is very similar… but the characteristics of depth, size, the incidence of light and the amount of minerals and microorganisms… result in the most diverse and exuberant shades of green and blue. Extremely crystalline. To walk between the lakes or cross them, the park has super stable wooden walkways or paths that follow along the banks. There is also the possibility of crossing one of the great lakes by boat and also using a shuttle service. I’ll talk more about that now.
After parking the car and purchasing the tickets (300 kunas per adult), we entered the park and chose the route we would take. There are many options, and we chose a route that would take approximately 4 hours. After several breaks to enjoy the views and for photos, it took us about 5 hours to finish the planned route. We read some blogs and articles about the itineraries to do inside the park, and we discovered that, although entrance 1 and entrance 2 allow access to the same places, the route from entrance 1 is more interesting because the waterfalls are always in front of you. We don’t regret it! During the morning, the temperature rose, and the park was getting crowded… so it was worth the effort to start the day early!
Around noon, we finished our trail and went back to the parking lot, and we went back to the coast, spending the afternoon on the road and then we decided to stop in Split for lunch and get to know the old city. After parking the car, we used the Happy Cow app to find a place with good vegan options, and we found Barakokula, in the old city. The food was really fantastic, I highly recommend it! Then, we explored some of the old city, Deocletian’s palace, the waterfront promenade… all amazing! Finally, we bought tickets for the famous island hopping tour for the next day. But we still had one more hour on the road until our next accommodation, in Makarska, where we stayed for three nights.
Day 3 – Island Hopping Tour
Another day that started very early, taking the road back to Split, from where the island hopping tour would leave. I won’t mention the name of the company we used it, as we didn’t like almost anything about the tour. The destinations were incredible and unforgettable, but we didn’t like the tour and the professionals involved. For this tour, sold as 5 Islands and Blue Cave Tour, we leave at around 7:30 am, heading to the island of Budikovac, where we stay for an hour. After that, we swam from the boat to Stiniva beach on the island of Vis, before heading to Biševo island to finally visit the Blue Cave – amazing! After that, we left for a break in Hvar for lunch. Again, we used the HappyCow app and found the BioMania restaurant. Great food. HappyCow is true love.
As it was very hot, after lunch, we enjoyed the beach in front of the restaurant, and then we walked around the city a little, looking for an ice cream spot. As ice cream is, for me, a serious matter, we passed in front of some ice cream shops, but nothing convinced us. And then we passed in front of the aROMA Gelato Boutique, and I decided it was the one. I got two scoops of ice cream, pistachio, and peanut butter. It was undoubtedly the best pistachio ice cream I’ve ever had, too good. The peanut butter one was amazing too. I wanted to go back there just to have those ice creams again. From there, we set off for the last stop, the lookout of Gališnik – where we stayed for an hour before heading back to Split to return to Makarska.
If you’re going on an island hopping tour, don’t forget to bring your bathing suit, towel, lots of sunscreen, and snorkel.
After three super intense and tiring days, we spent the day enjoying the beach in Makarska, from one beach to another, with a nap in between. I don’t even have a photo of that day, just to give you an idea. Then that’s it! The next morning, we woke up early to hit the road towards Dubrovnik and pick up Laura and Thiago at the airport! From now on, she will tell you what we did in the following days!
Day 5 – Dubrovnik
Thiago and I flew from Rome to Dubrovnik – our flight arrived around 10 am. Meiry and Nycollas picked us up at the airport, and we drove to the city. We had some time before checking in at our Airbnb, and the idea was to walk around the old town, but it turned out that we had a problem with the car and Meiry and Nycollas went to Hertz, back to the airport, to solve it, while Thiago and I stayed and had lunch. We were tired from the flight and still wearing airplane clothes. So, we found a restaurant nearby – Prora, which is located in a hotel on the beachfront. The food was ok, it was an expensive restaurant, I don’t know if I would go back. In the meantime, Meiry and Nycollas returned from the airport, and then we went to our Airbnb.
Although it was a little tricky to find the entrance and communication was slow, we found our Airbnb. The apartment/house had two bedrooms and two bathrooms + a small living room and a kitchen. It was equipped with air conditioning, a dishwasher and a washing machine (convenient since we were traveling with a carry-on only). Also, the view was just amazing, and we were 15 minutes walking from the old town and less than 10 minutes from a fantastic beach. After checking in, we rested and went to the beach. We were very close to Plaža Sveti Jakov, a paradise beach! If you ever visit Dubrovnik, prepare your legs. To go down to the beach, there were many stairs and to go back… you have to go up. But it’s worth it! This beach even had a free shower – and a bar. Ah, it’s worth remembering that the beaches in Croatia are not sand beaches – expect pebbles – it might be a good idea to buy those specific shoes to get in the water.
Later that day, we walked to Old Town and were impressed, everything was so beautiful! It is worth walking around there, and the place is very busy at night. We had dinner at Pizzeria Mamma Margherita, but honestly, I don’t recommend it, the pizza wasn’t that good – what was worth it was the Black Risotto that Thiago ordered. But take note of this tip: have gelato from Peppino’s! They have two locations in Dubrovnik and, seriously, the best gelato ever! I got two scoops: pistachio and Rafaello and OMG, I miss that gelato!
Day 6 – Dubrovnik
The next day, we went to the beach in the morning. One detail you should know is that we did some grocery shopping, so we had breakfast at the Airbnb and, on this day, we also cooked our lunch. We took advantage of the beautiful terrace to have lunch outside. We rested and, at the end of the day, we walked to the old town to visit the Walls of Dubrovnik – the ticket cost about U$26 – and this was an activity that was recommended in many of the articles we saw about Dubrovnik and really… it’s a must! Again, here’s the tip: prepare your legs because you will be walking up and down. It will take you about two hours to check the entire place, and I highly recommend going at the end of the day – the light was spectacular. And it’s all just beautiful, as you have a view of the old city, with its earthy roofs, and also of the Adriatic Sea. Just take this tour!
Afterward, we walked around the old town and had dinner at a lovely restaurant called Mama’s Pot Tavern. I ordered an amazing truffle pasta. Then, we walked more through the old city because every corner is fantastic. If you watch Game of Thrones, keep in mind that many scenes of the series were shot there. We had cocktails at The Bar, which has a very good drinks menu, and, of course, we ended the night with ice cream from Peppino’s.
Day 7 – Tučepi & Podgora
We had breakfast, checked out, and hit the road up to Podgora, where the other Airbnb we rented was located. It took us almost 3 hours traveling the coast of Croatia, seeing the Adriatic Sea and as much as I tried, my words wouldn’t be enough to describe that beauty. The day was beautiful, so the water was brilliant blue. Before arriving at Airbnb, we stopped in the city of Tučepi for lunch at Burger gin bar VERANDA, a restaurant with burgers and pizzas on the beachfront. The food was delicious!
Then we went to our Airbnb, which was amazing! An apartment with two bedrooms – one master bedroom – living room and kitchen integrated and a giant terrace overlooking the sea. Our host was very friendly and responsive. The apartment was brand new. Seriously, we love it so much!
Day 8 – Podgora & Makarska
Unfortunately, this was a rainy day and we ended up staying in the apartment. We only went out for lunch at 2 MONKEYS, a beachfront restaurant in Podgora. And at the end of the day, we drive to Makarska to have dinner there. The city is super charming – Meiry stayed there at the beginning of the trip. We walked around the streets and had dinner at Hrpina. The dishes here are super well served and the specialty is fish and seafood. We ended the night with ice cream from Botanovic Homemade Ice Cream, delicious!
Day 9 – Trogir & Split
This was our last day in Croatia – we arrived via Dubrovnik and would fly back to Rome from Split. Meiry and Nycollas had booked accommodation in Split, as they would return to Paris only the next morning, and we managed to leave our luggage there. After checking in, we went to Trogir, a super cute town that also has an old area. We chose the restaurant Vrata O Grada. Afterward, we drove to a nearby beach – honestly, if you open Google Maps you’ll find several beaches – we drove and stopped at the one with available parking.
After another afternoon at the beach, we went back to the accommodation to take a shower and have dinner before heading to the airport – our flight was only at 11 pm. We had dinner at Manufaktura Restoran-Pivnica – they had pasta, burgers, and pizzas on the menu and the food was delicious too!
And this was how our trip to Croatia ended! It was an amazing vacation in a beautiful destination!
Content creator and journalist in New York City. Here, I share lifestyle, beauty, NYC tips, thoughts, and the struggles about living in the most amazing city in the world! I’m not gonna pretend to be another person: I’m a Brazilian immigrant and I think this is my soul, it is part of who I am. I hope you enjoy my content! Follow me on Instagram!