If you have read some of my previous posts you would know about my Top 4 favourite countries in Europe - This is the fourth! I do not think there is a word to describe how underrated this country is. In fact, the most famous country near the Adriatic sea is Italy, but there are 8 other gems "hidden" on that side of the continent.
Hrvatska means Croatia in the local language. My intention through this article is to convince my readers why I think Croatia is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. I can almost speak from experience when I have visited Malta - Thanks to COVID, I have been postponing the finale of my European trip but a topic for another article perhaps...
Getting to Croatia
There are a few hub airports in Croatia aside from the capital, Zagreb, and they are Dubrovnik, Split, Pula among others so the choice is entirely yours - You can also fly to the eastern side of Italy or southern region of Slovenia and drive towards Croatia. In my case, I landed to Dubrovnik and realised quite late in the game that Dubrovnik is not connected to the rest of the country and one must cross two Bosnian borders to get to the mainland: One thing to bear in mind while booking your flights.
Generally, most of the coastal cities are within less than 3 hours from London and there are loads of options, even for the same destinations. Once again, I rented a small car and made my way up to Split.
Where to stay?
I have mainly stayed in an AirBnB on this occasion but also tried Grgur Ninski Rooms, which I fell in love with for the vintage look. It is also just a stone throw away from the beach. To be frank almost everything in Split is very easily commutable.
There are so many alternatives around Split, you can try also Trogir and Makarska to widen your options.
Although I spent a day in Dubrovnik, I have not really visited the city. That is due to my flight having delays and the rental company closing just before I arrived to pick the car. I could not find any suitable booking that night and had to just lay somewhere on a bench outside the airport. Some guys even gave me loads of bottles of alcohol because they could not pass through security with it and thought it could help me with the windy night - The only hiccup for that was that I could not turn down their kind gesture but do not drink alcohol. Folks, there is still hope in humanity!
Although I have not visited the city much, there were a few places I wish I had the chance to see.
The city walls
If you watched Game of Thrones you’ll recognise a few locations from the world-famous series. The walls were built in the 600s however were further developed in the 15th century in preparation for the invasion of the Ottomans.
The cable cart
The top of Mount Srd offers probably the best view of Dubrovnik, sitting over 400 metres above the city and reachable via a cable cart.
I always enjoy the look I get from people when I tell them one of my favourite cities in Europe is called Split. I think the publicity Paris, London, or Rome have enjoyed is unmatched by others like Istanbul, Interlaken, Reyjavik or Split (my Top 4) but not for lack of wowing effect for I think there is a lot more to enjoy from my Top 4 than in the western capitals. This is purely down to preference but I'd strongly advise you to give these places a chance and you will not regret it one bit.
You just have to love the brick roads and narrow paths around the island...
A particularly loved walking by the bay at night, seeing the colours from afar...
Marina Nava Split
The marina is often busy with boat crew working on the maintenance of the over 40 charter yachts. It also has a cozy cafe that serves nice food with a view.
I think I spent the whole morning just gazing through the activities around the marina...
Krka National Park
Named after the Krka River, the park spans over 140 km² and contains a few waterfalls, the main one being the Skradinski Buk falls. There is also a tiny island call Visovac. It would definitely take a 1/4 of a day to go around the main attractions of the park so plan for a day trip if you ever plan to visit.
There are around 15 waterfalls so plenty of photography spots to choose from...
You can also take a dip right beneath Skradinski Buk falls so make sure you bring your kit
Entrance fee: 200kn/£24/€27/$30
Biokovo Nature Park
One of of my favourite spots, Biokovo Nature Park is the most imposing landmark on the southern Dalmatian coast.(1.5km over the Riviera) and offers an unequaled sight of Makarska and the nearby islands. Of course, I was not prepared as I turned up with flip flops to the suprise of most bypassers. On top of being the only black guy in the area, I'm sure this will be one thing I will be remembered for - The flip flop hiker!
This is the highest point of the park and on a clear day, one could see most of the islands
It felt like sitting on top of the world, a feeling only traveling can repetitively provide...
Entrance fee: 50kn/£6/€7/$8
A tiny old town in the midst of the beautiful Dalmatian region. It has a mix of baroque and Romanesque vibe without taking away the Croatian heritage. I can confidently say it is the prettiest city in the region. I went to visit the Cathedral of St. Lawrence, a building that made it to the UNESCO World Heritage list. The edifice is somewhat a representation of Trogir as it has Gothic, Venetian, Romanesque, and a bit of Renaissance heritage.
The 47m high tower is the tallest in Trogir has lived through four centuries of building and destruction with the numerous invasion that took over the region.
The Trogir bay is just another wowing factor to the city. One could walk for ages around it
This photo is a homage to the great football team which represented Croatia at the 2018 FIFA world cup where they earned even more respect than the champions...
I hope my pledge for Croatia and other underrated countries would spark your interest to give them a chance and perhaps make it higher in your travel list. There are plenty of amazing activities I could not do while there such as visiting the blue caves or the islands of Vis, Brač, or Hvar. Needless to say that I will be returning to Split very soon... As always, feel free to reach out should you need any tip or help planning your next trip.
Until next time...