9 Days in Croatia

In October of 2016, I traveled with my mother to Croatia with side trips into Slovenia and Bosnia for our annual mother-daughter trip. Please enjoy reading our itineraries and travel tips below!

1:55pm Arrive Zagreb/Take Taxi to Hotel

3:00pm Check into Hotel Dubrovnik

3:30pm Mimara Museum (open until 5pm)

5:00pm Archeological Museum (open until 6pm)

6:00pm Sunset from Zagreb Eye

6:45pm Explore Ban Jelacic Square/Dinner

7:30pm Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters (open until 9pm)

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After possibly the most seamless international flight ever and checking into our central hotel, we headed out for adventure. To enjoy the MOST perfect weather ever, we first explored the market in Jelacic Square…

  

…before soaking up some history at the Archeological Museum, where we saw the famous Zagreb mummy and longest Etruscan text. 

    

Next, we meandered through Zrinskog Park towards the Strossmeyer Gallery only to find it closed. 

But never fear, we opted instead to visit the Art Pavilion, where we witnessed a poignant and timely exhibition of Alberto Giocametti’s thin men sculptures juxtaposed with films about current war torn countries. No photos allowed.

Then our ramblings continued down the “green horseshoe” to get a view of the King Tomislav statue to pay tribute to the founder of Croatia. 

 

Noting the setting sun, we hurried towards the Zagreb Eye, where we intended to view the sunset over the city, but alas, the venue was closed for a wedding! Anyone who has traveled with me knows my obsession with a perfect sunset view, so mother and I started chasing the sun all over town, past the Cathedral…

  

…St. Mark’s Church…

 

…through the Stone Gate…

 

…and eventually found the perfect sunset view just in time at the top of the funicular! 

 

After we lost the sun, our next task was dinner, but we kept getting waylaid by the amazing free, public art exhibits all over this labyrinthine town! 

                     

We finally found a charming place to eat Adriatic Prawn Risotto under the watchful eye of the Cathedral and are now resting our weary feet and eyes back at our hotel. Check in tomorrow for more adventures!

 

 

7:30am Take Funicular on morning walk to Mirogoj Cemetery

8:00am Mirogoj Cemetery

10:00am Zagreb City Museum

12:00pm Visit Lotrscak Tower (booms at noon)

12:30pm Lunch

1:00pm Stone Gate and Bloody Bridge

1:30pm Zagreb Cathedral

2:00pm Art Pavilion/King Tomislav Statue

4:00pm Botanical Garden

5:30pm Marsal Tito Square/Croatian National Theater

6:00pm Dinner

7:00pm Museum of Illusions (open until 10pm)

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We began the day with a hearty breakfast, including the local cheese pastry we’ve been wanting to try. 

 

Though the day was rainy, we set out off the beaten path towards the Mirogoj Cemetery. The 2 mile uphill walk was pleasant and quiet – we have particularly enjoyed the lack of crowds here. 

 

Once at the cemetery, we meandered through the memorials and ornate crypts. Mom loved the buckeyes. 

                     

For our return trip, we serendipitously discovered several secretive urban greenways that landed us directly on the steps of the Zagreb City Museum just as they opened! 

  

The museum was a real treat, with many informative and interactive exhibits that filled in our historical gaps. 

   

Keeping an eye on the time, we raced to the Lotrscak Tower just in time to see the changing of the guards at Parliament and hear the boom of the tower’s cannon! 

  

Knowing the Mimara Museum closed at 2, we next dashed across town through the pouring rain to see an extensive private collection of art, including the Manet and Renoir pictured below.  

                    

A woman from the museum recommended a fantastic traditional restaurant nearby, so off we went to eat Pasticada and Cobanac at Stari Fijaker. 

 

Stuffed with delicious Croatian meats and beer, we headed for the Cathedral but again happened upon a unexpected treasure: a WW2 bomb shelter that traverses the city underground and provided a dry shortcut to our destination. 

 

The inside of the Cathedral was as beautiful as the outside, especially owing to musicians rehearsing. I somehow only took video…no pictures.

On our way back to the hotel to rest, we stopped in a little shop to sample the local aperitif: rakia. Yum… We bought some carab rakia for our journey. 


Now we’re resting and prepping to leave the city early in the morning for the Plitvice Lakes. Bok!

8:40am Bus to Plitvice Lakes

10:55pm Arrive Plitvice Lakes/Check into House Milan

12:00pm Lunch and Spend the Day at the Lakes (open until 8pm)

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What a day of beauty! Today, we departed Zagreb on the 8:40 bus to Plitvice Lakes, one of the most renowned places of beauty in the world. The lakes are known for their waterfalls and deep green color owing to limestone and calcium carbonate that prevent the formation of dirt in the lakes. You can see clear to the bottom! 

  

Despite the cold rain, we determined to enjoy ourselves, so we bought overpriced ponchos from the gift shop and set out! 

 

You’ll see from the pictures that all of the beauty runs together, but here are some highlights: 1) meeting Pablo from Chile, who accidentally dropped his phone in a lake and had to remove his jeans to fetch the waist deep treasure; 

 

2) a boat ride across Jezero Kozjak; 

 

3) amazing views; 

                        

4) hiking away from the crowds and getting alone time in the park;

  

5) (obvi) super gorgeous lakes and waterfalls! 

    

After we completed our tour, we ate an early dinner at a delicious local restaurant of trout stuffed with cheese, bacon, mushrooms, and rice… and homemade sausage. 

 

Next, we hiked up the highway to our Soba (room for rent): a sweet little home surrounded by rolling hills. 

  

We walked around the area some before heading back to enjoy sunset from our room while imbibing our carab rakia. 

 

Tomorrow, we head to Zadar on the coast: see you then!

9:30am Bus to Zadar

11:00am Arrive in Zadar/Check into Boutique Hostel Forum

12:00pm Lunch

12:30pm Zadar City Museum

1:45pm St. Anastasia Cathedral and Bell Tower climb

2:30pm Church of St. Donatus

3:00pm Rick Steve’s City Walk until Bike Tour

5:00pm 2.5 Hour Sunset Bike Tour

8:00pm Dinner

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We slept in just a bit before catching the 9:30 bus to Zadar, a ride that proved both beautiful and fruitful in that our friendly Croatian-Canadian co-riders shared some amazing travel tips with us. 

  

Upon arrival in Zadar, we walked through town from the bus station to our central old town hostel, where our “sea view” room was all ready and waiting. 

 

Since our hostel is literally across the footpath from the bell tower of St. Anastasia’s Cathedral, we started our visit with a 360 degree view of the 2,000 year old city. The area was originally founded by Octavian and has since been an important Adriatic port. 

  

After our viewing, we meandered through the old Roman streets to find lunch at a quaint cafe (omelet and cheese plate). 

    

We had planned on the city museum, but took the recommendation to visit the Ancient Glass Museum instead. It was…okay, but we had little time to ponder because we had to meet our sunset bike tour guide at 3pm! 

  

Our guide, local to the area, provided us ancient and recent historical context to understand the city. We rode nearly 15 miles around the outskirts of the city to see the many views, including an old quarantine island used during the Plague epidemic of the 13th century. 

   

The icing on the cake, however, was viewing the sunset from the sea organ, an instrument sounded by the movement of the waves. 

   

After a most wonderful sunset, we returned our bikes and headed back down the seaside promenade to enjoy more music and see the “Greeting to the Sun” solar panel installation. 

  

Finally, we found a delicious (and well earned) dinner of authentic Italian pizza and black cuddlefish Risotto (squid ink makes it black) before returning to our hostel to sleep. Tomorrow, we head to Split!

 

6:00am Early Breakfast/Walk to Bus Station

7:00am Bus to Split

10:00am Arrive in Split/Check into Hotel Adrianna/Request early breakfast

11:00am Split City Museum

12:00pm Lunch and Begin Rick Steve’s Walking Tour/Diocletian’s Palace, etc.

1:30pm Archeological Museum/Marjan Park

3:30pm 4 Hour Sunset Kayak Tour

7:30pm Dinner

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We rose early for a 7am bus to Split, dragging ourselves across the dark city to the bus station to grab coffee before the long ride along the coast. Our hotel was awesome enough to provide us a bag breakfast to enjoy on our journey. 

 

Upon arrival, we quickly walked along the harbour to the Riva (or promenade) on which we are staying with a safely accessible sea view! 

 

Once settled, we opted for another cup of coffee seaside before striking out on Rick Steve’s walking tour of old town, specifically Diocletian’s Palace. 

  

Too much history to recount here, but highlights include wandering the quaint streets..

                      

…an incredibly scary bell tower climb…

   

…yummy local fig and proseco chocolate…

 

…meeting the nun who manages the smallest church in the world (dedicated to the patron saint of soldiers)…

  

…buying more rakija from the market…

  

…eating pistachio gelato in the people’s square…

 

…and visiting the ethnographic museum with rooftop views over the palace vestibule. 

   

After our city tour, we rested in the room a spell before preparing for a sunset climb up the highest point in Marjan Park: the real Split Stairmaster! 

  

At the base of the park, Rick Steves recommended a traditional restaurant where we ate fresh sea bass, chard, and prawn risotto (with a little red wine…). 

   

Tomorrow, we head into Bosnia for the day. Adventures to follow…

7:00am Breakfast/Leave for Pickup

7:30am Mostar and Medjugorje Day Trip

6:30pm Dinner

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As we traveled today through a country devastated by a series of wars and listened to first hand accounts of the cost of dividing lines within a population, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to the lines we’ve been drawing in our own sands. Religious and ethnic differences have torn our world apart as long as our history books have recorded, creating nothing but devastation. It is time to learn from our history and unite rather than divide. 

Today was appropriately cold and rainy as we visited several locations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, we found great hope in the rejuvenation we saw within the country. 

Bosnians are a humorous and good-natured people. Our meals were delicious, our guides were informative, and our new (tour) friends were enjoyable.

Mostar:

                        

Waterfall our guide took us to…?

   

(As originally planned. See notes below on unexpected cancellation/changes.)

7:30am Breakfast/Pack Up/Check Out

8:00am Walk to Matejuska Harbour

8:30am 6 Island Tour, Blue Cave, and Wine Tasting Departure

10:00am Island bisevo (Blue cave)

11:00am Island Vis (Stiniva bay)

11:45am Island Ravnik (Green cave)

12:30pm Island Budihovac (Blue lagoon swimming and snorkeling + Lunch)

3:00pm Island Hvar (Hvar town)

6:00pm Island Brac (Milna, Winetasting)

7:30pm Arrival Split/Dinner

9:43pm Night Train to Zagreb  

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We were VERY excited about our 6 island cruise with lunch and wine tasting today, so rushed through breakfast and headed to the pier… And waited… And waited… Only to eventually call the tour company and find out they cancelled our trip due to the predicted rain! 

  

Determined to make lemonade out of our lemons, we found a boat line going to Trogir, a small medieval island city about an hour away. 

  

Despite the chilly rain, we thoroughly enjoyed the quaint, empty labyrinthine city streets. We wandered hither and thither, eventually making our way to the Cathedral for a pretty darn scary bell tower climb! Wet marble, few handrails, and stairs supported by old stones… thrilling yikes! 

        

Before catching the 2:30 boat back, we ate a delicious seafood lunch at a cute little enclave restaurant. 

 

During the ride back, the sun came out and stayed out for the rest of the day. 

  

We continued our meanderings in Split, even taking time to enjoy coffee at Luxor, the elite cafe right in the middle of Diocletian’s Palace. 

 

Next, we decided to walk along the harbour to search out a good sunset spot and found one in a churchyard on the cliffs. 

 

We are now enjoying a cheese plate in the lobby of our hotel before setting off for the night train to Zagreb, where we’ll arrive just in time to take a day tour into Slovenia tomorrow!

5:40am Arrive Zagreb/Walk to Hotel

6:00am Drop Luggage at Hotel Dubrovnik/Freshen Up/Breakfast

7:30am Arrive at Park Zrinjevac (10 minute walk from hotel)

8:00am Ljubljana and Bled Day Tour Departure

10:00am Arrive at Lake Bled.

11:30am Walking Tour of Ljubljana.

1:00pm Free time for lunch.

3:00pm Ljubljana Castle/60 second funicular

4:30pm Departure to Zagreb

6:00pm Dinner/Celebrate Croatian Independence Day!

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After a bumpy night train back to Croatia’s interior, we were very relieved that our Zagreb hotel would let us check in (and shower) at 6am with enough time for breakfast at our now usual table before meeting a tour group bound for Slovenia. 

 

We were joined by only one other Malaysian man, a finance professor who loves to travel as much as we do. Our guides Filip and Andrija were hilarious and incredibly informative throughout the day. 

 

We first visited Lake Bled for stunning views of this one time medieval castle turned 19th century resort. 

   

Filip, though a proud Croatian, did acquiesce that the Lake Bled Slovenian cream cake is far superior to that in his homeland, so we shared a piece while sitting at the top of the castle with amazing views. 

 

We also sampled local honey and rakija. 

  

Next, we headed to the capital, Ljubljana, where we were met by an additional local guide, Zalinka, who gave us a two hour walking tour of this prosperous and modern, yet historic city. Highlights include the many bridges…

    

…the castle/funicular ride…

 

…and enjoying the Saturday ambiance of the city while eating local sausage and roasted chestnuts. 

  

Once back in Zagreb, we enjoyed an early night and set no alarm for an itinerary free day tomorrow!

Open Itinerary!

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Today we set no alarm and attended to no itinerary. Ahhh. 

 

We had a final Croatian wish list and managed to get them all done, including visiting the Museum of Naive Art…

 

 

 

 

…Botanical Gardens…

  

…and finding Venus (part of a city-wide at-scale art installation of the solar system). 

 

 

 

We also happened upon the changing of the guard up close while searching for the oldest pharmacy in Croatia (circa 1335). 

 

  

 

The Zagreb marathon was today, so we also got to watch runners while we contemplated all the food and wine we wanted to consume prior to departure. 

 

 

 

We were fortunate in finding a large supermarket to buy most of our souvenirs (wine, coffee, rakija, and olive oil) and dinner fare for an early night. 

 

 

 

As we waited for sunset, we found some local craft brew recommended by our guide yesterday.

 

 

 

We then souvenir shopped before visiting the Zagreb Eye for sunset views. 

 

  

 

We are now eating our Croatian supermarket booty while packing for our journey home. It’s been a great trip and we truly thank you all for following along on our adventure!

 

  

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