This blog will highlight one of the most amazing trips we have had.
You can click on pictures to enlarge them.
We spent 3 weeks in Croatia, known as Hrvatska to the locals. It is in Central/Southeast Europe along the Adriatic Sea and is just east of Italy, south of Slovenia, west of Bosnia, and north of Greece.
The country has a population of just over 4 million and was part of Yugoslavia until 1991, so you will see many amazing old forts and churches in this blog.
Overall feel of the country - you couldn't find a bad picture, bad food, bad wine, or bad people. They rely on tourism and you can see why. The country is extremely scenic with turquoise water, beautiful trees and mountains, and the historic cities. We will discuss some of the incredible food as well!
Masks were optional the entire stay, unless you went into a shop. A refreshing 'escape' from Covid!
Here we go...
We flew through Frankfurt into Zagreb, Croatia, then spent 5 days in Northern Croatia before driving south to Split for a 7 day cruise and then a few more days in Split.
There are many amazing pics and videos to share the story...enjoy!
Northern Croatia - Istria
We spent 5 days in Istria, the northern part of Croatia located just south of Slovenia and a couple hours from Venice. We had a great resort just north of Rovinj.
We visited Pula on the south side to see the Pula Arena, a Roman amphitheatre built out of limestone between 27BC and 68AD. In fact, they still use it and were taking down the stage from an opera show the night before. Quite a sight to see!
Rovinj is a small coastal town with about 15,000 people. There is an awesome old town area filled with shops, restaurants, and many boat excursions (many dolphin tours!). Incredible people watching. We enjoyed the hike up the hill to St. Euphemia's Basilica which can be viewed from high above. Was interesting to see the remnants from the previous night, with vodka and orange juice at the entrance to the church!
We will be back to this area!
Drive from Istria to Split, pit stop in Zadar
We took the 5.5 hour drive south through the mountains from Northern Croatia to Split. Beautiful drive through forested mountains going through tunnel after tunnel. They have many tunnels, some up to 6km long, going through the mountains...not around them. Can't imagine the work involved in that project!
We stopped in Zadar, a coastal city with a fort, marina, and nice peninsula. We saw the famous Sea Organ, which is a series of tubes under the marble boardwalk that takes the sea current and wind to make organ-like sounds. The video is below and a bit windy, but you get the point.
After lunch and a beer, on to Split to meet up with Hayden & Christy, friends from Saudi, to see Split and get ready for our cruise tomorrow! Split is in the Dalmatia region of Croatia, which has a much different landscape that the mountainous and forested north.
Split is Croatia's 2nd largest city (next to Zagreb) with a population of 180,000. We visited the Old Town area and Diocletian's Palace, then settled into the live music at the park before heading to bed to rest up for boarding the cruise.
Day 1: Split Arrival, Saturday
We packed our bags and went to the port to drop them off to be loaded onto the Bella yacht.
Then off for drinks to get prepared before boarding at 1PM. Got settled onto the boat for unpacking, then drinks and a Welcome Dinner with everyone.
We had 40 people on board plus the crew:
The boat was amazing - lots of space, great bar & dining area, a plunge pool, and a hot tub.
We have been on 3 large cruises before - they often port at 7am and leave between 4-6pm. We were really excited that this trip would be different, as we would be getting stops in small towns, swim stops, stops at national parks, as well as being able to enjoy the evenings, as the boat would not set sail until 7am on most mornings.
The pics will tell the rest of the story...
Day 2: From Split to Bol (Island Brač) to Stari Grad (Island Hvar), Sunday
We stop in Bol, a small town on Island Brač, with optional swim at the Golden Horn if weather permits, enjoy the 530 m long golden pebble beach said to be the best in Croatia. It is unique since it changes shape and position depending on the winds.
Return to the boat for lunch and then head to Stari Grad. Stari Grad is one of the oldest towns in Europe with many friendly and cheap konobas and restaurants in the backstreets of the old town. The Stari Grad Plain and the old town centre of Stari Grad have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2008. Your evening is free to explore Stari Grad on your own.
So that was the summary of the day (from our itinerary).
Bol was a small town with really cool seats on the promenade to sit and enjoy wine or other drinks. Very nice!
We made our first swim stop in the Adriatic Sea - a bit cold but very refreshing from the heat. It was great to jump from the boat, float, and they even had a seadoo that could be lowered from the top of the boat (see the video later!)
Stari Grad had a really cool Old Town area with nice restaurants with gardens. We chose to visit Dionis Restaurant after hearing raving reviews. Very cool place!
They picked us up and brought us back in vans. The restaurant is actually a farm in central Hvar Island. They use a wood oven and put tons of beef, potatoes, and other vegetables into a metal pan, cover it, and then put the burning wood on top. They cover it for 2 hours while you enjoy their local wines. The homemade bread (see the pics and video) and food was amazing.
All you could eat and drink for $25. Wow!
After that...lights out!
Day 3: Stari Grad to Hvar Town (both on Island Hvar) then to Korčula, Monday Morning departure towards to the town of Hvar on the island of Hvar, the most popular island in the Adriatic and a meeting point for the international jet set. A sightseeing tour of this charming town, with 8 centuries of architecture, will show you the picturesque little streets and the first public theatre in Europe (older than Shakespeare’s theatre in the UK). Afterwards we set sail for Korčula, with swimming stop in one of the pristine bays and lunch onboard. Early afternoon arrival to Korčula, thought to be the birthplace of the famous explorer Marco Polo. Take a walking tour through this fortified town which is one of the best- preserved medieval cities in the Mediterranean and enjoy wine tasting in one of the local wine bars. Your evening is free to discover the town and enjoy dinner on your own at one of the many good restaurants.
In Hvar, after a tour, we climbed the hill to the Tvrdava Fortress - amazing views of the town. Beautiful place!
We also toured Korčula after wine tasting. Korčula was one of our favourites, enjoying the old town, built in a circle, with amazing restaurants on the outside along the water. On the way back to the boat, we came across Cocktail Bar Massimo which is on top of an old tower - very steep stairs and a small hole to climb through to get to the top but so worth it for the incredible views (check the videos!)
Day 4: Korčula to Dubrovnik, Tuesday In the morning sail to Dubrovnik, the “Pearl of the Adriatic”, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Upon arrival in Dubrovnik, you will enjoy a guided tour of the magnificent Old Town with a panoramic bus ride above the Old Town. After the panoramic view, we will arrive at the historical centre of Dubrovnik, walk through STRADUN – both a street and a square, the most famous place inside the town walls, the famous city enlisted as UNESCO’s World Heritage site, where your guide will show you the most interesting sights of Dubrovnik. After city tour, you will be left on your own to explore the city, visit City Walls, the Franciscan Monastery with Europe's second oldest pharmacy, the Rector's Palace and the Cathedral, take a boat ride to Lokrum island or take the cable car to the top of the Mount Srđ. Overnight in Dubrovnik.
Had a beautiful swim stop on our long trip to Dubrovnik. Lisa enjoyed the stand up paddle boarding.
Dubrovnik was an amazing city we wished we could have spent more time in - a medieval fortress from the 7th century that is incredible to see ... pictures do not do justice!
Had a great tour and then wandered to see some bars on our hit list - Buza Bar on the cliff, Katie O'Connors Irish Pub, and the Cave Bar at Hotel More. Also had a great pizza at Pizzeria Oliva!
Hope to get back to see more of this city!
Day 5: Dubrovnik to Mljet to Lastovo, Wednesday
Today we turn our compass back north towards Mljet Island, with plenty of time for morning swim along the sail. Upon arrival join the Cruise Manager for a visit to the famous salt lakes in the National Park and enjoy the boat ride to St. Mary Isle to visit an ancient Benedictine monastery, an old abbey and a Church dating back to the 12th Century. Mljet National Park encompasses five types of forest, many species of birds, and two deep lakes, Veliko Jezero (Big Lake) and Malo Jezero (Small Lake). At lunchtime we continue towards Lastovo, an island known for its Venetian architecture from the 15th and 16th centuries. Along with Mljet, Lastovo is the most forested Croatian island with more than 70% of the forested area, and in 2007 Lastovo was declared a Nature Park.
The pics will tell the story of the beautiful National Park on Mljet Island as well as the great stop we made at Lastovo in the small bay. Awesome day!
Day 6: Mljet to Vela Luka (Island of Korčula) to Vis, Thursday Morning we sail north towards the island of Vis, stopping in Vela Luka on the island of Korčula, the birthplace of Olivera Dragojevic, a famous Croatian singer. Vela Luka is a quiet Mediterranean town, facing traditional agriculture, fishing, and tourism. At lunchtime we continue towards Vis once a strategic naval Yugoslav base and closed to the public. Due to this isolation, Vis has a special charm – “the Mediterranean as it once was” making it really interesting to visit. Upon arrival in town of Vis join the walking tour to visit the remains of the Roman thermal place and views of the beautiful Villae Rusticae situated along the waterfront. Overnight in Vis. Tonight enjoy Captain’s dinner onboard.
We enjoyed our stop in Vela Luka, a quiet place with a very nice marina area. The swim stop was nice, especially with the big naval ship. Then over to Vis Island.
We cabbed across from Vis town to Komiza, on the west side of the island. Beautiful old town along the water. Then back to Vis, where we came across the very strange practice of the Hash House Harriers (see the video!). Enjoyed a few drink stops, and then back on board for the Captain's Dinner.
Day 7: Vis to Biševo to Split, Friday We will have an early morning cruise towards small island of Biševo to visit the Blue cave, a magnificent natural phenomenon. As sometimes weather conditions can be very unpredictable, the possibility of our visit will depend on those conditions, however you will be notified of this on time. Enjoy a relaxing cruise as we sail towards the island of Hvar, with swim stop in one of the secluded bays. We will continue towards Split this UNESCO World Heritage city bases the city centre in and around the stunning Diocletian’s Palace, the Roman emperor Diocletian’s retirement palace from 295–305 AD. Stroll through the palace basement filled with market stalls and outside experience the historical architecture of this beautiful palace. See the remnants of Split`s Roman heritage, it`s Renaissance and Gothic structures, Jupiter`s temple, the Peristyle and many other unique sites. Overnight in Split.
We woke up and got ready for the trip to Blue Cave, which is amazing to see. Last day on the boat was a bit sad, as it was an amazing trip with great people.
Enjoyed our last swim stop and a tour in Split, including trying the food at the famous Kantun Paulina - the Croatian ćevapčići, which is a sandwich containing beef/pork sausages, onion, tomato sauce, and cream cheese. So good we returned 3 times over the next few days!
Back to the park for some cocktails and live music, then back onto the boat for our last sleep there.
Day 8: Split Departure, Saturday
After breakfast, it’s time to disembark. Said sad goodbyes to the crew, and friends we met from the US, Switzerland, Denmark, Hungary, Albania, Slovenia, and Croatia.
AN AMAZING TRIP!
And it isn't over yet.
Took a cab to our hotel, chilled at the beach (with 1L mojitos), then off to an Irish Pub to watch the Lions/Springboks rugby match with Hayden & Christy.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
We took a day tour to Plitvice Lakes national park, which is one of the oldest parks in Croatia and became a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1979.
It is at the top of the list of "things to see/do" in Croatia. And we can see why!
An amazing hike around the 16 lakes that cascade via 90+ waterfalls.
The pics and videos will do the talking...
Pirate Boat trip to Blue Lagoon
We took a pirate boat on our last day with Hayden & Christy, sailing to Necujam, Maslinica, Ciovo, and the Blue Lagoon.
The trip included many drinks and many swim stops. The sea legs were a bit wobbly afterwards - not sure if it was from the water or the pirate cocktails!
Afterwards, we enjoyed a cheese-infused steak and a tasty pizza at Bakra. Great place!
Spent our last day in Split doing some shopping, some beach time, and an early night sleep for our 3am wake up call to head to the airport!
August 18-September 8 - Canada
Finally, we are getting a chance to get back home to see friends and family!
Aug 18-22 - in Edmonton. Visiting with everyone...and an outdoor Alan Doyle & Blue Rodeo concert!
August 22-24 - driving the Jasper to Banff highway along the Rocky Mountains (we have never done this!)
August 24-Sept 8 - in Calgary - excited to have Lisa's mom join us, as well as Jeff's dad (hopefully!). And a great chance to connect with friends in "our last Canadian home"
CAN NOT WAIT to see you all!!!
Sept 23-25 - long weekend - no plans yet ... maybe Doha or Dubai
Nov 11-15 - no plans yet
November 29-December 8 - no plans yet
December 29-January 3 - no plans yet
Thanks for joining our Croatia journey via the blog...hope to see you can join in person when we go again next time.
Stay safe everyone...see you soon!
All posts are updated by Jeff & Lisa