Croatia has recently been on a lot of up-and-coming lists, and deservedly so. This small country along the Adriatic offers so many unique experiences, coupled with great food, stunning natural wonders and super-cheap prices.
We stumbled across the town of Karlovac when we were on our way to Plitvice Lakes National Park. It turned out to be a completely unexpected gem of our journey. The town had been hit quite hard in the war and many buildings still had pockmarks of gunfire. It’s set on the convergence of two rivers. Residents of the town congregate at both rivers, fed by the same mineral-rich water that makes Plitvice look so other-worldly.
If you follow the perfectly clear waters of this river, you’ll come to Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is like being on another planet. The water is translucent, an icy blue to a frothy green. The scenery changes abruptly from lush, waterlogged ferns and moss to sheer cliff faces to caves that go in every direction. Having been to a great many national parks around the world, I can safely say I’ve never seen anything remotely like this place. Although it’s quite far from the more popular coastal towns, this unusual UNESCO World Heritage Site is well worth the extra effort to get there.
Of course, the coast is popular for good reason. Towns like Pula, Rovinj, Sibenik and Split have it all, from protected waterways that were homes to former politicians and were used to entertain the rich and famous of the world to Roman ruins just hanging out next to a grocery store. Croatia’s slowly increasing popularity allows it to not take things too seriously. Even though many restaurants have menus in English, the country still sees itself as a workaday place, rather than purely a tourist attraction.
Many people go to Hvar, off the coast near Split. We found a better deal on the small island of Brac. In the evenings, people walk down the long, white-stone promenade in to the small town of Bol at the harbour. Along the other side of the island is the famous Zlatni Rat, a beach that juts out into the sea dramatically. The area is hugely popular with kitesurfers, and watching them is a great way to pass the time.
It’s not expensive to get to Croatia, simply use the trick of flying to any major city in Europe on a good sale and then booking a low-cost flight out of there. A growing number of airlines fly from London to Split, Dubrovnik and Zagreb.