Part 3 of our road trip. The rough road trip outline would allow us to Explore the Dolomites, swing by Slovenia to visit Predjama Castle, make our way down to Plitvice National Park Croatia, then travel the coast to Split and all the way down to Ploce; hop on the ferry to Trpanj and drive the island all the way down to Dubrovnik where we would meet up with some friends from Sweden. A little more than two weeks to drive what looked like a very short distance turned out to be just a taste of what these amazing, espresso driven and lavender filled countries have to offer. This post is about CROATIA!
Plitvice National Park, Croatia
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
Simply magical and life changing. The wildly beautiful Plitvice Lakes (Plit-vi-ka) have been stunning tourists for over a 60 years, and it was just in 1979 that this beautiful attraction was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Without a doubt one of the most amazing parks we have ever been to, add this to your Must See list for sure!
Getting to Plitvice and up to the main entrance is easy, the parking is all open access and located under a gorgeous towering forest. Once you purchase your tickets hike over to the routing area, and depending on how you want to view the park, you can either hike in from the bottom up or be bused up to the top of Lake 1 and then follow the pathways down and across the winding bridges. There are small boats that take people across the lake and several restaurants throughout serving several options and beer!
The park is generally busy, as one of the most popular parks in all of Europe there were a lot of people there even in the off season. Go early to miss the majority of the crowds and know that tour buses come through regularly so be patient and take your time. You can purchase single day, 2-day and multi day passes at the office or in advance. We were able to accomplish the majority of the park in two days.
The park website offers suggestions on hotel accommodations, however, we chose to stay outside of the park at a BnB call The Pool Apartments just outside Rakovica. The property is run by a local Croatian woman and her daughters, they have a private pool, horses on property and a beautiful garden space as well as covered outdoor seating areas perfect for relaxing, cooking or reading.
Split is the second largest city in Croatia and has a fascinating history. Originally colonized by the Greek over 2,400 years ago “The Diocletian’s City” has been in a tug of war since after the late middle ages. War after war they struggled but in the early nineties Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia and became a separate new country. In the early 2000’s Split’s tourism boomed, the economy picked up and construction started; new hotels and high-rise buildings opened and the people followed.
The city of Split was a great stopping point for us, we were ready to get out of the car and explore. While inside the old town city walls and within a short walking distance you can easily access the beautiful underground Catacombs, The Diocletian’s Palace, the Cathedral of St Domnius with Belltower, and The People’s Square. You’ll have to pay to tour the Catacombs and Palace but it is still a very pretty walk around and to take in all the history of the city. The upper level of the Catacombs are also a market where you can walk and enjoy the the local flare, artist work, and local jewlery. Around the corner you can enjoy the farmers and fish markets that set up regularly. Pretty antiques and home goods, fresh fruits and yummy meats. If you order a coffee with cream in the local shops, you’ll get ice cream in your coffee. Ask for milk if you want regular cream. Delish!
We rented an apartment in the city center above a hair salon with a beautiful staircase and big open windows overlooking the quaint streets of old town. The owner’s friend let us in was incredibly sweet, made sure we had everything we needed and were comfortable. There was no public parking for us in the historic city walls so parked our car on an open surface parking lot outside of town and walked into the historic part of town. Split does have lots of nice shopping in the old town, get out and explore, you won’t need to go far to have a great time!
Along the seaside there are several restaurants offering a beautiful view of the bay and marina. Following the bay along the sidewalk toward the marina, there is a beautiful park and overlook called Marjan Hill. This was a peaceful and beautiful day hike from the city. We went a little off the path and cut through some neighborhoods on foot to zigzag our way to the park. Once at the top the view overlooking split is gorgeous!
One fun attraction in Split is the Statue Gregory of Nin, where legend says it is good luck to rub the big toe. People from all over will travel to Split to get some good luck and passers by will be sure to rub the big toe. When we were there the statue was under restoration, except for one big Gold Toe sticking out, so we were able to get our bit of luck!
The following photos were pulled from Google images to show the statue – blog here: