A Week in Croatia

I am incredibly excited to write this blog post because I think Croatia has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I travelled to Croatia with my friend Bay at the end of August for 7 days and we had the most amazing time together. Just for some background, Bay and I took an outdoor education class together and are both very adventurous and you know, if we can live in a snow shelter for a night in Northern Canada, we can definitely get through a trip to Croatia together.

Since Bay was visiting her Dutch family before our trip, she stayed over at my cube the night before our flight left. We had a lovely 5:30am start time the next day and despite our train to Amsterdam being cancelled, we made it to the airport. We flew with EastJet who have really good deals on flights throughout Europe. The flight was short and we both managed to sleep the entire time. The minute we landed and the plane doors opened, we could feel the humidity. We flew into Dubrovnik airport which was just outside the city, but a few different companies run coach busses into the downtown area. We were dropped off at the main bus depot and took a taxi to our hostel. I honestly cannot recommend our hostel, Villa Divine, enough. The staff were so sweet and the rooms were stunning, plus they did free drinks every night which is always appreciated. We stayed outside of the old town, which is what we wanted since the hostels in the actual old town cost WAY too much and anything much closer than where we stayed was just as expensive as the old town. The location was great because there was a direct bus route which took us down to the old town whenever we wanted to go, though we never did find the correct bus stop, instead, we walked to the second stop on the route.

Our first day, we went to the old town to see what there was to see and what types of tours we wanted to do while we were in Dubrovnik. If we had more time there I would have loved to visit the National Parks because they have the most fantastic lakes, but it was too far from where we were so we decided to settle on doing tours in Dubrovnik and Split. The old town was everything I could have hoped for and more. There were old cobblestone streets, churches and marble buildings and columns which, if you tried to block out the hordes of tourists, made you feel like you had stepped back in time. Fun fact, quite a few scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed in old town Dubrovnik which is one of the reasons why it is so popular with tourists now. Luckily the receptionist at our hostel warned us not to eat on the main streets of the town because the restaurants there would be so much more expensive than eating on the side streets. Personally, I think that the restaurants and little shops on the side streets were much nicer and they were FAR less crowded than the main strip. After walking around the entire town, we decided that we would book a kayaking trip for the following day. Then we left to go back to our hostel so that we could go for a sunset swim at one of the beaches near the hostel.

The next day we were up bright and early to start our kayaking trip at 9am. We cut it VERY close because the bus took much longer to get there than we thought, but we managed to get there in time anyway. Bay and I got a two-person kayak and distributed our things between our waterproof barrels before setting off to the first stop of the tour, a little enclave in the cliffs. It was absolutely stunning and since our tour was the earliest group to leave, we were the only ones there for at least 30 minutes before other groups started to arrive. They supplied us with snacks, water and snorkels but, since I have an abnormally small head for an adult (seriously, I wear a child’s XS helmet for go-karting), the snorkel didn’t fit my head properly. We ended up seeing that there was a place that we could go cliff jumping which was something we both REALLY wanted to do. We had seen people cliff jumping in the old town the day before and thought, if we found a smaller jump, that we both really wanted to say that we went cliff jumping in Croatia. Anyway, this was the perfect opportunity so we both climbed on up and WOW was it ever high when I got up there. After a very long internal pep talk, I finally jumped and let’s just say it could have looked much nicer. Despite the bruise on the backs on my legs from where I smacked into the water, I can say that I went cliff jumping in Croatia and it was so worth it. The rest of the kayaking tour was amazing as well. We were supposed to paddle all the way around the island called Lokum, which is said to be haunted. Our guide told us the local legend that if you go ashore and fall asleep, you will die. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see all the way around the island because the current was too strong for most of the group to paddle all the way around. Instead, we went around the water just outside of the city and the walls, which was still very beautiful. After the tour was done, we had lunch in the old town before heading outside the walls to swim and tan overlooking the water. That evening we decided to have a night out in the old town and went to a really fun club with a couple of the people who were staying at the same hostel. I think the best part of the night out was being able to walk around the old town without there being any tourists there. I mean it was almost completely deserted by the time we left and there were lights which illuminated all the buildings.

In the morning we were up bright and early, yet again, to make our way to Split. We decided that we were going to take the ferry but once we arrived we found that all the tickets were sold, so bus it was. The reason we were hesitant to take the bus was that you have to cross over the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina before crossing back over into Croatia, so if there is a delay at the passport check you can get stuck there for hours. Luckily, we were through very quickly and made it to Split at the perfect time to check into our Airbnb. Bay and I were both absolutely exhausted from all the early mornings and the heat so we decided to have a relaxing afternoon in at the apartment, before going to buy groceries and explore the waterfront of Split at sunset. We went to Diocletian’s Palace which was lit up with lights, full of live music and bustling with tourists. It was absolutely incredible to see something so old still so full of life. We walked around for a little while before heading back to the Airbnb, having decided on the plan for our next two days in Split.

We decided we wanted our first full day in Split to be a beach day. Bay and I went down to the beach and rented chairs and lockers so that we could leave all of our stuff somewhere safe while we went swimming or went and got food. It was really nice to have one day where we could just relax, and not rush around trying to see everything. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and, since we rented chairs away from the main beach, we were able to get away from all the noise. We stayed on the beach all day before leaving to try and find a better place to watch the sunset from. We didn’t find one, so we just sat on the side of a pier drinking Croatian beer (since it’s totally legal to drink in public there).

On the 31st of September, Bay and I had booked a boat cruise around a few of the islands off the coast of Split. It was absolutely stunning. The water was perfectly clear and was the most fantastic shade of blue. There were quite a few different stops on the tour and it also included a complimentary ‘traditional’ lunch on one of the islands and free drinks on the boat. It was quite a lot of money, but in my opinion was worth it. It was tough to decide which boat tour to do since they all seemed to do the same route and were all roughly the same price, but we were happy with the one we chose. The main reason we chose our boat was that they had an inflatable water slide!! It was massive and unrolled from the top of the second deck on one of our longer stops between islands. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea what islands we visited but they were very tiny and quaint. It was a really nice way to spend the day, with more than enough time for swimming in the beautiful water.

On our last full day in Split, we had both seen everything that we wanted to see except for Marjan Hill. We had a relaxing start to the morning and then just walked around the downtown and Diocletian’s Palace again. A few hours before sunset we decided that we would walk up to the top of Marjan Hill with our books and sit there until the sunset. Our plan was great BUT then it started to cloud over and look like rain. The hike up to the top of the hill was really easy, mainly paved the entire way to make it easier for tourists to get up. We had the most fantastic view looking out over all of the city and it was so nice to sit up there with our books, the breeze blowing. After the weather started to change, we walked back down halfway to where there was a nice little cafe which still overlooked the cafe. We sat there until the sunset and even though we didn’t get to watch the actual sunset, it was so beautiful to watch the darkness fall on the city and all the red-roofed buildings start to light up. I think it was the perfect way to end the trip and Bay and I ended up spending quite a few hours sitting at this little cafe before heading back to our apartment to pack for our journey back to Amsterdam the next day.

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View of Split from the top of Marjan Hill

We took another bus to the airport the following day, heading back to Amsterdam with EasyJet. I really, really enjoyed my time in Croatia and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Dubrovnik’s old town is a must see place but it is EXTREMELY touristy. I mean seriously, when Bay and I were there you could hardly stick your elbows out there were so many tourists there. I would say it is still worth it, but it isn’t a place to stay for a prolonged period of time. All the Croatian locals I met were so sweet and helpful, giving us a lot of tips about where to go and, more importantly, where not to go. I think that Croatia is the perfect place to go for a more adventurous trip because you have the option to do things like kayaking day trips and there is a lot of hiking as well. I will absolutely be returning to Croatia at some point in my life because I really want to see Zagreb and the Plitvice Lakes National Park. It is a country that is full of history, beautiful nature and it makes for such a great experience.