Captivating Croatia

Donna Meredith on 15 August 2016

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Croatia has been on my radar for many years and this summer I got the opportunity to explore this fascinating and beautiful country. A direct flight to Dubrovnik from London Gatwick only takes 2 hours 40 minutes and there are plenty of choice in flight times and departure airports.

We found the people to be very friendly, the food delicious and excellent value for money, the Adriatic Sea crystal clear and warm, the landscape breath-taking and so much culture to take in – some places look like the Romans only moved out recently!

To get a flavour of Croatia, we decided to visit three areas along the southern Croatian coastline encompassing the gorgeous city of Dubrovnik staying in nearby harbour town of Cavtat, Makarska and the stunning cultural city of Split, staying in nearby Stobrec.

The lovely town of Cavtat is less than 10 minutes’ drive from Dubrovnik airport and yet is not affected by planes landing or taking off. Cavtat being the southern-most town in Croatia before the border with Montenegro, is the perfect place to stay if you want to see Dubrovnik, but dread being closed in by Dubrovnik’s ancient city walls. Cavtat is a small harbour town just south of Dubrovnik and offers a refreshing, attractive naturally wooded alternative nearby where you can breathe pine scented fresh air and relax.

The quiet yet vibrant harbour town offers so many lovely places to visit and excellent restaurants offering amazing food and drink at ridiculously cheap prices. The harbour area with its luxury cruisers and local fishing boats is a delight to walk around or enjoy a drink or lunch at the many outdoor bars and restaurants. We took a walk up the hill to the white octagonal Mausoleum and graveyard where you have spectacular views of the luminescent blue Adriatic. You can’t but notice how clear the seawater is in Croatia – you can literally see 30 feet or more down and observe the numerous fish swimming about.

Dubrovnik is a short and extremely cheap water taxi ride from Cavtat and is an amazing place to visit. If you have ever watched Game of Thrones, you will be in your element as you recognise the numerous filming locations of the fictional fortified port city of Kings Landing. The walk along the top of the city walls that surrounds the Old City is a must and takes a couple of hours, offering stunning views of the Dalmatian Coast and a bird’s eye view of the city with its traditional terracotta roofs.

After four days in Cavtat and Dubrovnik we moved three hours up the coast to Makarska where we stayed in a villa high on the hillside overlooking the attractive harbour town of Makarska. Makarska is perfectly located to explore the idyllic islands of Brac and Hvar. There is a regular ferry service to the islands from Makarska harbour. The town itself offers many quality low-cost restaurants and bars where you are spoilt for choice on the numerous delicious meals on offer.

We took a day trip to the lovely fishing village of Sumartin on Brac Island by ferry from Makarska – the car ferry trip was a very pleasant journey. Sumartin is an attractive village with small shops and restaurants around the harbour. We took a long walk around the village and coastal road which offered stunning views of the Dalmatian coastline. The rest of this stunning island is easily accessible if you have a car.

The final leg of our holiday was in Stobrec about 1 hours’ drive north of Makarska and only a 15 minutes’ drive from Split, Croatia’s second largest city. Here we visited the amazing 1,700-year-old living museum city of Split with its near perfect Roman buildings and aqueducts built from the finest Brac marble and still standing like there were built just recently. The walled old town is simply stunning with something amazing to see around every corner. There are plenty of outdoor bars and restaurants to sit and watch the world go by.

From the harbour you catch one of the many ferries to the islands of Brac, Hvar, Vis, Solta and Korcula. If you want to do something out of the ordinary, you need to visit the very unusual Froggyland museum which boasts over 500 frogs preserved through taxidermy and then posed in a variety of human like scenarios like playing tennis, going to the dentist or performing in a circus.

One day we hired a brilliant local guide to take us on a circular route taking in Krka National Park with its vast number of splendid lakes linked by impressive waterfalls – the best place to enter the park is by boat from the small town of Skradin. Once in the park we found many visitors crowding around the spectacular Skraninski Waterfall where you can swim in the crystal-clear waters. We found that by going clockwise around the picturesque circular walk around the park we found very little queues as all the visitors were travelling the opposite way around and literally shuffling along whereas we managed a decent leisurely stroll.

After a good four hours enjoying the park, we then travelled through the impressive mountain range back to the coast where we had a delicious lunch in the Sibenik overlooking the attractive harbour. We then travelled along the stunning undulating coast road to the lovely town of Primosten. The attractive old town is situated on a small island which is connected to the mainland by a narrow land bridge forming a peninsula. In the past it was connected to the mainland via a moveable bridge. It is easy to see why Primosten with its picturesque architecture, 20km of beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, is so popular with tourists. We wished we had longer to stay.

We will definitely be visiting Croatia again with so much still to explore in particular the many islands which we have yet to see.

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