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Croatia, it’s been nice

I am finishing a 4 week trip, with about 3 weeks of that in Croatia. For a quick run down, here is where I was: 2 nights Dubrovnik, 1 night Mostar, 1 night Trogir, 3 nights Zadar, 5 nights Rovinj, 5 nights Slovenia (did a report on this separately because I really enjoyed it), 1 night Plitvice, 3 nights Split, 2 nights Hvar, 3 nights Korcula, 2 nights back in Dubrovnik for the return flight.

Except for a B&B in Mostar, 1 night in Ljubljana, and the last 2 nights in Dubrovnik, I stayed exclusively in apartments rented through booking.com and that was almost 100% a good experience. Occasionally there was a time lag in getting in or in finding the apartment, but it all worked out. And owners were 100% responsive, even if I never met them.

Overall impressions:
I loved Dubrovnik, but 2 nights with a morning arrival on the first day was enough. I stayed in the old city - great location for wandering and not bad for arriving and leaving. It’s small enough that entering or exiting through one of the gates wasn’t too much walking with a suitcase. While there, I walked the walls, rode the cable car, went to Lokrum for an afternoon, and attended a small concert in a church by the Pile Gate. I picked up a rental car in town as I was leaving for the next couple of weeks.

Mostar: I feel the definite need to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina for more time. I feel like I just dipped one toe in the water (not literally, though). I made a stop at Vrelo Bune on the way to Mostar, and left an offering of my sunglasses which fell out of my purse into the river. The next day I intended to stop at Kravice Falls but Google Maps and I had a falling out….. it kept wanting me to walk but I insisted on driving. We settled our differences by the end of the day. Ha! So next time…..

Trogir: extremely charming and small old city. While I did enjoy it, on this trip because of all the other places I was staying, I could have missed it and not missed out on Croatia’s charms.

Zadar: Again I stayed in the city center. This is where I learned how to park (and not to park - ha!). One day was spent seeing everything in the old city and one full day was a day trip to Krka National Park (about an hour’s drive). In the evening, I loved walking to the waterfront in all directions just to relax: the sea organ, the light installation, the yachts, the parking meters (lol).

While I was here, there were 2 weddings in the cathedral - it was fun to watch the process of singing, guitars, accordion, light sticks, and more that went on the outside in the square as guests exited first, then waited for the bride and groom to exit the cathedral. Regular people (like me) were just sitting around having dinner in the square or nearby - as guests celebrated. :)

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Rovinj: This sounds funny unless you have seen one, which I had not, but I stayed in a mobile home camping place/resort on the outskirts of Rovinj (Mobile Homes Polari). Think nice 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom tiny home. :) It had restaurants (didn’t go - ate elsewhere), market, fruit/veggie stand, pizza, bakeries, cafes, bars, laundry, beachside massage, etc. on-site. Each small group of homes had a small swimming pool just for your 5-6 units (at the mid-price level) and easy access to the actual beach, plus convenient free parking. In addition to the mobile homes, there were a ton of campers. Far more camping than tiny homes. Some of the campers were quite elaborate - but none were large like in the U.S. Also I basically heard German the whole 5 nights. As I was checking out, I asked the receptionist if she saw many people from the U.S. and she said no (I heard American English only a couple of times) - that they mostly had tourists from Germany, Poland, and some from Italy (as far as non-Croatians). While here, I took a couple of relax days, then a day trip to Motovun and a day trip to Pula, which I have wanted to see for a number of years and enjoyed, in spite of the fact it was my one rainy day in Croatia. The rain didn’t start until after I left the arena, though.

And every night I walked to the water to watch the sunset.

Slovenia: loved it because I love mountains, trees, and water, need to go back. Every person I encountered was so nice. I did a separate report on Slovenia, though.

Plitvice: I stayed within the National park in the little cluster of apartments, market, & clinic called Mukinje and could happily have stayed longer than 1 night. I had a really hard time with gathering enough information to help me visualize this location; but once there, everything was easy. And so beautiful. There are several “villages” along the road for lodging - all about 10-15 minutes drive from one of the 2 entrances.

I used Entrance 1 and followed Route C with an 8:00 entry (actually entered the park about 8:20) - my phone said it was a 7 mile hike (I had read 4 kil, which was obviously wrong). I feel so fortunate to have been there this year because there were never crowds and for parts of the walk no one else even in sight. :) There was a boatsize clump of people after getting off the boat (of course) but it didn’t take too terribly long for everyone to get spread out again. So much so that at one point I was sure I had missed a turn….. (but had not). Also not gonna lie, sometimes the boardwalks are tricky - once I almost broke the rule about no swimming……

At the end, the shuttle ride signs did not say it would go to Entrance 2 and then continue on to Entrance 1 but it did. Be ready, though - about a mile of my 7 miles was back to the car after the shuttle stopped for “Entrance 1”. It did NOT go all the way to the parking lot.

I finished Route C in just over 4 hours and then drove on to Split (3 hours) to return the car. With a return visit, I would absolutely stay at least 1 more night and wouldn’t complain about 2 additional nights. :)

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Split: I really liked Split. I did a lot of just wandering with late starts. One afternoon I walked past a little green tram loaded with tourists and stopped to look. Someone asked if I wanted to ride, so I asked how much, gave him my money and got on. About 3 minutes later as it was leaving the city center I realized I hadn’t even bothered to ask where it went or if it came back. Oh goodness. The good news is it went all the way to the top of the mountain (hill?) in Park šuma Marjan for great views of Split - and then back down. Got lucky. Ha! Diocletian’s Palace was an interesting mix of really old preserved and still used for daily life. I encountered my third wedding in the cathedral (had to wait about 15 minutes to go in). It was a little more sedate than Zadar but still fun to to watch. And because I walked in right after it finished, I got to see the cathedral decorated for the wedding.

Hvar: yes, everything everyone says about Hvar Town is absolutely right. It is beautiful and party central. So nights are loud….. but I made my decision based on where the catamaran arrived and departed and on not wanting to do more than walk anywhere.

On my one full day, I took a 6 hr speedboat trip to the Blue Cave, then to 3 amazing (and different) places to swim. The 6 young people from England (but not traveling together) on the boat made it a really sweet group for the day and extra special. I also had a really funny conversation with the skipper from Macedonia as he shared his views on tourists from various countries. Lol! It didn’t quite match my preconceived guesses. This day was one of the highlights of my trip. - one of those days where many things worked together to make it perfectly special. Liked Hvar itself but wouldn’t go back, as I do like to sleep.

Korčula: Ah, stunning Korčula….. I loved every minute. At the end of the tourist season, it was far from crowded, full of charm, and full of nice people: my taxi driver to my Covid test, the waiter at my last dinner, the waitress at my first breakfast, the driver for the wine tour, the people at the wineries, the nurse doing Covid tests in a Wonder Woman shirt (but not the lady at the post office….). In different ways, from almost all of them, I heard “We don’t have a lot but we have enough. Why would we want more?” “It’s a good life. Beautiful weather, beautiful sea.” “I can sleep with my windows open and my doors unlocked - a good life.” I need to return.

I know I should report on things I did, etc., but those are not the best part. The best part was just being there.

Dubrovnik again: this was just scheduled to be a stop for my Covid test and the night before a flight home - United’s last direct flight of the season to EWR. The round trip at a cheap price plus not having to transit through another country made that an easy choice. But once I decided on a test in Korčula, I had more time than I needed, no plan, and that was fine. :) I didn’t even reserve a place to stay until I was in Korčula and ended up with Hotel Porto not far from the ferry port - just convenient (and no stairs). It was a nice stay, with wonderful reception, a good included breakfast, and right by a bus stop to both the old city and the airport (but I didn’t use either of those). As a last stay in a month, it was nice to not have to think about anything.

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Stairs: they are everywhere - be ready. By staying in apartments, I had some really charming places - but not with elevators. Ha! Usually there were 2-3 flights because the apartment would be above a business or someone’s home. Not to mention all the stairs just to walk through cities, although Zadar and Trogir themselves were flat.

Transportation: upon leaving Dubrovnik, I rented a small automatic and loved driving. I returned it in Split. I used UniRent and had the same great experience I had in Greece with a local company. With the option of airport or city rental in both places, I chose city for closer. Dubrovnik was easy to leave and a lot closer than heading back to the airport. Split was a trick to get it returned - not because of the driving but simply because there really wasn’t anywhere to park it. I looped that same block 3 times - I was almost on a first name basis with the people sitting at the cafes - ha! But it was far closer to the center.

Advice: be sure you locate parking ahead of time when driving. It is well-organized but knowing the system makes it so much easier. Also for driving, I used Google Maps. While I allowed myself extra time, I found the times were actually pretty accurate. I kept all my stops marked ahead and downloaded offline maps as a backup and it all worked just fine (except in Bosnia, where it kept wanting me to walk…… ok, fine, that was my fault).

For Split to Hvar, I used the Jadrolinija catamaran (which I bought online). It was really big with nice plush seats! For Hvar to Korčula and Korčula to Dubrovnik, I used the Krilo catamarans - both legs which I bought in Hvar in person because the website wouldn’t take any of my cards. Differences between the two for me were the month of the year and which port they used. These catamarans were also nice and roomy - all had plenty of luggage storage and comfy seats.

Cards: almost everywhere accepted my Mastercard, although I used cash in places where purchases weren’t that much. There were a few small places that only took cash.

Phone: I did buy a T-Mobile sim in Dubrovnik at a newsstand - had to figure it all out myself. I have no real idea what my options were (even with Google Translate) but it was great for data. I don’t think I ever managed to set up calling. However -

WhatsApp: is what I used a ton. I have known about it for years and had just resisted downloading it. I downloaded it in Greece this summer and used it a tiny bit - but with renting apartments from individuals on this trip, it was extremely useful (maybe even essential?). booking.com has the message facility, but WhatsApp made communication so much faster. I even used it for a few phone calls when necessary. I used it in Dubrovnik, Trogir (where I absolutely could not find the apartment in that tiny place), Zadar, Bled, Plitvice, Split (really used it here and making calls came in handy), Hvar, & Korčula (for both apartment and taxi). Because I had data available, I didn’t have to activate an expensive international phone plan or worry about WiFi.

Departure: took 25 minutes max from door to gate at 10:00am. And that includes the extra time it took to change the fact that the United system somehow flagged me as military (not remotely).

I am not including any Covid info because things change so rapidly, but if anyone has an immediate question, I am happy to answer, knowing things may be out of date at any point. And I didn’t include apartment names here, but if anyone wants specifics, send me a message.

I didn’t see everything, but I saw a lot!

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849 posts

Thank you for your report.

I had a one night stay in Split and a day trip to Hvar. Both towns are charming and full of good restaurants. However, I do notice that food is not as cheap as I thought. Perhaps I needed to do more research to find better value.

Happy travels!

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3030 posts

Great travel report! I liked the organization. It's nice to have bolded headings to break up the report a bit.

I have been to none of the places in this report (as opposed to the Slovenia report), but I hope to make it to Croatia in the next 5 or so years (it's after Bosnia & Herzegovina and Poland and maybe Lithuania right now).

My two questions:
1. What did you think of Krka National Park?
2. What were the Macedonian captain's perceptions of travelers of different nationalities?

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370 posts

Thank you for your report! Hope to hear more at one of our travel group Zoom meetings.

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7726 posts

Nice report! I can’t find your Slovenia report which interests me.

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280 posts

Excellent report and personal antidotes add to the charm. I took RS Slovenia & Croatia almost 3 years ago and loved it. While the tour was comprehensive, I like your style of travel too.
I’ve been curious about the Booking apartments and am glad you had good experiences. Just curious during the RS tour we stopped at a place with a local market - I bought a couple jars of local honey with fruit and nuts decoratively placed inside. The people I gave them to as gifts said they were a favorite gift. Do you recall seeing something like this and if so where.
Thanks again for an enjoyable post.

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Thanks, everyone! Uploaded this from the Dubrovnik airport and am in Newark waiting for my next leg.

@Barkinpark, I found a range of restaurant prices. Overall, Dubrovnik seemed higher, but there is definitely still a range. Parts of Istria seemed less expensive and Korčula reasonable. You can find cheap eats anywhere, though. But I don’t think I could classify costs overall as cheap.

Thank for the link to Slovenia, Dave. I enjoyed Krka, but I have to admit that is is similar to Plitvice but smaller. I am happy to have seen both; but if you need to choose, choose a couple of days at Plitvice. At Krka, it was fun to take the boat to the main park area and there was an extended part of the park that I didn’t see, so it could easily fill a whole day if you go to all of it. I am going to message the skipper’s funny conclusions, rather than open that up for discussion - ha! .

Barbara, glad you enjoyed it. :) I am always happy to run through pictures. Lol!

Sandra, I saw a lot of varieties of honey for sale in various markets. I didn’t notice if any had nuts but there was quite a choice! And I have to admit that I am not a group tour traveler (although that could change in the future). Right now I enjoy the research. The apartments were cheaper than hotels for more space, but I had read that this is more uniquely Croatian. I sure wouldn’t hesitate to do it this way again. The apartments were as represented and even though for over half, I never met the owner, communication was good.

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6 posts

Excellent report! Thank you for taking time and providing this informative report.
I have a few questions and appreciate your feedback.
Is mid October a reasonable time to travel to Croatia? We plan a 2 weeks trip from 9-23 October. Will it be rainy and cold? How was the weather while you were there?
How is the covid restrictions?
Do you recommend a specific airport to fly in and out? We are traveling from California
Thank you so much

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8774 posts

Thanks for the wonderful trip report. We are hoping to get to Croatia in 2023. 🤞🏼

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1812 posts

Andrea, I think you will enjoy it!

mmonajatire, there have been some recent threads on Croatia at different times of the year. This was my only experience, so I don’t know what weather is like in October. My weather was great - highs of mid 70’s - 80 and only a few days of rain. But I think it starts to get a little chillier in October. I doubt it gets cold.

You may want to check some historical averages to help you. I do know that some things on the 2 islands I visited begin to close (from feedback of people who live there), but I am sure not everything does. And you may be thinking more of mainland cities like Dubrovnik, Split, or Zagreb anyway.

For Covid, there was very little mask wearing in most places. Really the only Covid related restrictions I encountered were: required masks on the Krka and Plitvice boats, Plitvice shuttle, and signs for inside stores and shops (with varying degrees of compliance). Most people on the ferries wore theirs, but not all. Otherwise for daily life it seemed to be a non-issue. I never ate a meal inside during the three weeks in Croatia (twice in Slovenia). Everything was outside. Whether that changes in Oct., I don’t know.

Here is the official site: https://mup.gov.hr/uzg-covid/english/286212 and here is the U.S. site: https://hr.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/

As of right now, you will need the Enter Croatia form done online ahead of time: https://entercroatia.mup.hr/. But you need to keep an eye on things as they are re-assessed every two weeks.

I fly from Texas and did not want to transit through another country so chose my dates based on United’s summer direct flights from Newark, but those have ended. So I don’t have any particular suggestion for flights - just what makes sense to you based on schedule, price, and the ability to transfer.

You may want to start a thread with your questions, though, so that more people see them and can contribute.

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3376 posts

Thanks for the amazing report. It was wonderful to relive the places you enjoyed! Some of our favorite highlights- Dubrovnik, Plitvice, Mostar-life changing, Rovinj, Split, & Korcula- our all time favorite island!!! Glad you enjoyed both Slovenia & Croatia. Your report will inspire others who are planning to visit these incredible areas.

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355 posts

Really hope to get to Croatia next September - seems almost impossible as NZ is still isolated - but I hope - and am vaccinated.

You say you didn't mind driving - I like driving too - but what do you do with the car in the cities? Are there park and rides? Did most places you stayed have parking - did it cost a lot extra? I'm really on the fence about hiring car and its all around parking

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Lissie, driving was easy and I had to figure out parking. I did not have a car in Dubrovnik, as my first stop. From there, I chose apartments that included (or provided) a parking spot. The only place this didn’t work was the old city in Zadar. All parking there is paid and was my most expensive. After actually seeing it, it would have been easy to stay across the bridge where parking is easer - and walk a bit more.

I never went anywhere that there wasn’t a pay and display lot. Here’s my report on my mishaps…. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/croatia-parking-ticket-solution

I got good at using the website to pay for parking and it was really handy.