(aka – why you want to add it to your Interrailing itinerary)
Amsterdam, Paris, Rome – think of a European city and the usual old favourites roll off your tongue right? Gorgeous, glamorous and steeped in history, they are well worth a visit – I mean it is Paris, Amsterdam and Rome we’re talking about here. Who doesn’t want to see the Eiffel Tower in springtime or meander through the Colosseum in the summer heat? Living the dream. But, isn’t it also great when you discover a little gem of a location whose popularity is on the rise, but hasn’t reached the point where every second person you meet is a tourist? That elusive little place just on the cusp of mass discovery.
The answer to your wishes could well be Croatia.
Yup, that’s right. Croatia it seems is well on its way to being the 2019 travel hotspot you don’t want to miss out on. Its sunny, relatively inexpensive (nb. Croatia has been a member of the EU since 2013 but kept its currency, the kuna) and, to put it simply, it is simply stunning.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough to put it on your Interrailing schedule then don’t forget, it is a major filming location for Game of Thrones (we’ll be blogging on where filming has taken place soon so keep an eye out for that if you are planning a visit.) What’s not to love about that?
So Croatia. Well, if the sunshine, GoT and the fact it isn’t the most expensive place in the world (and believe me Interrailers, your wallet will certainly appreciate the break after the top prices you may experience in the more well known destinations), here’s a bitesize round up of what Croatia has to offer.
Don’t expect sand, as Croatia’s beaches tend to be of the pebbled/stoned variety but don’t let that put you off either – the water is crystal clear, the scenery is stunning and there is plenty to do, from trying out the local seafood to exploring a hidden cove to zipping off on a jet ski.
Zlatni Rat, Brac, is the most famous beach in Croatia and its beauty has earned it the nickname, the Golden Cape (sunbathing nude is allowed here if that’s your cuppa tea) but there are lots of less well known spots too if you prefer something away from the crowds.
If you’re stopping off in Dubrovnik then why not drop by Banje Beach (pictured below, image by Julian Teulings), which is close to the Old Town. Water sports, stunning views, the sea, the sun and a mouth-wateringly delicious cocktail – what more could you want after a hard week on the Interrailing trail? Or, if you’re in Hvar and looking for some seaside calm, then Dubovica beach is the perfect spot to catch your breath.
Croatia has eight national parks – that’s right, eight – including the Unesco World Heritage listed Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is the largest in the country and offers interconnected azure, blue and green lakes, mountain views, and the famous Plitvice waterfalls which begin at 25 metres and go up to a breathtaking 78 metres. Truly magnificent.
In Dubrovnik but fancy some mountain air? There are daily ferries from Dubrovnik to Mijet island where you can visit Mijet National Park. Drink in the stunning scenery, relax in the sun or enjoy some kayaking, swimming or hiking. A former Benedictine monastery now café in the middle of the larger of the two salt water lakes here is a dream-like spot to relax with a coffee.
Still looking for some coastal fun? Kanmenjak National park in Premantura (south of Pula) boats an 18-mile long coastline offering beaches, caves, islands, inlets and of course those crystal clear waters. Jumping from a cliff into the sea is just one of a range of activities you can enjoy here, including kayaking, windsurfing and otter spotting.
And that’s just what three of the parks have to offer! Tempting huh?
Too many to recount here of course but some particularly choices sights worth a visit are:
• The city walls and fort in Dubrovnik – treat yourself to a walk around the city’s spectacular city walls, and enjoy the breathtaking view from the top across the Old Town all the way to the Adriatic. A must when visiting Dubrovnik.
• The Roman amphitheater in Pula is huge and impressive. It was created entirely from local limestone to host gladiatorial contests, with seating for up to 20,000. It also still serves as an entertainment venue with concerts and other shows.
• Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, the country’s capital city – sounds a bit odd but this quirky and beautiful museum is actually quite interesting, offering a chance to view mementoes of ended relationships. It must be good, as a second museum has now opened in Hollywood.
• Trsat Castle in Rijeka is a 13th century fortress, offering views from its bastions of the Rjecina River Valley, the Adriatic and the island of Krk (be warned it is quite a steep ascension, but the view is worth it). It also houses a gallery, a former dungeon and hosts concerts, fashion shows and theatre performances in the summer. The open air café here opens until midnight.
• Go sailing – Croatia has over 1,000 islands, including an archipelago (the Kornati Islands National Park boasting 140 islands of various sizes) so why not grab the chance to sail along this stunning coast, with stops along the way to explore the mainland of course. If you get a chance, try the local seafood. Crni rizot is a unique Croatian dish of black risotto made from cuttlefish, and you can always follow it with a krafna, a form of Croatian doughnut, and a coffee, aka a Kava (Croatians love their coffee and there is a wonderful café culture).
See it now, before it’s tourism really explodes
Croatia’s popularity is in the rise – in 2012, Croatia had 11.8 million tourist visitors. In 2016 that number had risen to 16.3 million (equating to 91.3 million overnight stays),with Croatia aiming to continue increasing those figures. That’s a good sign of course, people are starting to take notice of this gorgeous country, and for good reason. Our advice? Jump on the bandwagon and add a little stop off in Croatia to your Interrailing itinerary, it is well worth it and just think in five years time you can tell everyone “Croatia? Oh yeah, gorgeous place, I was there before it got really big of course.”
If you are planning your Interrail trip then why not check out the many two, three and four week packages on offer at Interrailing Packages, which include stops at the cities of Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split and Zagreb. Alternatively speak to our expert team to see where you can add a visit to Croatia to your itinerary – www.interrailingpackages.com
The Interrailing Packages team 😉