Chances are you’ve heard a bit about Croatia, either as all Instagrammers consider this as their new ‘Vacay Spot’, or as a stop on the Adriatic cruises. Croatia’s tourism industry is booming especially after the famous series ‘Game of Thrones’ was shot here. It is “the” destination now on any East Europe tour packages, mostly because of the affordable prices, gorgeous national parks, cobbled streets, and miles of coastline.
So obviously when I had to choose my summer holiday destination I added Croatia on my list. I travelled to Croatia with my parents, sister, and husband and not to forget my little munchkin – 2 yr old daughter.
As soon as we landed in Croatia we all agreed that it was one of the prettiest places we had ever visited. My first pit-stop destination was the gorgeous – Dubrovnik. Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is the most populated by tourists. Here you’ll find your large chain hotels in addition to boutique hotels and guesthouses. But there’s plenty to be seen here, especially for the Game of Thrones fans.
With a population of just under 50,000 it’s actually a much smaller town than you might think. Despite being such a popular tourist draw, I urge you not to miss out on a visit to this historical spot especially if you’ve never been before. It is visually truly beautiful, the old town being like something straight off of a movie set. Immaculately cobbled streets and magnificent stone buildings ooze life in the hustle and bustle of the local restaurants, cafes and bars that spill gloriously out all around you.
Take the cable car to the top of the mountain for an unparlled view before walking the smooth, stone pedestrian streets lined with shops and restaurants. After the cable car ride we walked down to start a walking tour of the old town of Dubrovnik. The series of defensive stone walls that surround the old town are considered one of the best fortification systems in Europe. Proving impossible to breach, this impressive defensive structure successfully protected the citizens of Dubrovnik for thousands of years and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and rightly so.
If you have a small kid with you it is highly advisable that you carry a pram along as the long tiresome walks inside the town are bound to exhaust your kid and you eventually. To beat the summer heat, we helped ourselves to their tongue swirling ice-creams and decided to step into one of the many cozy cafes that lined the street. Being a vegetarian, we had loads of apprehensions about eating outside but I must admit that the heavenly Italian cuisine is definitely not to be missed.
Moving on with our journey we reached the Plitvice National Park, which is somewhere on the way from Split to Zagreb. Lush waterfalls, verdant greenery, and pools that change from turquoise to teal to aquamarine — the Plitvice Lakes are one of the most famous sights in Croatia. Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park was the absolute highlight of my visit to Croatia on this East Europe tour package. I spent around 3 hours exploring the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Croatia’s largest national park is divided into Lower and Upper Lakes and offers different options in terms of sightseeing programs.
The first thing to bear in mind on a visit to Plitvice is the need to bring sensible shoes. While you can get a panoramic view of the waterfalls and lakes without walking much (or at all), the park’s beauty is without doubt best explored along its many paths. The network of boardwalks is impressive and beyond these are another set of lesser-used paths that offer an escape from the crowds.
What I absolutely loved about the Plitvice Lakes National Park is how insanely clear the waters of the lake were. We could see so many meters down, the fishes, and sometimes even the actual bed of the lake! It was incredible. Each individual lake got clearer and clearer, to the point we couldn’t quite believe our eyes. It really shows how clean and how well maintained the whole park is. The park was definitely the best thing of my trip.
The last leg of my Croatian journey on this East Europe tour package, ended at the capital city, Zagreb. Our first destination was the huge Ban Jelacic Square where we got an obstructed view of the magnificent features of Zagreb. While Zagreb isn’t crawling with attractions, there are plenty of noteworthy sights that lend ample photogenic flair to any trip. St Mark’s Church, with its colourful tiled rooftop, is perhaps one of Zagreb’s most recognizable spots, but you also shouldn’t miss the epic view from Lotrščak Tower, where you get to admire the city’s red rooftops from above.
While many travellers dream about sipping espressos in Milan or cafe dwelling in Paris, it’s a lesser known fact that Croatians are also masters of an excellent brew. In Zagreb especially, the café culture manifests in not just tasty coffee, but a wide range of beautiful cafes decked in drool worthy décor. If you like yummy and colourful places to see in Zagreb then Dolac Market is the place to come. It is definitely worth a wander even if you don’t need to buy anything. This food market is brightly coloured and a great place to people watch. Another great thing to do in Zagreb is to visit the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This 1899 cathedral is visible from a fair distance around thanks to high twin spires. It felt like it was calling us so off we went. We were actually surprised by just how beautiful this big cathedral is on the inside.
And thus ended our mesmerizing journey to Croatia and we took back home with us loads of memories and happiness galore.
By SONAL BHATIA