Croatia is a hotspot for those who live in the Balkans and around Europe in the summer. It’s all people in the Balkans talk about when the season rolls around. They call it, very simply, “going to the seaside”. Anytime someone mentions that, it’s safe to assume they’re going to the Adriatic Coast/Dalmatia in Croatia or Montenegro. But Croatia has become the popular choice of late and it’s easy to understand why: Nature, stunning scenery, blue seas with crystal clear water, and cloudless blue skies.
In the summer, countless music festivals are held on the coast. Festivals like Hideout, Sonus, and Love International do draw a massive turnout. Perhaps it’s cheaper for promoters to put on festivals in Croatia, or maybe it’s the fact that destination festivals simply appeal to British tourists who want an excuse to go topless on the beach.
Besides partying, there’s plenty of opportunities for a chill time by the sea and a swim in the lake. However, with the recent influx of tourists from all over Europe, prices are pretty steep over there as it tends to get when a holiday destination becomes commercialised. If Croatia is on your travel bucket list, here’s my personal guide to the sights worth seeing.
BY THE SEA
There are a number of beaches along the coast. Zrce beach, on the island of Pag, is just one of them. There are five clubs on the beach where parties and festivals like Hideout are held from May to August. If you fancy a drink and a swim, it’s not a bad place to be.
Split is approximately three hours from Pag by coach. It’s a gorgeous but tiny seaside town with palm trees, al fresco dining, and Roman ruins. There isn’t much to do here besides walk around town, which you can finish covering in a day or two, so I would recommend a day trip to a nearby island such as Hvar. The ferry departs only at 8:30am daily.
You could also go on a sunset cruise that sails around Split for two hours, from 7 to 9pm. For 20euros, you get free flow canapes and drinks, as well as a live band that provides entertainment on board. You can either sit down and enjoy the view, or dance with other passengers.
But what you should definitely do is take a stroll through Diocletian’s Palace and admire the Roman ruins.
Need a break from all the walking? Grab a drink from Lvxor and sit on the steps by the piazza before it gets crowded in the evening.
Every local we’ve asked for dining recommendations pointed us in the direction of a restaurant called Fife. The prices are reasonable by Croatian standards, with appetisers starting from 40KN ($5.50) and mains from 50KN ($10). Portions are also huge, but the food is frankly mediocre. I had a traditional Balkan dish called Cevapcici (pronounced che-vap-chi-chi), made of minced meat moulded into the shape of sausages, served with fries. The meat and fries were dry and tasteless. The grilled fish wasn’t bad, but nothing fantastic either.
You’ll come to notice that most Croatian dishes are either grilled or fried. Oh, and don’t be alarmed by the number of pizza joints and Italian dishes on every menu in the restaurants. The coast was under Italian rule during the medieval period, as you could’ve guessed from the Roman architecture.
There are many options for day trips to other sights from Split. The tours are advertised all over town, with trips to Blue Lagoon, Krka, Plitvice, and more. After contemplating between Plitvice and Krka, we decided on Krka as swimming is allowed there, but forbidden in Plitvice. Photos don’t do the beauty of the waterfall and lake justice. It is also a national park you can walk through if you wish to.
Pro-tip: Don’t go there just to look at the waterfall and tick it off your list. Have a dip in the lake. And most importantly, don’t book your tour there too far in advance as you’ll find cheaper tours when you’re in Split. We booked in advance and paid close to 40euros, and saw a tour going for 28euros when we got to split. In fact, the tour isn’t even a proper one where you’ll hear all about the history behind the . All you get is a “guide” taking you on a (very packed and humid) coach to and from Krka.
Having had enough of the seaside, we took an 7-hour long overnight bus ride to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. The temperature was remarkably lower and the sky was overcast.
We arrived too early to check into our Airbnb, so we made our way to the Museum of Broken Relationships.
If you’re having relationship issues or going through a breakup, this isn’t a place you’d want to visit, but I highly recommend it. This museum exhibits memorabilia of past relationships of people from all over the world, with heartwrenching stories behind the objects being displayed. It’s a means of catharsis, as well as an outlet for people to mourn their absent parents and partners.
This is heaven for mushroom nerds. No, not hallucinogenic mushrooms. Just regular edible and inedible mushrooms of all kinds found in Croatia. There are more than 1200 species of mushrooms on display in this museum, dried and preserved in glass cases with the help of a special machine (which I’ve forgotten the name of). It’s located on the second floor of a building opposite Dolac market. Look out for the sign below.
What’s great about the Balkans is that people go out at night even on weekdays. The streets are always alive. With only two days in Zagreb, there wasn’t enough time to check out the underground nightlife scene, so we decided on a relaxing night cap at Krivi Put. Though not commercialised, this bar is popular with students who go to universities in the area. Of course, that also means that drinks are much cheaper, with beers going at 12KN (~$2).
Whether you’re a beach bum, a party animal, or a culture vulture, Croatia has something for everyone. The lush landscape is enough to blow you away. Just don’t expect great grub.