Change is in the air! It's cooler here (although still warmer than the seasonal norm), the trees are repainting the landscape with new color schemes, and travel news continues to alter its tone weekly, albeit sometimes weakly. I have missed writing my periodic series of articles..."The Top Ten..." and "Let's Go To...". It has been a challenge to not write about wonderful destinations and stimulating itineraries, but I recognize that everyone doesn't feel the same degree of eagerness to venture that I do, so I'd rather meet my readers where they are in these days (months) of uncertainty. However, it's time to kick it up a notch. I'm introducing a new series: "Spotlight On...". This will give me the outlet for expressing my joy of exploration, while gently nudging you towards future explorations of your own.
The inaugural spotlight will shine on Croatia, a stunning beauty on the Adriatic arm of the Mediterranean Sea. One advantage of a vacation here is that Croatia is a fairly small country and you will be able to explore the majority of it in 10-14 days. A longer stay just means you'll spend more time in the most beautiful areas. A shorter stay...come back for more! Ideally, a private driver should be your choice. He or she will be an expert in their country's history (which dates back to Greek and Roman times), geography, culture, unbeaten paths, coffee shops, restaurants and sight-seeing. The driver is professionally trained to be your guide, concierge, health and safety point-of-contact, luggage bearer and advisor, is fluent in English and Croatian, and in case of emergency has access to needed services. Modern, well-signed highways make it easy for you to drive yourself, but that means you will miss a lot, so I highly recommend the private driver option. This journey below is based on an itinerary I prepared for a client - now it's your turn.
You'll arrive in capital city of Zagreb in the late evening, and next morning join your local expert to explore the two tiers of the city: through the squares of the Lower Town, Donji Grad, designed to give a sense of grandeur (the Mimara Art Museum, Ban Josip Jelacic Square, the cathedral), then board the city's funicular to the medieval Upper Town, Gornji Gradand and its network of little streets. View the former Presidential Palace, Stone Gate, St. Mark's Church and the Lotrščak Tower. Take the afternoon to relax and enjoy your hotel's amenities or keep exploring.
Next morning, motor to the seaside-resort town of Opatija, nestled at the foot of Mount Učka. Take time to stroll by the luxurious villas along the tree-lined seafront promenade. From here the Istrian peninsula awaits. Visit the well-preserved first-century arena at Pula, scene of brutal gladiatorial battles in Roman times. Continue to the charming old town of Rovinj, whose architecture resembles Venice's and is an ideal place for an intimate atmosphere. Wander through the cobbled streets lined with tempting shops, pastel-colored bars and sidewalk cafes. Restaurants with top chefs offer delicious specialties.
A journey to Croatia would be incomplete without a visit to at least one of its glorious national parks. The parks are understandably crowded in summer, and reservations are highly recommended, so I'll take care of that before you leave home. You'd depart Istria and enjoy the scenery of the Adriatic coast in the morning, journeying past sparkling deep blue seas, studded with rocky islands before heading inland to visit one of Europe’s great natural wonders: Plitvice Lakes National Park, known for its 16 interconnected aqua-colored lakes and numerous waterfalls. Join a guided tour of the park and walk along forest paths among the lakes or head to the viewpoint and hear about folklore or other topic at the community center.
Driving south to Zadar, the green forests of Plitvice give way to pebbled shores lapped by turquoise waters. Walk through the Roman ruins and market to see and hear the Sea Organ of Zadar. There is a dramatic change in landscape as you travel through olive groves on your way to Trogir, a city founded by the Greeks in 3rd Century B.C. Admire the cathedral and Renaissance Čipiko Palace and continue to the historic port of Split. In the evening, don't miss the opportunity to have dinner in a traditional konoba. The Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace in the heart of the Old Town of Split, now 17 centuries old. You will have access to explore any or all of the 1,700 year-old palace cellars, the labyrinthine streets and arcaded squares to see St. Duje's - originally Diocletian's Mausoleum - and the Temple of Jupiter, as well as the Golden Gate. Relax and enjoy in walking through history with Your guide.
Your island-hopping adventure begins here. Cross the azure waters of the Adriatic to spend two nights on Hvar, famed for being the sunniest island in the country and boasting an interior dotted with lofty mountain peaks and aromatic ﬁelds of lavender. Take a whole day to explore the hidden coves, secluded beaches, old monasteries and villages of Hvar, strolling around seaside Stari Grad, known for being one of Europe’s oldest towns and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Maybe visit the local museum with its impressive collection of archeological finds dating back to Greek antiquity, or enjoy fresh seafood at a local restaurant. You could even see the glitz and glamour of Hvar Town with its yacht-lined marinas, famous for being the trendy playground of the rich and famous, if that's your fancy.
Cruise back to the mainland and continue your journey to the island of Korčula, known for its history and rich culture. The island is filled with quiet coves and small beaches that dot the south coastline - a perfect place for relaxing. Or join a walking tour of Old Town for spectacular views of the mainland as you stroll towards the main square where the Cathedral of St. Marc dominates the ancient skyline. Hear about local legends and history from your guide, and visit the ruins of the house where according to local legend Marco Polo was born. Explore the narrow streets, beautiful churches and magnificent palaces of this charming medieval town on your own.
Journey to the beautiful southern slopes of the Pelješac Peninsula. Should weather permit, cruise the tranquil waters of the bay of Mali Ston and admire the surrounding untouched natural beauty, as you enjoy a glass of traditional Croatian brandy. A local oyster farmer would be happy to tell you about the cultivation and harvest of oysters, and you can enjoy a delicious sea-to-table tasting of the fresh shellfish, with a glass of wine.
On to the walled town of Dubrovnik, Pearl of the Adriatic, or 'paradise on Earth' according to George Bernard Shaw. Join a walking exploration of the city, guided by a local expert. Get a glimpse into16th century life on a journey into the past. Understand the privileges the citizens of this magnificent city enjoyed: they had one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe dating back to the 14th century, a fountain with fresh water from one of the first water supply systems and a well-developed care system for the old and poor citizens. Dubrovnik is over a thousand years old. Its history is visible in every part of this city; it is on UNESCO's list of cultural heritages and is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure, perhaps enjoying the luxuries of the five-star Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, your home for the next three nights. Located moments away from the Adriatic with spectacular views of the Elafiti Islands, your hotel provides exclusive access to a private beach. Relax by the pool, shop in the markets or perhaps take the opportunity to visit Cavtat, one of the most enchanting seaside resorts in Croatia. For dinner, you could join a local family in a nearby small village. They will explain how they make olive oil using an antique olive oil press, before serving you a freshly prepared meal served with wine. Make the most of your last day in Dubrovnik. Should weather permit, embark on a dazzling cruise around the bay. Gaze out at views of the glistening Adriatic and the mighty city walls rising straight from the cliffs before your cruise moors in the Old Town Harbor. Start your dinner with the national drink, a glass of grappa. Savor authentic flavors of local specialties washed down with locally produced wine. This celebration dinner will be the culmination of your Croatia memories. Tomorrow you return home.
'til next week.
Let's talk. I create expertly designed vacations for people who crave immersive travel. If you’re too busy to take time to plan the details of your own well-deserved escape, don't know where to begin, or are feeling the need to make lifelong memories with those you love, then don’t wait another day.
Contact: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES
-Juliet Weller, Founder