croatia, split, travel, zadar

Croatian Road Trip

February 1, 2019

Early in 2018 I booked a cheap flight to Zadar on a whim because of course I did. Little did I know that Zadar isn’t exactly a prime location to holiday to. Unlike New York or Paris, you can’t really spend three whole days there if you like the kind of holidays I do. You know the kind I mean, the busy, non-stop sightseeing city escapes.

Don’t get me wrong, Zadar is a beautiful place and if you’re in Croatia for any amount of time, I’d recommend visiting for a couple of hours to see the Sea Organ and the Monument to the Sun. But a couple of hours is all you need.

Instead of sticking around, we hired a car and embarked on a Croatian road trip.

Our first stop on the road from Zadar was to pass by Krka National Park. If we had longer here (or better weather), a real stop would have been essential because I’ve heard magnificent stories about hiking trails, waterfalls and swimming canyons. Luckily, the viewpoints along the road were sweet enough to satisfy my craving for a photo op and we were short on time.

We stopped by Split, a gorgeous little town that really is the embodiment of what I imagined Croatia would be like. Vast beaches, sunkissed houses with orange roofs dotted around cliff faces and hills. It was a sweet little town and we would have loved to have spent longer here. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty miserable and what would have been the sunshine soaked Split turned into a ‘where can we hide to escape the rain?’ town.

We did the usual, though. We climbed to the top of Marjan hill and Diocletian’s Palace because we all know I love a good viewpoint. The climb to the top of the cathedral was an unusual one. My mum and another lady decided the stairs were too vertigo-inducing and held back and I embarked on the climb with the lady’s husband, awkwardly taking pictures of each other when we reached the top.

There should have been a lot more to do in Split had the weather been on our side. We decided to opt out of seeing the frog taxidermy museum (Froggyland) because of my weird fear of dead amphibians. We drove back to Zadar to spend the evening there.

Zadar at night is truly a beautiful place. Alfred Hitchcock described it as having the best sunsets in the world. Now, I have to disagree with Hitchcock here, having seen plenty of prettier sunsets, but the nightlife is spectacular nethertheless.

The Monument to the Sun is all lit up in darkness and the sound of the Sea Organ playing a tune to the waves is a peaceful experience and definitely somewhere I’d recommend going if you enjoy relaxing.

It was an early start for us the next day as I wanted to do the eight hour hike of Plitvice National Park. Unfortunately this didn’t happen because of 1. My general laziness and not wanting to get out of bed till 9am and 2. The fact that the weather was somehow even worse than the day before. No matter. We still went and decided the four hour hike would be sufficient enough.

The park itself is one of the most stunning places on Earth and probably my favourite national park I’ve been to in Europe thus far. The waters are crystal clear, you can see fish swimming, tree roots and fallen pieces of earth below the surface. The waterfalls are magnificent and calming. Even in bad weather, I can’t comment a word of disappointment about this place. It was truly spectacular.

In the evening we returned to Zadar and already felt like we had exhausted the place of things to do. Still, one more sunset wouldn’t hurt anyone.

On our final day in Croatia we decided to see Zadar in the daylight and on this day the sun showed it’s face. We climbed to the top of the cathedral to see the views of Zadar from above and then we wandered around for a bit. There really isn’t much to do in this sleepy little town, especially in the off season. If I had planned better, I would have loved to dedicate this final day to seeing Krka National Park or another city like Zagreb or Dubrovnik but alas, it is what it is.

Anyway, hopefully you can learn something from our experience. Hiring a car in Zadar is essential if you want to explore some of Croatia’s gorgeous countryside or want to visit a city that might be out of your budget to fly to.

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