Having been to Croatia once before with a friend, I had to go back for more. It's the kind of destination that really stays with you. Croatia offers something different to other European destinations. It's perfect for those who want to combine sightseeing with a beach holiday. There are plenty of historic sites to explore, pretty market towns and secluded beaches.
We stayed in Trogir, a little market town under an hour's drive from Split. Let me explain why it's a destination you will instantly fall in love with.
Historic sites and Croatian culture
Croatia is gifted with a total of seven World Heritage Sites and we managed to visit two of them during our trip, the historic city of Trogir and the Cathedral of St James in Sibenik. Trogir makes the list because of its Roman churches and Baroque buildings. It's a medieval, historic town with cobbled streets. It feels like you are in another world when you are weaving in and out of the winding streets. Step out of the town and stroll along the waterfront where there are numerous restaurants and a line of luxury yachts.
We also visited Sibenik, which contains another UNESCO site; the Cathedral of St James, an important piece of history. It was built entirely from stone and represents an interesting mix of Renaissance and Gothic art. The Cathedral was damaged during the war and you can see where it has been restored with new stone. The guide explained that the faces dotted around the Cathedral are actually portraits of some of the local people who lived there at the time it was built.
During our stay we were lucky enough to witness some unique cultural scenes. One morning we were passing by the Cathedral of St Lawrence in Trogir and stumbled upon a photo shoot with a couple and a band playing in the background.
While we were at dinner one night some sailors came into the restaurant, sat down and started singing. The atmosphere in the restaurant was amazing and they were actually pretty good! There are also a few buskers throughout Trogir putting on various fascinating performances. These are just some of the experiences you can expect in Croatia.
Split is definitely worth a visit, it's the second biggest city in the Dalmatia region and is ideal for a day trip. From Trogir you can get there by boat, but we decided to get the bus which was very straightforward. Split is a vibrant city with a harbour and plenty of restaurants and bars. It is also blessed with impressive sights such as Diocletian's Palace and the Cathedral of St Domnius. We particularly liked walking along the waterfront and browsing through the stalls where we bought some local cherry wine.
Krka National Park
If you go to Croatia you have to visit Krka National Park. It's an experience that you will remember for a long time. When you are back in reality and stressed at work on a Friday you can simply imagine swimming beneath the breathtaking waterfalls, where the only sound you can hear is the water making its way down the hills.
Krka National Park can be reached by boat and by bus. The public transport in Croatia is pretty good so it would be easy to get a bus to the park. However, I wanted to pack a few activities into one day so it made sense to go on one of the tours. We caught a bus from the centre of Trogir and embarked on a guided tour of the region.
When you arrive at the park the first thing you will notice is the thousands of fish swimming in the water pools at the top of the waterfalls. You then follow a path down to the bottom where you see various little streams and some of the smaller waterfalls.
It's once you reach the bottom that the real beauty of this place sinks in. You walk across a bridge (which takes a while because everyone is taking selfies) and take in the full view of the main waterfall. The water is a gorgeous colour, a mix of the green and blue pool at the bottom and the white water crashing down from the waterfalls. You can wander round a 45-minute trail to take in the full view of this place then finish off with a refreshing swim. The best moment comes when you step into the fresh water and swim out to paddle right in front the waterfalls.
Krka National Park is huge; there are numerous fascinating spots to visit. We also stopped off at a nearby lake with a little waterfall where we sampled the local wine, cheese and ham. If you like to get away from all the tourists then some of the smaller waterfalls tend to be a bit quieter.
We also wanted to go to Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is one of Croatia's World Heritage Sites, but ran out of time.
Many people criticise Croatia's beaches because they are made of shingle and stone. However, if you love clean, bright blue sea then you won't be disappointed; so bright and crystalline are Croatia's waters in fact, that the country is also known for being an excellent spot for diving and snorkelling.
Where we stayed in Trogir, you could simply jump on one of the local boats that taxi people around to all the local beaches for around two euros each way. This was extremely useful for us as we were able to try all the different beaches and decide on a favourite.
The first beach we went to (Okrug) was too crowded and commercial for our liking but the water was stunning. Here you can enjoy water sports and have a relaxing drink in the cafes and beach bars. We then tried Medina which was lovely; it's great for families but still a little too busy for us. Our favourite was Seget simply because it felt peaceful. We enjoyed a quiet lunch in one of the restaurants near the beach overlooking some of the classic local boats.
It's definitely worth investing in some swimming shoes if you want to explore the coast as it can be painful trying to climb into the water without shoes and in some areas there are a few prickly sea urchins.
If you are staying near Split make sure you visit Primosten, it's on the Adriatic Coast in between Sibenik and Trogir. You can easily get a bus there from Trogir bus station which takes about half an hour. It's one of the most picturesque beaches I have ever been to. It might have small stones instead of sand but the water is probably the nicest in this entire region and the backdrop of Primosten town is so pretty. Have lunch overlooking the bay and wander around the quiet little town to get a taste of the real Croatia.
Fresh fish and traditional Dalmatian dishes
If you love fresh fish then Croatia is a must-visit destination. I love fish and was excited to try some of the local delicacies. I went for the safe option of Sea Bass on one night and on our last night I took a risk and tried a Red Snapper, which was delicious. Don't miss out on the chance to try some of the famous local dishes such as Pasticada, a stewed beef dish often served with Gnocchi and a mouth-watering sauce.
On a few evenings instead of having pudding at a restaurant we went to a crepe stall and tucked into tasty Nutella, banana and biscuit filled crepes. Other nights we chose to grab an ice cream and stroll through the town. Trogir is supposed to be one of the best places to enjoy Croatian ice cream. There are ice cream stalls everywhere you go with a huge range of irresistible flavours. Dovani Icecream which was just underneath our hotel is a great place to go, you can order your favourite ice cream and then sit down in the square and do some people watching.
A beautiful destination that I'll go back to
Our experience in Croatia was unforgettable and we will definitely be going back. Our favourite place was probably Primosten. It was a stunning place with one of the best beaches in the region; I would definitely recommend staying there for a few nights.
I wouldn't say Croatia is like any destination I have ever been to because it has so much character and the architecture is so impressive. Although it would make a great family holiday destination, Trogir is best suited to couples because it has a romantic feel.
Trogir is not the best choice if you are looking for good nightlife. Split is much livelier and has plenty of pubs and bars where you can enjoy a few drinks. When I go back to Croatia I plan to visit Dubrovnik to admire the medieval city walls and hop across to the gorgeous Island of Korcula next.