As we move further into the darker months (hilf uns!), we’re throwing back to the start of July, when the days were long, the temps were uncharacteristically extra fucking heiß and we (Bron + femmes) hired a car, gmapped a journey and drove south from Berlin to Croatia for a 10-day-long road trip covering music festival, swimming in the sea, sunsets, waterfalls, super charming Easter Euro towns and all the seafood / all the wine. The journey was predictably a totally romantic dream – and we’ve pulled together our highlights, sights and top tips, for getting the most out of a Croatian Urlaub by taking the slow route around this beautiful country.
Sunshine feels – incoming.
To see more of the Croatian coastline and the freedom to venture inland, at yo leisure / on your own watch / very possibly cheaper overall, hiring a car is the one. We went with the drive-from-Berlin option, which really wasn’t that bananas at all, only clocking 13 hours including stops and a few accidental detours on the way to Zagreb. With 1/2 of us trained in Autobahn we went with the route that stayed in Germany the longest, giving access to schneller roads, however to save €€ on tolls or if wild speed isn’t your vibe, alternate routes go via the Czech Republic or hit Austria sooner. Our route also took in Austria and Slovenia which have more than worthy pitstops just short of the A2 (I’m looking at you Lake Bled & Salzburgerland).
Within Croatia the road’s are pretty einfach to navigate with sat nav or via Google maps, however shutting this all down (whether by choice or defunct 3G) and letting ourselves get lost we found some of the prettier roads, towns and beaches, and were reminded of why we’d chosen the car over plan/bus/taxi option on the first place.
Finding accommodation in even the less well known Croatian locations is a totally straightforward thanks to a wonderful thang that we probably all know by now – Airbnb. We had too much choice here and even only a few weeks out were able to find four great options, all within budget and with a few stand out hosts too. In Zagreb we stayed 10mins drive from the centre at a super cute 4-bed apartment. A special shout out to Srdjan and his wife, Lydia, who were probably the most accommodating hosts I’ve encountered making sure we knew where to park, how to get around and where to eat (also, pillow chocolates – icing). In Pag at a 7-bed beach apartment only 2 mins walk from the sea. In Jezera (where we spent most of our trip) in a 4-bed with one perfectly giant balcony, schön harbour view and 25 min walk into Tisno (relevant to those walking to and from festivals at The Garden Tisno).
And on our return trip, in, er, the foothills of the Austrian alps, where early morning looked a lot like this:
While the middle and southern parts of the Croatian coast are pretty well documented (Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar etc), we didn’t make it further south than Tisno this journey and we really didn’t need to. The whole Croatian coastline has so much loveheart-eyed lure, and then there are the inland WATERFALLS. Oh hiya.
We took a part time break from our Garden Festival-related activities (see below) to visit Krka National Park and it’s lusher than lush waterfalls. You’ll find these a short, cheap return boat ride from Sibenik (a cute town worth wandering through too) which is approx 30mins drive west from Tisno (or 1 hour from Split). There seem to be bike trails around too – worth investigating.
Zagreb was also totally worth checking out with it’s eastern cuteness, fresh food market (road trip snacksss!) and dirt cheap restaurants offering Croatian fare (beyond seafood). Our approach – one tasty dinner, one night’s accom and a half day stroll which at a pace gave plenty of time to see the majority of the city’s sights from the outside. Tip – rise early if visiting mid-Summer. Shit’s fucking hot.
We also had a swim and one night stopover in Pag on Pag Island, which was a total scenery change with it’s almost-volcanic like hills and SO MUCH SEA. Here you’ll also find Zrce Beach, a beach-side club-strip that guidebooks call Croatia’s answer to Ibiza (and from our experience on the ferry over, the destination for a German version of lads on tour). Also – Pag cheese! Made from goats milk, actually pretty delicious.
Over the past 10 years, the Croatian coastline has evolved into the go-to destination for electronic music festivals, mostly with killer, no rubbish line-ups, affordable tickets, affordable day-to-day, well run operations and generally a pretty dickhead-free crowd. My love started with Dimensions Festival (at Fort Punta Christo, near Pula on the Istrian Peninsula). This year I experienced The Garden Festival – the 10 year-old, feel-good stalwart who kickstarted the whole thing – for the first time. Taking place at The Garden Tisno – a perfect beach side spot on a cosy private cove on the Dalmatian Coast, in between Zadar and Split – and complete with boat parties by day, multiple outdoor stages at night and after parties at an off-site open air club (Barbarella’s) well into the morn, the Garden along with the festivals it shares it’s site with (Stop Making Sense, Electric Elephant, Soundwave, SunceBeat and coming in 2016, Love International) is really something magical. Also worth checking out: Outlook Festival (Fort Punta Christo, Pula) and Sonus (Zrce Beach, Pag).
Photo Credit: Kris Cowley, Here & Now
EAT & DRINK
Eat all the seafood. ALL OF IT. Ja ja, it’s an obvious tip – coastal-hugging country = eat seafood – but really, make the most of this. Grilled calamari was a much missed and delicious highlight, normally served with simples sides of potato and spinach, and the squid itself seasoned with lemon and that totally delicious light grill taste (in the town of Jezera, on the island Murter, Konoba Denis did this well). Whole fish was also a treat, as was washing everything down with litres of cheap local wine. Note: this wine is totally situational and tastes significantly better when seaside in Croatia than back in Berlin. While we did go for the cheaper eats, nothing was disappointing and these simple dishes went perfectly with the weather. More tips! Jump all over fresh food markets and stalls (supermarket quality is questionable). Road-side wild-boar on the spit (this is a very real thing) – we didn’t get around to trying, however you’ll find rotating beasts on most roundabout corners near Tisno and well, this actually looks pretty delicious.
All the time, as much as you can. THE SEA IS BLISS.
- Make friends with locals – we’ve found Croatians to be super friendly and open to sharing tips
- Always ask taxi drivers to switch on the meter or agree on a price in advance. This can usually be negotiated
- Eat seafood
- Drink Croatian wine
- Explore beyond the main beach
- Be prepared to ask for directions – addresses are often not where Google Maps tells you, or might exist twice within the one town
- Insect repellant
- Find out the time the sun sets, and find you vantage point EVERY SINGLE EVE