If you are looking to travel out of the US or branch out of the British Isles but are a little nervous about navigating a new country, Croatia is the way to go! Rapid fire some reasons you need to make Croatia your next destination:
- A Plethora of beaches with no sharks.
- Rich history to explore right in the city centers.
- Nearly everyone there speaks English as a second language and most signage has English directions.
- No crime. So no pickpockets, scams, or thefts that tourists need to be looking out for.
When we told people that we would be heading to Croatia on our honeymoon, we were met with one of two responses:
- Oh wonderful! I know (insert cousin, neighbor, friend), who went to, and they had such a wonderful time that they want to move there!
- Why on earth would you go there? Looks like you guys need to get a new travel agent.
A Brief History
For those who don’t know, Croatia was at war from 1991 to 1995 in an effort to gain independence from Yugoslavia. Croatia did win their independence, but it wasn’t without significant casualties and damages. Thus, response number two from those who last heard about Croatia during the 90s.
The war has had lasting effects on Croatia, and it is important to remember that when visiting. That being said, in the past 30 years, Croatia has also done a lot to rebuild and has so much to offer anyone looking for a destination with both rich history and beach relaxation. This country is not one to overlook!
Our trip consisted of three main locations, Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Split. There is so much that can be said for this country, so I am going to focus on Dubrovnik for this article and give Hvar and split their own articles and time to shine.
The main part of Dubrovnik in which you would likely spend most of your time is called Old Town and located within the city walls that were built between the 13th and 17th centuries. The first thing you will notice in Old Town is that this is a walking town! Within the walls, the only vehicles are an occasional delivery or service truck. Other than that, you are using your own two feet to get around, which is just as well because most of the streets are narrow and filled with restaurant tables and stands, so a car wouldn’t do you any good.
We recommend starting your time in Dubrovnik with a walking tour. In just an hour and a half, you will gain such a greater appreciation and understanding of just what it is you are looking at. You can expect your guide to cover history dating back to the 7th century all the way to insight into the War in the 90s.
My favorite nugget of information was that for over 500 years, Croatia had a new mayor every month to prevent fraud, and it was a highly functioning system.
Your guide will also likely walk you past the palaces, churches, and even the world’s oldest still-running pharmacy, where they will point out which ones contain museums. Old Town isn’t large; you can walk from one side to the other in about 5/10 minutes, but it is packed with museums that you might not have realized were there!
Walking the Wall
When we planned our trip, for some reason, we didn’t have walking the city wall on our list of things to do, and boy am I glad we moved our plans around to do it! Depending on your pace or if you want to stop off for gelato, the walk will take you anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours and give you the best views of Old Town and the water.
There are around 2 places to take a break and sit down in the shade as you are walking the wall. They will more likely than not be selling gelato and a few other food options. Of course, we stopped for a quick gelato break. Remember, it is important to bring along sunscreen and water because, other than a couple of spots, you are primarily out in the sun for the entirety of the walk.
My biggest recommendation and favorite thing we did the whole trip was our food tour. Now I am not the most adventurous eater. I would not describe myself as picky and I am up for trying 99% of things at least once but I am always nervous that I’m not going to like it and then be left with a pile of food on my plate that I’m not touching.
Well, folks, that was not an issue on this tour! At our first stop, we were met with appetizers to share with the table. The highlight here for me was the prosciutto wrapped around cherry tomatoes, and for my husband, it was discovering he quite enjoys anchovies. At our second stop we had a couple of things to try before the main course, one of which was their black cuttlefish ink orzo which is a staple in Croatia, but let me tell, you, the entree stole the show for me! It was a beef gnocchi with a hint of cinnamon, and you can guarantee I will be trying my hardest to recreate that one at home.
Our tour concluded with a wine tasting and of course a gelato stop. Though the food was incredible, I think what made this experience so memorable was being able to mingle with everyone. The small group and dining experience is the perfect setting to learn about people’s lives and where they come from. Our tour happened to be mostly retired couples from Canada who were a part of a cycling group that traveled from Slovenia down through Croatia. How exciting!
I started this article by talking about how Croatia has both history and beaches but I haven’t even touched on the beaches yet! Dubrovnik is right on the coast, so there are a good number of hotels that are on the waterfront, but if your hotel isn’t, no worries! All beaches in Croatia are public, even the ones at the hotels. That’s right you can walk right through a hotel and use “their” beach and not worry about being asked to leave!
These beaches are rocky so bringing shoes to walk on the beaches or water shoes to take with you in the sea is probably the way to go for most tourists. The locals have no problem venturing these beaches without shoes but if you aren’t used to it you will probably be walking at a much slower pace.
Now I wasn’t sure how I would like the rocky beach situation but turns out, WOW it is so nice not having sand everywhere! I’ll take wearing shoes over a sandy mess any day.
We only had two full days in Dubrovnik, but we could have spent so much more time there scoping out the different restaurants and museums. That’s usually how it goes when traveling, it’s impossible to do everything!
That being said, even if it’s only for a couple of days, Dubrovnik and all of its history, food, and beaches is a can’t miss location. After Dubrovnik we hopped on a ferry and headed for Hvar, so stay tuned for all of our island recommendations.