By Juhi Bansal
This was the last leg of our #tenniversary trip to erstwhile Yugoslavia. While Croatia itself does not need an introduction and a section called “why you should visit the country”, I think visiting it in the winter season is definitely underrated.
So, let me begin the article with:
Why should you visit Croatia in the winters?
Well, first of, Croatia especially Dubrovnik and Split are so extremely popular (not least because of Game of Thrones) that they see one of the highest footfall of tourists per square feet in the world! I kid you not! Dubrovnik in the peak season sees more tourists than it can accommodate sometimes resulting in refusing visiting cruise ships to disembark!
So, well, if you want the beautiful towns and the gorgeous sights to yourself (K & I can’t do crowds of that proportion at all!)- winters should be it.
While the Dalmatian coast is extremely beautiful- the beaches are pebbly so lounging and playing on the beaches didn’t sound too enticing. We were anyway not really looking for a beach holiday (less so in Europe) so this kind of sealed the deal for us.
Off season also means everything is cheaper-we did manage to find some value saves- cab, stays, discounts on entrance fees etc however, some places like Dubrovnik are literally dead in the off season which meant getting dinner needed a lot of research from us. But, we did it!
Also, Zagreb has been voted the best Advent in Europe for 3 years in a row! Now, if that is not reason enough- what is?
Currency: Croatian Kuna is equivalent to about 11 INR. Average meals for two cost between 150-300 Kuna.
The #tenniversary holiday was one long road trip for us. After the Slovenia leg, we had the extremely professional and kind people from Croatia Shuttle pick us up and thus began our next leg of the fun road trip.
We drove from Ljubljana to Split and it was a beautiful drive! In the interest of keeping this article to the point- I will quickly list down things you must not miss:
Diocletian’s Palace- there is so much to explore here- you need a day only for this!
Advent in Split (if you’re visiting during Christmas)- live music and so much activity!
Day trips to:
Nearby town of Trogir
We also spent new year’s eve in Split!
The first day of 2019, we started our drive towards Dubrovnik but only after taking a couple of days break in Mostar and Sarajevo (you can read about the trip here).
Once you enter Croatia again after Bosnia on your drive to Dubrovnik, you may want to take short breaks at Ston (hike up the longest wall in Croatia) or Milos (Croatian wine tasting).
Drive to Konavle and Cavtat. It’s a beautiful drive and you catch some of the best views of the Adriatic coast. Infact, I will go as far as to say you may want to ditch the crowds at Dubrovnik if you can’t deal with too many people like us and head to Konavle for some quiet sea time.
The Dubrovnik old town is an absolute delight. Quaint, cosy and so gorgeous! We spent the whole day roaming inside- wandering the nooks and crannies and climbing the city wall.
Another interesting vantage point is the top of the Srd Mountain. Dusk is beautiful from the top!
Dubrovnik, as popular as it is in peak season, is a very sleepy town in December. While we are ok with that, do keep that in mind while planning your trip.
After spending 2 laid back nights in Dubrovnik, we started our drive towards our last stop- Zagreb before he headed back home. While the drive is extremely picturesque- from the Adriatic coast (red roof houses dotting the coastline) which gradually gives way to snow laden roadsides, it is also very long at 7 hours. We decided to take a much needed break at Plitvice Lakes and do a quick tour.
Pro Tip- If Plitvice lakes is too “trekky” for you like it was for us especially with a 4 year old who gets tired after walking half an hour in snow- and my God there was so much snow (and snowstorms) at Plitvice!, may I suggest the cheat view of Rastoke! It is so gorgeous and exactly like Plitvice without the hassle of buying a ticket and walking too much.
However, don’t miss lunching at Plitvice at the Licka Kuca. It was really nice and we got to experience some freshly made cream cheese and Polenta dishes.
While Zagreb was our final stop, it came after more than 2 weeks of constant travelling in sub-zero temperatures. We had good 4 days here so we decided to do everything at a slow pace.
However, here are some must do things in Zagreb.
Advent– Zagreb has been voted the best Advent in Europe for 3 years in a row and I have to agree. It is simply beautiful. You can do an Advent walk (or drive) around the city. We broke the areas up and visited one section each every night to get the most of it.
I would suggest staying in the lower town- close to Tkalciceva street since this is where most of the action is. Whether you want to get dinner at some of the best restaurants (all price ranges) or just nurse a drink watching people walk by- Tkalciceva street is it.
Here are some of the best restaurants (for vegetarian food) we visited there:
Curry Bowl for Srilankan food- loved the Kottha there!
Koykan for mini meals and bubble tea
Bistro Fotic (a little walk from Tkalciceva street) for some Croatian Pasta and house wine
A couple on interesting Lebanese and Mexican restaurants
Bombay Grill for Indian (unpretentious and authentic- Royal India down the same street was extremely rude and expensive).
The city is easily walkable- both upper and lower town on foot. However, the public transport has extremely good connectivity as well.
Here are some of the places you may want to visit:
Zoo- only if you have a kid with you.
Gornji Grad or the Upper town– you can practically spend the whole day walking down the cobbled streets, marveling at everything around.
Tkalčićeva Street– I can’t tell you enough, how much we loved this street. Apart from the night scene- it is also a very quaint street to spend the day. Don’t miss the Statue of Marija Jurić Zagorka ans the various installations on the street side.
Nikola Tesla Technical Museum
Some must have food while in Croatia includes: handmade pasta and gnocchi, truffle mushrooms with just about anything and Croatian wines and plum brandy as accompaniment.
There’s just too much to experience in Zagreb. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I called it my favourite city in all of Croatia. It is the perfect big little city. If you want to experience the local culture and hospitality, Zagreb is a better bet as compared to the extremely touristy Split and Dubrovnik.