After our few nights in the capital city of Zagreb, we began our journey back towards the coast, en route to Split. The drive from Zagreb to Split is about five hours by car. Plitvice Lakes National Park is situated right around the halfway mark, so it made a great stopping point for us to break up the drive and stretch our legs.
From Plitvice Lakes National Park, it was another three hours by car to Split where we’d spend the following six nights living in an apartment located in an older pedestrian only neighborhood.
After seeing some amazing photos of Plitvice National Park, we had it high on our list of places we wanted to make sure we experienced while in the country. Overall, we were very glad we went. The waterfalls, lakes and views are impressive. We had a guide escort us through the park, leading us to the highlights and sharing much of the history. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is making many efforts to preserve it’s natural beauty.
Our visit took about three hours in which we followed a path about 5k in length. We all enjoyed the amazing vistas present around every corner, however, we didn’t enjoy the crowds. If we were to visit again, we’d try to enter with one of the first groups of the day. The park limits daily entry to around 10,000 visitors, admitting 700 or 800 every hour. Our tickets were for a 4:00 PM entry; the last entry of the day is around 6:00 PM. While not everyone who entered before us was still in the park, it was crowded. There were times when we found quiet pockets without any other tourists, and then times when we found ourselves shuffling along the boardwalk in single file line, over 100 people long. It wasn’t the sort of National Parks where the girls could run and play in big open spaces. Even with the crowds, the park was impressive and we were glad to have planned the stop.
As a result of our afternoon stop at Plitvice Lakes, we didn’t arrive in Split until well after dark. We rented an apartment for the week that came with a parking space, so our arrival should have been very easy. However, in our haste to get on the road after leaving the park, we entered the apartment address into the GPS rather than the address of the parking space. After driving in circles through the winding city streets for about a half an hour, we realized the mistake, corrected the address and found our place quickly. Our apartment happened to be in a pedestrian only section of town, so as close as we could get, we weren’t ever going to get there by car. Having the parking spot reserved saved a lot of headache in searching for a place to leave the car. Had we only paid attention and gone to the correct address from the start, we’d have experienced a much smoother arrival.
On our first day in town, we arranged for a short guided tour and our guide, Vinka was outstanding. She did a great job involving the children, keeping the stories interesting for all of us as she led us through the Old city, the Diocletian’s Place Cellars. Once again, we found that after the two or so hours of orientation, we were quite comfortable exploring on our own for the following days.
We all enjoyed our time in Split. The city was very walkable, once the car was parked, we didn’t need it as long as we were staying in the city. The open air market, a short walk from our apartment, had great energy, bustling with locals and tourists. In addition to the fresh produce stands, butcher shops, and cheese shops, the market sold clothing, souvenirs, luggage, purses.
Split has a little bit of everything – the waterfront filled with bars & cafes overlooking the sea, the historic district with the old winding streets and the Diocletian’s palace cellars and the small town feel of the daily market. It was a very comfortable place for us to spend our week.
Krka National Park is another UNESCO protected site, located about an hour outside of Split. After researching, we understood Krka to be a slightly less traveled than Plitvice Lakes. Our hope was that we could explore the land with a few less friends; that maybe it wouldn’t be as crowded.
It ended up that Krka did have fewer daily visitors. However, fewer doesn’t necessarily translate to few, and we still found ourselves in similar lines and crowds at multiple points throughout the day. Krka, while still protected by UNESCO is a bit looser in their restrictions – there are areas marked where visitors can swim near the falls (In Plitvice Lakes, swimming has not been allowed for the last several years)
Despite the crowds, we enjoyed our visit and learning about how the early settlers used the river to assist in their daily life. From milling/grinding to an early washing machine to generating electricity, it was very interesting to see the various exhibits of how the technology progressed over the years.
On the drive to our next place we stopped in a National Park [Plitvice]. There were over 1000 waterfalls. We saw this guy at a view point on the mountain standing on the rail hanging on to a tree! Our guide told him to get down and then showed us a nut that there are a lot of in fall. That day was really cool.
The next day, we took a tour in an old castle [Diocletian’s Palace] where we saw the cellar that was under ever single room. A long time ago, the people who lived above the cellar put everything they didn’t want down in the cellar, so some places are still covered in dirt and not yet cleaned. When we left the cellar and went outside, there was a big stachu [statue] of a ma. We touched his toe for good luck.
On Wednesday, we drove to another National Park. We walked on this trail called the Educational trail, it was cool. On it, we saw where the blacksmith used to work. A blacksmith is somebody who makes horse and donkey shoes. How they made them was they heated up metal and shaped it. Then they nailed it onto the hoof – boom. We also learned that they made electricity from water. They used the lake water for everything, even making a laundry machine. After the park, we went back to our apartment and went to something awesome… wait for it…
All we had to do was put our feet in the water, and before we knew it, there were minnows all over your feet sucking off the dead skin! The lady said the dead skin was like protein to the fish. It was healthy for them. That day was awesome. The fish peticurs were definitely a highlight of the trip so far! Angela and I loved them so much, the next day, we all went back and got another – this time with mommy and daddy, before going to a killer beach.
At the beach, first we ate some huge burgers, then some gummy worms. We tried to swim from a pier, but it was too cold so we went to the sandy beach. It was a lot warmer at the beach. Angela and i played the lion game. The lion game is where i am a lion and Angela is a human. She trains me and we go on spy missions together. It was another really fun day!
On Sunday, we went to this amazing National Park that mommy had wanted to go to for years now. Our guide’s name was Stepheno and he was only 20 but he was amazing with kids! We started by seeing the different lakes and their depths. Then we went into this cafe that had a secret little part of it that we had to turn on flashlights to see. After the caves, we saw a few more lakes and a waterfall which was named after an opera singer that had made a huge donation tot he park. Next, we got gelato and rode a boat across the lake and headed back to our car. Stephano gave us gummy worms as he said good-bye!
On our first day in Split, we met up with our guide Vinka, who took us through their farmers market and bought us peaches. Then, we went and saw the cellars in the castle [Diocletian’s Palace] that were very well preserved. The people who lived above the cellars put holes in their floors and dumped all of tehir wasted into the cellar. Because it was packed so tightly, it was well preserved. The people of that time also made cement out of wet sand and egg whites. It was cool to see the structures still standing today from over a thousand years ago.
The next day, we went to another National Park. We started by learning about the first washing machine, and how they ground corn using the power of the water. We followed this thing called an educational trail that led to gelato. Along the way, we saw how the blacksmiths made horseshoes and mommy told us how to make one step by step, though I don’t know how she knows ’cause she was never a blacksmith!
After we returned to our apartment, we got to the highlight of our day – the Fish pedicure! Little fish would literally eat the dead skin of of your feet. In the end, your feet are so soft. In the beginning, it really tickles, but then it feels really nice. We loved it so much, even daddy tried it the next day. OMG so cool!!!
Croatia, once considered an “undiscovered Italy” is no longer undiscovered. Many cruise ships stop in the ports of call of the Croatian Coast. A cruise can be a great way to get a glimpse of the cities. To truly experience Croatia and see why it has become so popular, an extension pre- or post-cruise will providing the opportunity to stay over night and see the cities after the cruise crowds head back to sea.
Taking a tour with a small group provides the opportunity to experience the sites of Croatia with other like-minded travelers on popular pre-designed itineraries. Let the tour companies organize the logistics, so you can “sit back, and enjoy the ride” Visit the top attractions during the best times and let someone else take care of planning all of the details.