Highlights of Croatia
|Resort:||Highlights of Croatia|
This one-week trip to Croatia offers the chance to discover its historic cities, pretty red-roofed coastal towns and stunning waterfalls. Explore Croatia’s old capital Zadar and discover the narrow streets and medieval buildings in Trogir.
Dubrovnik – Explore the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’ that has been wonderfully restored by UNESCO
Day 1 Join trip in Dubrovnik
Arrive in Dubrovnik. Our hotel is about 30 minutes’ drive from the airport.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Dubrovnik at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Dubrovnik Airport (DBV). Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to take the public bus into the Old Town. The bus stop is in front of the hotel and it is only around seven minutes’ drive.
This evening you might choose to have your first taste of Croatian cuisine. Fish is a popular choice, as it is caught locally and often served alongside grilled vegetables. Olive oil is a staple in Croatian cooking and there is more of an Italian influence than in most other Balkan countries. Black Risotto is a traditional Dalmatian dish, is coloured with squid ink, and has other seafood in it such as mussels. Both white and red wine are popular choices with Croatian varieties including Babic and Lumbarda. For dessert, a custard pudding covered in caramel sauce is a speciality that is similar to a crme caramel.
Day 2 Explore Dubrovnik Old Town on foot; free afternoon in the city
This morning we will take the public bus to the Old Town and enter through Pile Gate. The best way to get a feel for the wealth of monasteries, museums and historic buildings in Dubrovnik is on foot and so a local guide will take us on a walk to get our bearings. We’ll learn about how the city was almost entirely destroyed by shelling in the Siege of Dubrovnik between 1991-92 and how this fortified medieval town was thankfully restored by UNESCO and the local people and still retains its unique atmosphere and charm. George Bernard Shaw once wrote ‘those who seek paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik’.
This afternoon is free for you to discover more and to make your own way back to our hotel at a time of your choosing. You might like to visit the Rector’s Palace and the Maritime and Ethnographic Museum. The Rector’s Palace was built in the 14th century for the Rector of the Regusa Republic before later becoming an armoury, watch house and prison. As well as the buildings’ fantastic architecture, it also houses a museum that will give you a taste of the Ragusan lifestyle. The Maritime Museum is located in the Fort of Saint John and gives you an overview of ship building and trading from the start of the Dubrovnik Republic right up to World War II. The Ethnographic Museum is in an old granary dating from the 16th century. Here you can learn about the heyday of the Dubrovnik Republic and see the traditional folk costumes and textiles from the time.
You may choose to get a view from above the Old Town by taking the cable car to a nearby hilltop or by enjoying a walk around the city walls, (the walk of the full course is 1,940 metres). Perhaps also visit the Franciscan Monastery, Dominican Monastery or the cathedral in the Old Town to see some of the most well known religious buildings in the city. For something a bit different you might like to visit the Red History Museum where you can learn about different forms of communism and also about the Cold War.
Alternatively, you could leave the city and take a boat ride to Lokrum Island Nature Reserve. This idyllic island, with an ancient Benedictine monastery at its heart is only a short boat ride away. As well as visiting the monastery, there is the opportunity to take one of the forest walks, relax on the small beaches or take a dip in the mini ‘dead sea’ on the island.
Day 3 Visit to Ston and Omis; discover Split on a walking tour
We will leave Dubrovnik this morning and begin our drive to Split. Our first stop along the way is in Ston; a village known for its unusual saltpans and its impressive defensive walls. Built in the 14th and 15th century the town’s walls are much longer than those found in Dubrovnik. They run for five kilometres, which makes them the longest defensive walls in Europe. The saltpans are even older and are thought to have greatly contributed to making the Republic of Dubrovnik wealth and successful in the past.
If you fancy going for a walk then you could head for Mali Ston or ‘little Ston’ as it is also known. It’s about one and a half kilometres along the peninsula. Here you can find the oyster bays that produce this speciality, which is famed as being some of the best, found anywhere in the world.
After spending a couple of hours in Ston we will drive to Omis, where we have a little free time to have lunch. This small port town sits at the mouth of the Cetina River and was once known as, the home of pirates. The pirates that used to patrol these waters would ambush trade ships trying to enter the port and steal their goods. Now it’s a far more peaceful place and there are a number of local cafs and restaurants to choose from.
Leaving Omis we’ll take a scenic drive up the Cetina River Canyon. Arriving in Split, we’ll check-in to our centrally located hotel, which is only about 15 minutes’ walk from the Diocletian’s Palace. Split is vibrant city set on the coast and with a beautiful old town area. We begin our explorations with a guided walking tour to see the Diocletian’s Palace and old town. Emperor Diocletian built the palace at the turn of the 4th century and it quickly became the heart of the city. The Roman emperor was buried here, and it later become the world’s oldest Roman Catholic cathedral, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius. Walking in the palace is like taking a step back in time, as we wander through the intriguing maze of narrow cobblestone streets where pre-Romanesque churches nestle alongside Gothic chapels. We’ll see the peristyle (central square), cathedral and subterranean halls.
This evening you may like to take the opportunity to join the glamorous locals on a stroll along the Riva, Split’s seafront promenade and stop off in one of the restaurants or bustling cafes along the way.
Day 4 Free day to discover Split or the chance to visit Krka National Park
Split is the second largest city in the country and it’s a hive of activity, and today is free for you to further experience the city. It has a long history and is a pleasure to explore, with its small boutique shops, hidden art galleries and reams of restaurants and cafes – some of which are built into the ancient city walls.
A Game of Thrones Museum is a popular new attraction that is a must see for fans of the TV show with over 100 exhibits. Nearby the cellars of the Diocletian Palace were used as a Game of Thrones filming location.
If you are an art lover then you might want to visit the Mestrovic Gallery with its pillared exterior and manicured gardens overlooking the sea. Inside you can see paintings, drawings and sculptures by Ivan Mestrovic, Croatia’s most famous modern sculptor.
You could take the opportunity to relax on the city’s main beach, Bacvice and perhaps try your hand at a popular local game called, Picigin. A small group of people will swim in the sea whilst trying to keep a rubber ball out of water for as long as possible, but your only allowed to touch it once on your turn.
Alternatively, you might decide to leave the city and join an excursion to visit the Krka National Park. This park is similar to Plitvice that we will be visiting later in this trip, but it is smaller and less well known. Here you can see stunning waterfalls and Visovac Island with a pretty monastery in the centre.
If you wish to remain closer to Split then you could take a guided walk on Marjan Hill, which is on the same peninsula and offers great views over the city and coastline below, and the surrounding mountains. Starting from the Diocletian’s Palace cellars and winding through the narrow streets of the old peasants’ district of Varos to the first viewpoint. Next you’ll see the 16th century Jewish cemetery before walking through a pine forest to an old abandoned zoo which is a favourite picnic spot, and on to the top of the hill (178 metres above sea level). On a clear day, you can see as far as the Central Adriatic Islands. From here, you walk to the old hermitage of Saint Jerome, where people used to live in the caves but today only the front facade is visible. Heading downhill past the Church of our Lady of Bethlehem and Saint Nicholas Church you will arrive back into the Old Town.
Day 5 See Klis Fortress and the city of knin en route to Plitvicka Jezera
After breakfast, we leave Split and drive to the nearby Klis Fortress. It is 360 metres above the sea and has been built into the rock face; nestled between the mountains of Kozjak and Mosor. The fortress played an important role in defence of Dalmatia from the Ottoman invaders and more recently, it has been used as a filming location in Games of Thrones, and so you may recognise it as part of the fictional city of Meereen.
Next we stop in the city of Knin where we’ll have the opportunity to have lunch. During the The Croatian War of Independence, Knin was occupied by Serbian forces and became the capital of the Republic of Serbia Krajina, but on the 5 August 1995 the city was liberated in Operation Storm and this date is now marked as a national holiday in Croatia.
We will arrive at our hotel in the Plitvicka Jerera region in the early evening and you have the rest of the day free. Our hotel is an ideal base for visiting the nearby Plitvice Lakes National Park. Located in a valley between high-forested mountains, Plitvice was the first and it is one of the most attractive national parks in the country. It is considered to be one of Europe’s greatest natural wonders.
Day 6 Walk amongst the lakes and waterfalls of the Plitvice Lakes National Park
Spend the day wandering along the well-marked trails in the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which follow the course of 16 crystal blue-green lakes on their dramatic and cascading descent over 92 travertine barriers and waterfalls. Over the millennia, the waters of these lakes have dissolved the limestone rock and carved out the valley in which they now lie. Through the sedimentation of calcium carbonate and the work of special kinds of algae and moss, travertine has been deposited to form the natural dams that separate the lakes. This dynamic process continues with new falls breaking through the travertine barriers and constantly changing the look of this icon national park.
A popular circuit leads you from the Upper Lakes, taking a ferry across Lake Kozjak and then the path twists between the Lower Lakes. Every turn leads to new scenery and yet another stunning waterfall. The walk is mostly on wooden promenades and you can either follow the Red Dot Walk, which takes around five to six hours or the shorter Yellow Dot Walk for about three to four hours.
Later this afternoon there is the chance to take an excursion to Barac Caves to see the stalagmites and stalactites formations. The caves were first opened to visitors in 1892, but then were left abandoned and forgotten after World War II, but in 2004 they reopened to visitors.
Day 7 Scenic drive to Trogir via ancient Zadar
Following scenic backroads initially through rolling farmland, we make for the northern Dalmatian Coast towards the ancient capital of Dalmatia, Zadar. On arrival, we’ll take a guided walking tour to see the unique experimental musical instrument on the sea front, known as the Sea Organ, as well as the Sun Salutation, which is a multi-coloured sun powered light display. We’ll also see the round Church of Saint Donatus, which is considered to be the symbol of the city and there will be free time to go inside, should you wish to.
Continuing we drive along the twisting and picturesque Dalmatian coastal road to the charming medieval harbour town of Trogir. Once here we’ll have some time free for lunch before a local guide takes on a walk to discover the main sights. After our tour you can either go to our hotel in nearby Seget Donji with our bus or spend longer in the old town and return later by taxi (it’s about five minutes’ drive). If you choose to stay longer then you might like to visit the Saint Lawrence Cathedral.
Day 8 Trip ends in Seget Donji
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Seget Donji.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Seget Donji at any time. If your flight departs later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel and you can spend more time discovering historic Trogir. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to depart from Split Airport (SPU), which is only around 20 minutes’ drive away.