There are lots of touring options in Croatia… it doesn’t matter where you go – it’s beautiful! So all things being equal, we just went with the cheapest flights.
Start Point: – Zadar (Ryanair) Finish: – Pula (Aer Lingus)
Duration: – 2 WEEKS
ZADAR – PAG – PLITVICE – OPATIJA – PULA
Zadar airport is a good place to land – it’s small and you’ll get through quickly. There’s an ATM to get your cash. Our flight arrived mid – morning. We had pre booked a car with Active Car Hire and were on the road without delay.
There are plenty of supermarkets on the way into town from the airport – we bought the usual basics – water, snacks etc. as well as cheap beach towels and a sun umbrella (better value than the beach shops).
The town of Zadar is a pleasant surprise. It has a different clientele from Dubrovnik – more of a resort feel to it with families rather than hordes of day trippers. It’s definitely worth a stop for a day or two – especially for the sunsets and Sun Salutation.
OUT AND ABOUT
Roman Forum – scattering of remains like the one below can be found in a compact area in the old town. One can roam freely which is great but I hate to see so many people sitting and standing on the ruins..
Sea Organ -tubes under the steps that ‘play music’ by the movement of seawater
Sun Salutation – solar panels that create a light show at night
Sunset – stunning
Cross between the old and new city with one of the ferry men
Church of St, Donatus and the Cathedral
Free parking may dictate your accommodation – we stayed at Hotel Kolovare which has a pool, a bit of a beach and is a 20 minute walk into town. There is wifi throughout the hotel. We had one uninspiring buffet lunch… breakfast was a bit better. Would we stay again?… Probably…
FOOD AND DRINK
Kornat – we had a birthday lunch here … opted for a selection of starters including Octopus salad, Seafood Salad, Ravioli, Gnocchi. Nice setting, watching the boats in and out.
Pet Bunara – Definitely need a reservation in high season. We dined on Goats Cheese, Mussels, Turkey and Sea Bass. The food was delicious and service good… go there!!
Yes I know it’s a party island but don’t let that put you off in the slightest. Look at a map of Croatia and see how close it is to Zadar. You don’t need a car ferry to access it and there are plenty of great beaches and restaurants.
The island is connected to the mainland by bridge. The natural landscape is bare and rocky – often described as a moonscape. About an hour’s drive brings you from Zadar to Pag Town. The town has a lovely setting with narrow lanes and a few significant buildings and exhibitions. The length of your stay will be determined by how much beach time you’re interested in.
OUT AND ABOUT
Beaches – there’s a fine beach in Pag town but get in your car and head off. You can get a free map at your accommodation which has all the beaches marked on it.
Some of them are not easily accessible. We tended to stop when we saw cars parked along the side of the road.. we reckoned the locals knew best. Many beaches are small but the water is amazing. Don’t forget water shoes and bring food and drinks with you..
(Stoney and crowded but look at that water!)
Party scene – regardless of your age – visit Zrce beach in Novalja!! You can go for the clubbing if you wish but we arrived early afternoon and just sat and watched the scene unfold … and wished we were 40 years younger!!! There’s a parking fee but don’t let that put you off. It’s actually a beautiful beach. As the afternoon progresses, more and more people turn up and the atmosphere definitely heightens… we left before the partying really got underway… that’s for someone else’s blog!!!
Lace-making – This remains an important tradition in the community. You can buy pieces directly from the lace makers in Pag town.
We stayed for 3 nights in Pension Frane which has free parking and a small rocky beach with limited beds. It’s a 15-20 minute stroll into town. We liked it and would happily stay again.
FOOD AND DRINK
Pag Cheese – paski sir – for sale in a lot of houses throughout the island as well as along the road.
There are plenty of restaurants in Pag Town offering lamb and Pag Cheese dishes. We ate in Bistro Na Tale and Barcarola…..yep.. Lamb and Cheese….have to really!!
(Paski Sir at Barcarola)
PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK
As you plan your trip and read advice about the park you’ll become more and more bogged down… ‘’’ which entrance!! where to start!! which direction – clockwise or anticlockwise!!
The main thing is …. GET THERE EARLY... the rest doesn’t matter…
We arrived at Entrance 2 at about 7.45a.m. There was already a queue so we did what most others did … one hopped out of the car and joined the queue while the other went off to park. There was only one ticket window in operation but another opened at 8.00a.m. and the information booth opened 2 more a short time later. This sped things up considerably which meant that in early August which is probably pretty much high season, we were holding our tickets at 8.15a.m….. Not bad!
We walked about 10 minutes to the entrance / bus stop. That’s where it gets really frustrating! We waited for about 1 hour for a bus. One left at 8.30a.m., another at 8.50a.m. and then 3 came together at 9.20a.m. I’m only supplying these minute details so that you come prepared for delays … even early in the morning.
We went to the top of the upper lakes and walked down to the largest lake – Kozjak – where one crosses to link up with the path towards the lower lakes. We were dreading this part after the earlier wait but the 5 or 6 boats were very frequent and there was no queue from our side.
We had lunch when we disembarked .. there’s a nice meadow there with picnic benches and a few places to get drinks and hot or cold snacks.
It got VERY busy as we headed towards the waterfall on the lower lakes and we met lots of big groups coming from that direction. It was time to go! We just had a quick look and headed for the bus stop and back to the car for about 3.00p.m.
Is it worth a detour – definitely – we really enjoyed the upper lakes in the morning. Photographers will have a wonderful time. Be prepared for walking – how can people walk all day in flip flops??? (Is that an age thing I wonder !!! ) Allow waiting time for internal transport and brace yourself for crowds as the day progresses. And enjoy!
On the night before our visit, we stayed at House Pribic in Rudanovac which is about a 20 minute drive from the park. The room was clean and tidy and we were given a welcome drink. There’s plenty of parking and restaurants close by.
FOOD AND DRINK
We had made a reservation at Bistro Vila Velebita which was just down the road from our accommodation and had good reviews. We left it until about 8.30p.m., thinking the crowds and bus groups en route home from the park might have already eaten and left. The place was jammed!! They had no knowledge of our reservation so we had to join the queue outside but we actually only waited a few minutes for a table. We had trout and pork – big portions. Good buzz about the place – worth a stop.
A 2 hour drive from Plitvice National Park, we picked Opatija because we liked the sound of Lungomare – a 12 km coastal path with plenty of places to eat and drink along the way and a bus route to take you back to your base should you so wish. Idyllic! By the time of departure, we’d completed 2 km of it, having succumbed to the stronger attraction of the sun bed… Shameful!!
The town presents as a very refined resort with its villas, gardens and fountains. Give it a skip if you’re looking for wild nights and clubbing. But do go if you enjoy pleasant walks with Viennese coffee stops and elegant surroundings.
OUT AND ABOUT
Lungomare – a coastal trail in both directions from Opatija
Maiden with the Seagull – the symbol of Opatija at a beautiful vantage point along the walkway
(Maiden with the Seagull)
(We found James Joyce among the famous guests of Opatija that are depicted in the mural in Park Angiolina)
Remisens Premium VILLA AMBASADOR
We spent 3 nights on a half board plan in the Villa which is attached to the main Hotel Ambasador.
The Positives: Very good value for half board option / Good location a short walk from the town centre / Opens directly onto Lungomare / Dinner Buffet – nice salads, mains ok, plenty of fruit for dessert / Was able to buy a bottle of wine in the restaurant and have it over 2 nights / Excellent breakfast
The Niggly Bits: Long trouser rule for dinner not heeded or enforced / Sunbed wars – a lot of tension at the pool every day due to reserved sunbeds / We didn’t even attempt to find space at the hotel ‘beach’ / Staff at main reception could have been more welcoming and helpful ( rest of staff – restaurant, rooms, etc. were very pleasant) / Parking – either €10 approx per day or street parking (where one must feed the meter regularly)
A little over an hour’s drive from Opatija brought us to the city of Pula. It’s well worth a visit even for a half day -you’ll see most of the major monuments within a few hours. Get a map in the tourist office and just wander. There’s also plenty of shopping if you’re in need of retail therapy!
OUT AND ABOUT
Roman Amphitheatre – you can admire the well preserved arena from the outside but should really allow time to get a ticket and visit it properly. There’s an optional audio tour or you can just wander and enjoy.
Walking Tour – wander the old town and see the Temple of Augustus, The Arch of Sergius, churches and narrow streets.
Floor Mosaic – the Punishment of Dirce – I love mosaics so persevered and finally located it behind a shop on the edge of a car park.
Hotel SENSIMAR MEDULIN
We spent 4 nights all inclusive in the village of Medulin. We settled on Medulin because we wanted an all inclusive hotel for a few days and had little choice when booking. It also caught our eye because it was only 20 minutes from the airport. The town itself didn’t appeal to us but has sun, beach, bars and a fun fair. We found a nice small village centre just a short walk from the resort.
The Positives: Adult only / Good food / Very good Mai Tais! / Plenty of parking / Nice staff / Afternoon tea in the foyer – trays of petit fours etc. / If you don’t want to drive into Pula, the number 25 bus runs between the towns.
The Niggly Bits: (very few actually) Need to be up and out early to get choice of sunbed / Pool a bit too cold for my liking
JUST A WEEK?… Zadar, Pag, Plitvice Lakes round trip
Zadar, Krka and Sibenik round trip
MORE TIME? .. Go south to Split or explore Istria from Pula.
Drivers have absolutely no patience.. Just ignore them and hold your nerve.
Buy a cheap kettle in the supermarket – handy for a quick cup in your room.
When heading to the beach, keep your eyes peeled for discarded beach umbrellas, lilos, even chairs…Holidaymakers buy them upon arrival and dump them on their last day.
Be prepared for sunbed wars at your hotels!!
Don’t forget to bring water shoes for the beaches (there are plenty available for purchase if you’ve no room in your luggage)