During my time in Croatia I was lucky enough to explore it with some local Croats. I’ve been fortunate that in a few places I’ve visited I’ve got to see it through a local’s eyes and I can honestly say it’s my favourite way of travelling. Not only does it break down the language barrier you are straight away treated as an equal and not as a tourist. There were a few Croats that I was lucky enough (or maybe they were) to befriend and they showed me some amazing spots that I would never have known about if it weren’t for them. They probably won’t like me telling you all of their secret hideaways so sorry in advance guys!
Zrmanja River-(an hour from Zadar)
This place is not that easy to find but so worth the effort. You will definitely need a car (my preferred way of seeing Croatia) and ignore your SATNAV. I went here 3 times over the summer twice with my local friends and once without and of course, that time we got lost. If your SATNAV selects Zrmanja the town rather than the river it will take you down a dusty single lane road that literally seems to lead to nowhere and then your petrol light goes off and you want to cry because if you broke down you’d be stuffed. But that’s another story. Follow the signs for Obravac then slow down as you start seeing signs to Zrmanja, it’s rather hidden, which is half of the charm.
I also forgot to mention that this place is free! No parking charge, no admission just awesome water falls and fresh water. My advice is to see where the local people are heading and follow them. It sounds ridiculous but I can’t explain all of the nooks and crannies we found so go and explore for yourselves! You can jump off waterfalls, climb up waterfalls or just chill by the side of the water with a few beers. There’s a little cafe where you can eat Cevapi (kind of like kebab) and even a camping ground if you want to stay over. A true hidden gem.
OK so you may know about this place but you may not have considered stopping here. The main National Park in Croatia is Plitvice which, yes although stunning, it get’s so crowded and loses it’s charm because of the 1000’s of people cramming to get the same photo. Krka is the lesser known NP but as your allowed to swim it beats Plitvice hands down for me.
My advice is to go early on in the season as you really appreciate it’s beauty when you get a bit of peace and quiet there. The weather is still good but your not fighting for a space to sit and chill.
Bridge Jumping in Skradin- The better way of getting to Krka National Park
You can get to Krka two ways, by driving and getting a bus down or getting a boat (for free) from Skradin. To get to Skradin ignore the signs as you turn into Krka and follow the very windy road down until you reach a little town. Parking is about 40 Kuna (£4) for the day and you get a free boat ride through some gorgeous scenery.
As you drive towards Skradin you will go over a blue bridge that the boat you will actually be getting on goes under. If your the adventurous type then feel free to join the locals and jump off of it. Obviously look out for the boats below but take a plunge and get your adrenaline going after a fairly chilled day at Krka.
Being the closest town to Krka it’s the perfect place to stop over the night before or after visiting the park. It’s got a gorgeous view of the Adriatic from the top of St Michaels Fortress which is about 35 kuna (£3.50) to get in. It’s also got a beach and a really pretty old town that has amazing restaurants and shops scattered around. If you fancy splashing out a bit you can go to the best voted restaurant in Croatia and treat yourself to a fancy bite to eat in Pelegrini’s. The menu has lots of interesting local dishes and if you reserve early enough you can get a gorgeous view of the harbour at sunset. Well worth a visit.
Dugi Otok – Island off of Zadar
According to my Croat friends the first row of Islands are the most touristy and if you go to the second row it’s that quiet you can skinny dip at noon. His words not mine. Dugi Otok is on my list of places to visit when I go back this summer as the secluded beaches and amazing snorkelling just look to good to pass up. There’s a wreck just off of the island so although a popular place for avid scuba divers it’s a big enough island to find your own spot and relax. Or, if your feeling really adventurous, skinny dip at noon.
I’m always up for going off of the beaten track and I think there’s something quite special about feeling like your one of the few people who has explored a place. Croatia is SO undiscovered which is astounding since it’s such a gorgeous country. The Dalmatian coast is a site of it’s own and I will get round to telling you about our week driving down it last August so keep an eye out for that.
All I will say is half of the charm of the these places is all of what I’ve mentioned above so don’t all flock there at once!