Overall score (Dan) = A
Overall score (Jocelyn) = B
Total days = 21 nights, 22 days
Total cost = $2,722
Cost per day = $124 / day
Flight costs = Bus from Vienna to Zagreb, $150 in flights to Dubrovnik
Cities visited: Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar, Split, Zadar, Novigrad, Zagreb
As we continued our journey into Europe after Austria, we wanted to explore a cheaper place than the western European countries (Germany, France, etc), so based on the advice of travelers we previously talked to, Croatia was the ticket. When it was first mentioned, all I knew was it was somewhere in eastern Europe and that they might’ve been involved in the Bosnian War in the 1990s. It turns out I was right and that wasn’t the only war that affected Croatia as it’s been a popular place to fight over for millenniums – from the Greeks, to the Romans, the Ottoman Empire, and more recently the Austrians in World War I. After we spent three weeks exploring Croatia, we learned why it’s so hotly contested.
In fact, hot was the last thing I thought about as I took my nearly daily dip along with the locals into the salty and cold Mediterranean waters. This must of been what they fought for… maybe Croatia’s strategic position on the Adriatic Sea factored in, but I think they fought more for being able to call this land their own. From the stunning coastlines with arid mountains rising quickly out of the sea with travertine cities clinging to their sides, to the magnificent lands of the interior full of magical crystal clear waters and high mountain villages, this was a land worth fighting over.
We spent three weeks in Croatia and felt like we explored a good majority of the region. It was planned as our last relaxing stop before our 6 week marathon to the end of our round the world journey; it was our time to relax, take in some sunshine while pondering life, and catch up from our previous marathons through Asia.
How far does your money go in Austria?
Even though Croatia was accepted into the EU, it still uses its own currency, the Croatian Kuna. One US dollar equals roughly 5.8 Kuna. Croatia was more expensive than SE Asian countries, but compared to other European countries it is quite cheap while offering just as much!
Here are our per day spending highlights:
Lodging = $60 / day
Food = $37 / day
Transportation = $16 / day
Excursion = $10 / day
Total hotel points used = 10,000 points
Sheraton Zagreb (1 night), Westin Zagreb (1 night), Sheraton 4 Points Zagreb (1 night)
When I need to go to a happy place in my head, I think it officially has a new address – it’s Korcula, Croatia. Our original three day reservation turned into five days after we checked into our cheap apartment to find a huge space overlooking Korcula’s harbor and the old town. The old town is filled with ancient travertine buildings which include beautiful old churches and the hotly disputed home of Marco Polo – disputed because Venice claims he’s a native Venetian! It’s a sleepy sea side town that’s awoken by the occasional ferry or ship’s horn as it prepares to leave dock. It receives tourists, but it’s nothing compared to the hustle and bustle we experienced a few days previously in Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik, Croatia came recommended to us by a friend as one of the most incredible places they’d ever been, after we saw it for the first time, we agreed. It’s a fully fortified city that sits on the rocks overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It’s old town is totally surrounded by walls built at least 1,000 years ago as a result of the many wars previously discussed. However, they do nothing to defend the town against the thousands of cruise ship passengers who arrive each day to flood the city. If a cruise ship is your only way to see Dubrovnik, go for it, but if you are able to see it on your own, even better. We avoided the city during the cruise ship “peak times” so we weren’t ran over by the many groups of 50 fanny pack wearing and gelato carrying people lead by their flag holding tour guide. On a side note, we also ate a lot of gelato.
After that, it was even easier to love the smaller town of Korcula which had the same amount of personality without the crowds. We visited similar towns such as Hvar, Split, and Zadar, but the smallest town of Korcula stayed on the top of my list.
Croatia’s many owners have left it with some amazing ruins all along the coast. Most towns boast some sort of Roman ruins, but all fein in comparison with the town of Split which is home to Diocletian’s Palace. Diocletian was originally from the Dalmatian Coast (Croatia area) and took the Roman throne in the fourth century A.D. He decided to build his retirement palace in the area that’s now Split, Croatia. Although it was built 1,700 years ago, it’s still an active town and the palace has become the old town area. Not much is left of Diocletian’s Palace as it’s been rebuilt over the centuries, but if you discover what lies beneath the city, you’ll be rewarded with the nearly complete palace basement. It was rediscovered in the 1960s and once it was excavated, the archaeologists realized the basement’s floor plan was an exact replica of the palace which it supported. It was amazing to walk through the damp, dark rooms, and imagine the pageantry their top rooms held.
Croatia’s interior also holds many jewels – two of which we visited are now National Parks. The first is Paklenica National Park which contains towering limestone peaks and massive caves which can be explored on a day’s hike. In fact, our quick day hike turned into a nearly 7 hour hike after we discovered more of the park then planned after an incorrect turn! With no time to rest, the next day we visited one of the most magnificent natural wonders of our entire trip – Plitvice National Park. Although full of tourists, it’s also full of amazing natural beauties which I’ll let Jocelyn’s pictures show you!
Overall, traveling around Croatia was quiet cheap, whether it was our $15 ferry rides from town to town or our $19/day rental car. However, gas prices were quite high at roughly $8 US per gallon which ratcheted up the price of our trip.
The service at restaurants and other tourist facilities were also pretty poor. I guess if I were stuck inside serving tourists and missing my daily dip in the Mediterranean, I may be unhappy too! However, we did enjoy our Air BnB stays with our very kind and gracious hosts who received us at their homes or apartments. We saved quite a bit of money by using them.
Besides the wars, the only other ugly part of Croatia is their traditional food! For having such nice growing conditions along the sea, they sure don’t take advantage of it. Their traditional food – the cevipicphe – which is allegedly stolen from Turkey anyway – is a fried bread with greasy sausage and high fat yoghurt stuffed inside. Each time we ate their “traditional dish”, we swore it to be our last time to east it! In the end, we still ate it a couple of times because that’s what they’re good at cooking.
In conclusion, Croatia rivals it’s Mediterranean counterparts due to its beautiful coastlines full of rocky coastlines and ancient cities. In may never get my recommendation over visiting Italy, but if you’re considering going to Italy a second time, I think croatia deserves your visit instead. In fact, Croatia single-handedly made another crazy thought pop into our heads… what would happen if we bought a sailboat and tourist the Mediterranean….
Next up: Turkey