09 Nov CROATIA: 101 DALMATIAN (ISLANDS)
What is Croatia’s biggest (secret) tourist draw card?
No, it’s not just the stunning beaches which run down the length of the entire country. It is the nudist beaches which have made Croatia one of the world’s top destinations for nudists since the 70’s. Almost 15% of all of Croatia’s millions of tourists are there exclusively for a nudist trip – and they have nothing to hide!
Croatia – coastline of heaven and land of kings.
Tourism in Croatia has really kicked up a notch over the last few years and there are no surprises why. This Balkan gem’s perfect mix of Mediterranean climate, jaw-droppingly beautiful 526km cliff coastline and foodie-heaven status, has catapulted it into one of the most in demand destinations in Europe.
For me, the Slavic side of Croatian culture brings me to a homely ease, reminiscent of my roots in Poland. The influence of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and lifestyle effortlessly slip into the mix to compliment the long stretch of perfect cliff beaches and warm, calm waters. This was my second trip to Croatia, but it was definitely the more in-depth one, we spent a month exploring from top (Istria) to bottom (Dubrovnik) and back to the top (Zagreb), with many adventures in between the coastal towns and a little bit of island-hopping too. Gabriel stayed on to live a Croatian life for another few months through winter while he studied at culinary school in Sisak (near Zagreb), while I journeyed to India and Sri Lanka to do yoga and some solo travel.
As usual for us, our Croatian trip was about a combination of nature and food, plus the geeky charm of a plethora of historical sites and museums. As each country has its charm, it is still difficult to think of another country which ticks so many boxes as Croatia.
First and foremost, this country has views – all of the views. Facing the Adriatic Sea from the coast and ogling the Dalmatian coast from the sea. It doesn’t matter if you are floating in the water, hiking in the hills, driving the winding coastal roads or sitting in the cosy restaurant in the old town of any of the ancient cities, you won’t miss a view. One of our favourite drives of all time was the long, winding coastal road back from Dubrovnik to Split, when we finally realised that taking the highways was no use to us – our camper Daisy gets a pat on the back for making it to 100km/hr so we weren’t actually saving any time taking the boring albeit direct 130km/hr super ways. There are all of the obvious spots which people make sure they see and are so highly recommendable too like Plitvice, Krka, Pag, Brac, Zadar, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik; but there is an absolute charm in between these well visited spots – the smaller, less visited towns and villages dotted along the coast and inland over the mountains have a heap of charm and even more of a chilled out vibe. They also all somehow casually have ancient Roman ruins scattered throughout as though it is no big deal. So no matter what you are into, you can find it in nature in Croatia.
Obviously, the food was TO. DIE. FOR. Croatian food is like taking the best elements of Italian, Mediterranean, Slavic and Middle-Eastern food and adding some heavenly wine to the mix. As we travelled down the coast we sampled each region’s speciality – Istrian truffles, Pag sheep’s cheese (which has an incredible, one-of-a-kind salty character from the salt bushes which the free-range sheep happily graze on across the island), liquid gold olive oil, delicious wines from the border with Serbia, Croatian specialty late-night snack Burek, Baklava from near Bosnia & Herzegovina and my favourite Makovnjaca poppy seed scroll, much like Makowiec in Poland. I don’t think it is possible to have a bad meal in Croatia – whether you are at a fancy restaurant, a local café or buying fresh, local produce to cook at home, you really can’t go wrong (especially with a little splash of truffle oil).
I think that perhaps one of the key motivations for people to visit is the sunny reputation Croatia has – long, warm, sunny and dry days soothe you through the long hours splashing along the rocky beaches. We travelled in September through to mid- October, whilst elsewhere in the East it had already become jumper weather, we managed to get through eating our weight in ice cream, dipping in the ocean and getting our skin another few shades darker. September is after peak season, so I would highly recommend it – not only is it way less crowded, it is cheaper, you can just turn up to most places without a booking (campsites that is), the water is still warm from the summer and the days are long enough to read those extra few chapters in your book, on the beach.
If Roman ruins are your thing – there’s a real life (still in use) Colloseum in Pula, if you love island-hopping – there are 140 islands in the Kornati Archipelago, if you love scuba diving – there are ruins of whole sunken plane and other remnants from the war scattered around and if you love going nudie – Croatia is your place to be (tip: look for the FKK signs on beaches, or search FKK campsites).
Our highlights definitely included
- Getting lost in the winding streets of small art town, Rovinj
- Watching the sunset over the horizon as we lay next to the Sea Organ play its soothing sounds of the waves in Zadar
- Camping on Pag island and eating their famous sheep’s cheese for every, single meal
- Chilling out on the cliff beach with turquoise waters right in front of our camper, near Makarska
- Walking the walls of Dubrovnik and Kayaking around to hidden cave beaches along its coast
- Enjoying the fact that we weren’t stuck in a narrow, one-way windy cliff-side street anymore, in Dubrovnik (Oh my god, the relief!)
- Exploring the Contemporary Art Museum of Zagreb, which I kid you not – has a slide from the fourth floor as the exit
Here are some of our happy snaps from our heavenly stay…
N & G