I have said my heart out about Croatia in the post Experience Ideal Life with my 10 days Croatia itinerary. As I reflect through my Croatian experience, especially from Split to Dubrovnik, I comprehend why Croatia felt like one of my best travels?

The answer is simple, just like the simplicity of Croatia…. You always have a happier time when you experience much more than you expected. Croatia surprised me in more than few ways….

Small country but wide panorama

Pebbled beaches but stimulating water activities

Cold water but warm people

Rugged streets but charming windows

No distinctive cuisine but master of grills

Over salted food sometimes but people always sweet

Transitioning history but such a relaxed vibe

Through every Croatian contradiction, I experienced more than I expected!

Well it is obvious that when you are in Croatia, you will be spending a lot of time by the coast, which by the way feels like the song of ice and fire, the chilling water and hot sun! That’s what you are there for, to bake and chill in Brac Island or surf the sunny Hvar island. However, here I am sharing with you many more things that you will absolutely enjoy in the Dalmatian coast from Spilt to Dubrovnik..…

Hike upto Marjan Mountain

Split isn’t just about islands around, Diocletian preserve and the ravishing Riva. It is uniquely cuddles the Marjan Forest Park on its westernmost tip, famously called as the “lungs of split” and they literally are. For us ramping up to Marjan was a perfect incline walk workout, climaxing with 314 stairs, ending on a nature terrace, where the breathtaking panorama of Split city by the Adriatic relaxes you to the deep tissue. There are different ways to visit Marjan Mountain. You can walk to the end of Riva and take the stairs passing through the tourist apartment corridors, going up to the Vidilica Cafe. You may also get to this point by your car and park at the Northern Gate (a.k.a. Marjanska Vrata), this is where you get the first spectacular view of the Spilt peninsula.

Café Vidilica in Marjan, Croatia
Split to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Split to Dubrovnik, Croatia
Some play time in Marjan, Croatia

From here again you can take 2 routes, either take the rough terrain incline walk starting from a gate on the right of the restaurant, this keeps you in the shade throughout, or take the smooth incline walk more starting from the left of the restaurant, this is more exposed to the sun but you pass by the Sv. Jere Church and the great views of Split keep you company. Whichever way you choose both will be fun until you reach the famous 314 steps mark.

314 steps to top of Marjan
Croatian flag at the top of Marjan

Well, buck up again and hoist to Marjan victory witnessed by the green oasis and flagged by the Croatian flag itself at 178m above sea level. You won’t be able to resist clicking the views you get from here, once you are done capturing memories, do enjoy the sleep with the warmth of sun, cooled by the trees shading the terrace. Expect to see only 4-5 more like you. On trek down, you can plan to stay back at the Restaurant mid-way, with its spectacular views this could be your perfect brunch, lunch or drinks stop.

View of Split from top of Marjan Mountain, Croatia

Relish Wine and Olive Oil tasting

Not as much as Tyrion Lannister, but being an enthusiast of wine experiences, I had never really noted Croatian wines making a mark elsewhere. Conversely, Croatian wines swirled out to be one more gala surprise for me.

Did you know Croatia…

Grows 115 distinct varieties of grapes?

Is the origin land for the wine grape celebrity in California – Zinfandel?

Is said to be the no.3 country in wine drinking, beating the likes of Italy & France?

Well, I am not really surprised about Croatia’s 3rd position on wine drinking because Croatian wine makers are not as ambitious to pour the Croatian grapes to the global wine thirst as much as the potential they have. Croatia offers a wide variety of grapes like Grasevina, Plavac Mali, Posip, Malvazija which are extremely relishing. However, it appears Croatians pretty much believe in manufacturing their wine modestly and drink it large, all by themselves. While you are crossing through the coastal part of Croatia make sure to sip some local grape in one of the vineyards overlooking the Adriatic in regions like Korcula, Kastela and many others.

Also, equally delightful are the olive tasting experiences in Croatia. The crisp, fresh and savory local olives, served with fresh cheese are a perfect pairing with some local Croatian beer. Croatians have some serious love for olive oil, set aside cooking with olive oil, they often say “we can put Olive oil even on ice-cream”, and they mean it!!! You can also buy olive oil in an array of flavors like garlic, lemon, rosemary, basil and more. My favorite all the way was the garlic olive oil, which also travelled back with me home.

Croatian vineyards
Zinfandel grape in a Croatian vineyard

Explore Omis, a town full of adventure thrills near Split

If you were looking for a little dose of adrenalin on one of your days in the Dalmatian coast, look towards Omis, a small town 25 kms south-east of Split. This little town with a perfect setting of a mountain and river in its backyard, offers a bundle of adventurous activities from hiking, trekking, zip line, kayaking, rafting…. You name it. Well, on one fine sunny day we decided to wet our soul, rafting through the Cetina river. We booked ourselves up with Croatia Rafting, in spite of our last minute decision to go for it, the operators were extremely accommodating to organize it for us. Not only that, they are also one of the best priced in the market and have a diverse experience in rafting across countries. The rafting itself is low to medium difficulty level, but it surely was a wet and witty morning chattering with folks on the raft, working the sides out and hearing the fun stories from the Croatia Rafting team.

The rafting team in Omis, Croatia
Rafting with Croatia Rafting Company in Cetina River, Omis

Drive from Spilt to Dubrovnik

I had to literally pinch myself to believe the beauty as beautiful as fantasy, through this stretch of earth, from Split to Dubrovnik. The formations of the curvy coast, green mountains, boats cutting the calm water, checkered fields and village clusters, each one urging you to spend a sum of your life. My camera finally cried for the no. of pictures I took on this drive. Every setting in this 4 hrs drive is a jaw dropping moment, sooth to eyes and a shimmer to soul. All the way long I was thinking of all the renowned drives around the world, this one has to be one of the most beautiful I drove across. Whatever you do in Croatia, surely don’t skip this ride!!!

The scenic views on Split – Dubrovnik drive

Live the Game of Thrones mania

When in Croatia, its ritual for GOT fans to pay homage to all the iconic GOT shoot sites and relive the celluloid moments of the show. You can easily get tour guides in Spilt or Dubrovnik to take you through the shooting locations but we decided to make it more interesting for us by setting out on a GOT scout ourselves like a true fan. Read more about My Game of Thrones scout in Croatia.

Stairs where the Cersi’s infamous walk of shame was shot
Cheers Tyrion!!!
Diocletian Palace, Split – where Khaleesi sheltered her dragons

Paint me Orange – Old City, Dubrovnik

The Orange rooftop of Dubrovnik from City Walls

Passing by the smiting orange panorama from the City Walls, Dubrovnik, I felt that the phrase “Orange is the New Black” surely got spelled by someone here. The intense rooftop of this city feels like the sun set its orange tones into these roofs forever. The city oozes a vintage charm at every corner and crossing, with secretive stairs running up and down throughout the old city like a game of snakes and ladder……and the puzzle laid around by the city walls makes the Dubrovnik Old City perfectly more mysterious. I stayed in Dubrovnik for 3 nights, and old city is pretty much the place to go still in these 3 days I couldn’t have enough of this city’s antiquated walk ways, 360 degree view fine dines, hidden pubs in the rocks and blushing evening walks by the old port.

The intimate stairs through Old City, Dubrovnik
Taking a walk through the City Walls, Dubrovnik

Hike SRD Mountain for the best Dubrovnik panoramas

For the best panoramic view of the Dubrovnik city, hiking Srd Mountain is the way to go. You can easily reach the top by taking the cable car round trip to the top of Srd from the Dubrovnik Old City. However, the recommendation I will make is to hike the Srd mountain (atleast one way) instead of taking the cable car, especially if you are enthusiastic to work out a bit and you care for the uncompromised panoramic shots of Dubrovnik. The cable car taking you to the top of Srd, lands you in a fairly small terrace with numerous visitors trying to take pictures of the restricted panorama also, disturbed by the wires of the cable car, however while hiking the Srd mountain you can get the widest possible views of not just Dubrovnik but the islands lined on the right and left of Dubrovnik….. and shared by just 5-6 more hikers like you! This hike is a zig zag rocky path taking you about 30-45 minutes one side. Just make sure to wear your sports shoes, be prepared to walk on incline and carry your does of hydration….. and camera of course! The hike will be worth as you see in this shot here.

Kick-starting the hike to SRD Mountain top
Kick-starting the hike to SRD Mountain top

View of Dubrovnik from SRD Mountain
View of Dubrovnik from SRD Mountain

Relish the Croatian culinary

Croatian food is essentially hybrid drawing influences from several cultures like Greek, Mediterranean, Venetian, Roman, Turkish….. but it has a uniqueness! You must have heard the saying “What our great grandfathers used to eat, was the organic of today”. Well the uniqueness about Croatian food is that you can still eat like your grandfather’s times! Food served in Croatia without asking is organic, home style and fresh. It doesn’t happen in every travel experience that you get to have great food 12 out of 12 days but it happens in Croatia, probably because people still believe in the simplicity and freshness of ingredients, authenticity of cooking technique and they care for the taste on your plate.

One of the signature cooking styles of Croatia is the Peka, it’s a specialized method of grilling Octopus or meat in an open fire place for 2-3 hours, air packed from all sides in a metal cover. I heard to eat Peca, one needs to place order 2 hours in advance in restaurants. However, we had the delight of eating in one of our accommodations in village Jezerce, where Tom (our host) prepared Peca from noon to evening in front of our cottage.

Here are some of my most favorite eating places in Spilt and Dubrovnik from my stay:

Split – 7 Palms Restaurant, Caffè Luxor, Augubio

Dubrovnik – Nishta, Taj Mahal – The Bosnian Cuisine, Lady Pi Pi

Croatia certainly was a great place for me to draw inspiration for my idea cooking. You can check out my Croatian – Indian fusion salad recipe – called “Underground Brothers”.

shikha
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