Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Croatia Online – Croatia’s Best Kept Secrets


Friends, relatives and readers often ask us how best to spend a week or two in Croatia – where to go, what to do, what to see….

That’s probably the toughest question we get – the more we find out about Croatia the more we discover “must see” places and activities, and the more we feel that the honest answer is that a week is just not long enough. However most people don’t have our luck at being able to explore Croatia all year round so here are a few insights into how to find Croatia’s best kept secrets.

1. Explore Coastal Croatia From The Sea 

As you’ll see from the sister site, accompanying our book, the Croatia Cruising Companion, coastal Croatia is designed to be explored from the sea. Charter holidays are more accessible and affordable than many people think, and cater for novice sailors as well as experts, so if you have the luxury of a two week holiday, why not make one of them a charter – see Croatia For All Sailors for more information, and Town Ports and Harbours In Croatia for some special places to go. The best months for sailing Croatia are May, June and September though you may find the sea a little fresh in May. July and August are the most popular months for obvious reasons but that comes with higher marina prices, more traffic and the need to find your overnight berth earlier in the day to be sure of a space.

2. Find A Theme

A hobby or theme will give you a reason to explore off the beaten track and find the real Croatia. Our last posting was on the subject of bird watching, another activity for which Croatia is just waiting to be discovered. Other areas where Croatia excels include wine making, olive oil, gastronomy, culture and history, fishing, rafting, folk music, and film festivals. The list is huge and there are just a few agencies that can put together the best that Croatia has to offer in many areas. Secret Dalmatia is one of them and if you have a look at their blog, you’ll find many more Croatian Secrets.

3. Don’t Try To “Do” All Of Croatia In A Short Space Of Time

The real joy of Croatia comes from the quality, rather than the quantity. If you have a short space of time then focus on a relatively small area. Visit the nearest big city and absorb all the culture and history, find one of the many National Parks and explore all that it has to offer, go inland and observe the difference in cultures and more unspoilt nature, find a local wine producer and try out his vintages, visit a local olive grove, take part in the summer festivals, and hop on a ferry to a nearby island. There’s a huge variety of things to do and see in easy reach of most of the main cities and if you choose you’re base wisely, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll also get a much better deal on accommodation if you choose just one base for the whole week.

4.  Try A Specialist Tour

Fortunately, for western Europeans, en masse coach trips are a thing of the past. Now it’s small high quality tours. We’ve mentioned Secret Dalmatia above, and it’s through them that we have discovered far more of Croatia’s Secrets than we would have found on our own – spectacular viewing points, amazing caves, Roman ruins, wine tasting trips, etc. If you know what you want but don’t know where to find it, then a high quality local agency will open doors for you that might otherwise remain closed. The best experiences are often the best value ones too – what could be better than dining on home produced food and wine, in the company of Dalmatians that can tell you more about Croatia in an evening than you might otherwise learn in a year?

5. Learn A Little Croatian

You don’t NEED to, as almost everyone speaks good English, but you will find a little effort goes a long way with the locals. It is quite a hard language to learn properly, mostly because of the grammar, but phonetically it’s pretty easy – pronunciation is consistent and the alphabet is almost the same. Mastering a few basic phrases isn’t too hard and you just need to be aware that any letters with an accent on have a soft pronunciation. For example, Brač is pronounced Bratch and Šibenik is pronounced Shibenik. Follow this link for an online phrase book - Croatian Language School

6. Prepare

Do a little homework and you will get much more out of your trip. There are a number of good websites around and plenty of guide books, though we’d recommend Time Out’s Visitors’ Guide To Croatia as being the best value for money  - it’s produced annually and focuses on features and reviews produced by contributors who live locally and are therefore “tapped into” the latest news events and trends. For sailors, of course, we’d recommend the Croatia Cruising Companion and would also humbly point out that for those that want to visit the smaller and less known islands by ferry, it’s hard to find another source that covers all the Dalmatian islands so comprehensively.


And, to illustrate the type of secrets waiting to be shared, here’s an example of what an apparently lesser known destination, Sibenik, pictured, has to offer alongside its fascinating and compact historic town centre.

A UNESCO protected Cathedral

Croatia’s only falconry centre a ten minute drive away Croatia Online - Falconry Centre Makes World News

A variety of unspoilt islands

The Krka National Park, about twenty minutes drive away

Dalmatia’s first discovery park, Etnoland (and the website doesn’t do it justice!), about half an hour’s drive away

Bibich Winery, a local wine producer who has been exporting wines to the US successfully for a number of years

A new shopping centre

Two fine dining restaurants – Pelegrini and Peperoncino – as well as a number of good traditional Dalmatian konobas

Castles, Roman ruins, canyons, ……..

The one thing Šibenik doesn’t offer as yet is a good, city centre, hotel. Perhaps the best options are in the neighbouring tourist town of Vodice or next door  Tribunj, a lovely fishing village with a high class marina


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