Having visited Croatia several times before moving here last year, I’ve had many opportunities to explore the country. I live in Zagreb, my favorite city in Croatia, but I always enjoy getting away for a weekend, particularly when I’m headed to one of my favorite Croatian destinations.
Sibenik, to me, embodies everything I hope for in a coastal getaway: relaxation, romance, and understated elegance. It’s the kind of place where you wake up late, head to the beach, lunch with locals right in the port while your hair is still a mess, and then shower, get dolled up, and enjoy a sophisticated dinner overlooking one of the most beautifully crafted cathedrals in the world. In Sibenik, a laid back beer is just as appropriate as a dressed up glass of local red.
My infatuation with Sibenik is no secret – I’ve written about it a couple of times already for Like Croatia, sharing tips on the city’s highlights and ranking the ice cream at Pelegrini among the best in Croatia.
My must-do activities, apart from sampling that ice cream? Hit up Terraneo music festival, pick some figs and write a postcard or two in the tranquil medieval garden, and go for a leisurely twilight stroll, hand-in-hand, with your lover.
I usually end up in Zadar for just a few hours at a time, en route to some island destination or another town further down the coast, but I always look forward to my brief visits there. Zadar is relatively small and quiet – a perfect place to spend a few hours. My favorite spot in Zadar, by far, is the Sea Organ, a unique art installation where the sea plays soothing tunes. I like to grab a good book, find a seat on the steps leading into the sea, and read for hours while listening.
While throwing around possibilities for our brief coastal getaway last summer, my boyfriend suggested Dugi otok. “It’s one of the least populated islands,” he explained. “Plus, they have this strange festival where all of the men in the town dress up as sailors and parade through town while blowing horns.”
That was enough to sell me on this island I’d never heard of before. So we caught a ferry from Zadar and spent a couple of days driving around the island and relaxing in Sali, where all of the summertime festivities go down.
Dugi otok is indeed remote, beautiful, and a bit quirky. We spent our days dozing in the sparse shade of centuries-old olive trees lining secluded coves and our nights listening to klapa and “donkey music.”
If you go, skip Sakarun, the most famous of Dugi otok’s beaches. Instead, rent a car or a scooter and spend some time seeking out the island’s gorgeous hidden coves.
Walking through Groznjan for the first time, I felt the urge to rub my eyes or pinch my arm. It’s that dreamy. For me, Groznjan topped the list of the most picturesque towns I visited during a weekend tour of Istria with friends, surpassing even mystical Motovun. Why? It’s just so goshdarn quaint I could barely stand it.
A haven for artists and gallerists, Groznjan is one of the most aesthetically pleasing places in Croatia, in a very curated kind of way. Every narrow, cobbled passageway leads to a brightly painted door, carefully mismatched pots overflowing with vibrant blooms, or a breathtaking view of the valley below, complete with rustic stone benches.
My favorite way to spend a visit to Groznjan is sipping a glass of wine on the rear terrace of Vero while enjoying an exquisite panorama of Motovun in the distance. Usually my visits to Groznjan are brief, but it’s a dream of mine to spend a weekend there strolling through town and hiking the Poreckana Trail.
Opatija sometimes gets a bad wrap among younger Croats, who consider it more suitable for elderly travelers, thanks to its lack of nightclubs. There’s really nothing to do there, they say, except for walk around and eat ice cream. Maybe I’m older than my years, but that sounds like a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
When my mother came to visit me last spring, we took a day trip to Opatija and spent the afternoon strolling along the Lungomare, admiring turn-of-the-century villas and seeking out spots along the path to sit and sunbathe. The icing on the cake was a stop in nearby Volosko for coffee on the way back to Zagreb. Cruising down the steep hills of this tiny fishing town was a thrill for us both.
What are your favorite destinations in Croatia?
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