We spent about two weeks total in Croatia, visiting numerous cities with friends along the way. After leaving Slovenia, our first destination was the island of Krk, followed by Plitvice Lakes National Park and the capital city of Zagreb.
We were told to visit the islands so our first stop in Croatia was Krk. Per usual, we found a super cute Airbnb in Šilo which conveniently had access to a small secluded beach. Most beaches in Croatia are rocky instead of sandy, and this place was no exception. Unless you have thick calluses or several beers, you will want to wear water shoes. Despite the rocks, our little beach was a beautiful place to relax for a few days!
Apart from our lovely beach we also visited Krk Town and Soline Bay. Krk Town is one of the oldest cities in the Adriatic. We spent a few hours wandering the Old Town and having one of the best - and accidentally far too expensive - seafood meals of the trip! We finished our island visit in Soline Bay where we covered ourselves in the detoxifying mud. It may or may not have had health benefits, but we had fun rubbing ourselves down in questionable black goo.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
After Krk we drove east, almost to the border of Croatia and Bosnia. We had heard rave reviews about this beautiful waterfall park from numerous people and couldn’t wait to visit. We had read that summer could be crazy with visitors, but we did not expect the insane lines and parking chaos when we arrived. Instead of fighting the crowds, we grabbed lunch and came back later. With somewhat less congestion, we found free parking along the road about 10 minutes walking from the main entrance. On our walk back to buy tickets we decided to use a trail in the woods 10 feet from the road. It was not long before trail signs indicated that somehow we had entered the park and were almost to one of the attractions. This happy accident saved us a few hours in line and over $100 in tickets!
The park itself is beautiful but very overcrowded. Most of the park trails are skinny boardwalks that aren’t meant to accommodate the thousands of August visitors. We would definitely recommend visiting the lakes, but plan your timing! Either avoid high season or visit the park after 3 or 4 pm. This will help you avoid the tour bus crowds, escape the heat, and give you a more intimate experience with the park.
We didn’t really know what to expect from the capital. We had heard good things about all our other destinations but nothing much about this city. We actually came through Zagreb twice: once after Plitvice Lakes and once after Zadar before catching a train to Budapest. It was definitely the least touristy town we visited in Croatia. Most tourists - who seemed to be mostly Austrian, German, or French - stick to the coastal towns. As a result, Zagreb’s prices were noticeably cheaper than the coast and we took advantage of this at several craft beer bars while we explored Old Town.