Why this once-hidden gem is still a must visit destination

Dev Shah
Dev Shah
Jul 22 · 5 min read

Back in 2016, me and my best friends were looking to take a boys trip to somewhere in Europe. Initially, like most people, we thought of doing the famous Amsterdam-Munich-Brussels trio. However, we were not very thrilled and were looking to do a trip which wasn’t a popular tourist ‘hot spot’. Basically, we belong to the other half of travellers who want to travel to the unconventional spots.

What I knew about Croatia (in 2016)

At some point, while searching, I stumbled upon Croatia. Back then, I only knew about their football team and the fact that Game of Thrones was shot there and well… that’s pretty much it. Upon looking at a few travel blogs and googling I saw the country had lots to offer. Even in 2016, Croatia’s tourism was rising but definitely not how it is today. And just like that we decided that Croatia was our destination. I remember my parents and close ones asking questions like ‘Where is Croatia exactly on the map?” or “Are you sure there’s enough to explore in Croatia for more than 2 weeks?”. That should give you an idea about it’s popularity at the time. After a good few weeks of researching, we booked our flight tickets sand we were on our way!

Detailed itinerary was planned for 15 days spread across 4 cities - Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Zadar & 2 islands - Hvar, Pag.

Our Hrvatska Experience

The trip had everything — road trips, hostel life, boat parties, adventure, sea waves creating music (yep, that’s a thing) & cliff diving!

Croatia is rich in culture and natural beauty with friendly locals. One instance of it was when we decided to do a day long hike at the local Marjan Hill in Split. We trekked for a couple of hours at this amazing place oozing with nature, with the hill one on side and the sea on the other. Yet 2–3 hours weren’t nearly enough to get around the whole area as this place was HUGE. Although on the bright side we ended our day with a relaxing and satisfying dip in the sea. Apart from that Split is mostly known for it’s waterfronts and night life and I second that.

One of the best roads I have ever driven on would be the Split-Dubrovnik coastal road. Never have I driven on a road which made me look at the surroundings more than the road itself. While travelling on the coastal road we abruptly stopped at a juice shop which turned out to be a full-size farm maintained by a small family. The farm owner offered us to stay for a while at her farm, indulge in some snacks and throw some hoops. Just like that in the middle of nowhere we stayed there for hours soaking in the sun, chit-chatting and playing basketball. Next, we crossed the Bosnia border enroute and had a great meal at one of the eateries on the way. Dubrovnik was mostly about the GOT tour and a couple of castles but Lokrum was the highlight. It is a low-key island in the Adriatic Sea next to Dubrovnik which is a serene getaway into nature and also where you can cliff dive!

Getting to the breathtaking coastal places, we did a one-day cave excursion tour from Hvar on my birthday. It included trips to the blue and green caves — A scientific phenomenon where the sunlight reflects through the water coming from the white floor of the cave which causes the water to glow blue and emerald green. Pretty amazing! right?. As part of the excursion we stopped for lunch in the small town of Komiza on Vis Island, which had a population of less than 1500! Honestly if there is any example of population not being related to the area’s habitability, it’s this town! Lastly we went to this lesser known beach hidden between two mountains called the Stiniva Bay. It is hardly half a kilometre long beach with just one shop and cannot have more than a couple of boats docked at a time, talk about solitude. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend my birthday.

Last leg of the trip was Zrce beach, Pag Island. I can write a whole article about this place (and maybe I will!) so for now I will just describe this place as the hub of mad party scenes. Croatia was surely one of the best trips we have had. I still reminisce the hostel life in Zagreb, Split’s nightlife and adventure sports, scenic road trip of Split-Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik’s history and old town feels, Hvar’s island vibes, Zrce’s spring break fest + boat parties and to top it all one breath-taking evening at The Sea organ in Zadar.

Split-Dubrovnik road trip views

What we learned

While visiting, we spoke to quite a few locals and Airbnb owners. They revealed that Croatia’s tourism was rising rapidly and stimulating their economy, in other words rising Airbnb rates and expensive rentals. Ever since,

Croatia has been on it’s way to become a “tourist spot”. Well, I can’t really blame the country for it, maybe social media?

Not to mention the huge crowds of tourists flocking to Hrvatska who fail to maintain the cleanliness in public places and decorum in party towns. One of the many side effects of overtourism.

Nevertheless, Croatia will definitely remain one of my favourite places in Europe. It’s just a matter of time before I visit again although probably once the dust settles and it starts to become less crowded.

I would love to discuss and hear about your travel experience, feel free to share and ask questions in the comments below.

Dev Shah

Written by

Dev Shah

Full Stack QA & DevOps Practitioner. I write about tech, finance & life. Love to share knowledge. Writer @ NoteWorthy—The Journal Blog, The Ascent, Towards AI.

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