Sunday, 12 May 2019

Croatia: Delightful Dalmatian Coast


Greetings! In March, my sister and I took a guided tour to visit Croatia and Slovenia. Our itinerary included one stop in Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I wrote about our day trip to Mostar here, and our wonderful time in Slovenia here.

While in Croatia, we started from Dubrovnik, travelled north with overnight stays along the Dalmatian Coast, Plitvice Lakes National Park, the Istria Peninsula, and ended with a two-night stay in Zagreb, Croatia's capital, before flying home.

At each location we had about one to two hours of walking with a local guide, followed by free time on our own until we met again to return to our hotel. The old towns are all cobble stoned and the best way to explore them is by walking. One exception is Plitvice Lakes National Park where our tour guide was with us for close to a full day.

We lucked out on at least three things:
  1. Our group size was twelve, including my sister and I, even though the tour was advertised with a maximum of twenty-two people. The participants were all Canadians, from various Canadian provinces. Everyone was friendly and prompt, which means no wasted time waiting around at meet-up times.
  2. The weather was superb for March, a transition month from winter to spring. We had sunny skies and pleasant temperatures throughout the entire trip, except one overnight stay at Plitvice Lakes National Park. On a couple of days, it felt like summer at 25C (77F).
  3. The tour went smoothly from beginning to end. We received all the services as outlined in our tour package. In hindsight, my sister and I both feel that we've got very good value for the 'flash sale' price we paid. In addition, by travelling in shoulder season, we didn't encounter any crowd or long queues at the main sights, or traffic jam on the highways, or delays at border crossings.
I'm sharing my Croatia's Dalmatian Coast highlights in this post and the remaining Croatia highlights in the next post(s). Will you join me on these walks?

DALMATIAN COAST

Croatia's coastline is 1778 km long, with over a thousand islands dotted the Adriatic Sea, waiting to be explored. We flew from Toronto to Dubrovnik and started our guided tour in Dubrovnik. Our Dalmatian Coast adventures included four stops, shown as blue markers in the photo below: Dubrovnik, Split, Trogir, and Zadar. Click to enlarge the pictures.

Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

DUBROVNIK

My first sight of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was from a hill top, and it was as beautiful as I imagined it to be. The well-preserved citadel completely encircles the city, with red-tiled roofs within its 800 year-old medieval wall. On a clear and sunny day, Dubrovnik is a jaw-dropping beauty with the blue Adriatic Sea as its background, dotted with a few green islands. 

Before entering Dubrovnik's Old Town, we stopped to take in the views of Fort Bokar and Fort Lovrijenac. Without a doubt, Dubrovnik is Croatia's gem. Its image is on the back of Croatia's 50 Kuna bill (Croatian's currency is the Kuna or HRK).

Dubrovnik: Fort Bokar, Fort Lovrijenac, on 50 HRK bill

We entered Dubrovnik's Old Town from Pile Gate (top left in the photo below). The pristine marble streets in the Old Town are lined with baroque buildings, beautiful Renaissance fountains, and facades. Some of the important landmarks include: Stradun (the main street in Dubrovnik's Old Town), with the Franciscan church and monastery at one end (top right), Sponza Palace at the other end (bottom right), Rector's Palace, and Dubrovnik Cathedral (bottom left). 

Pile Gate, Stradun, Sponza Palace, Dubrovnik Cathedral

We walked along the underpass of the Bell Tower to reach Dubrovnik's Old Port. From here we could see fantastic views of the sea, St. John Fort, and the City Walls. The walk way that hugs the Old Port also has benches for visitors to sit down and enjoy the Adriatic sun and sea.

Dubrovnik's Bell Tower, Old Port, and City Walls

At Dubrovnik's market, we tried a delicious local snack consisting of dried figs, orange rinds, and nuts. Then stopped by the Terrace by the Sea coffee shop by the Old Port for a good cappuccino while soaking in the views.

Dried figs, orange rinds, nuts, and cappuccino

Dubrovnik's main attraction is the City Walls which are approximately 2 km long. With renewed energy after our coffee break, my sister and I decided to climb the narrow streets of the Old Town up to the northern walls for great views, and walked along the perimeter of the Old Town before meeting our group to return to our hotel. It was a gorgeous day in a beautiful city!


SPLIT

Split is Croatia's second largest and lesser known city. It's a town steeped in ancient history preserved over the course of 1700 years by its inhabitants. Emperor Diocletian chose Split as his retirement destination in 305 AD and had a grand palace built here to accommodate his post-imperial court. Today, the ancient Roman palace – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – serves as Split’s vibrant marketplace and its city center. The ancient narrow streets are alive with people, shops, bars, restaurants, and hotels.

Columns at Diocletian Palace, Split, Croatia
 
Church and Statue of Gregory of Nil, Split, Croatia

Split Cathedral, Alley, Theatre, and Fish vendor

Split is also known as the jumping off point for a visit to the magical Mediterranean islands. Unlike Dubrovnik which has unfortunately become full-on touristy, Split is the place to discover real Dalmatian life in an atmospheric setting. On a beautiful sunny day, we strolled Split's seafront promenade which is lined with palm trees. We savoured the views of dramatic coastal mountains and shimmering sea, and mingled with the locals.

Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia

At our tour guide's recommendation, my sister and I ordered traditional Dalmatian pasticada with gnocchi and local wines for dinner. Pasticada is a stewed beef dish slow cooked in special sauce and served with homemade potato gnocchi for special occasions. We quite enjoyed this flavourful dish.

Pasticada with gnocchi in Split, Croatia

TROGIR

Trogir is a medieval town developed in the 13th to the 15th centuries and another UNESCO World Heritage site. It's located about 29km west of Split.

We entered Trogir historic town centre via the Renaissance city gate. Above the gate is a statue of the town's protector, the Blessed Ivan Orsini. Trogir historic town centre is pedestrian-only and is like an outdoor museum. We walked to explore the beautiful facades, elegant churches and palaces, and medieval streets.

Trogir city gate, cathedral, and palace

Trogir waterfront has a wide promenade perfect for walking. At one end is the Kamerlengo fortress which was built in the 14th century and used to be connected to the city walls. From the promenade, one can see the Trogir-Ciovo bridge and many sailboats.

Trogir waterfront

At our tour guide's recommendation, we took a coffee break at Dovani restaurant which has a great pastry selection and coffee bar on the ground floor. The cake and coffee were some of the finest that we've had.

Cake and coffee in Trogir, Croatia

ZADAR

Zadar is a walled Adriatic town like Dubrovnik, with Roman ruins, Venetian architecture, and a rich cultural heritage found on every corner. The city was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2017.

One of the main attractions in Zadar is the Roman Forum, constructed from the 1st century BC until the 3rd century AD. It's the largest forum in Croatia. Here we see St Donatus church (the round pre-Romanesque church in the photo below), St Anastasia's Cathedral (right), column ruins (front), and the Pillar of Shame (left) which was used to punish evildoers during the Middle Ages.

Roman Forum in Zadar, Croatia

Zadar historic centre is pedestrian-only. The streets lead to several beautiful public squares. One of them is the People's Square (top left in photo below).

Public squares and Roman ruins, Zadar, Croatia

Other landmarks shown in the photo below: St Mary's Church and the Benedictine Convent (top left), the ornate, late-Renaissance Land Gate dating from 1543 with a snarling Venetian lion over an effigy of St Chrysogonus on horseback (bottom left), the Captain's Tower and the Square of the Five Wells (bottom right).

St Mary's church, Buildings, Five Wells, Land Gate

Zadar's waterfront is a great spot for strolling and watching the sunset. On the southwestern quay, we sat on the steps to listen to the Sea Organ. It's an urban installation and a musical instrument. Tubing within the stone steps transforms the movement of the waves and the sea breezes into a series of musical chords.

Nearby is the Greeting to the Sun, a remarkable installation made out of 300 photo-sensitive glass plates that absorb daylight and transform into a wondrous light show at night. Both the Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun installations are designed by Nicola Basic.

Sea Organ, Greeting to the Sun and Boardwalk

While in Zadar, we tried a popular Croatian snack called Burek at the local Mlinar bakery. Burek is phyllo pastry filled with meat or spinach and cheese or just cheese in spiral shape. It's inexpensive and tasty.

Burek in Croatia

I hope this blog post and my photos reflect how delightful Croatia's Dalmatian Coast is. In my next post(s), I plan to share my highlights of Croatia's Istria Peninsula, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and Zagreb.

Thank you for travelling with me. I'd love to hear your comments.

70 comments:

  1. Hi, Natalie - Your travel posts always make my feet itchy...and make me want to get out there and travel even more. While so many other travel friends of mine often experience (and recount) many travel frustrations of things that have gone wrong on their journeys, your travel posts are always so positive and highlight everything that went right. Coincidence...I think not! Attitude...I'm 100% convinced of this! Loved this post and your photos!

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    1. Thank you, Donna, again for your kind words. I count myself incredibly lucky for having way more travel positives than negatives. Even when something didn't go as planned, it usually became a travel tale which might be useful material for future conversations or a memoir :)

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  2. Another fascinating post, Natalie! Thank you for sharing more of your travels. Again, I've never been to Croatia. Adding to my ever growing list of places to explore.

    SSG xxx

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    1. Thank you, SSG, for your kind comment. It's wonderful to have a list of places to explore. It gives me something to imagine and look forward to.

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  3. Oh what great memories! We spent time in Split and Trogir before and after a week long cycling/sailing trip around the Dalmatian coast - it was amazing and your post reminded me of it. Thanks so much Natalie! #Lifethisweek

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    1. Hi Deb - Your cycling/sailing trip around the Dalmatian Coast sounds amazing. It's a beautiful part of the world to do that kind of trip. Thank you for dropping by.

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    2. It was amazing and we hope to return one day but it's a long way from Australia! Also visiting from #Senisal

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    3. Thank you, Deb, for returning. Have a wonderful week!

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  4. Great post on Croatia, a place I hope to visit one day.

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    1. Thank you, Darlene, for your comment. If you could go in low season, Croatia would be more enjoyable than in high season.

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  5. Your beautiful pictures are making me want to sail our boat to Dubrovnik, off-the-beaten track Split, boat filled Trogir and melodic Zadar.! Such historic grandeur. And all UNESCO Heritage which is always a draw for me. The food looks marvelous and it sounds like you were blessed with a small, like-minded tour group to enjoy these magnificent destinations. How did you find the tourist levels in Dubrovnik completed to other Mediterranean destinations you've visited?

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    1. Oh Lisa, can I sail with you in the Adriatic Sea? There are quite a few UNESCO sites packed in the Dalmatian Coast. Dubrovnik is pretty much all tourists. The locals there rent out their properties and move elsewhere. Prices are also higher in Dubrovnik than anywhere else in Croatia. It is a beautiful city, however, I would not go there in high season, from mid April to October, especially when cruise ships arrive in town. The other places in the Dalmatian Coast are lesser known and locals still live there.

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  6. Gosh, what a fabulous vacation. And it's nice to have such a small group to get around easier. I love that you showed us some of the food too!!
    XOXO
    Jodie

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    1. It was a fabulous trip, Jodie. I tried to remember taking photos of the food before I devour them :) Thank you for stopping by.

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  7. Thanks for sharing your Adriatic highlights and incredible photos, Natalie! I’d never heard of Zadar and Trogir. So nice that all your city destination offered culture and sea views.

    I’ve been to Dubrovnik and Split before, but that was so long ago that I barely remember anything. Time to go back, I think. Croatia is a popular sailing destination in the Med and your photos and stories make me itch to visit by boat one day!

    Lucky, indeed, with the weather (I truly love blue skies and walking in such perfect conditions) and with the group sizes as I’ve heard that tours get cancelled when a certain number of participants hasn’t been reached. What a fantastic region!

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    1. Thank you, Liesbet, for your comment. You're right that the Dalmatian Coast is a fantastic region. To revisit it by boat would be amazing.

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  8. Hello, looks like a beautiful place to visit. Thanks for sharing your trip. Lovely collection of photos. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy new week!

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    1. Thank you, Eileen, for your visit and comment. Wishing you a happy week, too!

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  9. Croatia looks great - I love your guide! I hope to get there next year, and your post will certainly help me decide where to go and what to see! Thank you! :-) Visiting from Esme's Salon and pinned. :-)

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    1. Thank you, Cheryl, for your kind comment. So exciting that you plan to go to Croatia next year. I'm glad you find my post useful.

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  10. Ahh what a wonderful trip! It was a lovely reminder for me of our time in Croatia and the Dalmatian islands in 2014. I would love to go back. Thanks for the memories and the new insights, and info about the places we didn't get to visit.

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    1. Thank you, Jo, for your comment. The Dalmatian Coast is truly delightful. Lots to see and enjoy there.

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  11. That looks lovely. Heard wonderful things about Split. #MLSTL

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    1. Thanks, Lydia, for your comment. Split is a great place to visit and use as a base to go to the islands or Dubrovnik.

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    2. Fingers crossed I get there then! #Lovinglifelinky

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  12. How very beautiful. You go on the best trips. Thanks for sharing this with is. #MLSTL

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    1. Thank you, Patrick, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it.

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  13. Not so sure I would enjoy doing a tour as we liked to do our exploring at our own pace. A simpler way of life in that part of Croatia. #MSTL

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    1. For this trip since my sister and I wanted to focus on sightseeing and fun, we decided to go with a tour so someone else took care of the logistics. We had lots of free time on our own. I usually travel independently.

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  14. Hi Natalie, As perpetual travelers, we've spent a lot of time in Croatia, one of our favorite non-Schengen, countries. We've been to Split, where we spent three months, in an apartment right on the water. We were there in March of that year, so we got it at an off-season price. We were just in Zagreb, for a day, in April, though we've also been there before, enjoying lots of cultural sites. Right now we're in Banja Luka, Bosnia. Wish I could have spent more time in Mostar, when we were there, a few years ago. Thanks for sharing about so many great places. I look forward to your next post.

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    1. Thank you, Christina, for your comment. So nice that you're doing slow travel. Europe is full of wonders to explore. I'm off to look for your blog.

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  15. I know of two Australian bloggers and their families who enjoyed extended family get togethers and celebrations in Croatia and I had no idea of its beauty until I saw their photos. Now I see yours and I can certainly imagine why they want to return.
    Thanks for sharing on #lifethisweek and next week's optional prompt is 20/51 Share Your Snaps #4 20/5/19 so do join in! Denyse

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    1. Thank you, Denyse, for hosting and commenting. Croatia has a lot to offer to its visitors and is not as expensive as most Western European countries yet. I look forward to seeing your snaps next week.

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  16. Lovely weather, beautiful scenery and architecture, fab food AND a bargain basement price for it all (plus your tour group all spoke the same language!) It sounds like you ticked all the boxes Natalie :)
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I've shared on my SM :)

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    1. Thank you, Leanne, for hosting and sharing. We did some research and had some luck booking the tour that worked well for us. My sister and I had a fabulous time and great memories.

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  17. What a great looking place. Your images are so good and make me want to visit for myself :)

    I am so glad you chose to join My Corner of the World this week!

    My Corner of the World

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    1. Thank you, Betty, for hosting and for your kind comment. I like your photo of the birds and flowers. Have a beautiful week!

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  18. All that blue. Fab photos as always and it sounds (and looks) like a fascinating place - definitely needs to be added to my list. You certainly did luck out with the group size. I'm with you in that we prefer to travel in the shoulder seasons to avoid the crowds and weather extremes.

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    1. All of these four towns are UNESCO World Heritage sites so lots of history and culture to discover. The islands are great, too.

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  19. Natalie, thank you so much for the virtual tour! What a beautiful part of the world Croatia is! Not sure if I'll ever get there so thank you for showing me around. BTW I'm a pastry lover and that Burek looks and sounds so delicious! :-) #TeamLovinLife

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    1. Thank you, Min, for stopping by. The bureks were yummy, fresh from the bakery, and they were inexpensive.

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  20. Oh, Natalie, I want to travel to Croatia more than ever, now. First, I have to say that I didn't realize I could enlarge your photos by clicking on them. This old dog learns something new everyday. And what stunning sites. Marble streets? Historic architecture. Delicious food. Gorgeous blue waters. I need to reconnect with my Croatian friend, and share your post with her. Jazminka helped me in a library where I subbed for several months and she was an absolute delight.

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    1. Thank you, Leslie, for your comment. I'm glad my post prompts you to reconnect with your Croatian friend.

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  21. Hi Natalie, I just loved Croatia when we visited and would love to revisit one day. My FIL was born in Serbia and moved to Croatia as a child. Such a beautiful place and thank you for sharing with us at #MLSTL

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    1. Thank you, Sue, for sharing your family connection to Croatia. The Dalmatian Coast is beautiful. It would be lovely to revisit the area.

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  22. It looks lovely! I'm not sure I've any great desire to go (so far from here in Oz of course) but I've actually got a friend there at the moment and another friend visited last year!!!

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    1. Yes, it is far from Oz. Tourism has grown in Croatia as words get out.

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  23. Natalie-Croatia is on my bucket list! I was actually talking about Croatia today with my youngest daughter about a possible destination for her college graduation next year! Thank you for all the info! Looks amazing!
    -Theresa from fabinyourfifties.com #MSTL

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    1. Thank you, Theresa, for your comment. Croatia would be a fantastic graduation trip. The tourist and cruise season runs from mid-April to October in Croatia. Try to go off season if you can or have patience as it can get crowded with long queues at the main attractions.

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  24. I'm visiting Croatia later this year and can't wait! Love your photos!

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    1. That's fantastic, Sanch. Lots to see and do in Croatia. Thank you for dropping by.

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  25. Hi Natalie, I have heard Croatia and Slovenia are beautiful places to visit, and you have confirmed this. Local tour guides are usually a wonderful resource for information. Many positives on this tour. The snack at Dubrovnik's market sounds tasty and nutritious. I will google and find out whether there is a name and a recipe. It sounds like you and your sister reached at least 10,000 steps a day and the hills added to the challenge. Great information and a fun read:) Erica

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    1. Thank you, Erica, for your visit and comment. I'm glad your comment went through and hope Blogger wasn't too much trouble for you. We had a very good time in Croatia and Slovenia and enjoyed walking every day :)

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    2. Hi Natalie, Thank you for your feedback on whether you received the comment. I am not sure which option I chose, resulting in this specific comment. A learning curve. I look forward to reading about the rest of your trip:)

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    3. Thank you, Erica, for stopping by. I'm playing with a free template in WordPress and learning, too :)

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  26. Hi Natalie, I have heard Croatia and Slovenia are beautiful places to visit, and you have confirmed this. Local tour guides are usually a wonderful resource for information. Many positives on this tour. The snack at Dubrovnik's market sounds tasty and nutritious. I will google and find out whether there is a name and a recipe. It sounds like you and your sister reached at least 10,000 steps a day and the hills added to the challenge. Great information and a fun read:) Erica

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    1. Hi Erica - FYI your sign-in in the comment above this one would lead me to your blog which is great as other commenters might visit your blog from here. Whatever you did worked as your comments appeared on my blog :)

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  27. Fantastic trip, Natalie! I spent a week in Dubrovnik 30 years ago and always meant to go back to see more of the country. Where did the time go? I planned on staying in Split to get to Hvar and Korcula. Oh, well... you never know :) :) Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, Jo, for your comment. Time flies when we have fun :) I look forward to reading about your trip to the Azores.

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  28. Hmmm, not sure where my comment went. I'd mentioned that through various bloggers I've realized how beautiful this part of the world is. The food looks pretty good, too, especially the burek.

    janet

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    1. Thank you, Janet, for your visit and comment. I'm glad your comment went through. Croatia and Slovenia have a lot to offer to their visitors, something for everyone.

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  29. I have a lot of Croatian friends. In fact, I think half my son's friends are Croatian. They visit a lot. I hear so much about it. Seems like a magical part of the world

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    1. Croatia has a lot to offer to its visitors. It's a long way from Australia but well worth a trip if you have time for an extended stay.

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  30. Natalie, I usually travel on my own at my own pace, too, and I hadn’t really considered doing a tour. But your experience in Croatia sounds fantastic. Also, my recent trip to rate was an organized retreat. The leaders did all the planning and organizing, and so for the guests, it was so easy. I didn’t have to arrange anything except the plane ticket; all the excursions, ground travel, accommodations, and food was included. It was also very affordable, compared to other travel I have done.

    Jude

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    1. Hi Jude - This tour was perfect for me and my sister. We booked and paid for it online and just about everything was taken care of by the tour leader so we were free to enjoy the trip. It was a flash sale which made the trip very affordable, too. I'd keep an open mind when it comes to independent travel vs. organized tours. There are pros and cons to each option.

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