Croatia is absolutely one of my favorite countries in Europe. Two years ago, I visited Dubrovnik, a beautiful city surrounded by incredible city walls. The city was home to filming for Game of Thrones, and there are plenty of landmarks that are familiar to any fans.
However, this time around I wanted to visit some of the National Parks that have made Croatia tourism famous. So upon returning, I made Zadar my jumping off point to explore more of Croatia. Zadar itself has a quaint, aesthetically beautiful Old Town, but seemingly less attractions than other Old Towns in Croatia, such as Zagreb or Dubrovnik. However, I found this to be a nice aspect of Zadar, a city to wander around and relax and not have to cram every attraction into a short amount of time.
The Old Town does have a few notable sights to see though. The Sea Organ, one of two in the world, plays round the clock music from the waves crashing into its walls, for those willing to sit and listen. The main cathedral also has a beautiful interior that is worth visiting, however be sure to cover knees and shoulders if you want to gain entrance. Both attractions are free which makes it nice for the budget traveler.
I, personally, found the Sea Organ relaxing. Although it can be surprisingly loud, I fell asleep right on the steps, listening to the repetitive sounds and crashing waves. It’s a peaceful place, but not necessarily for those who may be fidgety or those who like to do and see a lot.
In my second day, I went to Croatia’s creme de la creme of tourist attractions: the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Easily one of the best and most beautiful destinations I have visited in my life. However, with great beauty, comes great crowds. The park is basically one long route, but with options to go back along the way. The paths are routes A, B, C, and D, with A being the shortest and D being the longest. The A and B section of the route is full of tourists and selfie sticks and long lines that can, at times, take away from the natural beauty surrounding you. So, be sure to allot enough time to do either the C or D variation of this route. I did the C route, which is marked as a 4-6 hour hike, however it took me about 3.5 hours of walking. The C portion was much less crowded and I imagine the D portion to be almost empty.
Another national park that is a worthwhile visit is Krka National Park. Less crowded, but also slightly less impressive (although still beautiful) than Plitvice Lakes, Krka is known as the most beautiful river in Croatia. Beautiful waterfalls of azure blue water are the backdrop to the swimming area that makes the park famous. Spend enough time to do the whole walk (about an hour), swim in the natural pool, and if you have more time than I did you can take a boat excursion up the river.
In my final day in Croatia, we took a bus to Zagreb early in the morning. While there, I visited the Mirogoj Cemetery. The Cemetery is huge, but the architecture of the entrance and the intricate tombstones make the cemetery worthwhile.
The rest of the day was spent wandering around the Old City of Zagreb, which I found to be incredibly beautiful. I was surprised that I had not come across much mention of Zagreb when seeing other blog posts about unknown destinations. I also stepped into the Museum of Broken Relationships, made famous by “The Bachelor.” I was surprised by the museum, as I thought it would be angrier/funnier, but I was moved by many of the stories and I spent much longer than I thought I would in there. Also, the museum came at a price tag of about $3. I would absolutely return to Zagreb to spend more time exploring the city.
Overall, Croatia can easily be a budget destination. Day trips to the parks cost around $50 and accommodation is fairly inexpensive. Even not taking into account the affordability of Croatia, I would easily say that Croatia is one of my favorite countries in Europe. It simply has everything you could want in Europe. The national parks are picturesque, the Old Towns are quaint and full of things to do, and the food is delicious. If there is one place in Europe that I think tourists (mostly non-European tourists, who know Croatia to be an incredible destination) to know about, it’s Croatia.