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Croatia: The Hidden Gem of Europe

The pastel-colored seaside towns of Istria could be straight out of Liguria; the rustic hill towns are reminiscent of Umbria. Istria is rich in vineyards and olive groves, and wine and olive oil, along with truffles, are the most prominent exports. And yet Istria remains relatively undiscovered.”

Kate McCulley

Croatia An Unexpected Wonder

Croatia is a hidden gem of Europe that caught us by surprise and had us departing astounded. While planning our trip, we discovered that few people seem to talk much about Croatia or even know it exists. When we mentioned where we were going to our friends or family, the most common response was, “where is that, and what is to see there?”.

Find our Croatia Itinerary Here

It is a bit sad to admit, on some level, that was us not that long ago. Now we did know where it was but were not as cognizant of the remarkable sights, amazing food, and rich experiences Croatia had to offer.

A two-week trip to Croatia was not our first plan. We had never dedicated this much time to any one country. What was to be a multiple-country trip became a solo one as it was the only place in Europe allowing US tourists in at the time due to Covid. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. We fell in love with this incredible country and its lovely people. It is now one of our absolutely favorite destinations, and we cannot recommend it enough.

In the story box below we share a bit more about how we landed up in Croatia

Novigrad, Croatia
Novigard

What is Croatia about?

This remarkable destination is full of rich history spanning from the beginning of man to the Roman Empire to a country finding its place in the modern world. Croatia is full of ancient ruins to extraordinary castles that remain fully intact to natural settings that seem untouched by man. Croatia has over 1100 miles of gorgeous coastline and over 1000 islands on the Adriatic sea. From hill towns to coastal towns, wine countries to beautiful national parks, towering mountains to white-sand beaches, this country has something for everyone. Put aside any preconceived notions of Eastern Europe’s stigma still regretfully associated with this part of the world. Croatia’s rich landscape is a vast array of stunning settings that are dramatically breathtaking and will capture your heart.

Drive hairpin turns on steep mountain roads, walk rugged mountain trails to castles, watching vibrant sunsets of color that seem painted on the horizon overlooking the Mediterranean. Wander medieval villages, pass by endless groves of olive trees that make some of the best olive oil in the world, and eat delicious pasta covered in white truffles. All can occur in one relaxed day on the Istria Peninsula.

Omis Croatia
Omis Croatia

Sail the gorgeous waters of the pure, clear turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea while island hopping from the sun-soaked shores of Hvar, the unspoiled paradise of Vis, or become enchanted by Medieval Korcula. Heading south along the Dalmatian coast, you will discover picturesque seaside treasures such a Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. Croatia is a never-ceasing wonder.

The People of Croatia

Croatia displays its colorful mix of cultures proudly while maintaining its unique feel. It is a relatively small country of around 4 million people. We found ourselves drawn in by the people above all else. There was something exceptional and impressive about the Croats. They have a wonderfully strong sense of community and family. It is core to their culture.

These amazing Croats are incredibly resilient, proud, warm-hearted, gracious, and deeply religious. Their Catholic faith seeps from their very soul. Their strength, peacefulness, and joy of life won over our hearts and earned our most profound respect. Whether in the tiny medieval village or the big city, we found kind, friendly people along with warm hospitality that made us feel welcomed and engaged from start to finish.

Zagreb our first stop

Zagreb Croatia

Northern Croatia is home to Zagreb, the nation’s capital. A great place to fly into and for getting your bearings. Ease your way in before heading out to all the exotic locations scattered in the hills and along the vast coastlines. Zagreb is very much a European city. Cobblestone roads and concrete buildings fused side by side. Scattered with sights old and new, from churches to bunker tunnels made for war, bustling markets, and massive squares, you will find a unique and easily navigable city. We spent two days there, which was just enough time to see all we planned to.

Medvedgrad Castle, Zagreb, Croatia

The environs immediately around Zagreb are quite fascinating and unexpected. If you can, make the time to head out to Medvedgrad Castle within Medvednica Nature Park. It is a short distance from the city but feels a million miles away. The park is a prime destination for local families. Croatian parents were there in droves taking their children out for day hikes. There were many more along the river enjoying a warm later October day. The strong sense of family in this country was obvious and potent that day. Family is the core and center of Croatian life.

Istria Magic

Boljum, Croatia

It was time to move to our next destination of the Istria peninsula, where we were spending a few days in the old Roman town of Pula. This region is southwest of Zagreb. The path to Pula is dotted with many medieval castles and villages. These quaint places were full of great-tasting local specialties that were shockingly inexpensive. Our meal experiences were always full of the warm hospitality we have come to expect from places like this in Europe. In Croatia, it seemed even more so.

This region is home to hill towns that give off a strong sense of Tuscany, Italy. That is no surprise since Italy was part of Istria until 1947. (You will find lots of pizza; as a result, it is their fast food). Our travels that day took us to Dubovac Castle in Karlovac and Castle Boljum in the town by the same name.

Boljun was this tiny Medieval Hill Town in what seemed the middle of nowhere. That honestly had us feeling like we stepped back in time. As in many places on this trip, we were the only outside visitors there. This hill town had only one single business: a lovely little restaurant called Boljunski Konoba, next door to the castle ruin. It was a much-needed bathroom break (we all know those) that turned into a memorable meal. It was where we had our first fresh black truffles of the trip. What a way to welcome us to the Istria region. Where truffles were a best-kept secret until Anthony Bourdain put them on the map.

The Roman City of Pula

Pula Roman Amphitheater, Croatia

We arrived in Pula for a few nights of Roman living, dining, and exploring. This city is complete with a Roman Amphitheater that is the 3rd largest globally and still actively used today. We wandered it at sunset, this massive place to ourselves, and what a treat it was. If that was not enough, do not forget about the ruined city walls, city gates, a temple or two with a later century hilltop fortress to take in the city views. It’s like a small version of Rome without all the tourists and people trying to sell you trinkets. The rain stopped as we arrived to make the most beautiful setting. Wandering the empty city at night, it was easy to imagine the days of the Romans.

Good luck with parking, it is a traditional European city. Find a spot and start walking so you can spend your time taking in the sights, not making loops around the city. Ryan adored Pula and wished we could have given it more time.

Rovinj

Rovinj

From here, we made our way to explore the magical and varied cities of the western shores of the north Adriatic sea on the Istria Peninsula. Each with its own Venetian/Roman flair, they stick out of small peninsulas like a mini transplanted Venice or Cinque Terres. Rovinj and Porec are the most known ones, and they will not disappoint. Charming in every way, we walked every alley, saw every clothesline (Joelle is obsessed with taking pics of hanging laundry in these places), and hidden courtyards. They are places to get the freshest seafood you can imagine right off the boat. These cities are relatively close together. With this in mind, we completed them all in a day. If there was more time, we could have easily spent a day at each while incorporating some of the surrounding castles.

Rovinj, Croatia FAQ's
Rovinj, Croatia

Our first stop was one of the most photographed towns of the Istria region, the coastal town of Rovinj. Images can never do it justice. Known for its brightly painted buildings, charming streets, and fishing boats that line the seaside while the Church of St Euphemia towers on the hill over the city as if protecting its residents. The city has a strong Italian theme but also is very much Croatian. We found many waterfront cafes filled with Croatians laughing and enjoying their morning with their fellow kava drinkers. There seems to be an embracing of life that is relaxed and meaningful.

Sveti Lovrec, Porec, Novigard

Novigrad, Croatia on the Western Istria Pennisula

Our travels that day also took ancient city wall in Sveti Lovrec, the modernized seafront town of Porec steeped in history and the peaceful fishing town of Novigrad (there are three towns in Croatia by the same name to confuse us) with its lovely sea walk out to the lighthouse, Belltower, and a charming little umbrella street to cap off your memorable visit.

We, at that point, were a very short distance to the Italy border with Croatia. The border was closed due to Covid. So close but yet so far. The original trip that we had to change had us flying out of Trieste, Italy. It is a fascinating city with amazing architecture, beautiful beaches, rich history, and castles we would have loved and well…Italian food. We will make it back!

The Croatia Riveria

Opatija

Leaving Pula, we headed back toward the mainland on the Opatija. We visited the Castles Morosini Grimani and Pazin. We went way off the beaten path to Hum’s tiny village, the smallest city in the world, which was enchanting and magical.

Opatija was, let’s say, our resorty stop in Croatia, stepping briefly into a bit more luxury. This is one of the top destinations for Croatian tourism for both the Croatians and many Europeans. Often referred to as the Croatian Riveria. Opatija and the nearby larger city of Rijeka is the happening place for the young and more elite.

Full of beautiful seaside resorts, there remains simplicity and dramatic beauty. The crystal clear turquoise waters captivated us. The two cities are built on steep hillsides overlooking the Adriatic sea.

Rijeka and Opatija

We stayed at a wonderful and unique 5-star hotel Design Hotel Navis. Once on the decks overlooking the water, you felt a million miles away from it all. It is not our style to hang at hotels much, but we did enjoy what time we did allow ourselves there during extended breakfasts by the sea. Oh, and those poached eggs were covered in black truffles.

Tsast Castle Rijeki, Croatia

The city of Rijeka has many beautiful churches, the Tsat castle, lovely parks, and the Jalova Cathedral. The city had a young professional vibe.

While in Opatija, we made an evening trip to the island town of KRK, a lovely ancient seaside town dating back to Roman times. It was full of lively restaurants and bars, churches, a castle, and a fantastic waterfront. It had a unique feel to anyplace else we experienced in Croatia. We ambled through empty alleys late at night, and it felt it had a story to tell. It would be a place to spend a few days to discover what it is truly about.

The Hill Towns of Istria

Motovun, Croatia

Our only full day in that area, we dedicated to the hills towns of eastern Istria Pennisula, and what an experience! We visited the hill towns of Roc, Buzet, Motovun, Oprtalj, and Groznjan. These towns are the heart of what Croatia is, and you can feel it in every step you take. Each unique and magnificent they take you to another place in time. Reaching these towns was no small feat with steep, narrow mountain roads full of one hairpin turn after another. Not quite Joelle’s comfort zone. Many of these towns had steep walks up to get to the town center. Good workout for all the days ahead of extensive walking!

This area is where you can experience a gourmet meal smothered in truffles for a fraction of the price you would find in the states or really anywhere in Europe. After all, this region is the heart of truffle country.

Our Introduction to White Truffles

The highlight of our day was the town of Motovun. The real center of the truffle hunt. We were charmed by the town and its beautiful setting. Our special unexpected treat was the place we chose for lunch. Basing our decision on a quick search of local reviews, we chose the Konoba Mondo. It was just us and one other table with guests.

Dining Abroad in Croatia
Chocolate soufflé with white truffles Motovun, Croatia

We should have known it would be special when we saw a framed signed photo of Anthony Bourdain by our table. Little did we know what an experience was in store for us.

It turned out it was the first week of the relatively short season of white truffles. Much greater of a delicacy than black truffles, it is a special event. We chose from the seasonal menu with every course covered in fresh shaved white truffles. The pungent heady musk aroma of the white truffles along with garlicky flavor will always transport us back to that delicious rare treat. Smell is our most vital sense; after our journey into white truffles, we could not agree more.

The Diamond of the Kitchen

Truffles, referred to as the “diamond of the kitchen,” are a delicacy that few will have the privilege to experience; fresh white truffles are even harder to find. We had never tried them before our trip to Croatia. They are unique as they can only grow in natural habitats, and there few places in the world they are found. They are not visible, and it requires either specially trained pigs or dogs to hunt them. Black truffles are more common as they have a more extended season; white truffles are the most coveted. These fungi’ shelf life is short once harvested, so the white truffles are exceptionally rare to experience. These fragile white tubers range between $2400 to $6000 per pound in the US market.

Our Extraordinatory Meal

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience we came upon without having a clue. Those are the moments to throw caution to the wind and dive right in. We partook in a five-course delectable meal with every course covered in white truffles freshly shaved in front of us. We also enjoyed craft beer, local wine, espresso, all for around $130 total. Maybe because it was so quiet, our portions were so generous, but all we could say was WOW. It was one of our favorite experiences of our whole trip. When in Motovun, we can not recommend Konoba Mondo enough!

Konoba Mondo

When we returned to the hotel, we researched more about the restaurant, which turned out Anthony Bourdain featured on one of his shows. The owner is a truffle hunter who took him out for a White truffle hunt. We watched the show later that night and were even more shocked at our luck!

You can learn more about our experience and white truffles at our Croatia cuisine post here.

Central Dalmation Coastal Towns of Croatia

Zadar Croatia

Don’t burn yourself out on coastal living yet. There will be plenty more of our journey along the Dalmatian coast toward Croatia’s Southern tip. We made our way back Northeast to start heading down the shore to Zadar. Some of the earliest existence of man is found from the stone ages in the Zadar region. This ancient and modern city is a dichotomy and full of wonders. It is growing popularity as one of the upcoming cities to visit in Europe.

Zadar’s Unesco protected Venetian fortified city walls, and entrances to the town have been transformed into beautiful gardens and parks. You can make a loop around the city on its walls and fortifications. We made our way around the city to find old and new beauty intertwined, surrounded by water and a busy harbor. Ancient Roman structures overlooking the new waterfront are a great place to ride a bike, walk, or sit in the sun. Stroll white-sand beaches or wander down the expansive oceanfront promenade while the gentle waves of the Adriatic soothe you. Take the time to visit the world’s first sea organ, where the ocean plays its music. Or the nearby Greeting to the Sun, a unique monument that provides a fascinating light show after the sunsets. We thoroughly enjoyed just walking aimlessly as we got a better idea of the city’s size and layout.

Beyond Zadar

Knis Fortress, Croatia

We stayed in Zadar for a couple of nights and one day headed inland for some incredible sites, all so varied and unique. First is Novigrad, a lovely isolated little fishing village hidden by high mountains by the sea. High above the town sits the ruins of Novigrad Castle. Ryan did it alone with the digital camera on a steep and unstable path while Joelle wandered the town. At one point, an elderly gentleman began ringing with all his might the outdoor church bell on the hour as likely had been done for centuries.

We headed to Knis Fortress, the second biggest fortress in Europe in the industrial town in Knis. Beautifully preserved and huge, we had the whole place to ourselves. We didn’t have the time to see the incredible waterfalls in the distance; they are huge!

Along this path, we visited Burnum, which is a Roman archaeological site in the middle of nowhere. With an arena, arches, and a beautiful natural setting. There are hikes to waterfalls and the river in the surrounding areas.

Sibenik

Sibenik, Croatia

We continued southeast down the never-ending coastline hitting the spectacular and busy river Unesco city of Sibenik. It is a city that backs over 1000 years and has unique and fantastic architecture. It is a fortress city: St Johns, Barones, St Nicholas, and the magnificent St Micheals fortress.

There are many churches, along with the St James Cathedral and Monastery. Wander the charming old town or stroll along the busy waterfront promenade. The area is full of activity and charm. All the while graced with St Anthony Channel’s pristine views that connect this city to the Adriatic sea.

Trogir

Our journey then took us to the historic city of Trogir, which is situated on a small island between mainland Croatia and the island of Ciovo. The old center of Trogir was as if stepping back in history, and Unesco has included it in the list of World Heritage sites for its extraordinary Venetian architecture. This little island city dated back 2,300 years and was founded by Greek colonists and became a major port.

Trogir Waterfront

Trogir is known to be one of the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic examples in all of Central Europe. Wandering its medieval core, its ancient walls surround you. There are well-preserved castles and towers and many homes and palaces from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Trogir’s Church of St. Lawrence is a national treasure designed by renowned Master Radovan.

Though we make Trogir sound like a reverent place full of history, which it is, we found it to be lively and vibrant, with packed restaurants and bars, a young vibe, and a place bustling with social activity.

Pizza in Trogir

We did not want to leave this tight-knit, fun community of Trogir where Ryan had the best pizza of his life along the distinctive waterfront accompanied by our favorite Croatian dark beer, Tomislav. It is the perfect lunch stop before arriving in Split; if you have the time, explore this amazing town that had a pulse worth discovering.

Split

Split Croatia
Split Croatia

How can we describe the city of Split? It has a feeling of a Roman movie set built inside of a city. Split has an illustrious history and has been under Romans, Venetians, Austrian, French, Italian and Yugoslav rule. It finds a balance between tradition and modernity. While steeped with an ancient history, we discovered a vibrant young party and club scene. It is quite the happening place. It was the only place during our travels that the impact of Covid was barely apparent.

Split’s core is Diocletian’s Palace, built in the 3rd century; it is a massive retired Roman Emperor & General’s palace which became filled with refugees over the years. Once wide streets are filled with houses and shops packed within large stone columns, mosaics, and other bits scattered throughout—all of that surrounded by remaining parts of the original walls. Constructed in later years, a wide promenade along the waterfront graces this former palace as if it was always meant to be. This promenade now is lined with outdoor restaurants, bars, and cafes packed with people.

Want to learn more about Croatia. Click here to go to our Croatia Country Page.

Split is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with many residents still living within the old palace walls. It is a contradiction in itself, which makes it even more fascinating. The hills above Split make for a healthy hike that rewards spectacular views of the city and environs. It is then you realize how large the city is with its many hi-rise apartment buildings. The weather is ideal for much of the year, while sunny is a favored destination in Croatia.

There is so much deep and rich history in Split we decided to take a guided personal tour by a guide named Peter. The detailed stories he enlightened us with were marvelous, and there was a lot to absorb. If you have the time, we highly suggest a tour to learn the story of this amazing place.

Make time for 7th century Saint Dominus Cathedral and 12 century Bell Tower; a sight to behold. Take the many steps to the top of the Bell Tower for the fabulous views. It is the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the world that remains in its original structure and continues to be an active place of worship. The artifacts and art within the Cathedral are a must-see.

Omis Surprise

Omis Croatia

The final arm of our trip was the drive from Split to Dubrovnik. We planned to drive along the coast with a quick stop in the charming picture-perfect port town of Omis.

Omis is a small, old fortified town, built at the foot of enormous rugged and cliffs that perch about the town. These mountains of stone that seemingly hang over the town are part of the Dinara mountain’s western range. It also where the Cetina river meets the Adriatic. The river is lined with dramatic canyons and scenery.

This fascinating town has a long, violent Pirate history. The Omis pirates terrorized Venetian ships for centuries and were reputed to be extremely cut-throat and ruthless. The setting of these massive cliffs gives you a sense of foreboding as you approach Omis while at the same being strikingly dramatic and beautiful. It likely seemed the ideal place for these pirates to organize and take refuge.

Omis Croatia
Omis Croatia

Outdoorsman dream

In our draw to Omis, there were two unique and spectacular fortresses. Why two and in such dramatic setting part of the mystique of Omis. The Starigrad Fortica sits on a precipice of stone 860 feet about the town of Omis. Built-in the 15 century, this requires a hearty roundtrip couple of hour hike on steep rocky trails. Ryan did it on his own, mostly running, and found it well worth the effort, with a magnificent view of the coastline as a bonus. The second fortress is Mirabella above the heart of old town Omis. We both did this one, but the last element was a ladder climb to the top. The views are no less impressive.

As we walked along the Cetina river, we were approached by a woman who offered to take us on a very affordable boat ride up the Cetina river deep into the canyons. The temps were in the 70’s and full sun. How could we turn it down? We bought some beer at the local market, let our boat captain take the helm, and relaxed as we enjoyed the breathtaking scenery.

Your choices of Omis activities

This town is home to a wide array of outdoor adventure activities. Start with lovely Omis beach for those who want to lay in the sun. The more adventurous souls, the area offers biking, mountain biking, ziplining, boating, kayaking, river rafting, canyoning, rock-climbing, hiking, camping, and fishing. We could not believe all this little place has to offer. As Croatia grows in tourism, we can see the town being a popular tourist destination.

Add to that a quaint, well preserved old town full of locals passing their day. The varied paths were full of colorful flowers and charm in early November. There were many restaurants, but it just still gave off a sense of authenticity that tourism hadn’t quite taken over yet.

Our final stop Dubrovik

Let us make our way to the final gem of this country we came to love, the great walled city of Dubrovnik. It is our cover photo on this post, and it is a city that seems almost surreal. Something out of a fantasy novel, this city is built on a rocky cliff that hangs over the water on one side and opens up to a port on its eastern end. A massive wall built in the 13th century protects it; encompassing the town; you can only grasp the scale in person.

The Walled City of Dubrovnik

This city is the most touristy and most expensive of all the places we visited in Croatia. Much more in line with traditional Europe. You can see multiple trinket shops lining the main street after entering the main gate, but do not let this stop you from seeing the magic beyond that.

This town is full of those great alleys, stairways, and beautiful streets snaking their way around to that you have come to expect from this country. The renovated buildings hid the war damage from less than thirty years ago when Dubrovnik suffered daily bombardment. It survived, but many lives were lost in the battle.

Oh all those steps

Dubrovnik Croatia
Dubrovnik Croatia

You can get your exercise in by climbing to the top of the city wall for a small fee. It will take you a couple of hours to get around it. Once there you can get breathtaking views of the city and the water. There are small spots to stop can cool off with a drink or grab a bit to eat. Don’t forget once you get back down; there are no shortages of restaurants in the city. We ate at a restaurant that specializes in an old cuisine of this region, castrated rooster. Yep, a little bit of everything.

Take the cable car to a hilltop fort and drink in the views along with a local beverage or two. Take a swim at any of the surrounding beaches, take a boat out to Lokrum Island, a nature preserve with great beaches along with botanical gardens and an 11th-century Monastery. Or take a day trip to Montenegro and Bosnia.

Fan of the Game of Thrones? This is King’s Landing. Finding all the locations of certain scenes from the show can keep you busy most of the day.

Dubrovnik is a place you want to stay in and revisit.

Final thoughts

Zagreb Cathedral

It was time to fly home with a few local treats and a lifetime of memories, photos, and experiences. Croatia is full of history, culture, dramatic landscapes, culinary delights, and beautiful people. With newer, well-constructed highways, bridges, and roads going through this country’s dramatic mountain peaks, it is easy and enjoyable to travel around this country. Be sure to try the local foods from each region and even each town. Talk with the locals, find the hidden sites, and learn local favorites. You will be no less amazed than we were. This hidden gem of Europe is meant to be enjoyed and savored for the true wonder it is.

Croatia is a premier destination to visit with all that it has to offer. Our perfect two-week trip occurred in late October into November. We had consistently gorgeous weather, a nice paced trip with no burnout, and never ran out of places to see. The lovely and gracious people of Croatia stay close to our hearts.

We will be back

But oh, what we didn’t get to see. There are so many islands, parks, waterfalls, trails, wine country, and food to explore we never had time for. If you want to find Europe for the first time or find something new that will leave you in awe moment after moment, then Croatia is your next adventure.

Hill Towns of Istria, Croatia

Tips for your Croatia Travels

1. Croatia may not have an extensive beer selection; however, they have great ones, and you can find a cold brew anywhere. Each region seemed to have a local brewery they favored. Did we mention they are super cheap? Grab a cold one at a local restaurant, bar, or cafe for a short break from all the walking you are doing. We did this in pretty much every town we stopped at.

2. Feel free to mix it up with some local wine and foods as well. We found the cuisine exceptional during our whole visit and, oh my, so inexpensive! Don’t forget the wine to accompany that food. Wine in Croatia dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times. They know a bit about the wine we found. We were surprisingly impressed with the quality and as the beer quite gentle on the wallet.

3. Croatia has become more popular with tourists, much due to Game of Thrones fame. Avoid peak seasons as the crowds in places like Dubrovnik and Split can be difficult, and add to that, it can be stifling hot. Many coastal cities now have huge cruise ship ports, and some cities such as Split become close to impassable. Early Spring and Fall are ideal.

Curious where we have traveled, check out our Destinations page here.

4. Croatia is one of the safest countries in the world. Defined our own state department in 2020 has the highest rating they can give. We never found one place we felt unsafe, even wandering streets late at night.

5. We found overall that no matter where we were in Croatia, locals spoke excellent English. We found the Croatian language a challenge and barely made it past the basics.

6. Croatia’s bountiful sunshine and warm weather make it an ideal destination for outdoor activities. Though we did not partake, it is a country for outdoor activity lovers. Some popular choices are ziplining, mountain biking, sailing, snorkeling, scuba, fishing, hiking, boating…..the opportunities are endless.

7. If you can drive yourself, do so. This is a country of incredibly magical places that without our car you will miss out. The roads and infrastructure were some of the best we have seen in Europe, to our delightful surprise.

Getting to Croatia, no small feat.

Our original trip in October 2020 was to start farther north, visiting Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary with a quick pass through Croatia on the way to Triest, Italy. That was not in the cards as Covid 19 spread throughout Europe, and those countries closed to tourists. We saw the opportunity to view the travel situation with our own eyes. To tell the story of whether it is safe to travel during Covid 19. To discourage people if it was not. With Joelle’s medical background in settings with immunocompromised patients, she knew we could strictly follow guidelines to stay safe for ourselves and those in contact with us.

Croatia
Alameda del Tajo 

Croatia was open to American tourists with strict entry requirements. Their Covid numbers were very low at the time, and it seemed that adherence to guidelines was being followed, so we leaped with a bit of apprehension and rebooked our travels to Croatia. We went above and beyond Covid’s safety requirements and testing. If they were kind enough to allow us in, we would do everything in our power to be guests that would respect that trust.

The Craziness

It was a crazy story of the many upending events in our weeks and even days before our travels. We will write a more detailed post soon. In a quick synopsis of some but not all the excitement, we had flights canceled on both arms, connections rerouted, rules for entry changing, and great difficulty finding Covid testing that fit into the 48-hour timeline Croatia required and a badly torn meniscus three weeks before departure. It seemed the travel Gods were telling us this wasn’t meant to be.

One example occurred in the days just before we left. We planned to fly into Zagreb and then ease our way to Dubrovnik, where we would fly home from. All flights from the US at the time had a connection somewhere in Europe. We chose United through Frankfurt, connecting to Croatian airlines. Though we did land up keeping that plan, for the most part, we did not fly home from Dubrovnik. Three days before the trip, Croatian Airlines canceled all flights out of Dubrovnik. To be honest, there was quite a panic at first, but we took some deep breaths and were determined to figure it out. In the end, we chose to drive through the night for about seven hours to catch a flight home at 7 AM from Zagreb. Made for a coffee-laden drive and two long days of travel home with little sleep.

In the end?

Was it worth it? Damn well bet it was, every second of it!!!

The nerve-wracking experience fits well with our travel philosophy. We have always espoused go with the flow and welcome the challenges that are presented. We could have given up and canceled it all. Instead, we adjusted our plans with determination and were rewarded with an amazing adventure, memories beyond compare, and a whole new place to love. It was 15 days of perfection.

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