When one of my best friends at Hopkins asked me, “How do you feel about Croatia for spring break?” I hesitated. Croatia? Why not Greece, or that Eastern Europe trip I’d been dreaming up for years? I knew next to nothing about Croatia. Dubrovnik sounded familiar, but even deciding which airport to fly into Croatia, seemed like a complex puzzle. Then, as I began to research Croatia, the mesmerizing images of waterfalls, old Roman walls, and cerulean blue waters of the Adriatic drew me closer and closer to its sea-lined borders. When suddenly it seemed as if the trip might not happen after all, I was crushed. I didn’t want Greece; I didn’t want Prague. I wanted Croatia. And against all odds, Spring Break 2014, Croatia, happened.
As new member of the EU, Croatia is a hot travel destination that should climb to the top of everyone’s bucket lists for many different reasons.
1) Plitvice Lakes National Park: If you come to Croatia for no other reason, come for the waterfalls. Plitvice is a marvel. Nestled in the heart of the country, the park attracts many hikers and photographers alike for good reason. There’s a seemingly permanent rainbow, as the sunshine-lit waterfalls soar over the park’s sixteen different lakes. We took our own little trail into the park, eventually making our way to the extreme ends of the waterfalls, walking in and among them. We even got to take a little boat ride through the lakes. Plitvice’s beauty is practically indescribable—all the more reason for people to go and see for themselves.
2) Funky Zagreb: We flew into Croatia’s capital, not quite sure what to expect. It was the best location flight-wise for my friend to fly in from New York and me from London, so we spent our first few days in the city. I’d read about the capital and its network of unusual museums, but neither of us expected just how trendy the city can be. My personal favorite was “The Museum of Broken Relationships.” The Upper Town museum, one of Zagreb’s newest, started out as a traveling exhibition before finding its home in funky Zagreb. On display are all the remnants of ended relationships—a stuffed animal, an old-fashioned phone, notes, a missing shoe—each labeled with the length of the relationship and a description of why the unlikely object mattered. The museum was unique but still accessible, just like Zagreb.
3) Head for the Islands: What’s spring break without a beach? From Zagreb, we flew to Dubrovnik, which has its own lovely beaches. To access even more beaches, we went on our own little island cruise along the Elaphiti Islands, taking the local ferries from island to island. There’s a lot of hiking to do on the islands, and in the off-season the islands are practically deserted besides a few locals. This is where we saw that clear cerulean water and stuck our toes in the rocky sand. Mljet is another nearby island. We couldn’t go in the offseason but it’s rumored to be the island that Odysseus gets stranded on in Homer’s tale and stays for Calypso. Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine staying on these gorgeous islands for years at a time.
4) Climb Dubrovnik’s old walls: But history demands to be seen and what better way to see the old town of Dubrovnik by climbing its walls. An old Roman fort town, the views from Dubrovnik’s city walls are breathtaking as modern-day Dubrovnik dwellers line out their laundry, and a Croatian flag can bee seen at the top of the city, both waving in the sun-spilt wind. I learned after the visit that a lot of Game of Thrones episodes have been filmed in Dubrovnik and I can see why. The city is otherworldly. I fell in love with it, standing next to the orange-red tile roofs and soaking in the sounds of the Adriatic.
5) Walls from a waterier angle: If you’re not too tired from all that wall climbing, take a day to do some sea kayaking around the old walls. This was undoubtedly one of my favorite parts of the trip. Our tour guide was fantastic and it being off –season, we practically had the waters to ourselves. I’m not at all an outdoor person, but Croatia brought out an adventurous side of me. It’s a beautiful country no matter what time of the year and there’s always something to be seen or experienced. Croatia is an unlikely spring break location, but it’s an adventure that cannot be repeated.