Croatia Europe

Notes on Northern Croatia

Once I was done exploring Slovenia, the rest of my week was spent in and around Zagreb! Zagreb was charming. My Airbnb was about a block away from a lovely park and it was easy to walk into the city center, where there was a nice central street with tons of bars and restaurants. Zagreb is also home to the Museum of Broken Relationships, which is one of the most interesting museum concepts I’ve seen and very well executed. They asked people to send them items from broken relationships – most were romantic breakups, but it also included loss of family members, broken friendships, and even the occasional metaphorical loss, like a food allergy diagnosis that didn’t allow the sender to eat one of their favorite foods anymore. Some of the stories were funny and some were heartbreaking and it was such a cool way to spend one of my mornings there.

I was initially planning on doing day trips to some of the smaller towns that are within about an hour of Zagreb, but a friend of mine convinced me I should go see Split. I booked a last minute hotel and bus tickets and headed to the coast! It’s a longer bus ride, about four hours, but it was very beautiful and it was fun seeing the point where the towns started to look less medieval Europe and more Mediterranean. The coolest aspect of Split is that about half the old town is built on the ruins of an ancient palace. I didn’t have anything specific I wanted to see. I just wandered around, ate delicious risotto, and soaked in the city. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area!

The last stop on my tour of Northern Croatia was Plitvice Lakes. It’s one of the most well-known sites in Croatia. It’s a gorgeous national park full of waterfalls and this amazing turquoise water. I think a lot of people do it as part of a road trip or via a tour, but I went on my own and that worked really well! It’s about 2.5 hours by bus, so I booked tickets on the Flix Bus app to and from Zagreb and it was very doable as a day trip. The bus drops you off a short-ish walk from either of the park entrances. 

I had apparently done my research when I’d booked the tickets – I chose Entrance #2 and did Route H. This one starts with a short “train” ride to the start of the Upper Lakes trail. The Upper Lakes were much less crowded and I got to experience them in the morning, so I got that magical experience of feeling at least somewhat alone on the trail as I looked out over the lakes! As with any touristy activity, the earlier you get there, the better it is.

Once I’d wound my way through the Upper Lakes, there was a boat to get to the Lower Lakes. Even as I stepped off the boat, there were already so many more people. That side has a nice area with restaurants, so I had lunch there and then continued through the Lower Lakes. I think those were cooler waterfalls, but it was much more crowded on the trails, especially as it got later in the day. Even with the crowds, though, it was one of the most naturally beautiful places I’ve ever seen, so it is absolutely still worth a visit! I made it back through the entire loop back to Entrance #2 and had plenty of time before my bus to Zagreb. I was glad that I figured out how to do it independently, as it was so much more fun to go at my own pace in the park. And with that, it was off to Greece!

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