Our new favourite destination in Europe – Croatia! Europe Roadtrip-Part 5
We are getting near the end of our Europe roadtrip, and we had been eagerly anticipating our time in Croatia, the 5th country in our trip after camping near Lac d’Orient in France, enjoying the Swiss Alps, mountains and glaciers in Austria, amazing greenery and swimming in emerald green glacier lake Bled, Slovenia and now finally my favourite – the Sea – in Istria, Croatia!!
Between other people’s travel stories and all the research I did online, Frank About Croatia is a great one for inside useful info, I don’t know how we managed to not find out that Croatia is not in the EU and they don’t take Euros (it’s Kuna, exchange rate 9.5 Kuna to a Pound) That was a bit stressful at the border because we were nearly out of cash (only had Euros in our cash card).
Driving in Croatia was same as in France – where you paid lot of toll when you got on motorways and there is no guarantee that they will take credit card. On the other hand the remaining countries we drove through – Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia – you just buy a vignette as soon as you cross the border at any of the service stations. They have vignette valid for 7 days or longer. It was also possible to avoid motorways in most of the places we drove through, but due to restriction on time (We only had 20 days) we did drive on motorways which made the trip that much more expensive. Things we take for granted in England, no tolls! Thankfully we managed to use our credit card until we picked up Kunas at a cash machine later.
It was nice to see the change in scenery – olive trees, vineyards, and scrubland – the topography and vegetation was so different after the lush greenery and majestic mountains the past 2 weeks! Couldn’t wait to dip into the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea with it being 30 degrees outside!
YES, it is very possible to find places at the last minute, even in peak season, we were offered several spots within those three hours. BUT they were not as cheap as ones I had seen before, especially the ones right on the beach. We paid €50 per night for a one bedroom, 5 person apartment, 10 minute walk from beach, with two double sofabeds in the living room. Once again I will mention how convenient it is to use airbnb to get cosy comfortable and clean homes, with access to local information and being able to meet local people. Our host was lovely, told us about non touristy beaches to visit, recommended places to eat at and made our stay that much nicer!
Pula is known for its winemaking, fishing and shipbuilding. It is located in the southern tip of Istria and from what we experienced, far less touristy then many other well known places in Croatia, especially in the peak season. The weather is mild, the seas quite tame and the town itself is famous for its well preserved amphitheatre and Roman buildings.
We spent lot of our time snorkelling and swimming in crystal clear waters, and admiring beautiful sunsets. But there was also so many other water sports that are popular here – windsurfing, scubadiving, and sailing.
We walked around the pretty village with cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, roman buildings and the most amazing amphitheatre ever! The best I have seen after the Colosseum in Rome. There is an entrance fee 20 kuna but well worth it.
And finally the highlight of our trip was visiting Kamenjak National Park, Premantura, the most southern tip of Istria, Croatia, a very special place indeed! It was a short drive from Pula and the roads are not very developed, a very dusty and bumpy ride to get to the park. You pay 30 Kuna to enter and once in you can drive and park at several beaches, cycling was very popular as well, the scenery was absolutely stunning. The best part was the absolute lack of any hotels or resorts, no boardwalk with shops and restaurants, it was just pure natural beauty. We went to one of the more popular beaches which had this great bar – Safari Bar.
Great place for families and couple alike, there were secret hidden seating as well as all kinds of rope swings and play activities but blended into the natural surroundings of trees, bamboo and greenery. We had wait quite a bit for food and drinks but kids didn’t mind as they were occupied with all the playstuff. We went to two beaches, saw turtles and several fish while snorkelling, it was the first time kids did snorkelling and they loved it.
We could easily spend so much more time in Istria and other parts of Croatia. Besides its natural beauty, everything is so affordable here! Just to emphasize- half a litre of good local wine cost €1(we made good use of such a bargain :-), our fancy 3 course meal with wine, juice and dessert at a fancy restaurant cost us €26 and fresh croissants and cake in the morning, about 50p! For the first time on our Europe road trip, we could splurge a little, eat out every meal, drink as much wine as we wanted and the food was simply delicious! Had really good food at two recommended places (sorry, don’t have names yet, I mentioned in the last post that eventually I will get the receipts out, get names of all the good restaurants we ate at and write a food post and expense post of our travels.
We set for Rovinj after Pula – look out for my post on that before we head for Venice, Italy – the last destination of our road trip and then homewards to England! Here’s a pin if you want to save this post for your travels 🙂