Tag Archives: Croatia Day Trips

Croatia Direct Flights from Toronto and Montreal Continue into 2016-2017 with Air Transat

All photos and article by Paula Erskine

One can book an Air Transat ticket for a direct flight to Zagreb, Croatia right now for as early as next year, for example, May 30th, 2017 at a price of approximately $871 Canadian dollars and enjoy the comfort of Air Transat’s Airbus 330 fleet. Visit http://www.airtransat.com to book ahead and take advantage of cheap flights to Croatia flying directly out of Toronto, Canada and Montreal, Canada. Air Transat will likely add a second flight weekly to Zagreb, Croatia as of May 2016. Book early to get the deals! Here are some places to visit in Croatia that may delight your senses.

Below, Plitvicka National Park, known to visitors as “paradise,” is less than 2 hours away from Zagreb and enjoyed year round. Easy hiking, hundreds of waterfalls, 16 turquoise lakes.

Rastoke Village, in Slunj (above), is 1 and a half hours from Zagreb, Croatia on the way to Plitvice Park. Imagine opening your window shutters and overlooking a waterfall below your window, with the sound rushing through your veins and the fresh, cool mist rising up through the atmosphere. In this valley, one is surrounded by trees whose roots run deep, taking a drink from the rivers they call home. Eat at Petro, visit Unique Rastoke park (just that part is closed on tuesdays) and eat there too,  the food is fresh and authentic throughout the village…or stay at many of the apartments built on waterfalls in this fairy tale mill town on pristine waters. Simply unmissable and picturesque, any time of year. A peaceful place. Take advantage of the pleasant off season weather with more elbow room than mid-summer to enjoy Croatia even more.

If you are still on the fence, wondering if Croatia is the right destination for you, let me share with you some favorite places to visit that are off the beaten path. Even within the usual hot spots, there are great tips to be shared on how to get the maximum value and enjoyment from your Croatian vacation. For those who travel yearly to the motherland, direct flights to Croatia this summer of 2016 have been a dream come true. In addition, Zagreb has proven to be a great hub for native travelers of Serbia and Bosnia and bordering nations visiting their families. It is very moving to see people of all these nations “going home” to introduce their children and grandchildren to the beautiful lands, lakes, rivers, mountains and the crystal clear Adriatic Sea which were their playgrounds.

It was especially convenient for the older generations to travel “home” on direct flights, most of them wanting to look out the window or watch the air show rather than the individual movie screens at each seat. The atmosphere on board is one of gratitude, appreciation and social friendliness without borders. Although the blocked time of the flight is 9 and a half hours, depending on head and tail winds, the average flight to Zagreb, Croatia from Toronto on Air Transat’s Airbus 330 consistently took only around 8 hours!

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! Below, Ozujsko Pub in Zagreb, beside the Naive Art Gallery Egg in Upper Town serves tasty meats stuffed with cheese and prosciutto (pershuto), grilled vegetables and chicken shishkebabs wrapped in bacon. Tender, fresh, tasty and very reasonable!

20160621_192546

Vinodol Restaurant, lower town, superb eating, Zagreb Croatia

Vinodol Restaurant (lower town), Zagreb Croatia above was absolutely superb eating, with a wonderful indoor skylit atmosphere and outdoor seating too. Below, Kava Tava (upper town)…find an excuse to eat palacinke (palachinke) the Croatian stuffed crepes, dessert, cappucinos, breakfast or sandwiches. Then,  for all you airline buffs, Kava Tava’s decor boasts passenger seats and airplane tables. 20160621_192442

Zagreb’s Upper Town can be reached by Funicular or stairs and is full of incredible places to eat with no lack of creativity, history, architecture, naive and modern art, fountains museums, bird’s eye views, Lake Jarun, shoe shopping in particular in the lower town, and delicious food everywhere. To say Zagreb is hip would be an understatement.

A hidden gem in Zagreb is MS Grill run by Olga who will cook like only a mother can, and specializes in Bosnian dishes such as cevaps (barbecued chevaps are mixed meats, usually lamb, on home made grilled bread served with kajmak (k-eye-mahk) cream cheese, chicken paprikash, and many stews and famous crepes.The truth is, I ate most of the mouth watering meat before I remembered to take a picture. The secret to all the juicy meats, especially the grilled chicken, is the time they take to marinate it all…and I enjoyed it very much on my flight. The portions are too generous, and the prices are ridiculously cheap! You can find them around the corner from the Sheraton Hotel, Zagreb, with the orange canopy, simple. Olga is open from 7 or 8 am till midnight and serves fresh, home made food, her most evident ingredient, is love, warmth and enthusiasm. I do not leave the restaurant without my goodbye hug.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ms-Grill/1549760118614667 This is the facebook page.

Air Transat flights were packed all summer with added adventurers from Quebec and Greater Toronto Area as well as Americans enjoying the tour packages that were very reasonable and action-packed! See you in Zagreb! Check out my other posts for more great places to visit in Croatia! This is StrossMarte, at the top where the Funicular station stop is. Very artsy, great views, puppet shows, and very whimsical somehow.20160906_18551320160906_18555220160906_185448Sveti Marco Square, tiled roof, straight ahead from the Funicular. Many ways to see the city, including a vintage car ride. Fresh fritule, powdered mini doughnuts sometimes filled with jam at a window in upper town. We drop in on an orchestra practicing amid rows of fountains, it was lovely. The architecture, the old gate to the city, is so interesting. I hope to visit Lake Jarun where locals swim and bike in the near future. Until we meet again, Zagreb, I will enjoy my memories. See you in Croatia until early October of 2016 and May 2017 onward.20160906_18491320160823_18350320160823_19023920160906_18403120160906_18503220160817_19534320160906_19051620160906_18185320160906_21042620160817_191813

Advertisements

Croatia’s Beaches on Krk Island can be “A Pound of Therapeutic Dirt”

Muddy Escape to Klimno

Add Klimno beach bay area in the Bay of Kvarner on the island of Krk in the Primorje (Preemorryeh) region of Croatia to your list of reasons to visit Croatia with direct flights from Toronto at http://www.airtransat.com.  This beach is unique to even to Krk’s pristine, rocky and crystal clear beaches because of it’s healing mud and you can expect the shallow waters to be much warmer than other bodies of water. In mid-summer, it can feel like a bathtub! If you are like some of my relatives that prefer warmer water and sun for their joints, this is the place to visit and makes a great day trip.

For those planning trips earlier than peak season, around June, or after the madding crowds have thinned in September and October,  guesthouses throughout Croatia are significantly cheaper. Even the beginning of July you can still get good prices on rentals at private residences. September and October, the prices for rooms or “apartmans” drop collectively according to the tourist rates set by the board. Even in mid-season, you generally don’t pay per person, so you can get an apartment for two couples for the equivalent of 75-100 Euros which is very reasonable.

The shallow waters of Klimno are also ideal for families playing a game of “Pitzigeen” with a tiny ball in a wide circle and diving and volleying to keep the ball in the air. The game is a cross between water polo and volleyball, passing on scoring, in lieu of splashing. You can pack a picnic with your taxi boat or load up the car and drive across the bridge near Rijeka and follow the well marked signs and roundabouts.

Klimno can be reached by taxi boat from Selce, boat tour, or by car by crossing the bridge where Rijeka airport is located on the island of Krk. Unlike other pristine rock beaches typical of Croatia’s coast and islands, this area boasts therapeutic mud to cure anything from sports injuries, to arthritic complaints. It is also has great detoxifying properties when applied topically and deep cleans your pores. The sea is a plethora of curing properties in itself, cradling us in it’s elemental salt and minerals and purifying our soul. The mud and sea draw out aches, pains, impurities, negativity, and fill us up with positivity.

I was told to let the black mud dry on the skin in the sun which is part of the healing process. Enter the Adriatic Sea which is quite shallow here, rinse and repeat 2 more times for maximum benefits. Luckily, I had my wonderful Uncle Zvonko take us there by fishing boat.  We laughed and smothered ourselves in mud pits. The mud pits are tricky, so be careful with children and just dip from the shallow puddles of mud to be on the safe side, rather than immersing yourself into the deep pools.

Easily accessible from Selce or Crikvenica with some tours offered which include this beach. Don’t want to do the mass tour thing? Hire your own taxi boat and make a half day of it. A word of warning, you will have a faint, peculiar smell coming off your pores for about 2-3 days.  So, don’t do what I do and go on a lengthy road trip with your cousin…unless you roll your windows down. All that cleansing smells like a pound of dirt!

After our day trip, we parked my Uncle Zvonko’s boat near the red posted pier and ate the best grilled calamari (squid in English, or lignje-Leegnyeh in Croatian) I have ever had. While waiting for our savoury soups, I tried to gently shoo 3 wasps from drinking from my bitter lemon soda pop bottle. The waiter assured me they were domestic wasps with a wink. So I poured bitter lemon into a small dish on the side and slowly lured them away from the table.

Dinner ended with a final dip in the water and the start of the big “Bura”, or big winds where we fought against waves in his teensy boat. Fortunately, halfway to Selce, the waves subsided and the wind picked up as we made our way back to Selce by night. My Uncle is a very experienced fisherman, and we waited a little too long to get back to the mainland. We lived to tell the tale, but there was a lot of praying going on.

It is very important to consult the locals, the fisherman on matters of the winds, the “Bura” and take the car when the occasional weather change happens. The wind can look harmless and be fine to swim in from the shore, but avoid taking kayaks, floating beds or inexperienced boat trips which can carry you away.

To enjoy earth’s gifts, we have to respect that we can never conquer it.  The panoramic view of the village of Selce, our mainland refuge, can be enjoyed incoming from Krk, usually a 45 minute-1 hour ride. We would have strolled the riviera, but headed straight for bed after a day in the healing mud, sea and sun.

There are many more places to visit on Krk Island, like Vrbnik (a village built on cliffs), with a pirate ship and glass bottom boat tour from the charming village of Selce. The town of Krk, Baska (Bashka), and many more villages on Krk are as unique as the changing landscapes shaped by the sea. For more great places to visit in Croatia and around the world, please explore this world loving blog and let me know where you have enjoyed travelling.

Pirates of Selce offer Treasure Tours of Krk Island

Pirates of Selce offer Treasure Tours of Krk Island

This old pirate ship located in the small fishing village of Selce offers daily tours of Vrbnik, Silo (pronounced Shilo), Fish Picnics, and many other treasures that can be seen if you dare to board. Signage for tour details provided on the Riva (riviera) just in front of the Turist Bureau in Selce town Centar. There are many mannequin shipmates to photograph with like a very good version of Johnny Depp drinking a pint in full pirate splendor.

Skywalker, Paula Skywalker-Croatia Must See Villages

Skywalking in Croatia-Vrbnik

At the base of the pier in Vrbnik, Croatia, is a heart-shaped cave opening with a secret beach which only stays sunny till mid-day, but is worth passing through the rocky archway. If you have a kayak, or flippers and a floatation board (and you feel confident in the water) you can venture from this beach into the water and around the right bend to another private beach which is harder to access and quite a bit further. My husband found many underwater artifacts there with his snorkel gear. He also got the bends diving too deep without a tank and surfacing too quickly. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

Just off the pier is a small port where the water is quite a bit warmer than the coast. Vrbnik is located in the Bay of Kvarner and is less than 40 minutes from towns on the mainland, the closest being Selce on the border of Crikvenica. Vrbnik is one of my favourite go-to villages built on cliffs. They are famous for their home made “Zlatina” (pronounced with a soft “g,” “glatina,” meaning golden) wine, prosciutto, lamb stew (that graze on salt sprayed grasses), fried sardines and many typical Croatian dishes.

Region? Primorje, on the island of Krk. Krk, (follow the signs Otok Krk), also has the Rijeka airport on it, and the bridge to Krk island is near Rijeka. There is a small fee to cross the bridge. There are many tours offered by boat if you don’t drive that can be booked from Selce, Crikvenica and Novi that I have noted.

Wardrobe? This is a conservative town, so wear your beachwear on the beach. Put clothes on when strolling about town unless you want a Babushka shaking a stick at you in disapproval. I bought my maxi-dress in the store New Look which can be found downtown London, England or the suburbs. Maxi dresses are my favourite wardrobe item! It is a staple item for the summer and is always in my suitcase when travelling south. I keep it in my carry on bags in case my suitcase gets diverted so I have emergency clothing. New Look stores have a regular, tall and plus size section called “Inspire.” I always check them out when I am in their town for jeans and other offerings. A maxi dress with sleeves and long length will not offend when entering holy places of worship. Plus you can wear supportive undergarments without showing your bra strap, and it can double as a discreet “changing room” as you switch to dry clothes in some corner of the beach or boat. Yup, an inventive change-room maxi-dress. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Vrbnik a Hop, skip and a Boat Ride from Selce, Croatia

Vrbnik a Hop, skip and a Boat Ride from Selce

So many reasons to visit Vrbnik by car via the bridge for Otok Krk (otok means island, near Rijeka) or a boat tour from Selce which is the closest point to the village of Vrbnik. If you are wandering on your own up the hills to the village built on cliffs, you will find many wonderful narrow streets to photograph. I have loved this spot since my childhood and have often photographed this door with a gorgeous view of the sea.

I have also seen boats from the cities of Crikvenica, Novi and some other small towns.

Selce to Vrbnik on a Pirate Ship-Harrrgh!

Just an update on trips to Vrbnik from Selce is that there are two tours available. One is a Johnny Depp inspired pirate ship with several wax shipmates on board to photograph with in addition to actual crew members that will provide you with the best view entering Vrbnik which is by sea. They take you into the pier and transfer you up the hill for about 7 kunas (about a dollar) up the steep hill for tasting of prosciutto, home-made cheese and the wine “Zlatina” which makes this village famous. Vrbnik is truly adorable with it’s narrow streets, colourful characters yelling at you to when you come up to town in your beachwear, warmer water to swim in especially off the inside of the pier and several restaurants to choose from. Bikinis only on the beach please. Great snorkeling, especially opposite the main pier through a small cave to private rock beach. Bring your water shoes or buy them in Selce for about $10 Canadian.

Another possibility is to take a similar tour in a glass bottom boat. Both can be booked on the riva (riviera, waterfront) on the pier in front of “Turistichki” building. You will see large signs there. There are also several travel agents, but only one working in the Tourist bureau but at least you can get some info. from them. If you are facing the tourist bureau you will see a “Pekarna” to the left which is seeping the smell of baked goods into the street. If you follow the street to the left of the Pekarna (bakery) then you will see Travelex directly across the street from a local bar with some postcards etc. This agency not only spoke excellent english, they took our needs for booking tours seriously. They even found alternative tours for us for the same place when we were told other bus companies had cancelled the tour. They were willing to come to Selce by van or car for us. (This was regarding a tour for Pula, Rovinj and Porec on the Istra side of Croatia.)

Autorans is a major bus company that offers tours but sometimes cancels if there are not enough people to fill the buses. But there are other companies that Travelex can tell you about. The problem so far that I can see, is that the main  tourist bureau does not collect a written list of all the people who ask about the tours throughout the day so that they can actually fill the bus from several cities. So, one by one, we are each told that there are not enough people for the tour the next day. Times by that 10 people and 3 cities and nobody has figured this out yet. Then they go for coffee and nobody else can help you. But it was all meant to be when I discovered the travel agency on the street. And then another one called Millenium tours which I have yet to check out.

Happy Travels in Vrbnik on the island of Krk! It can also be accessed by car by taking the bridge just before Rijeka towards otok (island) Krk.

Croatia’s Vistas and Priceless Village Views

Cosmic Ocean Through Nectar

Strolling through the different alleys and paths at the top of Vrbnik, Croatia, I discovered beautiful blooming flowers thriving and enjoying the sea view. Fuschia flowers frame the cosmic, expansive blue sea in this vignette.

To discover Vrbnik you can take the ferry from the village of Selce, Croatia which departs daily. It includes a tour, or you can wander after the tour and take the last ferry home. Vrbnik can also be accessed by car but you will have to drive to Rijeka (known to Italians as Fume) about 30 minutes from Selce. The best view and way to go there is by boat. See the article “Curb Appeal” for proof. Vrbnik is built on a hill overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It is very unique, with valleys, and tiny corridors to pass through. It’s old style shutters, and unique doorways, winding stairs, easy to navigate village is truly a place I have visited repeatedly and enjoyed every time. Check out my other photos and reports on this village of Vrbnik and other Croatian treasures.

Croatian Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal

From Selce, Croatia, take the friendly ferry and take the short trip over to the village of Vrbnik on the island of Krk. Krk has many treasures! Although you can approach Vrbnik by bridge, by boat is the best view. This priceless view has lots of curb appeal with it’s village built on the cliff tops. Vrbnik boasts home-made wine, prosciutto, cheese, and many clergymen were born here. So if you are enjoying the wonderful, rocky beach in your watershoes, be sure to cover up when you head up the hill into town as a sign of respect and courtesy.

Curious About Where to Go in Croatia? Behold Paradise, Plitvice National Park

Behold Paradise

If you think the photo is spectacular, I can assure you that a live viewing of this paradise will take your breath away. Paradise is this earth and I encourage you all to explore and enjoy it!

where? Plitvice National Park, Croatia

how far is Plitvice Park from…Rijeka (Italians call Rijeka Fiume)? 180 km drive, the closest points on the coast being in the Primorje Region. Other cities in the vicinity which make a great coastal base for such a day trip include Selce, Crikvenica, Opatija and Novi. As an example, add 30 min to the trip between Selce and Rijeka. Entering into the Primorje region can be done from several places. Zagreb airport, by train and bus from Venice Airport or just by bus from Trieste, Italy airport, or Ljublana, Slovenia. Once you’ve booked a “home base” guest house, bus tours can be booked or renting a car is a great option. Karlovac is quite a bit closer since it is inland, and Plitvice is 80 km inland from Karlovac. The four beautiful rivers of Karlovac Korana, Kupa, Mreznica, Dobra. The magical, pristine Korana river that runs through Karlovac begins from Plitvice National Park. The distance from Zagreb to Plitvice is on par with Karlovac, both inland cities.

We really enjoyed overnighting in the tiny village of Rastoke, Slunj the day before the 5-6 hour boardwalk light hike around Plitvice Park. Rastoke is super close, is only 20 minutes away from Plitvice national park, if you blink, you might miss the tiny sign near a bridge “Rastoke” to descend on a steep hill to it’s valley. Check out my article about this wondrous village built on waterfalls. Do not miss out on spending at least a half day or overnight in Rastoke, it is heaven.  Karlovac is quite a bit closer since it is inland, and Plitvice is away from the coast.

This gives you the advantage of showing up early at the park to hopefully avoid the crowds! Europeans and Asians know to visit this park paradise. It is brand new and undiscovered to most North Americans until now! It is my mission to inform you of all the treasures Croatia has to offer that are off the beaten track.

how far is it from…Split? Split is halfway down the Croatian coastline on the the way to Dalmatia and is 230 km away from Plitvice.

how far is it from Dubrovnik? Dubrovnik is 446 km away on the Dalmatian Coast at the southern tip of Croatia.

Entrance Fee? 110 Kunas (as of August 2012, 6 kunas=$1)+25% tax of 22 kunas

Includes: Walking boardwalk trails with options to take shorter routes, a boat ride across one lake, a shuttle bus that brings you back to your parking lot (remember where you parked!)

the official website of the park is www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr

FAQ

Why do I need a home base guest house?

At the end of every week, saturday and sunday, tourists are knocking on doors desperate for accomodation to fill the extra day or two gap between guest houses. It is very difficult to get a guesthouse for a day or two since people who have already been through this experience book for one or two weeks solid, whether they stay every night at one guesthouse or not. You can always leave early. North America may not know much about Croatia, but now that Tom Cruise has been on the island of Hvar this summer, and Sharon Stone and many others have visited, it won’t be long now. Pre-book everything you can, then if you do a day trip and want to sleep over, do that too. And do yourself a favor. Don’t try to leave saturday or sunday towards the Italian border town of Trieste. It is jammed and there is one long, winding, highway full of vacationers on the same wavelength as you. When all else fails, knock on doors. There is always a Babushka (slavic grandmother type) somewhere that is in the know about gaps in reservations. This happens when a family books for a week, but leaves a day early to avoid the traffic and sometimes, you luck out.

What route did I take at the park? I followed the boardwalk marked “c” which was the longest and did it at my own pace. A view from the top of the park reveals a gorgeous lake spilling into another gorgeous lake as pictured above. When you see the first sign for path “c” which indicates left, GO RIGHT as a brief detour and go down the steps for the best photo opportunities of this vignette. A little further to your right and another photo opportunity with a massive waterfall. When you do all that, go back to where you turned, and follow route “c” for a full day of scenery. Halfway through the park, before you get on the boat, there is a resting area with food and washrooms. You can refill your water bottles, enjoy the picnic grounds with a pint, and take a break. After eating and resting here an hour, we hopped on the boat where you will need to show your entrance ticket and crossed one of the lakes. The tricky part is that there are not too many official washrooms after this dropoff point. Fortunately, we were dehydrated and in awe of the beauty. But the last stretch is a bit of a challenge. The final destination offers ice cream, washrooms, snacks and some incredible trees rooted in the flowing river and cascading waterfalls. From here you can catch the shuttle bus back to your parking lot.

Is it worth it? In my humble opinion, the entrance fee should be $Priceless! Castles and Coastlines aside, this is a real natural wonder and a UNESCO world heritage site. You can’t afford not to go. It will change your life.

What should I wear? I wore walking on a cloud supportive sandals, mephistos or birkenstocks will work, sport sandals are ideal because I found my feet got hot in running shoes (also good). I did see some people wearing flip flops, but I would never advise those. I have seen sundresses to shorts to capris. I opted for the capris and t-shirt. Check the weather before you go in case you have to add a layer or bring an umbrella.

Tip! Go early because I got stuck once arriving there in the afternoon and some of the waterfalls were in shadow which did not make for the best pictures! You want full on bright sun from morning, mid-afternoon is still good for photos, but after 3pm it will be challenging to find non-shady waterfalls. Still there were other bright spots with green reeds and turquoise waters that saved the photographic day.