Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Croatia

Claire Climbing over the jagged rocks to reach the warm waters off Lokrum Lagoon is all part of the fun for Claire. Image courtesy of Claire Murphy

Claire Murphy, Product Information Coordinator at the Lonely Planet Melbourne office, is just back from drinking in the sights of sunny Croatia.

Tell us more… I caught the overnight ferry from Ancona (Italy) to Split, and spent just shy of a week exploring a tiny fraction of the coast of Croatia, with a jaunt inland to visit the famous Plitvice Lakes.

In a nutshell… Green, coastal hills dotted with terracotta roofs, shops and cafes sitting amongst roman ruins, and medieval walled cities jutting out into the sea. Croatia is a visual feast, and I spent the week perpetually slack-jawed.

Defining moment? Given that my desire to visit Croatia was originally driven by a friend’s blurry photo of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, the first glimpse of turquoise water was pretty thrilling. It's an incredibly beautiful, lush and singular spot that seems to relax you right down to your bones, even with every man and his (literal, golden retriever) dogs, jostling past you. Be careful on those little bamboo walkways though, the breathtaking sights can sometimes divert your attention from where your feet ought to be going, and falling into the pristine waters of a chemically fragile ecosystem is frowned upon.

Plitvice2 The stunning scenery of Plitvice Lakes National Park. Image courtesy of Claire Murphy

Good grub? I lived almost exclusively on green apple sladoled (a gelati-like icecream) and spinach bureks (a snail-shaped pastry) during my time in Croatia, both of which I highly recommend, though perhaps in moderation if you have that kind of self-restraint.

You’d be a muppet to miss… The city walls walk in Dubrovnik. Go at the end of the day when the crowds are beginning to thin out and the fading sunlight makes the views across the Old Town look even more picturesque than usual. Taking the cable car up to Mount Srđ, and having a bevvie at the restaurant while absorbing the view, is also a must.

Memorable activity? My lovely hotelier in Split warned me that the bell tower at the Diocletian's Palace (built by the Roman emperor Diocletian in 305 AD) was not a good idea if you're at all squeamish about heights. It was only when I paused, suffused with barely-restrained panic, halfway up the rusty, squeaking metal stairway that seemed to be suspended only by a couple of bolts and good intentions, I realised I probably shouldn't have ignored that advice outright. Still, the 360 degree view of Split from the top was pretty charming.

Bizarre encounter? There are stray cats about almost everywhere in Croatia, but even I was surprised to find one underground, in the maze of cellars underneath the remains of Diocletian’s Palace. The cat, in turn, seemed completely unperturbed by my presence.

Quintessential experience? Going for a swim in the warm waters of the Adriatic, just off Lokrum Island (a ten minute boat ride from the Dubrovnik Old Town). The semi-naked scramble over the jagged rocks before you get into the water is what really makes it feel like you've earned it.