Adriatic Explorations

Ever since reading a Sunday Times article about the magic of the Adriatic Islands on a mild British (read: raining) summer’s afternoon in 2010, Croatia has been on my bucket list.

The pictures of the clear blue sea and brilliant beach included with the article were more suited to being associated with a Caribbean Island, never mind a Balkan country in Eastern Europe. This suspicion led to me jumping onto Google to confirm that the Sunday Times weren’t doing some fantastic work on photoshop (don’t believe everything you see in the media folks), and thus my desire to make my way to the Adriatic coast was born.

Fast forward 7 years, and I finally made it there and boy was it worth the wait!

The Itinerary

It turns out when Googling where best to visit in and around Croatia as you build your itinerary, you will invariably be frustrated because YOU ONLY HAVE SO MANY DAYS!! There’s literally so many options and things to see, it’s so difficult deciding what to settle on.

Do you stick to the coastal areas or do you explore the mountains and lush national parks inland?

Or do you go to Dubrovnik and try relive every Game of Thrones moment filmed in the city?

Or do you go Island hopping around Split?

Or do you make your way up the coast and head to Pula to see some Roman ruins (because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love them?) and maybe take a cheeky trip across to Venice whilst you’re in the area?

Or do you venture into Bosnia as you make your way across the country? And do you spend your time split between the two countries?

Or how about you just don’t sleep for 10 days and do it all???

In this scenario, the more you Google, the worse it gets to make a decision. However, once the paralysis by analysis wore off, we ended up with an itinerary that took us from Dubrovnik all the way through to Zagreb, with a couple of days factored in in Bosnia:

  • Day 1 – Dubovnik
  • Day 2 – Dubrovnik (Lokrum)
  • Day 3 – Dubrovnik / Mostar
  • Day 4 – Mostar (Herzegovina – Blagaj, Počitelj & Kravice Falls)
  • Day 5 – Mostar / Split
  • Day 6 – Split (Brač)
  • Day 7 – Split
  • Day 8 – Split / Plitvice Lakes
  • Day 9 – Plitvice Lakes / Zagreb
  • Day 10 – Zagreb

If I were to do it again, i’d keep most of it the same, but maybe not spend a full day in Zagreb (it reminded me of another Manchester, minus the rain and football fanaticism) and cut one day out of Split (which was ok, but I felt that Split is more about island hopping, which is another holiday in itself) to then either go further into Bosnia to Sarajevo, or go further up the Croatian coast to Pula or add a day at Krka National Park.

The Transport

Flights were very reasonably priced at £113pp return (depart Heathrow, arrive Gatwick), as we booked to go just before Summer holidays kicked in and also, Monarch Airlines were still running at the time!

In country, given there were 6 of us and only I would have been able to drive internationally, we decided to use the local coach services, which is extremely timely, cheap and efficient – even between Croatia and Bosnia. The longest leg we had was between Split and Plitvice Lakes at 4hrs 30mins.

If you do plan on using the coaches and buy tickets on the day you travel, make sure you have enough cash as it’s rare that they take card. Also, make sure you’re on time as they do not wait for you to leave. We very almost missed the only bus out of Mostar because we were late and it was a very stressful 15minutes that had the bus driver laughing at the lot of us.

All that being said, if you’re able to, I would advise that you hire a car and drive as there were so many moments on the roads between destinations that I found myself wishing the bus could stop so I could take in the stunning vistas we were driving through. Whether it was coastal or inner land, the entire region is super luscious!

The Accommodation

We stayed in apartments in all places barring Mostar and Plitvice Lakes, where we stayed in hotels. All apartments were privately owned and booked through booking.com and it was really easy to communicate and link up with the owners for keys and payments, especially given that Europe’s data roaming had just become free to use!

We stayed in prime areas in all locations and as there was 6 of us, it worked out that we were paying at the highest end £43p/n and lowest £25p/n each, which overall worked out really well per individual budget!

The Muslim Travel Experience

Prayer

Croatia is very much a find-a-clean-corner-and-stick-your-head-down kind of place for prayer facilities but Bosnia has more visible masjid’s you can walk into to pray and the adhan does get called out on the loudspeakers.

Food

In Croatia, much like most of continental Europe, be prepared to eat a lot of seafood and vegetables. If you’re very much a meat eating foodie, you’re going to struggle and the moment you cross into Bosnia you’ll be searching for the halal options. Bosnia, as a Muslim majority country has many more options available, but even then, if you struggle equating halal with a place that also sells alcohol, then you will have to walk around and search out those places that don’t sell alcohol.

Price wise, it was pretty reasonable unless you were dining in the popular tourist areas, in which case as with most places, the cost was definitely more.

Attitudes

A question i’ve been repeatedly asked since going to Croatia was whether it was ok for Muslims and did we face any racist comments or attacks?

Over the last few year’s, when travelling with my cousins, i’ve realised that it’s pretty normal to get stares when you’re a bunch of completely different girls out on holiday- some in hijab and others not and all looking ethnically varied. That’s not to say it’s bad attention or inviting abuse, but we definitely draw a second take or a query as to where we’re from and how we all can’t be related. It happened in Paris, in Turkey and it most definitely happened in Croatia and Bosnia.

For the most part none of the stares or questions were unfriendly or malicious, but there was one evening in Split where we all felt decidedly uncomfortable in a beach side restaurant we were in for dinner, where the stares and snickers were blatant and disconcerting.

For the rest of the holiday however, it was the normal “where are you from?” scenario with one fascinating lady in Zagreb walking up to us as we shopped for souvenirs wanting to have a long conversation with us about what it was like to be a Muslim in the UK after the Ariana Grande concert attack. Turns out she went to university in Manchester and loved the coexistence of ethnically diverse people in the city, which you don’t see in Croatia, and hated the thought of it being destroyed by the crazy actions of one deranged individual.

Overall, this trip was 10 days well spent experiencing what are the most naturally beautiful countries I have visited in Europe to date, and the best part is that it was done on a relatively small budget without compromising on accommodation, location or food. You’d be crazy not to check it out.

 

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