During a journey along Croatia’s twinkling Adriatic Coast one winter afternoon, I concurred with astronauts who’ve professed Croatia to be the bluest place on earth. Along with our friend, Damir, we’d left our home away from home within Diocletian’s Palace in seaside Split, and headed northwest on a day trip. We had plans to stop at Krka National Park, the risotto and yachting town of Skradin, and finally the island village, Primošten. And, by day’s end, I’d add a postscript to the astronauts’ claim. Croatia’s coastline and rivers aren’t simply brilliantly blue, rather they’re a magnificent blend of teal, turquoise, and aquamarine hues.
As the best excursions often do, our trip along the coast had developed spontaneously. Thinking that we’d been bored and looking for things to do in Split, Damir contacted us and said we must visit Krka before we left Croatia. Since the weather hadn’t cooperated for Damir to prepare his boat for the summer season, we accepted his offer, knowing he was also eager to get out of town.
During the warmer months, Damir is a spearfisher who leads daring excursions out to the Croatian islands near Split. We haven’t yet been on Damir’s boat, but we’ve watched the footage of him plunging deep under the sea, speargun in hand, catching octopus, squid and fish, which he and his guests then grill for a summer feast.
Waterfalls, Fantastic Flora, Fauna & Hydropower at Krka National Park
Our first stop was Krka National Park, one of Croatia’s eight national parks. It’s endowed not only with fantastic waterfalls and scenic pathways, but also with the Roman ruins at Burnum, and Visovac Island, which is crowned by a Franciscan Monastery. We’d only get to see the latter two sites in images. However, we did get a chance to explore the Skradinski Buk waterfall and the neighboring forested area for several hours. Along the way, we spied lizards, ducks, cranes, and butterflies. We learned that Krka was the site of the first hydroelectric power station using alternate current in Croatia. Krka opened in 1895, just two days after Niagara Falls’ hydroelectic plant began operations. There is also speculation that along with Diocletian’s Palace and the Klis Fortress, Krka served as a filming location for season 4 of the Game of Thrones.
As we strolled, we marveled at spiders who’d chosen to spin their webs over the gusty spots around the raging waters. Since Damir usually visits the national park during the summer months, he kept expressing astonishment at the volume of water rushing through the park. This dramatic winter melt-off, coupled with the fact that we virtually had the 27,000 acre (109 km2) park all to ourselves, further convinced us that off-season travel is the way to go.
Strolling Skradin & Soaking up the Sunshine in Primošten
Bidding farewell to Krka National Park while simultaneously promising to return, we stopped in to the town of Skradin. To locals it’s perhaps best known for its Skradinski Rižot, or 12-hour Risotto, which was prominently featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations travel show. Since the veal and ham culinary masterpiece really takes 12 hours for the town’s men to whip up and we hadn’t made advance reservations, we didn’t get to sample it. I’m also a ‘selectarian’ meat eater, and even though Damir and his friend told me it was worth abandoning my selectarian ways for this dish, I thought I’d defer until a future visit. Perhaps they can make a vegetarian or poultry-packed version then? :)
Skradin’s almost eeringly-quiet cobbled lanes wound past perfectly-manicured storefronts as well as some awaiting polishing. Since Skradin and the nearby city of Šibenik saw fighting during the Homeland War in the 1990s, we also spotted some structures pockmarked by artillery rounds. Damir mentioned that Skradin has recently gained fame on the celebrity front by attracting Microsoft founder Bill Gates during his summer vacations. A stroll along the marina where fishermen patiently untangled their nets, and an ascent to the town’s fortress capped off our visit to the sleepy but picturesque town.
On the way back to Split via a coastal highway, we paused in Primošten, the kind of town that would feel at ease modeling for a travel guide cover. Once a true island town connected only to the mainland via a drawbridge, Primošten’s tiny skyline features a bell-tower, and Old Town buildings that are crammed into a gently-sloping hill. With Damir’s mother’s freshly-baked golden donuts in his backpack and one of his favorite cafés just moments away on foot, we sauntered to the shore and soaked up the late afternoon sunlight before winding past the city’s famed vineyards and returning to Split. By then, I was thoroughly relaxed, meditating about what was prettier – driving along the glorious coastline or seeing it from space. I think it could easily be a toss-up.
Have you visited Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, or any of the country’s national parks? If so, what are your favorite spots? If you haven’t been to Croatia, what coastal areas or national parks around the world are your favorites?
Video of This Experience:
Where in the World?
- If you’ll be in the Split area and also want to do a day-trip similar to this one (or go island hopping, sailing or spearfishing with Damir) you can reach him through Opcija Tours. Shawn and I have also traveled to neighboring Dalmatian towns via bus, and found the mass transit network to be very good, but we wouldn’t have been able to make it to all three of these spots in one day, had we not had our friend to drive us there. (Thanks again, Damir!)
- Krka National Park is open year-round, but exhibitions and boat schedules vary, based upon the season. Between April and October, the park offers a free bus service which takes visitors from the entrance to the Skradinski Buk Waterfalls. From April to November, the park also transports visitors via boats. See the Krka National Park website for more details.
- Visit the Skradin Tourist Board or Primošten Tourist Board websites for more information.
- Shawn and I have spent two winters in Split, finding accommodation in apartments that would be packed during the summer months, but are practically empty during winter. During our first 2.5 months there, we stayed at the lovely Kaleta Apartments (affiliate link), which are located within Diocletian’s Palace. Our studio apartment (called the ‘Diocletian’s Suite’) featured much character, including Roman brickwork embedded into our wall, and overhead views of Split’s Old Town streets. Owners Novica and Negri were thoughtful citizen ambassadors too. Two years later, we returned to Split, staying in the charming Varoš neighborhood, which is known for its quirky stone homes adorned with hunter-green shutters and flower boxes. For those 2 months, we stayed in quaint studio apartments at the Guesthouse F (affiliate link). We especially enjoyed our tiny terrace and the kindness of our hosts, Anja and Miro. One of Guesthouse F’s apartments was originally a horseshoe maker’s workshop, which previously belonged to Anja’s grandfather. Shawn and I dubbed it the ‘horseshoe cottage’.
- Do you need more planning inspiration for your trip to Croatia? This link contains an index of all my posts from Croatia.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. My husband, Shawn, created the video.