The Sapphire Waters
Ask me where my favourite place in the world is and (after Penarth!) I’ll answer you in a heartbeat: Croatia. I’m smitten with the crystal clear sapphire sea, the endless beautiful islands and the delicious seafood, wine and gelato. I dream of the summery background hum of cicada tree crickets and the smell of hot crunchy pine needles and sea salt carried on a warm breeze. And I admire the humour and warmth of the infinitely welcoming Croatian people. The 1,100 mile stretch of coast and more than 1000 islands means there are a surprising variety of places to choose from when planning a visit. Despite the country growing increasingly popular with tourists in the past few years this hasn’t faded its charm and appeal.
|I have worked in travel all my life as an adventure tour leader and now as an independent Travel Counsellor. I provide friendly, professional travel advice and trusted tailor made holidays. I live in Penarth with my son and I love running, yoga and travel (of course).|
|02920 003530 or 07581 181 236
To start with you need to visit Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic, famous for its imposing medieval stone walls that encircle the old city surrounded by dazzlingly clear blue water. Walk on top of the entire 1,940m wall diameter for the dizzy drops and heights, and take a sea kayak out at sunset for the ultimate view of this majestic, proud city. The city of Split is home to waterfront Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace and has a great selection of bars, cafes and boutique shops, all set within the ancient, crumbling palace walls and surrounding streets. From Split you can jump on a ferry to many of the Dalmatian islands but don’t pass through too quickly as you’ll be disappointed you didn’t stay longer.
Towns don’t come much prettier than picture-perfect Trogir, a small town with a labyrinthine network of narrow cobbled streets worn smooth by centuries of pedestrians. Venetian stone buildings hide shaded courtyards blossoming with flowers; it is a town with soul. At sunset the warm stone paved quay is lined with bobbing wooden boats, artisans, performers, and people simply strolling along with an ice cream in their hand, watching the world go by; a typical Croatian scene.
If you fall in love with Croatia’s natural beauty, then you’re in good company. According to legend, Odysseus was enchanted after being shipwrecked here, and stayed for 7 years. See where he livedon peaceful Mljet Island where the National Park has a network of spellbinding pine-scented forest trails you can explore by foot or bike. There are also two vividly blue saltwater lakes perfect for swimming or kayaking. My favourite National Park is at Plitviče Lakes where hundreds of waterfalls cascade into 16 sparkling azure interconnecting lakes. There’s nowhere else on earth like this; it should be on everyone’s bucket list.
The island town of Hvar is Croatia’s most notorious hotspot, with a marina that rivals St Tropez’s glitz and glamour. Holidaymakers rub shoulders with celebrities while yachters mingle with in-the-know backpackers. Don’t be put off by this if you’re after some serious culture and history as the town is steeped in both. Cafes and restaurants spill out onto the largest piazza in Croatia and you can instantly see the town’s appeal in its jumble of pretty narrow streets, its fortress and dazzling architecture. Nearb, sleepy Korcula has less international notoriety but ample picturesque charm and is known as ‘mini Dubrovnik’.
When to go? The weather is typically Mediterranean with peak visitor numbers between March and September. I like June the best for the spring flowers, endless sunshine and marketplaces selling the best cherries you’ll ever taste. Croatia is less than a 3 hour flight away, so it’s perfect for short breaks or longer.