Guest post by James Wright
Visiting Croatia for the first time, I had little idea what to expect. I knew vaguely that it was in central Europe and had just joined the EU, but my first view of the country from the window of my plane came as a pleasant surprise. The coastline seemed to go on forever, surrounded by greenery as far as the eye could see and dotted with the red roofs of small towns nestling by the sea. Like most Croatia holidays, my break started in the capital, Zagreb, before moving on to tour the rest of Croatia.
Zagreb International Airport (ZAG)
My BA flight took just two hours from London, and daily flights from many big carriers make it a popular destination for a short city break. Zagreb airport, also known as Pleso Airport, is situated about 17 miles from the city centre. The airport is rather small and looks somewhat tired, but a new terminal building is scheduled for September 2013. The new design will include a new runway, rail line, retail area and hotel, and the new terminal will have a wave-shaped façade and glass windows. The present terminal is a white concrete building with a central tower block. Passenger traffic was 2.3 million in 2012, and the busiest routes are to Frankfurt, Vienna and Munich. The national carrier, Croatia Airlines, flies from here to 23 destinations. Fighter jets could be seen taking off the day I landed, as the airport also acts as a base for the Croatian Air Force.
The city of Zagreb
A short taxi ride took me into Zagreb, where I headed for the main pedestrianised area, Tkalčićeva Street. This has numerous restaurants and bars, offering a tempting mixture of central European dishes such as goulash, schnitzel and roast pheasant. The old part of the city has many attractions, including the Mimara Museum, with art by Goya, Renoir, Canaletto and Rubens, and the huge gothic cathedral, whose huge, twin spires tower over the city. Two hours’ drive away is Plitvic Lakes National Park, where I saw forests, lakes and waterfalls, but, sadly, none of the bears, lynxes and wolves that are said to live there.
The Croatian coast
The next day I drove from Zagreb to the Dalmatian coast, original home of the famous dogs. We reached Krk Island after a short drive via a long bridge over the Adriatic, and after visiting the Biserujka Caves, and pretending to be Indiana Jones while traversing the wooden walkways high up over the stalactites, spent the rest of the day relaxing on one of the many secluded beaches.
Hugely popular with tourists, Dubrovnik is a tangle of steep medieval streets and high stone walls jutting out into the sea. Game of Thrones used it as a filming location, and striding through the cobbled streets I felt a sword should be hanging from my belt instead of a camera. The town is incredibly photogenic, though, and every turn brings picture postcard views.
James Wright is an experienced travel writer interested in package holidays to affordable destinations. He particularly enjoys visiting places with lovely beaches and great watersports.