Trip Report    

Global Adventure - Dayhike and Explore Croatia’s Seacoast, Islands and Mountain Parks

This itinerary was a really great way for a hiker to get a great sampling of Croatia's diverse landscapes, parks and some of their historic sites, along with getting a bit of a dose of local culture and beach sunshine! The country is even more diverse and lovely than expected, and the mix of hiking time and driving time as well as the time of year turned out even better than I had hoped, and our self-guided outfitter was fantastic. I might leave out one or two of the hikes or make them optional, and a couple of the hotels were a bit generic and out of the way. Crowds in Split and Dubrovnik detracted from those experiences but the October date was much better than earlier would have been and I wouldn't want to leave out those historic cities.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The hikes I selected with our outfitter's help proved to be a great sampling of the landscapes across the western half of Croatia, with a good amount of diversity.   The mix of driving, hiking and city exploring proved to be good, though Split and Dubrovnik were still really crowded with tourists even so late in the season.

    The rugged karst limestone landscape of the mountains in Croatia made for some really rough hiking including boulder hopping and very steep scree descents in places - hikers need to be screened for comfort with very rugged terrain.  This especially applied to Risnjak National Park, Paklenica National Park and Zrmanja-Krupa canyon.

Our itinerary can be found at https://www.mountaineers.org/about/vision-leadership/board-of-directors/committees/mountaineers-global-adventures-committee/global-adventures-trip-archive/continental-europe/2023-croatia-global-adventure/detailed-itinerary-and-inclusions-croatia-adventure.docx/view.   Our Gaia routes for all of our dayhikes (including the one for Risnjak which we didn't finish) can be found at  https://www.gaiagps.com/public/PySABSGvJngUe23vDSm2xPBn/ and corresponded well with the actual trails on the ground.  The Google Photos album from the trip can be found at https://photos.app.goo.gl/VAQXdJkJBQsYntJq9.

I worked with Dalibor at Fiore Tours, a local Croatian tour company and outfitter who arranged all the details (working closely with me) for a custom, self-guided tour including hotels, permits and transportation.  Everything worked nearly perfectly, other than a couple of hotel snafus that weren't Fiore's fault.  And on those occations the wonderful Sasha at the Fiore office was on hand to assist with correcting the problem.

Zagreb was a more interesting city than any of us expected.  We did a free walking tour of the city and really enjoyed it.  The local markets and the food we enjoyed at Lanterna da Dolcu on our first night were a real highlight.  Our hotel, Park 45, was well located and excellent.

We met our roomy van and driver Zak on the morning of day 3.  We drove to Risnjak National Park and climbed high to the ski area with looming dark clouds for our first hike.  We started out with optimism but as we got higher the wind was screaming and sleet was blowing into our faces, with no views in the low clouds.  We gathered in the lee of some rocks and decided to head back down.  This hike includes some substantial boulder sections requiring use of hands and scooting, even before we reached the ridge.  We were able to have a hot drink at  the hut at the bottom..  From Risnjak we continued on with Zak to the hill town of Motovun in Istria.    Hotel Kastel was centrally located and  AMAZING as was the village.  Not to be missed! 

The next morning we walked to the base of the hill where we did a truffle hunt with a local farmer and his dogs, then had an amazing smorgasbord lunch including many truffle specialties.  Miro Tartufi  https://miro-tartufi.com/en/truffle-hunting/  Then in the early afternoon Zak drove us to the town of Antonci where we did a walk on the Parenzana trail which had the old trestles and tunnels of the old rail line, plus a nearly-abandoned town and some lovely views of the Adriatic across olive groves high above.  The hike ended in a little kitchy hill town of Groznjan.  Fun and interesting immersion in the local countryside!

The morning of day 5 after our second night in Motovun we drove a couple of hours to Platak Saddle very high on a distinctive ridge that defines the eastern border of Istria.  From the saddle we hiked up through really gorgeous mature beech forest to emerge on a VERY windy ridge with various cell-radar and other towers and a lookout point where we had lunch.  We had hoped for a longer stretch of ridge-walking but mostly in the trees until you emerge  into the open near the high point of Vojak.  Really nice 360 views from there (but extremely blustery)!  We had lunch at the peak  and then drove 2 hours to the little town near Plitvice National Park.  Our hotel Degenija in the countryside was not within easy walking distance of the park but was comfortable and well appointed.

The boardwalk-hiking around Plitvice National Park on day 6 was the highlight of all of our hikes in the country with amazing waterfalls and luch vegetation around every corner.   We took just about every twist and turn of the trail, which was somewhat crowded in places but in general not too bad.  We ended our day in Plitvice at Villa Vicko in Starigrad which was blissful, with easy walking to restaurants and a private beach (pebbles and concrete boardwalk) right in front!  We stayed there two nights.

From Villa Vicko on day 7 we drove about 15 minutes into the hills to a rock climbing center and the entrance to Paklenica National Park where we started a stunning dayhike up Veliko Paklenica canyon to a mountain hut Planinarski Dom, where drinks and snacks were available.  From there we climbed steeply on a strenuous, rugged but straightforward trail top the high point Mala Mocila (with views of the valley, rock cliffs and the Aegean), before heading down the gentle ridge to Jurline and then turning on the VERY rugged trail past Anica Kuk with towering rock cliffs all around us (quite a bit of very steep scree and a bit of boulder hopping) and then back to Veliko Paklenica and along the main trail back to the trailhead.  Rock climbers were swarming all over the cliffs as we went out.  This was a really wonderful hike, highly recommended though people need to be comfortable with steep scree and boulders.  Night in Starigrad.

The next day (day 8) we packed up into the van and drove about 1.5 hours to  a trailhead in the middle of nowhere overlooking Krupa Canyon.  From there we hiked down into the  steep gorge with peek-a-boo views of the aquamarine river at the bottom, took a short side trip through brush to see a waterfall on the river, then turned and hiked back along the river for several miles along aquamarine water with waterfalls and lovely reflections.  At many points the marked trail was flooded so we had to traverse higher on well-trodden boot paths through the boulderfields above.   We avoided the originally-planned uphill reroute by fording the river at a smooth spot (very welcome in the heat!) and circled around to the waterfall and historic stone-arch bridge at Kudin Most before climbing back up to where our van was waiting.   Excellent hike, though it was a LOT slower than planned and we might have skipped the first side hike.   We ended the day in the town of Split where a hotel staff person met our van and guided us/carted our bags to our hotel, Slavija, in the middle of the old city.  Great location, excellent facilities.  Had some time to explore and sample different restaurants there that evening.

The next morning (day 9) we did various tours or self-guided wandering around Split.  Very crowded with cruise ship passengers, which apparently continue to come all the way through November these days.  We enjoyed a guided walking tour.  Then with help from hotel staff we got our bags down to the ferry port and picked up the Krilo line ferry to Hvar in mid afternoon.  All the way we were entertained by hordes of sailboats catching the brisk wind!  A taxi picked us up at a parking lot about 10 mins walk from the ferry terminal and took us to our hotel (with an unexpected change of location due to a snafu with the management of the hotel company that booked us.)  We ended up at Hotel Amphora, a communist era edifice with good facilities and easy walking distance to the harbor but a very confusing layout!

On day 10, some group members took a taxi to Velo Grabje, a little village in the wild country about 30 minutes from Hvar town, and then we did a 4 hour hike starting high on the crest, reaching one of the high points Molokit Hill with a distinctive carved cross on the top, and descending through the olive trees and scrub to the coast where we traversed quite a few gorgeous little pocket beaches on the way back to Hvar town.   We had a chance to have lunch at a little spot right next to one of the beaches and get a swim before walking back to town.  Others in the group did a guided kayak trip out to the islands off the shore and they had a great time as well.

On day 11 we took the Krilo ferry on to Korcula island, getting a shuttle to our hotel Marko Polo a convenient walk from the center of Korcula town.  Some of the group rented bikes for the recommended ride around the country lanes and vineyards and olive groves to Lombarda;  others of us took a really fun guided bike tour to a bee-keeping and gin-making place and two different small wineries where we sampled some excellent wines and other local products, getting a great insight into the lives of the local farm families.  Korcula Explorer is the bike-tour company, highly recommended!

On day 12 we took the Krilo ferry on its next leg to Pomena on Mljet island.  Our hotel Odisej is the only hotel on the island and walking distance from the ferry dock and the entrance to Mljet National Park.  The waterfront around the hotel was lovely for walking and had a great little swimming area with a bar!  Upon arrival we checked in and then headed out to do a hike around the big and smaller salt lakes  and up to Montekuk summit which had a lookout tower and fantastic views of the salt lakes, the island monastery and the sea around.  This hike was a bit of a letdown after the exciting hikes we had previously done, though the views of the water and the island monastery were interesting.

Finally on day 13 we took the Krilo ferry to Dubrovnik, spending that afternoon and all the next day there (a couple of people stayed longer).  Our hotel Lero was quite a ways away from the old city and a bit sterile, though fine and staff were helpful.  We mostly wandered around and explored on our own, though some of us took a great City Walls tour on the morning of day 14 and then kayaked around the city walls that afternoon.  The Taj Mahal restaurant in the Old City which we went to for our farewell dinner was a real standout!

On the morning of October 6, most of us caught shuttles for the long drive out to the Dubrovnik airport for flights home.