Elyna Effendi shares with us the highlights of her recent trip to Croatia, which was made up of breathtaking medieval castles, splendid natural lakes and a lot of oysters and truffles.

On the list of exotic and cultural destinations, Croatia sits among the top with its more than a thousand islands and coastlines that are dotted with castles and museums.

Elyna Effendi and family were recently there on a family vacation following the wedding of a friend, and we got her to share with us more of what she discovered in the European kingdom which history dates back to as far as the 7th century AD.


We visited Croatia early April and the weather was not what we expected at first. We landed into Zagreb and we were not prepared for the weather, which was much colder and windier than usual at about 12 degrees Celsius.


April and May are actually the best times to visit Croatia because it starts getting incredibly busy from June onwards, where many European tourists will come to their beautiful islands for their holidays.


In Zagreb, we stayed at the Esplanade Hotel, it was really lovely, perfectly located in the centre of the city with a beautiful park just behind it too for the kids to run around in. I believe it is one of their oldest hotels and historic building as well where much of the original materials in the hotel still remain.


Opatija is one of our favourite places now in the world and we stayed in a gorgeous boutique hotel called the Bevanda Hotel. It only has 10 rooms so the service was obviously personalised and we were very well looked after.


In Split, Luxe Hotel was a great choice because of its location. The design was a little too ‘funky’ for us but the service made up for it. It was just a few minutes walk to the Diocletian Palace, which is the main site to visit.


In Dubrovnik, the breathtaking views from the Villa Dubrovnik is nothing less than what we imagined and saw from their website, with flawless service, food and immaculate rooms. We absolutely loved it.

The Croatians are slightly stoic when you first meet them, but this quickly fades once you strike up conversation. It may be due to their history, which, after many tours later, we found out was even more tumultuous that we had first thought. Their most recent war was of course still fresh in most of their minds but they are very positive people who look forward to a much brighter future under their current leadership.


If we had gone during the summer, the children could have had some time in the sea but we have beach and sea in our region all the time so they didn’t seem to mind. We kept the tours short and interesting also which was important. 


There are almost too many things to recommend, but the Istrian Region is beautiful. They have a lot of vineyards, olive trees and also truffle forest areas which may remind some of Tuscany perhaps. 

Opatija reminded me of Cannes and Monaco
, but maybe from 15 or 20 years ago. We hired a large van for our family with a driver throughout the 10 days while we were there, which is perhaps the best option because we managed to see such a lot of the country this way.


We visited the Plitvice Lakes, which was incredible. I have seen many natural beautiful environments but these lakes were almost surreal in that it felt you landed in a Fairyland of sorts with the small cascading lakes and falls.


Split and Dubrovnik are two great places to visit as well with a lot of historical building and towns nearby with great food and sites. Truffle hunting and eating fresh oysters at a private oyster farm were also highlights.

Their food is a mix of Italian and Austrian food. We could just as easily have pizzas and pastas as well as their local favourites, which were mainly centred around fresh seafood or even veal schnitzels. It was the season for their local asparagus so we had a lot of that too. Of course we had quite a lot of truffles too as they are famous in that region for that.


They are ‘bread-eating’ people, so we had fresh local breads constantly with different local flavours. Stews of meats were also often seen on menus there so we were not short of things to try.   


Go to Croatia with little expectation so that you allow yourself to be blown away! We didn't know what to expect so that was part of the fun to be honest.


(Photos: Elyna Effendi) 

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