Exploring Istria, Croatia by Car: the Perfect 1-Day Road Trip

Exploring Istria, Croatia by Car: the Perfect 1-Day Road Trip

Istria is one of the lesser known regions in Croatia, and very underrated in my opinion. Istria is a wine lover’s paradise as it is a prime wine harvesting region in Croatian. Also specific to the Istrian region is the coveted (and super expensive) truffle. Not to mention the food in Istria is known as some of the best in Europe. Go see for yourself!

Go truffle hunting, wine tasting, admire the medieval hilltop villages, or have a culinary field day with all the amazing food that comes from this region. Istria is incredible and it’s surprising that it hasn’t gotten too touristy…yet.

Istria road trip

If you’re planning on exploring the Istria region of Croatia, a car is actually the only way you can do it. Public transport does not go to most of these hilltop towns so your options are limited.

Istria is very small and you can easily explore the best spots in one day.

I have highlighted the perfect 1-day road trip in Istria below: 

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip


First Route: Rovinj to Hum

Journey time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Parking cost: 10 kuna


HUM

Hum has been coined the “smallest town in the world” and has recently been recognized officially by the Guinness Book of World Records. The town has a population of 17….SEVENTEEN!

Hum Croatia, smallest town in the world

Does it get any more fairytale than this?

Walking through this town will literally take you about 5-10 minutes, it’s that small. What we saw in this town included a few residences, a tractor trailor, a cute little shed, a little farmhouse, a field with some crops, a single restaurant with great views of the countryside, and a handful of visitors.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip; Hum, smallest town in world

As you can tell by the description, there is not much to see; however, I would recommend a stop here as it is very quaint and unique in its own sense. Also, if just for the mere fact that you can say you’ve been to the smallest town in the world…officially.

(Note:  when we were there it was not yet “official”)


2nd Route: Hum to Motovun

Journey time: 40 minutes

Parking cost: 20 kuna


MOTOVUN

Motovun is a medieval hilltop town that rivals the top towns in Tuscany in terms of sheer beauty. Situated on the top of a hill and overlooking the plush Istrian countryside, make sure to grab a glass of the local wine in a cute little restaurant overlooking the land.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip; Motovun

Istria is famous for truffle hunting and you will not have a problem findings specialty shops with free truffle tastings. I honestly do not like truffles (they make me gag) so I passed on this. But if it’s you’re forte, make sure to grab a few small bottles for the perfect souvenir to bring back.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

Make sure to set aside some time to get lost in the streets and have a mini photo shoot. The town is gorgeous and you’re going to want to take it all in. It wasn’t overcrowded in the least bit and that made it extra enjoyable!

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip


3rd Route: Motovun to Grožnjan

Journey time: 25 minutes

Parking cost: free street parking


GROŽNJAN

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

I think I may have found my new home

Grožnjan might be my favourite town on our Istrian road trip. Also located on a hilltop, it was a lot smaller and quaint than the other towns and had a more local feel.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

How cute are these blue shutters?

You could sense the artistic vibe as soon as you entered Grožnjan and it was nice strolling through all the quirky art shops. I wish we would have had more time here, as it was unexpectedly pleasant.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

UMAG

Our next and last stop (kinda) was the city of Umag. As we arrived into the city and attempted to find parking, we weren’t too impressed. The city was more run down and didn’t have much character from what we could see (but hey, we could have been totally wrong and it could have been awesome). We just didn’t get a good vibe from it and made a quick executive decision to head to Novigrad for our final sunset stop. It turned out to be a great choice!


4th Route: Umag to Novigrad

Journey time: 15 minutes

Parking cost: free


NOVIGRAD

In our brief venture in Novigrad, we strolled the main street covered in colourful umbrellas and had an impromptu photo shoot. It was such a lovely street we couldn’t resist.

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

We then quickly rushed to the waterfront for the sunset and found the cutest little spot called Pepe Bar. There were cushions placed on the rocks and served as the perfect spot to view the sunset.

Pepe Bar, Novigrad, Croatia

It was more on the pricy side but the view and ambiance surely made up for it. Try the mojito if you go, it was really delicious!

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

CareBear and I enjoying the sunset in Novigrad


Last Route: Novigrad to Rovinj

Journey time: 1 hour

Parking cost: free


Where to Base Yourself in Istria

Rovinj without a doubt is the ideal location to base yourself for your Istrian road trip. You can reach all the above-mentioned locations in one hour and 15 minutes max. Also, ROVINJ IS INCREDIBLE and probably my favourite city in Croatia. For reasons why you should visit Rovinj, check out my post What to do in Rovinj: The Ultimate Guide to Croatia’s Most Underrated City

what to do in Rovinj

Where to Rent a Car in Istria

About a 10 minute stroll south along the water in Rovinj, you will find a little car rental agency called Vetura. We didn’t make advanced reservations and it wasn’t a problem at all. We reserved the car the afternoon before and it costed 450 kuna (about $69/day) for an automatic last minute rental. It was way more expensive than if you book in advance, so we learned our lesson.

Istria road trip

My first time renting a car outside of the USA. I look calm enough, huh?

We were pleased with the company and the owner was very relaxed about return times. I would definitely use them again.

To come along on our fun road trip, check out this video that my travel partner Carebear Abroad made of our awesome day! Hint: it may involve getting our car stuck in the middle of nowhere. 

Have you been to Istria? What was you favorite hilltop town?

Click photo to PIN for later♥

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

Istria, Croatia 1-day Road Trip

What to do in Rovinj: The Ultimate Guide to Croatia’s Most Underrated City

What to do in Rovinj: The Ultimate Guide to Croatia’s Most Underrated City

As holiday seekers flock to Dalmatia for the popular sailing trips on the Adriatic Sea, the Istria region in Croatia is often overlooked. It only took my 8TH TRIP back to Croatia to finally venture to this lesser-known peninsula, due to my intense (and some might say unhealthy) attachment to the mesmerising Dalmatian coast.

Rovinj is located on the coast of the Istria peninsula, in the Western part of Croatia. Istria is known for its impeccable wine, world class gastronomy, coveted (and expensive) truffles, and storybook hilltop towns. What’s not to love about Istria? Please tell me. I’ll wait…

Last September, my friend CareBear and I decided on a more slow-paced holiday and to spend an entire week in Rovinj, using it as a base to explore the Istrian peninsula. Let me start by saying Rovinj is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring this region, given its central position along the coast. Not only that, it’s f***ing gorgeous! That fact is undeniable.

I will say that I wasn’t expecting to love Rovinj as much as I did. The Dalmatian coast has set the bar super high for me and I must admit I am quite biased to that area. You could go as far to say that I’m passionately obsessed with it. But Rovinj absolutely blew me away and it quickly moved to the top as one of my favourite Croatian cities, if not my favourite.

The best way I can describe Rovnj is quaint, charming, clean, colorful, and rustic…all in one perfect package. It sounds cliche, but there are no other words I can use to describe the awesomeness that is Rovinj.

what to do in Rovinj

There is not much to see in Rovinj in terms of historical landmarks, monuments, or museums. However, it is one of those places where you can just relax and take in all the surroundings in a peaceful atmosphere. The people are extremely friendly and the service was excellent overall.

First Impressions of Rovinj

Rovinj has such a huge Italian influence, understandably given its close proximity. The city of Rovinj felt like a blend between Italy and Croatia, my 2 favorite countries in the entire world. The food, the rustic architecture, and the colours are like a spitting image of the Ligurian region in Italy (my favourite region in Italy!). At times, I forgot that I was actually in Croatia and felt as if i was in Cinque Terre. That’s how strong the Italian influence was.

what to do in Rovinj

What really surprised me about Rovinj is that Croatian didn’t seem to be the dominant language, although technically it is. We heard just as much Italian and German as we did Croatian. And when the locals spoke Croatian, it sounded like it was with an Italian accent. The dialect is completely different from further south along the coast, and it was distinctly apparent. I was extremely surprised to hear how much German was spoke there, until we were informed that these were Austrians speaking and it made sense as this region used to be ruled by Austria in historical times! 

Why is Rovinj so Lovely? Let me Count the Ways…

The Picturesque Streets of Rovinj

Rovinj is the epitome of Picture Perfect. The streets of Rovinj are a photographer’s dream. In fact, Rovinj was one of the most picturesque towns I have ever seen. Period. My favourite part about Rovinj by far was the consistently stunning streets. Every day we found ourselves just getting lost in the maze-like alleys and having a blast. Around every corner, it was more and more beautiful.

what to do in Rovinj

There were numerous little cafes with funky/colourful furniture that were just so visually inviting it made you want to go in for a coffee every 5 minutes. One can only drink so much coffee in a day, but damnit they were just so stinkin’ cute!

what to do in Rovinj

The stores were so unique and the eclectic displays were very pleasing to the eye. The immaculate design of each little shop astounded me and silently lured me in. I could have shopped all day, even though I didn’t buy anything. We experienced boutique heaven in Rovinj.

what to do in Rovinj

 What To Do in Rovinj

The Farmer’s Market

I could never leave a city without visiting the local farmer’s market. In fact, it’s usually the first place I visit when arriving to a new city in order to stock up on some healthy snacks. The Farmer’s Market in Rovinj does not disappoint. The fruit is super fresh, juicy, and robust. The vendors are also very friendly and inviting, often giving you loads of tasting samples.

what to do in Rovinj

Honey, olive oil, truffles, and figs, you name it and they had it there. What’s best about this specific one is that it’s basically open all day until about 10pm, unlike most farmer’s markets that are only open in the mornings.

We went there so often that everyone started knowing us by name, and eventually free fruit was thrown in here and there.

Monte Beach

Let me start by saying Rovinj isn’t known for its beaches. The one I would recommend is called Monte Beach and is located just a hop skip and a jump from the center (did I really just say that?).

Because I'm happy 🎶😁 #nofilter #Rovinj #CroatiaFullOfLife #ShareIstria

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Monte Beach isn’t really technically a beach, it’s more like a rocky cove frequented by sunbathers brave enough to lay on the rigid rocks. It was super cute and not too crowded, and this became our little go-to spot every day. We even went here a few times to watch the sunset over the rocks and it was incredible. Check it out at least once if you’re in Rovinj. Oh, and bring some wine.

Church of St Ephemia Clock Tower

This is where you can find the best panoramic views over the city. You have to walk up some wobbly/narrow stairs to get to the top, but it’s worth it for the 360 degree views.

what to do in Rovinj

Entrance fee is 3 euros.

Rent A Bike

Exploring Rovinj by bike 🚲 | You won't catch me ridin dirty ✌🏻️😎 #Rovinj #lovelyrovinj #DiscoverCroatia #LjetoInCroatia #dametraveler

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This was a great way to see more of just the centre of Rovinj. You can’t really ride the bikes inside the narrow streets. Instead, we went along the coast where some of the other more populated beaches were located. There were rental places all throughout the city, so no need to book in advance. 

Go Boutique Shopping (or in our case, window shopping)

what to do in Rovinj

There was no shortage of specialty boutiques in the city, from eclectic jewellery shops selling one-of-a-kind pieces to musical shops selling cool vintage instruments. The displays in these stores were outstanding and you could really appreciate the attention to detail. All were so funky and different, it was nice to just browse through them one by one, entertaining our curiosities.

Find the Most Instagrammed Spot in Rovinj

As you’re walking through the city, you may stumble upon the cutest little street ever and your head will turn (as did mine). Can you see why it’s the most Instagrammable street in Rovinj?

The little streets of Rovinj are straight out of a fairytale 😍❤️#fairytale #LovelyRovinj #LoveCroatia #DiscoverCroatia #ShareIstria #dametraveler

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Secret Find: Mediterraneo Bar

This was by far our absolute favorite place in Rovinj and we came back every single day. The irresistible archway framing the steps leading into the sea is what initially drew us in. A cozy cafe by day and a coveted drinking spot during sunset, this is the place you will want to be.

Newly opened in May 2015 by a Rovinj native, Jasmin Huskic, Mediterraneo Bar serves coffee and speciality cocktails in a cozy seaside retreat. The staff is warm and inviting, always making sure you are enjoying your time.

what to do in Rovinj: Mediterraneo Bar

The cafe/bar is nicely decorated with an eclectic and bohemian inspired flare. Plush colourful cushions placed on the rocks and mismatched furniture give it a vibrant atmosphere. During the day, you have the option of jumping from the rocks and swimming right in front of the cafe. How cool?

The best part about this bar is the “secrete escape” spot that is, well…a secret. Tucked away in a private corner on the rocks, there is a magical spot that offers privacy in a romantic setting with a small table, cushions, and soft blankets offered for the cold night breeze.

what to do in Rovinj

The secret escape has become so popular that reservations are now warranted for this coveted spot. It was truly a unique experience watching the sunset in our own private little nest.

Mediterraneo Bar is seriously one of my favorite cafes I have ever been to! Hands-down. And no, this isn’t sponsored in any way, it’s really that awesome! If you make it over there, tell Jasmin that Crazy Travelista and CareBear Abroad say hi!

Where to Stay in Rovinj

As I usually do, I highly recommend using Airbnb for accommodation. During my search, I came across a big variety of choices in the center of the city and at very reasonable prices. We chose to stay in the center and it was the absolute perfect location, everything within a few minutes walk.  We picked a private apartment and we couldn’t have been happier. It happened to be on what became our favourite street in Rovinj, with a restaurant and coffee bar conveniently outside our door.

what to do in Rovinj

The one-bedroom apartment had a full kitchen, private bathroom and shower, wifi, a flat screen TV, and a pull out couch. The apartment could fit 3 people comfortably. We really enjoyed utilizing the kitchen to save money on eating out every meal. The total price for one week including all taxes and fees was $350 ($175 each split between us). It could have been even less if we had one more with us. We paid a little more this time for the prime location and it was well worth it.

You can check out our Airbnb rental here. (Update: the price has increased a bit since we stayed here, wahhh). And if you’re new to Airbnb, feel free to use my $40 off coupon! They really do have a great referral program! (PS: even if you already have a AirBnb account, you can sign up with a new email and still get the $40 OFF. YAY)

Where to Eat in Rovinj

As a Gluten-free eater, my restaurant recommendations are often limited as I can only sample a small selection of foods, unfortunately. I also tend to cook most my meals if I can, even when I’m traveling. Nevertheless, I did manage to find a few Gluten-friendly options that I really enjoyed.

where to eat in Rovinj

Pano e Vino-I was so excited to find an Italian place that served Gluten-free pasta. I sampled the gluten-free bolognese and the seafood risotto which were both flavourful and rich. I loved the fact that they brought out gluten-free bruschetta as an appetizer on the house, as well as gluten-free bread with our meals. I highly recommend this place even if you are not gluten free. The staff was super friendly and even gave us a whole bottle of honey grappa on the house. If we hadn’t eaten here the last night, I would have definitely returned again.

Squid 2-this restaurant has a great view of the riva and offers a variety of fresh seafood. We opted for the fish platter for 2 and it was very good and filling. The bonus is that they take credit cards.

Scuba-this restaurant also offered a variety of gluten-free options at a reasonable price. I also sampled the seafood risotto here, which was delightful and a very big portion.

B52-this place had the best gelato we tried in Rovinj and with the biggest selection. This is also the ONLY place that would allow us to sample the flavors. The scoops were huge and well worth the price. I recommend the fig gelato, unusual, yet mouthwatering.

How to Get to Rovinj

Planes, trains, and automobiles…literally. The only airport located in the Istrian region is in Pula, about 40 minutes by bus to Rovinj (costs 43 kuna). There are many affordable flights to Pula within Croatia on Croatia Airlines. I flew from Zadar to Pula for around $75 and it took less than an hour.

There are also busses from Split and Dubrovnik by Bus Croatia, but they are less frequent, take 9-12 hours, and some cost almost as much as a flight. Busses from Zagreb take about 6 hours.

You could also rent a car and drive to Rovinj; however, parking in the city can be a pain in the butt. Also, you really would only need a car for a day or 2 at the most, so if you are staying for a week it’s kind of a waste of money in my opinion.

Your best bet is snagging a cheap flight from Dalmatia or Zagreb!

How to Get Around Rovinj

By foot! It’s a total walkable city given its small size. You can get anywhere in 15 minutes max. I do however, recommend renting a car for one day to explore the surrounding region.

Exploring Istria (day trip)

One thing you must do in this region is get out and explore the countryside by car. In fact, this is the only way to reach the nearby hilltop towns, as public transport doesn’t serve most of these areas.

Highly recommended on your Istrian road trip are the towns of Motovun, Hum, Groznjan, and Novigrad. You can do them all in one day as they are all less than an hour and fifteen minutes from Rovinj! Just make sure to get an early start. To get all the details, read my post Exploring Istria, Croatia by Car: the Perfect 1-Day Road Trip

Day Trip It to Pula

Pula lies on the southern tip of the Istrian Peninsula and is a short 35-ish minute bus ride from Rovinj. The main attraction in Pula is the magnificent Pula Area, which was constructed back in the 1ST CENTURY! In fact, it’s older than the Colosseum in Rome! It’s also the 6th largest Roman arena in the world that still exists today!

Pula Arena, Croatia

There are also a few cute beaches to visit in Pula, as well as the nearby Kamenjak National Park, which I’m kicking myself for not getting to (I was short on time). If you make it over to Kamenjak, please let me know what I missed!

Pula, Croatia

Moral of the Story?

GO TO ROVINJ! It’s an overlooked Croatian splendour that doesn’t get the hype it very well deserves. Rovinj is very relaxing and romantic, the perfect base for exploring the Istria countryside, is filled with hospitable people, has great food, and is undeniably drop-dead gorgeous! All the elements of THE perfect city if you ask me!

what to do in Rovinj

Do you have any other tips for what to do in Rovinj? Any secret finds I failed to mention? Please let me know in the comments below! I would love to check them out when I finally return!

Click photo to Pin for later♥

What to do in Rovinj

RECOMMENDED TRAVEL GEAR:

1.Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera: I made the switch from my huge DSLR and I wouldn’t go back. It’s light, compact, and takes amazing photos!

2. Sony 10-18mm Wide Angle Zoom Lens: this wide angle lens is the key to landscape shots. I use this lens more than the original and am super happy with it. It’s not cheap, but super worth it if you want to get those special nature shots. Honestly, I would purchase the Sony alpha 6000 camera body only and save up for this lens to go with it.

3. E Bags Packing Cubes: the biggest life changer to keep me packing light! This is my biggest travel gear obsession and I have NO idea how I traveled without them before.

4. LifeProof NUUD Waterproof Case (iPhone 6): this helps protect my phone from water, sand, dirt, and the numerous drops that incur while I travel. I love it!

5. GoPro Hero 5 Black: I am a proud GoPro ambassador and obsessed with GoPro selfie pics if you didn’t notice! This is an essential item when you’re traveling solo to get all your cool shots (and of course underwater pics). Plus it’s so much fun to use! 🙂

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used before on my own and that I truly love 🙂

 

 

{VIDEO}: Zip-lining in Omis, Croatia with GoPro

{VIDEO}: Zip-lining in Omis, Croatia with GoPro

When one of your favorite brands in the world invites you on a fun adventure, you say YES…before you even know what it is haha. Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of going zip-lining in Omiš, Croatia courtesy of GoPro! Ahhhh, pinch me!

I had been zip-lining before 2 or 3 times in Mexico and the Caribbean on family cruises back in the day. But this was different. This would be zip-lining over the Cetina river between the gorgeous Croatian mountains..in one of my favorite countries in the entire world! So yes, excitement was an understatement when I got word I would be joining in on the fun!

Zip-lining in Omiš, Croatia

The company I went with was called Splitlicious. I can honestly say this was the BEST zip-lining I had ever done. Not only was the backdrop like from a movie, but we got 8 ropes total to ride. On the other ones I had done we got maybe 2-3 ropes to ride and then we were finished. It was over so quick and left me wanting more.

This zip-lining tour lasted about an hour, but it seemed longer! I’m not going to lie though, when I got up there and saw how high we were, I freaked out a little. But like always, my adrenaline trumped over fear!


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The guides were young and fun and it was a great time. One of them even volunteered to hold my GoPro and zip-line about 3-5 meters behind me so he could get a close up of me riding. And you know what? That was actually my favorite clip from the video!

Note: This video was shot entirely with the GoPro Hero 4 Session and I used the wrist strap during this activity.

*A huge thanks to GoPro for sponsoring this activity. I was not paid, nor required to write an article or make a video of this activity. I did it because I truly love GoPro! Expect more GoPro videos in the near future! ♥

9 Things to Love About Radisson Blu Split

9 Things to Love About Radisson Blu Split

Oh Croatia, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. If you’ve been following my travels, you’ll know I absolutely adore the country. I especially fell in love with the coastal city of Split on my first visit in 2013 and I have been going back frequently ever since. It’s a special city and you cannot easily escape the charm.

Did I mention my boyfriend is Croatian? So yeah, I have a thing for Croatia.

When I travel, I swear by using Airbnb for accommodation. But honestly, I have not had the best of luck renting in Split. I find most the apartments I’ve rented in Split through Airbnb are WAY smaller than they look in pictures, the walls are paper thin and you can hear footsteps all throughout the day and night, and the wifi is usually TERRIBLE.

So I decided to try my luck at a hotel and I’m so glad I did! The Radisson Blu Split has set the bar high and I will definitely stay there again in the future.

Here are the Top 9 Things to Love About Radisson Blu Split: 

1. Location

The bad news: the hotel is NOT in the center

The good news: the hotel is NOT in the center

Split Riva

The beautiful Split Riva (waterfront) in Croatia

If you’ve been to Split in July and August, you will notice that the night life is very lively. Fun if you’re into partying, not so fun if you’re trying to sleep. There are usually pros and cons to staying in the center. The obvious being you’re within walking distance to everything. The cons being the noise and the inflated prices. I think the Radisson Blu Split is in a perfect spot, away from the crowds yet close enough to be a part of it if you wish! A bus will get you to the center in 10 (ish) minutes. Walking will take you about 45+ minutes, but it’s all along the coast and you will pass several cute little local beaches so it’s a great way to see some of the lesser known beaches in the area.

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Another great perk about not staying in the center? The hotel had excellent wifi, which in my experience, is NOT common in the center of Split.

2. Support for Local Artists

Art Hall at Radisson Blu Split

If you walk around and explore the hotel, you will notice a large section of paintings in one of the hallways, beautifully lit by blue lighting. What I learned is that once a month, the art is changed and they display prints from local artists in and around Split. I thought that was really great and it’s nice to see them supporting the local community. It might not seem like a big deal, but I thought that was really encouraging to see.

3. Huge Breakfast Selection

Breakfast at Radisson Blu

I was surprised at how big the breakfast room was. At first it seemed like a school cafeteria, but the awesome views made up for it. The food selection was huge and even with my gluten allergy, I found plenty to eat. Custom made omelettes, local cheeses, cured meat, sausages and bacon, cereals, fresh squeezed juices, and a porridge station with a variety of nuts and toppings, you name it and they had it. To top it off, they had soy milk for my coffee, which is nearly impossible to find in Split otherwise. It was everything you could have asked for in a buffet breakfast.

4. The Amazing Spa

The spa was hands-down my favourite part about the hotel. At 2,000 square feet, it’s the largest spa in all of Split! You could seriously spend an entire day there getting pampered, or just relaxing on your own. Are the treatments pricey? Yes, slightly, but nothing outrageous. And what hotel spas aren’t pricey anyways? You’re paying for convenience.

Radisson Blu Split Spa

Indoor pool & jacuzzis. Photo courtesy of Radisson Blu Split.

Even if you don’t want to spend any money, there is a lot to enjoy. My boyfriend and I really enjoyed the solarium and jacuzzis, and got some good R&R in during our stay. The spa has a solarium/sun room, a pool, 2 Finnish saunas, steam room, hot pool, cold pool, and 2 jacuzzis. We literally spent a whole evening there and would have stayed longer if we didn’t get kicked out for closing time.

Radisson Blu Split Spa

Relaxing spa day with #Bae

Also inside the spa was a gym with free weights, machines, and cardio equipment. It’s another perk for those of you who love to work while traveling (which definitely is me).

5. Views for Days

Views at Radisson Blu Split

One thing you will notice right away at Radisson Blu Split is the nice views, which can be seen just about everywhere. All the restaurants, bars, and even the gym had floor to ceiling glass windows with lots of sunlight. All that vitamin D really puts you in a great mood! Ok, maybe it’s just the placebo effect, but hey, whatever works!

Radisson Blu Split Outdoor Pool

Radisson Blu Split Outdoor Pool. Photo courtesy of Radisson Blu Split.

6. Relax on Your Own Private Beach Area

Private lounging area at Radisson Blu Split.

Private lounging area. Photo courtesy of Radisson Blu Split.

A few minute walk down to the sea from the hotel you will find a small private beach for hotel guests. There is a beach bar called Mistral and several day beds for your lounging pleasures (free for hotel guests). It’s super nice to have your own private beach, especially during peak season when most beaches in the area are packed.

7. Nearby Žnjan Beach

Znjan beach near Radisson Blu Split

Žnjan beach is one of my favorite beaches in Split. For those of you not too familiar with Split, Žnjan beach is a located on the outskirts of the center with a very laid back atmosphere. It is a pebbly beach (as most in Split are) lined with some trendy cafes that are very popular with the local crowds. The beach is more secluded and the water is crystal clear. Žnjan Beach, along with Kasuni beach, are my top 2 favorite beaches in Split and away from the tourist crowds.

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8. Modern Luxury Not Typical in European Hotels

Radisson Blu Split luxuries

The Radisson Blu Split exudes modern luxury, noticeable from the second you enter the large colorful lobby. One thing that immediately caught my eye was the iPad station available for guests with fast wifi. Even though I had my own laptop and iPhone with me, I couldn’t resist playing with a new toy. You always want what you can’t have, right?

Radisson Blu Split Rooms

The entire hotel is very tastefully decorated with pops of color in all corners of the hotel. Our room had 2 twin beds, a flat screen TV, ample shelf space for unpacking, and a large balcony. There was a partial sea view and a view of the mountains. Although the car lot in between was not the most attractive view we could have asked for, it was still very nice.

The bedding was extremely plush and comfy, which really makes the difference of a good night’s sleep or not. It’s something I have learned not to take for granted when traveling in Europe. Comfy beds are very rare to find, trust me.

9. Because Size Really Does Matter

Lobby at Radisson Blu Split

It’s one of those places that has everything on site, so you never have to leave. But Split is gorgeous and you’re going to want to get out and explore. I’ve been traveling to Europe religiously since 2006 and this was definitely the biggest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. The hotel boosts 250 rooms, a spa and fitness center, 3 restaurants, 2 bars, an outdoor pool, a huge lobby, and 9 conference rooms. The hotel also has an onsite hair dresser, car rental company, and excursion center to help plan your holiday activities. So really, it has everything you need without having to look elsewhere. Convenience at its finest.

Oh, and the Radisson Blu Split is also a popular spot for weddings! Just in case you’re wondering…

Cons (Because not every hotel is perfect)

  • the bathroom had stained glass instead of regular walls/doors, so it lacked the privacy I like when using the toilet.
  • the size of the hotel was a plus, but at the same time that resulted in a less cozy feel.
  • 12 euro for parking. I know most hotels these days charge for parking, but since its not inside a busy town and there is plenty of space around, I think parking should be included in the price. But that’s just me. It’s not a huge deal, but just had to mention it (very nitpicky of me, I know).

Overall, I had a really nice stay and it was great getting pampered while in Split. It really had all the amenities you could have asked for and the staff was so nice and inviting. This was my very first experience staying in a Radisson Blu hotel and I was quite impressed. They uphold very high standards and I would definitely stay in one of their hotels again!

Happy travels and enjoy Split!

♥A special thanks to Radisson Blu Split for hosting me during my stay. All opinions, however, are my own. I don’t bullshit and would never recommend somewhere I didn’t truly enjoy!♥

Note: Due to my visit during off season, the outdoor pool was drained & the beach area was not set up. Therefore, the Radisson Blu Hotel provided me with a few pictures to supply for this post, as were marked above.

Have you ever Stayed in a Radisson Blu Hotel? Have you Ever Been to Split? How was Your Experience? Do tell! 

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Radisson Blu Split

Proizd Island: the Secluded Croatian Paradise You’ve Been Looking For

Proizd Island: the Secluded Croatian Paradise You’ve Been Looking For

If you’ve ever been to Croatia, then you probably know how special it is. However, I must admit, over the past few years it has become more and more popular (i.e. crowded). Unfortunately, if you visit in July or August you will be rubbing elbows with many tourists fighting for a spot near the water. Cue in the virtually undiscovered island of Proizd, a secret local hideaway far from the crowds.

Paradise in Proizd, Croatia

Proizd was voted Croatia’s most beautiful beach in 2007 by the Croatian Tourist Board, and it’s not hard to see why. The clean white rocks contrasted with the deep turquoise waters is breathtaking, and probably the clearest water I’ve ever seen in all of Croatia. Proizd is completely off the beaten path and is perfect for a day trip if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Top 5 Reasons to Visit Croatia NOW

Proizd, Croatia

Disclaimer: all of the photos in this post are completely unedited and from my iPhone( or GoPro)…the water really is that color! A fancy DSLR camera wasn’t needed to capture Proizd, it’s so naturally beautiful on its own! 

Where is Proizd?

Proizd is located off the West Coast of Korčula Island, one of my favourite Croatian islands. A boat ride from Vela Luka to the island will take 35 minutes. 

How to get to Proizd

Proizd island boat

To get to Proizd, a small boat leaves from the port town of Vela Luka 3 times daily during the summer at 10am, 11am, 12pm, and 1:30pm. The boat returns at 5pm, 6pm, and 7pm. Get to the boat 25 minutes early to assure you a seat in the high season. It only holds about 25-30 people. Tickets costs 50 kuna roundtrip (about $7.36 USD currently).

Proizd boat timetable

Proizd boat timetable

What to do in Proizd

Ok, there are only a few things to do on this island, but it’s so worth going to. If you love nature and secluded beaches, you will fall for Proizd very quickly. 

1. Wander through the woods, pick a trail and let it lead you to a new secret beach

Take the beaten path to get off the beaten path. Makes sense, right?

Proizd woods

One you get off the boat and pass the one restaurant near the dock, you will notice a wooded forest that has several different narrow walking paths that lead in different directions. You can’t really go wrong, so pick one, take the short hike, and see where the path takes you!

Proizd island, Croatia

My favorite view below, after a 10 minute walk through the green forest led to this…

Proizd, Croatia

2. Relax!

secluded Croatian island

This is the perfect place to take a book, lay out and relax. It doesn’t get more peaceful than this.

Relaxing in Proizd island, Croatia

That’s the beauty of this island. It is completely devoid of tourists and you will only see a handful of locals around. At any given point, I don’t think I saw more than 10-15 people at a time at one single beach. At some spots, there weren’t any people at all. Keep in mind, I was there in August, in the height of peak season! I can’t even imagine what it would be like in May or late September, but I’m definitely intrigued to go back and find out! 

Proizd island, Croatia

 

Who wouldn’t want a whole paradise island to themselves?

Where to Stay in Proizd

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Proizd is uninhabited! There are NO houses, apartments, or hotels on the island. Another reason why I loved this island so much!

There is one restaurant and one beach bar, and that’s it! The rest is just you and nature (and a handful of Croats). Staying in nearby Vela Luka is recommended as you can easily catch a boat directly from there.

Tips for Visiting Proizd

  • Wear appropriate shoes because it is very rocky (no sand unfortunately)
  • Bring snacks as there is only one restaurant where the boat docks
  • Don’t stay at one beach, explore as many paths as you can (I didn’t know about this until it was too late and I was only able to see 2-3 beaches)
  • One beach is nude, just FYI
  • Pay attention to boat departure times, the last one is at 7pm! Dont get left behind or you WILL be sleeping on the beach alone (hey, this might  not be a bad thing after all)

Proizd island gopro

Where is your perfect secluded paradise island? Let me know in the comments below. I may need some inspiration for future travels 🙂

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Proizd, Croatia secluded paradise


MY TOP 5 RECOMMENDED TRAVEL GEAR:

1.Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera: I made the switch from my huge DSLR and I wouldn’t go back. It’s light, compact, and takes amazing photos!

2. Sony 10-18mm Wide Angle Zoom Lens: this wide angle lens is the key to landscape shots. I use this lens more than the original and am super happy with it. It’s not cheap, but super worth it if you want to get those special nature shots. Honestly, I would purchase the Sony alpha 6000 camera body only and save up for this lens to go with it.

3. E Bags Packing Cubes: the biggest life changer to keep me packing light! This is my biggest travel gear obsession and I have NO idea how I traveled without them before.

4. LifeProof NUUD Waterproof Case (iPhone 6): this helps protect my phone from water, sand, dirt, and the numerous drops that incur while I travel. I love it!

5. GoPro Hero 5 Black: I am a proud GoPro ambassador and obsessed with GoPro selfie pics if you didn’t notice! This is an essential item when you’re traveling solo to get all your cool shots (and of course underwater pics). Plus it’s so much fun to use! 🙂

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used before on my own and that I truly love 🙂

 

2015 Top 7 Travel Surprises (+ 2016 Preview)

2015 Top 7 Travel Surprises (+ 2016 Preview)

2015 was a crazy year in terms of travel. I visited 17 countries, 9 of which new countries I had never been. I never expected to do so much travelling, but I can honestly say it was the best travel year of my life! I decided to put together a list of the top 7 travel surprises of 2015. These are all places that far exceeded my expectations and shocked me/blew me away. I have also included a list of my (tentative) travel plans for 2016. Cheers to a new year of travel!

1. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Charming Ljubljana, Slovenia

Charming Ljubljana, Slovenia

Never had I before experienced a capital city so charismatic as Ljubljana. I wasn’t expecting much going into the Slovenian capital, as I usually don’t care too much for most capital cities these days. I’d rather visit a smaller, more unique village on the outskirts. However, Ljubljana blew me away! Ljubljana had a small town vibe indeed. The one word that comes to mind when I think of Ljubljana is charming. It was an eclectic mix of elegant/classy and bohemian/hippy, if that makes sense. The cafe culture was alive outside and it was almost impossible not to sit down at one of the trendy cafes overlooking the river. With only 1 day there, it wasn’t enough and I hope to go back soon to enjoy it more.

2. Interlaken, Switzerland (aka “Narnia”)

 

The ultimate winter wonderland in Interlaken, Switzerland

The ultimate winter wonderland in Interlaken, Switzerland

With only a short amount of time in Switzerland, we had a lot on our lists of things to see. But when traveling, sometimes you realize that plans don’t always work out the way you would like. Me and my friend Carey planned to see Jungfrau and/or Harder Kulm, yet due to the heavy snowfall, the visibility was slim to none and these activities never happened. We were a bit disappointed, to say the least, as the only 2 things we came there to see were closed. So we decided to take a paper map and explore the city. Well, we got lost and ended up walking through a park in the middle of a snow storm. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, with nothing in sight except for white powdery snow. At one point, a man on a horse rode by covered in a robe (a sort of “black knight”)and we looked at each other like, is this real life? We played in the snow and had numerous photo shoots, just the 2 of us. Something so simple brought us so much joy and it ended up being our favorite part of the trip. You know what they say, sometimes no plans are the best plans.

3. Israel and Palestine

Culture shock in Israel

Culture shock in Israel and Palestine

It was surreal to be able to stand on the same ground where Jesus once stood and to see his birthplace. The whole visit to Israel seemed like a dream and it’s something I have wanted to do my whole life. And I can honestly say that I experienced the biggest culture shock in all of my travels to date visiting this area. To see young military personnel walking around with guns was something very new to me, yet it’s a normal way of life over there. Also, the clash of multicultural people within the city walls of Jerusalem who were all living harmoniously together was incredible to see. If only those walls could speak. It was truly an eye-opening experience and I’m so glad I was able to witness it. Another huge bucket list item was also checked off for me here-floating in the Dead Sea!

YO MAY ALSO LIKE: Highlights of the Dead Sea and Masada Tour in Israel

4. Cappadocia, Turkey (aka “Mars”)

Cappadocia

Cappadocia, aka Mars

If you’ve ever been to or seen pictures of Cappadocia, I think you can agree that it is like somewhere from a different planet. The landscape is like no other place on earth and the memories made there will last forever. From eating in a local family’s house sitting on the floor, to watching the famous hot air balloons rising above the land at sunrise, these are some memories I will never forget.

5. Rovinj, Croatia

streets of Rovinj, Croatia

The picturesque streets of Rovinj, Croatia

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Croatia, but visiting Rovinj catapulted this obsession to a whole other level. The fact that I waited so long to visit this area baffles me. The streets of Rovinj were some of the most picturesque streets I have ever seen. The mixture of Croatian, Italian, and German languages spoke in this city really surprised me, until I learned some of the history behind it. The architecture especially had a strong Italian influence and at times I forgot I was in Croatia. How could I not like a city that felt like a mixture of Croatia and Italy, my 2 favourite countries! If you haven’t been to Rovinj yet, you’re really missing out on a hidden gem of Croatia!

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Top 5 Reasons to Visit Croatia NOW

6.Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, Austria in winter

The unreal village of Hallstatt, Austria

This is a place I had been dreaming to go ever since I saw pictures that actually made me think this place was fake due to its stark beauty. Usually when I give myself high expectations I am let down, 9 out of 10 times. But this wasn’t one of those times! Hallstatt might be the most beautiful/quaint/cute small village I have ever seen. The fact that it is set on a breathtaking lake just magnifies its beauty. Visiting Hallstatt was also very special since I went on my birthday and also because I’m half Austrian. Hallstatt definitely did not disappoint.

7.Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle in winter

Feeling like a princess at the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle

If you’ve ever traveled in Europe, you come to realize that extravagant castles appear to be the norm there. Once you’ve seen a dozen, you start to become immune to their grandeur. However, Neuschwanstein Castle is the epitome of a fairytale, and in my opinion it was the most spectacular castle I’ve ever seen. This was also part of my birthday trip so it was extra special. But when I arrived, it almost didn’t happen. Due to the weather, the lookout bridge with the best view of the castle was closed. But of course that didn’t let it stop me. I jumped over the fence and decided to go anyway, as many others decided as well. As a tried to take the “easy route” against my boyfriend’s wishes, I slipped on ice ad fell hard on my left shoulder. I then grabbed the bottom of the fence with my right arm, as my feet were dangling off the mountain. My boyfriend ran to my rescue and grabbed me by my left shoulder to help me up. The rest of the trip I could barely move my arm, but it was well worth it for the amazing views! I certainly felt like princess on my birthday.

Where Am I going in 2016?
That’s a very great question! So far, I only have a short trip to Reykjavik, Iceland and Bergen, Norway booked for Winter 2016. The rest is up in the air for now! However, I have a tentative plan that I hope will get put into full effect. Here it goes:

Spring 2016 wish list:

  • Portugal
  • Croatia
  • Italy

Summer 2016 wish list:

  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • Finland

Fall 2016 wish list:

  • Norway fjords

2016 “maybes”:

  • Morocco
  • South Africa
  • South America
  • Bulgaria

I can’t afford to go to all these place, so I will probably pick just one or 2 out of this category. It’s such a hard choice!

*As with most travelers, plans can always change and new destinations will be chosen last-minute (which is what happened with Israel and Egypt last year!)

So, here’s to not knowing exactly what my plans are and the fun part of figuring that out. Happy New Years to everyone and I’ll see you in 2016!

WHAT WERE YOUR 2015 TOP TRAVEL SURPRISES? AND WHERE WILL YOU BE HEADED IN 2016? DO TELL!