Croatian National Theatre, Zagreb

Croatian National Theatre, Zagreb

Croatia Tour with Gate1 Travel – Zagreb

Our Croatia Tour with Gate1 Travel began in Zagreb. Our Gate 1 Travel Tour also included touring Slovenia, a day in Sarajevo, a Montenegro Day Trip and two nights in Venice. We arrived by plane to Zagreb’s new international airport outside the city limits. With 4 members in our little sub group at the time, it was reasonable to take a taxi to the Westin Zagreb. We really enjoyed the comfy beds at the Westin Zagreb and its views over the old town. That evening we passed the Mimara Museum and found a nice place to eat facing the Croatian National Theatre.

St Mark's Church, Upper Town, Zagreb

St Mark’s Church, Upper Town, Zagreb

Zagreb Old Town Walking Tour on Our Own

The next morning, before the Gate1 Travel Tour started, we did a Zagreb Old Town Walking Tour on our own. We started with pastry and coffee near the train station. Then we took at leisurely stroll through the quaint Botanical Garden. After that, we headed north through a series of parks toward the Old Town. We passed the Art Pavilion and the Meteorological Post to Jelacica Square, the Dolac Market and the Zagreb Cathedral.

After lunch on the Tkalciceva Pedestrian Street, we wound our way up to the Stone Gate and St Mark’s in the Upper Old Town. Then we spent some enjoyable moments viewing the paintings in the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art. Nearby, the Museum of Broken Relationships has become very popular with tourists, because of the many different heart-felt and also humorous mementos to failed relationships. We checked out the viewpoint over the Lesser Old Town and then found our way to the Gric Pedestrian Tunnel, which led directly back to Jelacica Square. You can also take the gondola back down from the Upper Town. In a few short hours we covered off most of the sights in Zagreb.

Dolac Market, Zagreb

Dolac Market, Zagreb

Zagreb with Gate1 Travel

The next morning we began our guided tour with nearly 40 other people on our Gate1 Travel Tour. The Lower and Upper Town guided tour was the identical route we’d taken the day before. That evening we took an optional tour to Kumrovec to see Tito’s birthplace. Afterward we ate duck for dinner at a nearby rural farm restaurant in the Zagorje Hills. Our Gate1 guide warned us that this area of Croatia likes wine that takes like vinegar. I don’t think you could even call it wine.

Zagreb Slide Show

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Zagreb Walking Tour Map

Croatia Tour with Gate1 Travel – Dubrovnik

Our second stop in Croatia was Dubrovnik. We stayed at Hotel Lapad in the hotel district north of Old Town Dubrovnik. In the morning, the bus first took us to the standard tourist viewpoint overlooking the Walled City. Then the bus dropped us off at the Pile Gate where our guided tour began. Old Town Dubrovnik as a serious problem absorbing all its tourists and this has been made even worse by with the addition of people interested in touring filming locations for Game of Thrones.

Old Port, Dubrovnik

Old Port, Dubrovnik

I’m not a big fan of large group guided tours so we left the Gate1 Tour in the Franciscan Monastery at the oldest Apothecary in the world. We walked down the Stradun street to the Bell Tower on Luza Square. Then we visited the Church of St. Blaise, the Rector’s Palace and the Dubrovnik Cathedral. From there we walked around the Old Port and St John’s Fortress. Then we visited St Ignatius Church and walked out through a small hole in the city wall to the seaside pub at Beach Bar Buza.

Walking Dubrovnik City Walls

Walking Dubrovnik City Walls

Walk the Dubrovnik City Walls

After wandering the Old Town, we paid the entrance to walk on top of the Dubrovnik City Walls. We used the entrance near the Old Port, but there are two other entrances as well. The walk around the Dubrovnik City Walls is a circular self-guided trek and truly a highlight of a visit to Dubrovnik. You get great views over the roof tops and down into the maze of buildings and streets below. Don’t miss the chance to walk the Dubrovnik City Walls.

Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant, Dubrovnik Old Port

Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant, Dubrovnik Old Port

Dubrovnik – Gradska kavana Arsenal Restaurant

In the evening we cabbed back to Old Town Dubrovnik for a second visit. The atmosphere and views at Gradska kavana Arsenal Restaurant caught our attention. The restaurant overlooks the Old Port and St John’s Fortress. Our dinner at Gradska kavana Arsenal Restaurant was amazing. While the sunlight faded, I enjoyed one of the best seafood pesto dishes I’ve ever had. The restaurant was open to the port so the views were unobstructed. A keyboard and muted trumpet played background music that was enchanting. After dinner we strolled along the waterfront at St John’s Fortress and then walked the Stradun back to the Pile Gate. Our evening in Dubrovnik was one of the most wonderful parts of our trip.

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Touring Dubrovnik Slide Show

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Dubrovnik Old Town

Croatia Tour with Gate1 Travel – Split

After 3 nights in Dubrovnik, including a Montenegro Day Trip, we headed to Split with Gate1 Travel. The weather was pleasant as we drove along the Dalmatian Coast. Makarska was a pleasant seaside village for lunch along the way. In Split, the waterfront promenade is very pleasant. Diocletian’s Palace dominates the old town waterfront.

Roman Ruins, Diocletian's Palace, Split, Croatia

Roman Ruins, Diocletian’s Palace, Split, Croatia

Gate1 provided a guided tour of Diocletian’s Palace, which is a well preserved Roman ruin. The Roman Emperor Diocletian built the palace for his retirement. Diocletian regularly executed people in his palace. He even executed his wife and daughter because he suspected they had become Christians. To add to the strangeness of Diocletian’s Palace, many families have apartments throughout the roman ruins. The best part was the professional Croatian klapa singers who were performing in a dome of the ruins to sell their music.

Saint Domnius Cathedral, Diocletians Palace, Split, Croatia

Saint Domnius Cathedral, Diocletians Palace, Split, Croatia

I found Split to be my least favorite location on our Gate1 tour, but others in our group enjoyed it immensely. Some were very interested in the dank, dark basement of the Diocletian’s Palace, which was used in filming Game of Thrones as a den for dragons.

Split Croatia Slide Show

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Croatia Tour with Gate1 Travel – Trogir

After one night in Split Croatia, our Gate1 tour bus took us about 45 minutes to Trogir and its old town. Trogir is small and quaint, with narrow pedestrian streets inside the walls of the old town. A church, large square and a fortress add to the popularity of this old town. Klapa singers were performing under cover in the square to sell CDs, just like they were at the palace in Split. I liked Trogir better than Split, but high winds mixed with a bit of driving rain made for a visit geared to seeking shelter in a coffee shop. At the coffee shop I tried Trogir’s famous rafioli almond cake, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. We spent the rest of the day driving through the rain to Plitvice Lakes.

Veliki Waterfall Trail, Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Veliki Waterfall Trail, Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Croatia Tour with Gate1 Travel – Plitvice Lakes

The Plitvice Lakes area was completely different from the rest of our Croatia tour. Zagreb was like a trip to a typical town in Europe. The Dalmatian Coast towns are typical of the Mediterranean. Plitvice Lakes National Park is all forest, lakes and waterfalls in an isolated area of Croatia. We stayed at the Hotel Jezero, which is right beside Entrance #2 to the park. Rain was falling heavily for our arrival, but the sun came out the next morning. Our guided tour began with a short bus ride to Entrance #1. The first view in the park was the Veliki Waterfall, which is the highest waterfall in Plitvice Lakes National Park. From the viewpoint you then walk down the trail, cross the river and you can get close enough to Velkik Waterfall to get wet.

Plitvice Lakes Emerald Pool

Plitvice Lakes Emerald Pool

Plitvice Lakes Trails

The Plitvice Lake Trails are well maintained and easy to walk. The trails follow a series of emerald pools up river from Entrance #1. The pools and small waterfalls are formed as limestone precipitates out of the river. Wood slats are frequently used to cross over the running water. No handrails are provided, so take care when it’s busy that you don’t get bumped into the water. After passing several emerald pools and waterfalls, you reach a concession area where you catch a boat across a large lake. Your admission includes the boat crossing of the large lake to Entrance #2.

Plitvice Lakes Wood Trail

Plitvice Lakes Wood Trail

Plitvice Lakes Entrance #2

I thinks the best Plitvice Lakes Trails start immediately after the two minute ferry ride at Entrance #2. You frequently get to walk on the wooden planks over water that seems to cascade in every direction. Waterfalls like Galovacki aren’t as high as Veliki Waterfall, but their width and structure make them more intimate. We enjoyed this area so much that we came back to repeat the hike again that afternoon. From Entrance #2 we hiked upriver along a series of waterfalls and pools up to Entrance #3 where you can catch a bus back down to Entrance #2. The entrance admission includes the bus.

Veliki Waterfall, Plitvice Lakes

Veliki Waterfall, Plitvice Lakes

Two days after our beautiful sunny day at Plitvice Lakes, heavy rainfall causing flooding that forced many of the trails in the park to be closed. We were extremely lucky to have enjoyed such good weather for our visit. If you tour Croatia, check the itinerary careful as many tours skip Plitvice Lakes. I’m so glad we didn’t miss it.

Plitvice Lakes Slide Show

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From Plitvice Lakes, we headed back to the coast the next morning. After lunch in the waterfront village of Opatija, our tour of Croatia ended as we crossed the border to begin our tour of Slovenia.

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