When plotting out our route for Croatia we had a few hard choices to make. It’s a deceptively large country, much of it coastal, and it seems like there are a million awesome spots to choose from - islands, mountains, waterfalls, history, you name it and Croatia’s got it. We only had about a week to work with as we have to be in Munich on the 18th and still have to visit Slovenia prior to that. We hate moving from place to place too fast because it adds an unnecessary level of stress to our plans, so we decided to choose only two cities.
The first city we scrapped was Dubrovnik. Despite our shared obsession with Game of Thrones, we speculated that it would be super touristy and after our experience in Kotor we definitely didn't want that. On the other hand, we knew we wanted to visit Split because we’d heard so many good things about that city. That left us with one more city to choose, and after some quick googling Alex stumbled upon a beach town called Makarska, and since it was (slightly) closer to Montenegro than Split, it became our first stop.
We had high hopes for Croatia overall. I mean, just do a Google image search and tell me you don’t wanna see that stuff in person. Several of my friends have been and everyone raves about the country’s natural beauty and all the stuff there is to do. Plus, Croatia seems to be having a moment right now - it’s easily one of the most popular and hyped-up summer vacation spots in Europe. Even if Game of Thrones had never filmed here, tourism would still be booming - Yacht Week is notoriously wild, massive cruise ships pass through every day, they have their own Ultra Music Festival, and it's become a beloved vacation spot for the rich and famous. All of those things combined mean that Croatia has never been more popular.
Unfortunately for us, that also means Croatia has never been more expensive. I naively thought that we’d see just a small jump compared to Montenegro but I was wildly mistaken. The mass influx of tourism has been met with an increase in prices throughout the country and especially in the coastal cities, more comparable to far western Europe (Belgium, Netherlands, etc) than to any nearby countries. Apparently Dubrovnik is the most expensive part of the country, and based on that and some recent articles I've read about how ridiculously overcrowded the city is with tourists, I have no regrets about skipping it. We did have a bus connection there but never left the station, so it doesn’t count.
Luckily, Makarska was a little more chilled out. It’s tucked in between the coast and some beautiful mountains, and it’s lovely and relaxed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely a resort town and therefore quite touristy, but since we got there at the end of season things seemed quite calm. Prices were still alarmingly high (one of our dinners cost more than any meal we’d had since Amsterdam) but our hostel was cheap and the beach was beautiful. We spent our three-night stay just wandering about - Makarska’s a rather small town and like pretty much every city we’ve visited in the last couple months, the focal point is the Old Town and everything else radiates out from that.
We spent a lot of time at the beach - it’s much more rocky here than any of the other beaches we’ve seen so far, and much of the peninsula where the most popular beaches are is just covered in huge rocks, so instead of laying on sand or pebbles you just kinda scramble along the rocks until you can find a decently flat one to hang out on. There were boat rentals and jet skis and all kinds of water accessories along the shore but they come at a ridiculous price, so we opted to just post up in a free section of the beach.
If you’re not pinching pennies like we are, there are tons of activities available to you in Makarska. We highly recommend hiring a boat and skipper for the day, as there are plenty of snorkeling and diving opportunities just off the coast (you can even get scuba certified if you wish), but we didn't have the funds for it on this trip and had a hard time justifying the expense when we’d done similar things for much cheaper in Albania and Montenegro. There are also lots of boat tours and gimmicky stuff like pirate ship cruises and submarine rides, all available along the waterfront if you’ve got the cash to spend.
Although Makarska is ultimately a beach town, there’s more to it than that. The highlight of our stay was the day we climbed up to Vosac, the highest peak in the mountains located just behind the city. Well, okay…technically we didn’t climb up the whole way - our hostel owner gave us some bad info about how long the hike would take (“two and a half hours - tops!”) and we didn’t think to research it ourselves. So we started the hike around 10 but a few hours in we found a signpost saying the peak was almost two hours further. After inventorying our water situation and weighing our options, we decided the smart thing to do was to turn around.
It’s not even like it was a particularly difficult hike - yeah, the first hour or so was pretty steep and we were definitely pooped, but we endured two much more difficult back-to-back 8+ hour hikes in Zakopane that pushed us to our limits. The difference was that in Zakopane we knew what we were getting into and could mentally and physically prepare. On this trek we hadn’t packed adequate water and didn’t expect it to get as hot as it did. And anyway, sometimes you’re just not feeling it, you know? Still, we got pretty far along and we caught some truly incredible views along the way (plus a great workout) so it wasn’t a total loss. Plus, it was nice to be on an almost empty trail for once - we only saw 4 or 5 other people the entire time we were out there, so it was definitely peaceful.
Other than that, we honestly didn’t do much - we ate cheeseburgers and ice cream, walked around a lot, and played with the hostel dog (a very fat Golden Retriever named Athena). You know, generic resort town stuff. This is the calm before the storm, our last chance to relax for a while and Makarska was a good spot for doing just that. We’re coming up on a whirlwind month: Slovenia, Oktoberfest, a Bavarian road trip, and then off to Nepal for our trek to Everest base camp. And unlike Vosac, EBC is definitely one trek where we won’t be able to turn back halfway. At least, I hope not…