Betty and Garry’s BIG European Vacation – Part 3

4n Plitvice NPFrom Split we embarked on an 8 day cruise sailing the Dalmatian coast.  The aquamarine water was magical and each day we’d drop anchor and jump off the yacht into the crystal clear Adriatic.  Each night we docked at a different port of call – Markarska, Mjlet, Trstenik, Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar and Split.  Our experiences included chancing upon a traditional Croatian wedding, hiking around magnificent saltwater lakes, walking the defensive stone walls of ancient towns, catching amazing sunsets, climbing fortresses for spectacular views, tasting local wines, and of course, tasting the most exquisite local cuisines in each port.  At Korcula we visited a bar situated atop the 15th century Zakerjan Tower, part of the old town walls.  Our cocktails were pulleyed up to us as we took in the expansive view.  Access to the bar is by steep narrow steps, then a ladder – I wisely decided to partake of only one cocktail – I had to get back down!!

On finally disembarking we hired a car and first drove to the pretty riverside village of Skradin where we took a boat ride up to Krka National Park with its phenomenal waterfalls and forests.  Then we continued onto Zadar.  Zadar old town is surrounded by historical ramparts enclosing ruins and monuments from Roman, Venetian and medieval times.  Its modern architecture includes the world’s first sea organ with its impressive haunting melodies and the Sun Salutation offering a colourful display after sunset powered by solar energy. Transport from near our apartment to the old town was provided by the Boatmen of Zadar who have been rowing passengers across the harbour for over 800 years.

From Zadar we drove through the Velebit Mountains, passing through many tunnels and some extraordinary scenery.  We stopped at some picturesque little villages along the way to our destination, Plitvice Lakes.  This National Park is 295 sq km of forest reserve in central Croatia best known for its chain of 16 terraced lakes joined by waterfalls that extend into a limestone canyon.  A ferry on Lake Kozjak links the lower and upper lakes.  The landscapes and hiking are excep4j j Krka NPtional – definitely a place not to be missed if you’re visiting Croatia.

How do you follow up such magnificent panoramas?

Our next stop was certainly equipped to compete!  Five days in the centuries old villages of the Cinque Terre were exceptional.  On arrival we walked into a wine festival showcasing Cinque Terre vineyards – stroke of luck there!  From high in the terraces of the oldest village, Manarola, we travelled by foot, ferry, shuttle bus and train to experience everything this region had to offer.  Portovenere, Lord Byron’s home of choice in Italy, proved to be an Aladdin’s cave for me.  The cobblestone streets were full of shops selling local crafts and produce, crammed full of mouth-watering pesto, pastas, jams, wines and liqueurs.  Hiking in the Cinque Terre is amazing – whilst negotiating the tracks and hills above magnificent coastline you pass through vineyards, gardens and small villages hidden in the hills.

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