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Wild Croatia by Land & Sea

10 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices Day 1: Zagreb, Croatia
On arrival in Zagreb, you are met and transferred to our hotel in the center of this historic Balkan capital. With origins in Roman times, Zagreb flourished in the late 19th century as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and many of its well-preserved yellow and peach buildings date to that era. Our hotel is optimally located for exploring the city’s main sights and monuments, and we begin with a guided tour at 5 p.m. before a welcome dinner in a traditional Croatian restaurant.

Day 2: Lonjsko Polje Nature Park / Plitvice Lakes
Leave the city behind on the drive to Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, the largest protected wetland in the Danube Basin. This 200-square-mile national reserve has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the European Union. The park, which includes extensive habitat along three major rivers, is the largest complex of native lowland riparian forest in Europe. Natural forces have shaped a distinctive landscape rich in biodiversity, with species specially adapted to the flooding that regularly occurs in this woodland habitat, including the renowned Slavonian Oak. The park also contains Krapje Dol, the first ornithological reserve in Croatia. On the oldest oxbow bend of the Sava River, we find nesting grounds for the Eurasian spoonbill, several species of heron, little bittern, ferruginous duck and short-toed snake eagle. Look for these and more on a walk with a local ornithologist, and stop in the village of Cigoc, famed for the large number of stork nests on the roofs of the traditional wooden houses. Continue this afternoon to Plitvice Lakes for a two-night stay.

Day 3: Plitvice Lakes National Park
Designated a World Heritage Site for its extraordinary natural features and undisturbed production of travertine, Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the world’s most impressive karst landscapes. Contained by natural limestone dams, 16 turquoise lakes are linked by crystalline streams, cascading waterfalls and terraced pools—a dynamic environment with a soundscape as enchanting as its visual beauty. Park wildlife includes native trout, deer, wild boar, Eurasian lynx and 168 bird species. The park is especially noted for its 321 butterfly species, and we’ll hope to identify some as we follow the boardwalk trails that wind among the lakes and lush forest. The park also shelters some 50 highly endangered European brown bears, but they stay far away from paths and people. 

Day 4: Kuterevo Bear Refuge / Split—Board Yacht
This morning we visit Kuterevo Bear Refuge, founded to protect orphaned and injured brown bears that cannot be returned to the wild. Located on the edge of Velebit National Park, the sanctuary offers a chance to get close to bears while learning from refuge staff about efforts to conserve these apex carnivores and their wild habitat. A thousand years ago, brown bears flourished throughout Europe. While widespread cutting of forests and hunting caused their numbers to plummet, Ursus arctos (the same species as the American grizzly) retains a viable presence on the continent, especially in the Balkans. Between 800 and 1,000 brown bears live in the mountains of Croatia, an important focus for bear conservation in Europe. 

By late afternoon we reach Split on the Dalmatian Coast, with a guided tour of the city’s Old Town—a World Heritage Site—on arrival. Split’s richly layered history dates back 17 centuries, to when the Roman Emperor Diocletian built his splendid palace on the Marjan Peninsula. We step inside to examine one of the most imposing and best-preserved Roman ruins in existence. The city grew up around the palace that remains at its heart, its labyrinthine streets bustling with bars, cafés, shops and open-air markets. Heading to the harbor, we find our floating home for the next six nights, the luxury wooden sailing yacht Fortuna. 

Day 5: Brac—Sea Kayaking / Hvar—Wine Tasting
Greet the sun as Fortuna sails into the blue Adriatic toward the island of Brac. The largest of the 1,186 Dalmatian islands, Brac is known for its native Mediterranean pine trees, secluded bays and laid-back atmosphere. Since ancient times, Brac has been renowned for its milky white limestone, used in the construction of Diocletian's palace, numerous buildings in Venice, and the White House in Washington, DC. Our Expedition Leader offers an introduction to sea kayaking as we get fitted to our boats and learn basic paddling skills in the calm teal waters. Following the shoreline, step ashore at Farska Bay to walk to Blaca Hermitage, a 16th-century monastery built below tall cliffs, and continue on foot to Blaca Bay, where we stop for a swim in the sparkling sea. 

Then it's on to sun-drenched Hvar, a long, thin island dominated by a steep limestone ridge and covered with pines, heather and fragrant lavender. Ragged inlets indent the coast, adding to Hvar's striking beauty. After lunch on board, we visit the seaside town of Jelsia for a wine tasting at Tomic, one of Croatia’s best-known wineries. Andro Tomic, a Hvar native, spent 20 years training in France and elsewhere before returning home to continue his family's 150-year-old history of winemaking. His faith in Hvar's indigenous varietals and favorable climate helped launch a viticulture renaissance, and we enjoy some fine local wines with dinner at the home of a family that has lived on the island for generations, sharing a farm-to-table feast featuring their garden's bounty.

Day 6: Exploring Hvar—Stari Grad / Hvar Town / Pakleni Islands
Discover more of Hvar by kayak as we paddle from Stari Grad to Hvar Town. Dating to the arrival of the ancient Greeks in 384 BC, Stari Grad is the oldest town in Croatia. It also boasts its own World Heritage Site, the Stari Grad Plain, an agricultural colony that has remained practically intact since it was first colonized by the Greeks in the 4th century B.C. The fertile plain was originally planted in grapes and olives, which have been cultivated continuously over 2,400 years to the present day. Later, we paddle and swim in the idyllic Pakleni Islands, a group of 14 wooded islets sheltering hidden beaches and quiet lagoons off the coast of Hvar Town. This evening, stroll medieval Hvar Town's central square, the largest in Dalmatia and paved entirely with marble. Other architectural gems include the 17th-century Venetian Arsenal and 15th-century Franciscan monastery with its ornate bell tower and 300-year-old cypress tree in the gardens overlooking the sea. 

Day 7: Vis—Sea Kayaking & Exploring
Today we sail to the island of Vis, inhabited for more than 5,000 years. Sleepier than neighboring Hvar, tiny Vis is known for its bucolic atmosphere. Much of the landscape is verdant scrubland, with wild rosemary, capers and sage covering the rocky ground, along with vineyards and orchards of carob, olives, oranges and lemons. Vis holds a strategically significant spot in the Adriatic, the target of many naval battles  over the centuries. Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs, Venetians, Austrians, French and British have all controlled Vis at different times. After World War II, the island became a military base and is laced with tunnels built by the Yugoslav army. That history helped protect Vis from the impacts of tourism: When the rest of Croatia opened to visitors in the 1960s, Vis was off limits until 1998 and still retains a largely under-the-radar status today. Our scenic kayak adventure starts at Stoncica Bay as we explore the island's south coast, passing tranquil coves and a striking 2-mile-long stretch of cliffs, then concludes in Komiza, a picturesque fishing village where we’ll have a chance to taste the day’s fresh catch. 

Day 8: Bisevo—Sea Kayaking / Vis Town
Our paddling idyll continues at Bisevo, a tiny limestone island 3 miles southwest of Vis that has been inhabited since prehistoric times. A priest from Split founded a Benedictine monastery on Bisevo in 1050, but it was deserted two centuries later because of danger from marauding pirates. The 11th-century church of Saint Sylvester is preserved near the ruins of the monastery. Bisevo is most famous, however, for two caves: the Blue Cave, which is filled with an azure glow as a shaft of sunlight illumines the pure white sand on the sea floor, and Monk Seal Cave, which we explore in our kayaks. Continue paddling along the north coast of the island to reach the town of Vis. Dinner is at a local farmhouse where our host introduces us to peka, a famous Dalmatian dish of vegetables and meat or seafood—lamb and octopus are favorites—that are placed in a covered pot and roasted in the embers of an open fire. 

Day 9: Solta—Sea Kayaking & Exploring
This morning we moor near Solta for today's paddling excursion. This peaceful, wild island just 6 miles from Split is an undiscovered jewel for nature lovers. Our focus is the southern part of the island, with its tranquil bays, quiet beaches, cliffs, islets and reefs. The air on Solta is fresh and fragrant, with nearly 5,000 acres of intact Mediterranean brushlands—native trees, shrubs and grass—that offer a sense of what the land was like in ancient times. With vegetation blooming 10 months a year, Solta offers dozens of aromatic and medicinal plants for us to see and learn about. The small island, just 20 square miles, is home to more than 100 species of birds including the endemic steppe eagle and small, gray cuvita owl that is a symbol of Solta. The water around the island is impossibly clear, drawing Mediterranean monk seals that frequent only the cleanest parts of the Adriatic. If we're lucky, we might encounter some of the dolphins we also see occasionally along Solta's coast. 

Day 10: Split / Depart
This morning, bid farewell to Fortuna, its crew and your Expedition Leader before boarding a shuttle for the Split airport to meet departing flights. 
Map
All This Included
Discover Croatia’s wild side as we focus on its secluded natural treasures. Few places rival the Dalmatian Coast for sea kayaking—with more than 1,100 islands and reefs, it's perfect for a paddling idyll. And the scenery is the best in the Mediterranean, with rocky headlands, aquamarine bays and red-roofed stone villages that cascade to the sea. We sail aboard a private wooden yacht, our base for launching our kayaks at a new destination each day, navigating intimate coves and exploring ashore on foot. Split and the towns of ancient Dalmatia are a highlight, too—with cultural and architectural treasures as impressive as the rugged landscape. And there’s much more for nature lovers that lies inland: this unique adventure also explores Croatia's mountains, forests and wetland nature reserves, plus Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of the most beautiful World Heritage Sites on Earth.

  • Accommodations
  • Services of Nat Hab's professional Expedition Leader(s) and local guides 
  • All meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on final day 
  • Most gratuities
  • Airport/train station transfers on Day 1 and final day 
  • All activities and entrance fees
  • All taxes, permits and service fees
Highlights
  • Sail Aboard a Private Yacht: Leave the big cruise ships behind and sail the Adriatic aboard our luxurious, privately chartered mahogany yacht—an exclusive small-group adventure for just 12 guests.
  • Paddle by Day, Feast at Night: Kayak among pine-forested isles and turquoise coves along a coastline steeped in history, with some of the best local food and wine in the Mediterranean.
  • Discover Mountains, Lakes & Wildlife: Explore the enchanting travertine pools and waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes, watch birds in the largest wetland in the Danube Basin, and visit a European brown bear sanctuary.
Accommodations
Zagreb: Hotel Academia
Plitvice: Ethno Houses or 16 Lakes
Cruising: Cabin onboard Fortuna
Notes
  • Group size: approximately 12 travelers.
  • Not included: Travel to and from the start and end point of your trip, alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees (if any), optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry and internet, etc.), airline baggage fees, required medical evacuation insurance, optional travel protection insurance.
  • Physical Requirements: Moderate. To participate fully in this trip, you must be able to kayak a minimum of two hours per excursion and walk unassisted for at least 3 miles on relatively easy terrain with some hills. Our Croatia itinerary features sea kayaking and nature walks at a beginner level: kayaking takes place in mostly protected, calm seas (as long as we have good weather), and walks are on easy to moderate well-groomed trails or boardwalks. Though no paddling experience is required, general fitness and mobility are essential, and it is helpful to know in advance that you are physically able to paddle the minimum daily distance and that you enjoy kayaking before signing up—unless you wish to forego paddling and spend time aboard the sailboat or on shore instead. Also, most nights will be spent sleeping aboard a sailing yacht, anchored in protected bays and coves.
  • Mandatory Insurance: Since the areas you will travel to on this trip are remote and wild (that's why we go there!), we require medical evacuation insurance for this program. If you decline the medical evacuation insurance coverage offered by Natural Habitat Adventures (NHA), we require that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected. We recommend that your chosen independent insurance plan includes at least $250,000 in medical evacuation coverage. Please note that we will add the cost of NHA's medical evacuation policy (currently $48 per person) to your tour invoice until you provide our office with proof of coverage including your insurance company's name, phone number and your individual policy number. Thank you for understanding that our policy exists exclusively in the interest of our guests' safety. 
  • Arrive in Zagreb by 2:30 pm in order to participate in the walking tour on Day 1 beginning at 5 pm. You may depart from Split anytime after 11 am on the final day.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
 
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.