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Caravan Travels
CROATIA June 2006

It was Wendy who suggested we went to Croatia. Our trip as far south as Dubrovnik took 60 days of which 22 days were spent in Croatia where we stayed on 9 different camp sites. In total the return trip from Calais was nearly 3000 miles at an average cost of 76 pence per litre of diesel. This is our account of the Croatian part of the trip. For more information on Croatia click on Find Croatia and if you want to go direct to a section of this account, click on the highlighted text. To read our notes on the other countries we passed through, or have visited previously, use the left hand side menu.

Route
Our route from Calais was via Belgium and into Germany, where we first stopped to visit Koblenz before taking the A3 south, night stopping at Erlangen before arriving in Passau. After a brief stay in Passau, we crossed the border into Austria where we stopped a few more nights to visit Graz before crossing Slovenia and arriving on the outskirts of Zagreb12 days after leaving Calais. We had intended to visit Zagreb but awoke to poor weather and after only a single nights stay, we decided to continue our journey south towards the Croatian coast. Our next stop was at the Plitvicka National Park, for three nights before arriving at the coastal village of Zaton near Zadar where we stopped for 4 nights before continuing south to Trogir where we again stopped for a further 4 nights. In showery weather, we then crossed Bosnia before arriving in Dubrovnik. Here the showery weather worsened, the camp site pitch was poor and noting the weather was better further north we cut short our stay in Dubrovnik to 2 nights and headed back towards Calais. On our return journey we retraced our route back along the coast road towards Trogir where we stopped for a few days in excellent weather in Omis. After passing Split we cut inland to the new motorway to head north as far as the junction for Zadar where we then took the interesting coastal route 2 (E65) to Senj. After a night stop in the small town of Selce north of Senj, we visited Pula and then Porec before leaving Croatia for Lake Bled in Slovenia. After a night stop in the Austrian Tirol we crossed back into Germany for the last 26 days, travelling via the Munich ring road to stop about 50 miles further north at Wemding near Nordlingen, then Rudesheim am Rhein and Diekrich in Luxembourg before finally crossing France, via a night stop near Laon, to Calais. We used a Tom Tom satellite navigation system for most of our journey but Tom Tom mapping data for Slovenia and Croatia was unavailable and for this part of the journey we purchased Michelin's map number 736 which covered Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia. For added detail we also purchased an Insight travel Map of Croatia which included major city plans.

Our views on the route
Our outward route is probably the most direct to Croatia and this can largely be accomplished to the Austrian/Slovenian border on free motorways, thereafter, the road across Slovenia to Zagreb and down to the Adriatic coast, is good and toll motorway sections are being added all the time to make it quicker still.. The 1100 miles from Calais to Zadar could easily be accomplished quicker than we took, but there is plenty of interest on this route and many stopping places to choose from so why hurry. You have to pay tolls on the Austrian motorways but for a motorhome of 3.5 tons or under or a car and caravan, a 10 day vignette only cost 7.5 Euros for unlimited travel but it does not include tunnel tolls. If your motorhome is over 3.5 tons, different charges apply which can work out very expensive. For more information refer to our travel pages about Austria. Motorhome near Zadar There are also per kilometer toll charges on the Croatian motorways which are collected from toll booths. The section from the Slovenian/Croatian border to Zagreb, the E59, is being upgraded to motorway and the last part is complete. We tried to avoid this but the old road was absolutely atrocious and discretion saw us quickly onto the motorway. From Zagreb to Karlovac is motorway as is the last section, the A1, down to the coast. In between, it is a good major road crossing gently undulating lush green terrain and the mid way stop at the World Heritage site of Plitvicka is a delight not to be missed. As the coast draws nearer and you pass through the mountains between the coast and Plitvicka using a new tunnel, the scenery changes dramatically from verdant countryside to the typical scrub lands found on the Mediterranean coast. The A1 is complete down as far as Split but we left it at the junction for Zadar and took the old coast road, the E65, to Dubrovnik. South of Zadar, this is a good road which hugs the Dalmatian coast line offering many fine views and stopping places. It passes through many towns and villages and most of the campsites can be found off this road. The further south you go the more dramatic the scenery becomes and the section from Split to Dubrovnik of about 130 miles hugs the mountain sides twisting and turning its way alongside the crystal clear seas to Dubrovnik. It briefly cuts inland at Ploce just before the short section which passes through Bosnia. Here there is a brief respite from the mountain road as the road crosses a flat fertile river plain covered in fields of orange groves before it then resumes its journey alongside the coast and mountains towards Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik was as far south as we went and we returned via the same route to just north of Split where we turned inland to climb up the hills to join the new A1 motorway to travel as far as the junction for Zadar. In contrast to the populated coastal areas this section was sparsely populated. From the junction to Zadar we headed up the E65 coastal road towards Senj and Selce where we night stopped. This is a rugged section of coastline with almost desert like scenery and after a few miles the road deteriorated from a Dubrovnik View good tarmac surface to one full of ruts and potholes and it was often strewn with rocks which had tumbled down from the mountain sides. We were lucky if we could maintain 10mph on this twisty often narrow road until we arrived in Karlobag from where the road vastly improved. Encouragingly we met gangs of workman busy repairing some of the bad sections and sumised that all would be repaired in a few months time.
From Senj the coast road is less tortuous and we headed for the peninsula of Istria and the town of Pula, passing through the industrial town of Rijeka on route. On leaving Rijeka we took the quicker inland A8 road rather than the coastal route. This climbs through a much greener area and once through the Ucka toll tunnel, levels off into a more cultivated area. From here, on fast roads, it is not far to the rocky coastal plain and the resort seaside towns of this area. All in all we thought this a more prosperous area of Croatia.
We spent a few days at Fanzana close to Pula before moving northwards up the A9 to Porec. Pula is a working town whilst Porec is clearly a resort town. Porec was our last stop in Croatia before we headed further north up the A9 to the Slovenian border after which we joined the A1 heading towards Ljubljana and Lake Bled.

Camp sites
Most of Croatias' campsites are located on the coast, there being very few inland. Wild camping is prohibited. Sites vary in size from huge holiday villages with shops, bars, cafes and restaurants to very small sites which we often found inaccessible or too risky to get to with a large unit. We stayed on the larger sites which even in June were busy. Site fees are comparable to U.K. but the standards are lower with most sites having a rustic feel to them, very little pitch preparation other than marking being undertaken and leveling blocks were nearly always required. Passports are required at check in, camping carnets are not accepted. If you do not want to lose sight of your passport, our advice is to take a copy for this purpose. Toilet blocks were always well maintained and clean but could be a little old fashioned. Laundry facilities, whilst available were not self service. On some sites barbeques are not allowed. We noted many of the sites accepted Camping Cheques which gave good discounts on site fees and these are well worth taking to Croatia. For more information about campsites visit The Croatian Camping Union site. or have a look at our notes on the sites we visited by using the top left hand side menu on this page.

General comments for wheelchair users
We knew the terrain to be largely mountainous and rocky and the towns old, we therefore had not expected too much of Croatia when it came to the provision of facilities for the disabled and we knew very little of the campsites themselves. Our expectations were met at the first two sites we stayed at and were even further enhanced when we discovered Camping Korana, near the Plitvicka National Park, had disabled facilities in their toilet block but the terrain and steps prevented wheelchair access!! However at our next site, Camping Zaton, the site had gone out of its way to make sure all areas, including the beach, were accessible and had provided good wheelchair accessible toilet facilities. The terrain did frequently prove a problem but a power chair greatly helped in these situations. Access in built up areas was better than expected mainly because, although towns were old, very few streets were cobbled. We observed no public wheelchair accessible toilets and public transport was not accessible. In summary finding good disabled facilities was a bit of a hit and miss affair.

Our Stops and tours
Plitvicka Nationa Park Plitvika National Park
This wooded, unspoilt area of crystal clear lakes and waterfalls is a World Heritage site and a visit here is a definite must for the able bodied but unfortunately it is a no go area for the less ambulant. Whilst there are good walk ways and paths in the park, steps and steep accesses make this a no go area for a wheelchair user and those with walking difficulties. However if your disability is obvious you may be allowed to visit the nearest viewpoint without charge. The 85 Kuna (£8) per person entrance fee is at first sight high for just a walk, but it includes ferry boat trips and shuttle bus rides within the park to enable thoroughly enjoyable and memorable circular walks to be made. There are two main entrances with full facilities about 5 miles away from the nearest campsite but you can park a motorhome in the car park at entrance number 1.

Zaton near Zadar
This is a flat coastal area overlooked by inland mountains. Zaton is a small village about 8 Kms north of the interesting port town of Zadar. We stayed at the holiday village of Camping Zaton which is set in pine woods and has it own private beach and all facilities including a shopping arcade and numerous restaurants. We saw little of the village of Zaton which is vastly overshadowed by this huge complex which you really never had to leave for the duration of your stay if you did not want to. We did however visit the old quarter of the large working port town of Zadar whose architecture and streets are typical of most of the towns we visited. The old town, which is set on a peninsula within fortified walls, has it origins in Roman times and still preserves its very old network of narrow and charming streets as well as a Roman forum dating back to the first century AD. It was a pleasure just to wander these largely level, smoothly paved, traffic free streets, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the sights and the sunshine.

Trogir
We stayed at Camping Vranjica Belvedere, about 5Kms north of Trogir This is a large, steeply sloping, terraced site off the E65 with a fine view overlooking a bay and Trogir. Whilst here we back tracked north a few kilometers for a day visit to the small town of Primosten which had caught our eye on the journey south. We also made a day trip to Split.

The guide book describes Trogir, as “being set on a small island less than an hour from Split and as being one of the most seductive towns on the Dalmatian coast. Its weathered Romanesque and Venetian-Gothic palaces, churches and monasteries fanning from its antique square have put Trogir on the Unesco list of world heritage sites.” It is one of the places not to be missed.

We found an open air car park just off the main road into Trogir. This also hosted a bustling interesting market and a short walk across a stone bridge and through an arch takes you into the old walled town which dates back to the 3rd century BC. Like Zadar the streets are narrow but flat and smooth and full of interest and the pretty waterfront hosts a number of cafes worthy of resting ones feet to watch life gently pass by.

Primosten - a small picturesque town whose old quarter is built on an island which is accessed by a causeway. A car park, just off the main E65 coastal road, provides convenient parking for access. There is a coastal path round the outskirts of the old town but steps in places prevent total wheelchair access and there are some steep ascents in the town itself. However, all the main areas, other than the church which is built on the highest point of the island, can be visited fairly easily.

Split waterfront

Split - the main city in Dalmatia. and one of the largest cites in Croatia which, for variety, we thought a more interesting place to visit than Dubrovnik. It was first settled when, at the end of the third century AD, the Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace on the site of today’s Split. This well preserved Roman palace is now located in the very heart of Split and many of Split's historical and cultural monuments are located within its walls. One of them, the main open space of the palace with it's colonnade of six columns and the cathedral on the eastern side of the square, is a site not to be missed. Like the previous towns we had already visited, Split old town is a maze of narrow smoothly paved streets which were easy for a wheelchair user to get about on. We did encounter some steps but we always found a route round these which in itself took us to some interesting places. The traffic free waterfront, lined with cafes, flowers and palms, was one of the largest we visited, as was the huge street market. The port is the terminal for coastal and island ferries including one across to Italy. It is also a popular stop off for the cruise ships with one of the Saga ships in port whilst we were there, so we did not feel totally out of place!.

Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is the city located at the south end of Croatia where the mountains reach right down to the sea. It is another world heritage site and the approach to the town and port is memorable for the view as the road overlooking the bay and the nearby islands sweeps round the mountainside to cross the suspension bridge, which, at the north end, has a large lay by offering a splendid view of the harbour and the modern town. The closest camp site to Dubrovnik is Camping Solitudo which lies on the peninsula across the water opposite this lay by and is a 10 minute bus ride away from the entrance to the old town. It is therefore very popular. Tall walls surround Dubrovnik old town and there are two main portals into it, both leading to the main boulevard. Dubrovnik old town was built in the 13th century and remains almost untouched to the present day. Its was heavily bombarded in the recent War of Independence but restoration has left no signs of the damage and only a wall map at the entrance to the old town records the damage done. The bus from the campsite is not wheelchair accessible but once inside the old walls, access to the main areas is not difficult. Again the streets are narrow but smoothly paved and traffic free. Off the beaten track, there are some stepped areas and there is no wheelchair access onto the walls. A walk round the walks will take over an hour but it is a must even if the charge is £5. The views are superb. We were unfortunate that it was a showery day and to make matters worse, seven cruise ships visited the port during the day making the town busier than usual. We still spent most of the day there dodging the showers and managed an enjoyable lunch in an outdoor restaurant.

Omis
Having cut short our stay in Dubrovnik we spent four relaxing days at Camping Galeb, a beach side campsite within easy walking distance of this small town. The E65 cuts through the centre of town and the camp site is sandwiched between this road and the Adriatic. Shear cliffs drop dramatically down to the town’s edge from out of which a river flows. You can go white water rafting from here. There is not a great deal to see in Omis, its attractions are its beaches lapped by a crystal clear sea. The weather was much kinder to us here and we just relaxed in the sunshine at this pleasant site.

Selce
On route to Pula we night stopped at Camping Selce which is located only a short walk from the town centre. The small town of Selce nestles on the lower slopes of the mountains which overlook the island of Krk. There is not a great deal here, but it obviously attracts those tourists looking for a quieter holiday. If you cannot find a pitch lower down this terraced site, you will have a steep descent into town but, once there, the waterfront is level and easy to stroll along. We walked into town and along the harbour front and selected a pleasant harbour side restaurant in which to have our inexpensive evening meal. This was followed by a visit to an ice cream parlour to round off the evening. Ice cream parlours are very popular in Croatia and the variety of scrumptious dishes is endless and it cannot fail to tempt even the strictest dieter!

Pula
We stayed at Camping Bi-Village at Fazana which is a coastal village about 4Km north of Pula. Pula is largely an industrial town and an important port. It was also occupied by the Romans in the first century BC and many signs of their occupation remain, the most famous of which is the large amphitheater they built. The outer circle of wall is still complete and much of the original seating still remains as do traces of some of the rooms. It remains in use today for concerts and shows. It is quite a wierd feeling climbing the well worn steps to the seating and looking down on the arena knowing that so long ago thousands of Romans must have done the same and possibly watched gaditorial fights to the death. The amphitheater is not the only remains to be found, there is a forum and an impressive arch which semi spans the entrance to one of the main shopping streets which has a good mix of shops. There is also a very good market. Getting around with a wheelchair can present some problems because some of the streets are cobbled and there are some uphill areas which we tended to avoid. Most of real interest seemed to be in the level areas.
Fazana has a small harbour and a sprinkling of restaurants and cafes and a few small shops. It is about a 15 minute walk along a sea side pathway from the campsite to the village. A good level wheelchair friendly pathway also runs along side the road into the village. Off shore lies the National Park islands of Brijuni. The main island is Veliki Brijun and is open to visitors. We took a boat trip from Fazana around the islands which houses a couple of hotels, a golf course, a large late 19th century fort where concert are sometime held and the country residence of the President of Croatia which was at one time President Tito of Yugoslavia's home. On the day of our trip a conference of the EU Foreign ministers was taking place on the island. This was an interesting if not spectacular trip and although the boat was not wheelchair friendly it had ample room and there was plenty of help when boarding and alighting from the boat.

Porec waterfront

Porec
In contrast to the working town of Pula, Porec is a pleasant resort town and the ambience reflects this in the paved harbour front with its bench seats, cafes, tourist stalls and flower beds. The shops are also more tourist orientated. We stayed at Camping Bijela Uvla, a large site about 5 Kms to the south of Porec. From here there is a ferry service to Porec harbour but this is not wheelchair accessible and we drove in on our visits parking near the local market. The local area is home to many resorts and some of the largest campsites in Croatia and I imagined Porec being extremely busy in peak season. In June it was most enjoyable and we made the most of the sunshine and peace to enjoy our last few days in relaxation. I even went swimming in the crystal clear waters which didn't even lap the rocky sea frontage of the campsite because it was so calm. The water was a bit of a shock to the system, but once in, very relaxing. It was fitting that later, our last memory or Croatia was to be a gorgeous sunset while we sat in a beach side cafe sipping our drinks and quietly exchanging pleasantries with one of the many German couples who holiday in the area.

We would both love to return to Croatia, especially Istria, not only for its better campsites and ambience but also because it is less of a distance to travel. We will probably not repeat our trip down to Dubrovnik in a hurry, but it was well worth doing and we gained a good appreciation of a country full of charm and worthy of further exploration.

To see more of Croatia, have a look at some of our photos in our Croatian Gallery which is accessible via the top left hand side menu.

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