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An Introduction to the Croatian Islands – Paradise Found

October 22, 2016
Croatian Island Tour Review Viator

Ahhh Croatia, the secret is well and truly out!  Gorgeous islands, pristine beaches, lush national parks; there isn’t much you could want in a summer holiday destination that this ex-Yugoslavian nation doesn’t already offer.

Having heard many friends tout the beauty of the Croatian islands, we excitedly booked our spots on a boat tour around the islands with Viator.  We were finally off to explore the beauty of the Dalmatian Coast!

Tour Itinerary and Review

On the morning of the tour we arrived at the port meeting spot in Split bright and early.  In all there were eleven of us on the speed boat that was organised by Tripster and though there was space for everyone, I would recommend taking plenty of sun protection incase you end up sitting in the area that doesn’t have shelter.  The boat itself was comfortable with plenty of storage – let’s face it though, we weren’t there for the boat, we were there to check out the beautiful Croatian islands!

With everyone aboard we made a move for our first stop of the day, the Green Cave.  This beautiful spot, located on the islet of Ravnik, reflects the water a stunning shade of green due to a hole made in the roof of the cave during the Second World War.  After ducking the boat into the cave opening we made our way over to our next destination, Stiniva.

Stiniva was recently awarded ‘the best beach in Europe‘ which is high praise but well deserved for this little piece of paradise.  The bay is tucked away from the main tourist trail on the island of Vis (which in itself is relatively free of tourists thanks to it’s tactical use in WWII) and is accessible only by hiking track or by sea.

Our ride for the day set anchor approximately 150m back from the beach, allowing us to dive in and make our way over to the pebbly beach.  What was once a full-formed cave is now a sheltered bay – the collapse of the cave’s ceiling leaving an entrance to the bay of less than 5m.

We relaxed there for an hour or so, swimming and soaking up the sun, before swimming back to the boat in the hopes of there being good news about the tour’s namesake activity.

Unfortunately for us, the Blue Cave on Bisevo was closed for the day.  Due to the small opening to this natural cave, it is easily closed in rough seas and although the water looked calm where we were, the cave operators weren’t having a bar of it.  Though it would have been amazing to see it, we weren’t too disappointed – the rest of the day was more than amazing enough to make up for it, plus we were lucky enough to visit the Blue Cave on Capri.  With the decision made for us to move on, off we set again.

The small fishing town of Komiža was the perfect point to stop for lunch.  Given about one and a half hours, we chilled out in a nice little port-side restaurant and wandered the main street enjoying gelato (as we did on most of our trip!)

Next up was one of the surprise highlights of the day, a visit to the old submarine tunnel.  Used during WWII, this massive tunnel was eerily quiet and surprisingly long – an awesome quick stop on our tour.

The afternoon saw enjoy our last swim (and also a snorkel) at a beach on Devil’s Island – though it was a beautiful spot to stop off at, I must admit, the snorkelling wasn’t particularly impressive.  Beautiful water, a nice bar to sit for a drink should you choose, but absolutely no fish there on the day we visited.  It didn’t bother us as we weren’t there to snorkel, but it’s worth saying so you don’t pin you hopes on it!

The last port of the day was the buzzing town of Hvar.  Rimmed with super yachts, sitting around a cove, this beautiful old town is a must-see in Croatia.  At night the bars and yachts come alive but during the day, the island is a relaxed place to explore.  After a quick wander around the township, we headed for the 16th century fortress that overlooks the town.  With the most incredible views back over the port, be sure not to miss it!

Throughout the day our skipper, Franjo checked in with us, always making sure we were happy and comfortable.  He was incredibly safety conscious and worked with us to help craft an itinerary that suited us all – we had plenty of choice in regards to how long we spent in each location and he had no shortage of recommendations for us.  At the end of the day, he even let us all stay on longer on Hvar to make the most of the late afternoon sun; you can’t ask for more than that.

Is a Day Tour enough to really get a feel for the Croatian Islands?

Initially we had planned to spend five or so nights on the islands around the coast of the Croatian mainland but with a desire to add more time to our Bosnian itinerary we decided to head out on this ‘five island’ tour in the hopes that it would give us the taste of the islands we desired without the time commitment that we’d initially planned.  So, the million dollar question; did this tour tick all the right boxes for us?  It sure did!  So much so that we moved on from the islands having only seen them on this tour and enjoyed other parts of the country before moving onto Montenegro (which we had initially dropped from our itinerary due to time constraints).

Let me finish by saying, the islands we visited were everything we wanted them to be and more – it’s not that we wouldn’t have loved more time on the islands but with visits to the Greek Islands, Capri and Ibiza earlier in the summer we were looking to explore a different side of Eastern Europe – fair to say we were pretty spoilt with the amazing destinations we had the pleasure of visiting!

Whether you spend a day ducking in and out of the Croatian islands or intend on spending more time basing yourself on one or two, each island offers its own unique beauty.  They’re all worth seeing, and I don’t doubt this day trip is the best way to do it if you’re on a limited timeframe!


Love what you see?  Pin this post so it’s ready for your Croatian island adventure!

Croatian island hopping tour review

Thank you to our friends at Viator for organising this tour for us.  Though we were guests on this trip, all thoughts are, of course, our own.  If you’re in Croatia, we highly recommend the five island tour as a way to check out the Croatian Island highlights!


Central Europe Croatia Europe Krka National Park Tours

Krka Waterfall Tour – Exploring Croatia with Viator

September 26, 2016

Croatia is absolutely gorgeous; locals have known it forever and travellers the world over are coming to realise.  In fact, I don’t think I know one single person that’s not sung Croatia’s praises!

So many people though, stick to the coastline whilst exploring this beautiful country, neglecting the national parks and gorgeous little villages.  Looking back on our time in Croatia over the summer, it was actually these areas that stick in my mind the most.  The national parks are strikingly beautiful – crystal clear water, vivid streaks of greenery and well equipped for visitors, these parks should be included as a part of every Croatian trip!

When planning our visit to Croatia, we knew we wanted to visit both the Plitvice Lakes National Park (for it’s out-of-this-world beauty) and also Krka – the photos of people swimming in amongst the waterfalls sealed the deal for us and so the planning begun.

You are able to visit both parks independently and though this was easily done with Plitvice (you can even store your bags there in between bus rides – check our post for details) it is not so straightforward at Krka.  The park itself is fairly spread out and we knew we wanted to see a reasonable amount of it, so a tour was the logical choice.

We met our guide, Irena, by the bridge the links the Zadar’s Old Town with the rest of Zadar, before setting off through the Dalmatians for the national park (which was approximately an hour away).

Upon arriving, we were dished out the most delicious breakfast – fresh ham and cheese rolls, dougnuts (known as Krafne) and bottles of water.  Any tour that feeds you well is a good tour in my books, and based on breakfast, we were off to a good start!

From the most fabulous viewpoint we wandered down to the main attraction, the crystal clear waterfall of Skradinski Buk, primed for swimming.  Near the water there were plenty of options for food (should you wish to travel independently or enjoy a coffee) and stalls selling souvenirs and water shoes.  If you’re not there to swim there’s an option to go for a walk up to another view point… but seriously, who wouldn’t want to swim here!?

The entrance to the pool is fairly rocky so we would advise using water shoes.  If you’ve got some, fantastic but if not, don’t race out to buy them – sellers have countless pairs available for purchase and they’re only 75 kunas (€10).

Due to an incident earlier in the season, visitors can’t swim right up to the falls but you’re able to get close enough for it to be a memorable experience whilst ensuring everyones safety.  Though the water was a little chilly, it was definitely worth jumping in – swimming there was easily the highlight of the day!

From Skradinski Buk we boarded a boat and headed to Skradin before again boarding our mini-van.

After a tasty lunch in a local restaurant, we headed to our final destination of the day – the area surrounding Roški Slap – where we viewed another of the park’s famous waterfalls (though I must admit, it wasn’t as impressive as the others) and were given time to explore the area.

We decided to climb the 600 odd steps to Oziđana Pećina, a cave system atop the national park.  Though the walking track seemed to keep stretching up to the sky, we were eventually rewarded with spectacular views of the park and its waterways, making the hike more than worth it.  At this stage the weather started to turn a little but even in light rain, we enjoyed the talk back down to the village where we rewarded ourselves with ice creams – a fantastic way to wrap up an awesome day out with new friends.

Throughout the tour, Irena managed to find the perfect balance between sharing information with us and letting us explore at our own pace.  She was knowledgeable, friendly and laid back; everything we look for in a guide.

As we started the tour in Zadar (but needed to head through to Split that same evening) we brought our bags aboard in the hopes of leaving the tour early to catch a bus onwards, which would save the time spent doubling back on the same road.  Initially it didn’t look like we’d be able to make it work but the tour team worked their magic, going out of their way to help us out.  They swung by a little bus station on the way home, ensured the scheduled bus would indeed stop to pick us up and then went on their way, but not before Irena gave us her number, promising to come and collect us personally should the bus not arrive.

Neither of us could believe the personal service and kindness that was demonstrated through these actions – we were absolutely prepared to head back to Zadar and catch a bus onwards from there, but Irena wasn’t having a bar of it and was determined to help us.

We were so pleased we made the decision to join the tour – it made life so much easier, was great value, we learnt lots about the area and enjoyed delicious food and even better views.  If you’re in Croatia, be sure to visit both Krka and Plitvice for unparalleled beauty.

To book a spot to explore Krka National Park in Croatia, check out Viator online here!

Thank you to Viator for allowing us to join this guided tour for the purpose of a review – we had a fantastic time and, as always, all thoughts are our own.  To see what other activities they have on offer in Zadar, check out their tours online.

Accommodation Bela Krajina Central Europe Europe Slovenia Tours

Big Berry: Glamping with a Twist in Slovenia

September 20, 2016
Big Berry Slovenia review

They say it’s the journey, not the destination that matters – those people have clearly never had the pleasure of visiting Big Berry in Slovenia!

Hidden away in Bela Krajina, Big Berry offers those looking for a more authentic insight into the country a touch of luxury whilst immersing them in nature. The concept of Big Berry is simple; they connect quality, homegrown Slovenian brands with disconcerting travellers.

big berry glamping slovenia


With the Kolpa River to one side and cattle paddocks to the other, massive trees punctuate the lush grounds of this ‘glampsite’, providing the perfect spot to unwind in between your included activities (of which there are plenty).  Swim from the Slovenian side of the Kolpa River over to Croatia and enjoy zipping down the waterslide or using the tarzan swing to re-enter the river ready for your paddle home again – speaking of paddling, you can also borrow one of Big Berry’s canoes to venture further down the river.  If you’d rather stay dry, Big Berry offer an amazing number of excursions (including local food and alcohol tastings, horse drawn carriage rides, canoeing tours just to name a few) or you can relax at the campsite one the swinging egg chairs or one a comfy bean-bag bed.

After a fun-filled day we loved returning to Big Berry. A snugly bed, fully equipped kitchen, satellite TV, included wifi and best of all, our own private spa pool on the deck – relaxing at camp was absolute bliss!


At Big Berry, each morning was started perfectly with a hand-delivered goodie basket of local breakfast treats; breads and pastries, yoghurts, fresh fruit, cheese and eggs, each day looked forward to discovering the new goodies at would be awaiting us on our balcony.

Breakfast was only the beginning though – we’ve never been as well fed as we were at Big Berry!  Each and every meal was delicious and locally sourced.  Throughout our time by the river we were taken to local restaurants and cafes and each time, we were blown away by the food on offer.  We sampled a number of traditional meals and always had plenty of options on offer.

Thanks to the way Big Berry run their all inclusive programme, meals and activities are included which makes everything that much better!  There’s nothing like chowing down on a delicious meal or heading out on an exciting activity without having to dip into your pocket again.

The Big Berry Experience

At Big Berry, there are a number of cabins onsite, each highly specced, and designed to maximise relaxation and privacy.  Both Nathan and I spoke about how much we’d both like to take a cabin home with us, which is actually something you can do (well almost).  These portable buildings actually double as show-homes and are available for purchase – I can imagine just how perfect they’d be sitting near the ocean or nestled in the forest.

If you’re planning a trip to Slovenia, be sure to check out Big Berry!

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big berry review slovenia

We’d like to say a massive thank you to Big Berry for so generously hosting Nathan and I for the duration of our stay.  We had an absolute blast in Slovenia and enjoyed every minute of our experience.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Central Europe Croatia Europe Plitvice

Plitvice Lakes: Heaven on Earth

August 24, 2016

Plitvice Lakes National Park is gorgeous beyond compare.  One of the oldest national parks in South-East Europe, and the largest in Croatia, this aquatic wonderland attracts visitors from all around the world.

The sixteen lakes, each connected by a series of waterfalls, are set deep in the Croatian wilderness.  These lakes stretch out over eight kilometres whilst the national park covers an area of three hundred square kilometres.  Over thousands of years, water flowing over the limestone and chalk cliffs have created natural barriers which form damns between the lakes, resulting in spectacular waterfalls of all sizes.

This beautiful part of Croatia sees over one million visitors a year!  With that in mind, how can you best maximise your time at Plitvice National Park whilst minimising the number of tourists you’ll encounter?

Get There Early

The best way to beat the crowds is to get to the national park earlier than everyone else.  The entrances open each morning at 7am (and close at 7pm) but the tour groups don’t get there anywhere near that early. If you’re wanting to avoid the hoards of visitors on the paths, set the alarm early and get there before them.

Make the Lakes a Stop-Over (& How to Store Your Baggage)

We caught the bus from Zagreb and continued on to Zadar after we finished at the Plitvice Lakes to save time. Doing so meant we had our bags with us but storing them there couldn’t have been easier.

When you arrive at Plitvice get off at the first entrance – there are three of them but it’s Entrance One (the first stop if you’re driving from Zagreb) that houses the ‘left luggage’ room.  Head to the Information desk, in a room to the left of the ticketing counters and they’ll point you towards the luggage storage which you’ll find the furthest hut down, on the right.

The luggage room is locked but anyone can collect and use the key from the Info Desk, so though it’s secure, it’s not that secure.  With that said, we figured everyone was in the same boat and felt comfortable leaving our gear there.

Take the Path Less Trodden

As you enter the park you’ll spot a number of large signs suggesting potential routes around the park. With the timeframe we had, the suggestion was to walk around the lower lakes first, then catch the boat over before continuing the walk around the upper lakes and catching the shuttle back down. Instead, we walked up the left track until we got to the shuttle bus which we then caught all the way to the top of the park (transferring in the middle) and then walked around the lakes until we got back to Entrance 1 (with a little boat ride in the middle). All transport is included in your ticket (which will set you back 180 kuna) so you can make your day work however you like.

Where Will I Find ‘That’ Special View?

So, you’ve made it to the Plitvice Lakes and have planned your route? Don’t be quite so fast to race off – there’s a spot that they won’t tell you about but is well worth finding for yourself!

Whenever you make it over to the large waterfall on the lower lakes (Veliki Slap), give yourself some extra time to hike up the mountainside where you’ll find one of the very best views down over the lakes.  The track up the side of the cliff looks relatively unused and when we were there, didn’t have many people on it – you’ll find it to the left of the large falls (as you stand facing them) and will know you’re in the right spot based on all the people admiring the falls.  Hike up the track, turning to the right at the top (you’ll go through a little tunnel).  Keep to the right as you skirt around the top of the cliff – you can see on the below picture where your starting point is and once you get to the top, how the track follows the cliff past the falls, around to the other side of them.  As you walk, you’ll find yourself on a tarsealed road – stay on that until you walk over the old bridge and then turn to the right to find the first of two viewing spots.

When we were there, we had both locations to ourselves where we enjoyed the most spectacular views looking back over the lakes.  The walk is fairly steep at the start but not long and very manageable so be sure to allow time to head up there.

Getting to the Plitvice Lakes

Buses through Croatia are reasonably priced, reliable and easy to figure out. We pre-booked our ticket from Zagreb the night before and upon arriving at Plitvice checked in with the bus booking desk (which is right where the bus drops you off at the first entrance). We were advised that the buses frequently sell out so made the decision then to book on the 4.20pm before we went into the park. This ended up being the right decision as sure enough, we saw others being turned away when we boarded later. There seemed to be plenty of buses leaving later so they wouldn’t have been stranded but it’s worth getting organised ahead of time to avoid waiting around for the next free seats.

The Plitvice National Park was one of the highlights of Croatia for us.  Many people visit this beautiful country for the islands and beach-scene but for us, Plitvice Lakes were the clear winner and a must-see.

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How NOT to Do Dubrovnik

August 19, 2016
Avoid disaster in Dubrovnik

Our recent trip to Dubrovnik wasn’t quite what we expected; we fell in love with the city itself but we encountered a few unexpected challenges during our time in the walled city.  So you don’t make the mistakes we did, we’ve put together the following guide for you.  Here we go…

Don’t visit Dubrovnik during August if you can avoid it.  You’ll spend most of your day battling crowds of tourists which isn’t much fun at the best of times, especially in the summer heat and in such close quarters. 

Do head to the walled city towards the end of September; this was recommended to us as the best time to visit.  At this time, the tourists are, for the most part, gone, temperatures are lower but still pleasant and the ocean is still warm after the blazing summer.

Don’t leave walking the city walls until the middle of the day – they’ll be crowded and there’s no shade once you to the top.

Do try to make it up the wall early in the day.  The midday/afternoon sun is unforgiving so going up before the heat of the day will allow you to walk around and admire the spectacular views in comfort (and you may even get a photo or two unobstructed by other travellers!)

Don’t jump straight into a taxi or onto the cable car without weighing up your options – a tour may be a better choice.

Do consider joining an Eco Tuk Tour outing up Mt Srdj.  Put the money you would have spent on the cable car or taxi towards the tour and enjoy seeing Dubrovnik like a local.  You’ll hear the most amazing stories of what life was like in the area during the civil war and will learn lots about the origins of this beautiful city (plus you’ll get to visit a number of spots around Dubrovnik in style). 

Our guide, John, also recommended catching the boat over to the island of Lokrum ( for 100 kuna each, return) to spend the day swimming and hiking – and though we decided to head over to Montenegro instead, it sure did look gorgeous over on the island. 

Don’t relegate Bosnia or Montenegro to being a day trip from Dubrovnik; both countries are amazing and deserve more time than that if possible.

Do book yourself some time overnighting in these countries if you can wangle it.  We had two nights in Kotor, Montenegro and two nights respectively in Mostar and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) – even with six nights, we’ve left with a taste of each beautiful country but a desire to come back and explore.  Given the chance, we’d love to see Bosnia in the wintertime and explore the bays of Montenegro at our own pace.

If you’re looking to get out of Dubrovnik, we can’t recommend a day trip to Mostar enough – get yourself there!

Don’t wait until the last minute to book accommodation in peak season.  August is the busiest time for the walled city and visitors flock to it – we learnt the hard way that prices only go up.

Do plan ahead and lock your Dubrovnik accommodation in.  The idea of seeing where the wind takes you might sound romantic but chances are, it will come back to bite you!

However, if you do end up arriving in town without accommodation…

Don’t stay at Ana’s Hostel, especially not in their overflow rooms at Stella’s.  Having been charged the equivalent of €60 each (that’s €120 or NZD180 between us!) we were given a bunk each in a shared dorm (thankfully nobody else was silly enough to pay that so at least it ended up being private) with a broken shower and cold water.  Outside our window, a bar played music so loudly that I didn’t manage to sleep until 2.30am when it was eventually turned off.  We tried talking politely with the owner in the morning just to be yelled at – not impressed!

Do pick up a room from one of the ladies at the bus stop.  We’d been told that we’d be able to pick up a reasonably priced room from someone holding a sign at the station but when the old lady barely spoke a word of English, was struggling to walk (and would have to walk us to our room which would be a fair way away) and didn’t have any photographs of the room, we got spooked.  What a mistake this was!  We were told later that the old ladies generally offer rooms that are of reasonable quality and at a fair price; we instantly regretted our decision to head to old town.

…but whatever you do

Don’t miss Dubrovnik!  It is one of the most beautiful old towns we’ve ever seen and absolutely gorgeous sitting against the crystal clear water, protected by its towering city walls.

Use our tips to help ensure you have the an amazing time in Dubrovnik!

Do you have any helpful tips to share?  If so, we’d love to hear from you…

 When everything that could go wrong in Dubrovnik did, we moved on to Mostar in Bosnia. Find out why we left Croatia and fell in love with Mostar!Travelling isn't always easy. Everything that could go wrong in Dubrovnik did - find out how we put it right and learn from our mistakes! Travelling isn't always easy. Everything that could go wrong in Dubrovnik did - find out how we put it right and learn from our mistakes!

Central Europe Croatia Dubrovnik Europe

A Tuk Tuk in Dubrovnik? How to See the City from a Different Perspective

August 13, 2016
Eco Tuk Tours Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik has long been known for it’s incredible history and striking appearance but it’s now home to a little taste of Thailand too – the much loved tuk tuk!

Eco Tuk Tours has been up and running in Dubrovnik since the beginning of the summer season, offering visitors a fun and unique way to see the city, experience it’s history and gain a local perspective.  We love finding interesting ways to immerse ourselves in new places so jumped at the chance to head out on the sunset tour!

These electric tuk tuks are the only vehicles of their type in the whole country and are whisper quiet.  They were specially imported by John and his brother, Ante, the owners and guides of the company.  We had the pleasure of meeting both of them and could not imagine people better suited to lead these tours.  With a background in hospitality and a warm, personable smile John chatted to us throughout the tour, offering insight into the varied history of the region, daily life and his memories from the civil war.

Our tour started outside of the old town where John picked us up and promptly drove us out to the striking ‘new’ Franjo Tudjman bridge, named after the countries first president.  Construction began on this beauty back in 1989 but was halted when war broke out.  In 1998, building began again and it was completed in 2002, making Dubrovnik much more accessible.

eco tuk tour dubrovnik

Continuing on towards Mt Srdj, we stopped for a series of photo opportunities looking down on Dubrovnik’s beautiful Old Town.  We’ve had the pleasure of visiting a number of old towns now and none quite compare to Dubrovnik with it’s old buildings sitting safely behind the ancient city walls.

Throughout the tour, we learnt a great deal about the region and were amazed to hear that each year, locals are outnumbered by 31 times the number of tourists!  Walking around Old Town the following day, I was less surprised by that statistic, but it really is mind boggling.  Of course, people now visit the city not only to enjoy the region and soak up its history, but to scope out the Game of Thrones hotspots.  Long before Game of Thrones though, Dubrovnik passed through multiple hands in what was a long and complicated story – you’ll need to catch up with the guys at Eco Tuk Tours to get the full rundown though!

As we talked, John spotted a piece of shrapnel – something we would have walked right past had we not been with him.  It was a sombre reminder of what this country and it’s people went through all those years ago.  He shared with us many personal stories of his childhood, during the civil war, when the city was without electricity or running water for the seven months it was under siege.  It was incredible to hear his stories firsthand, though difficult to actually imagine living through something like that.

With the sunset beckoning, John whisked us off in the tuk tuk to the best secret viewing spots in town, ones we would have never known about had we gone up independently.  

Whilst we enjoyed the marvellous colours of the sun as it ducked closer to the horizon, John snuck away and returned with two glasses of white wine, homemade by his cousin; for us that cemented everything these brothers are about – homegrown pride and the desire to go the extra mile to make their guests feel at home, you can’t ask for more than that!

eco tuk tour dubrovnik sunseteco tuk tour dubrovnik sunseteco tuk tour dubrovnik sunset

Mt Srdj is home to the cable car (the original one was built before the war but destroyed and rebuilt, as was the case for much of the area) that whisks people up to the top of the mountain for views out over the many Croatian islands.  Joining one of these tours negates the need to buy a cable car ticket though – not only will Eco Tuk Tours take you up the top, they’ll show you the best view around, minus those pesky cables.

August is peak time in Dubrovnik so we’d recommend visiting outside of this period if possible – John recommends mid/late September as the ideal time to visit the city, when the water is still warm and the weather pleasant.  Even if you do end up there when the crowds descend, don’t worry as your tuk tuk will promptly take you away from all of the crowds in a bid to see the ‘real’ Dubrovnik.

eco tuk tour dubrovnik sunseteco tuk tour dubrovnik sunset

Tourism is on the rise in Croatia, with last year being their busiest year since before the civil war, and with guys like this in the business, it’s no wonder that things are on the up.  We were always looking forward to jumping in the tuk tuk and seeing Dubrovnik away from the manic crowds that set upon it at this time of year but in the end, the real highlight was our time with John.  Thanks to him, we have left Croatia with a much richer understanding and appreciation of what Dubrovnik and it’s people have been through over the years.  If you find yourself in town, we would highly recommend you get in touch with Eco Tuk Tours Dubrovnik to see the city like a local yourself.

If you’re in Dubrovnik and are interested in joining the sunset Eco Tuk tour, the guys will take groups as small as two out for €30 each for a minimum of two hours.  If your party contains four or more people, reach out to them to see what they can do on price.  Each tour contains a maximum of four people (if parties do not know one another) or six for groups and can be personalised to suit your interests.  Thank you to Eco Tuk Tours Dubrovnik for having us along on their sunset tour!

Adventure Central Europe Croatia Europe Split

Making a Splash – Canyoning in Croatia

August 12, 2016
Canyoning Croatia

We’ve been fortunate to try our hand at a range of activities (both on this trip and in years gone by) but few compare to the canyoning adventure we were treated to yesterday with Iris Adventures.

Canyoning is not only a physical challenge but a mental one as well.  Standing atop a 50 metre clifftop, edging closer to the drop, mustering up the courage to repel off of it – it’s all in a days work on the Cetina River, 45 minutes out of Split, Croatia.

After our guides collected us from Split and took us out to the Iris Adventures base, our expedition started by getting kitted up and being briefed on what we were about to undertake.  After a quick spray with the hose (which was soon to be greatly appreciated), we set off down the path towards a sheer cliff-face.  The only was was down and we spent the next 15 minutes scrambling over rocks, working our way down to the river below.  The canyon walls towered above us, grey rocks in stark contrast to the beautifully clear green-tinted river water.  Lunging into the chilly water we were thankful for the respite from the heat and equally grateful for the full body wet suits we’d donned earlier.

canyoning cetina omis croatia iris adventuresWe spent the following few hours ducking in and out of the river; climbing over boulders, jumping over smaller rocks, floating down rapids, swimming and drifting down calmer patches in the river, clambering through caves – every way you can imagine getting down the river, we did it.

The extreme canyoning option that we selected included a few exciting bonuses – a large repeal (alongside the 55m waterfall) and the opportunity to swim up behind the waterfall (the largest on the river). 

canyoning cetina omis croatia iris adventuresNathan was nervous about the biggest repel initially as he’s not a big fan of heights but in the end though he did a fantastic job.  The hardest part about repelling, in my opinion, is getting off the edge and manoeuvring around challenging rocks – the addition of height makes the initial few steps more difficult, but once you’re away, as long as you don’t look down, the extra height doesn’t have a massive effect on things.

canyoning cetina omis croatia iris adventurescanyoning cetina omis croatia iris adventuresAfter our repel, we swam up alongside the rock-wall, working our way to the base of the waterfall.  The water from the falls creates a massive current which pushes canyons in towards the wall and in theory you’re meant to just kick yourself along whilst staying close to the edge – in reality, I don’t think I’ve ever done something so physically challenging!  If you come too far off the wall, the current picks you up and pulls you away from the wall, washing you downstream, away from the falls.  With a lot of persistence and a fair bit of help, I eventually made it up to the waterfall and was stoked that I did.  I haven’t a clue how much water was rushing over my head but it was immense… so immense that when we were instructed to walk through the falls, I was quickly blinded by the mass of water and soon after swept away!

canyoning cetina omis croatia iris adventuresThe biggest challenge of our day out canyoning for me though was always going to be the cliff jumping.  I’m not sure why I’ve always been such a wimp when it comes to jumping into water from a height; I’ve been skydiving and bungy jumping countless times, white water rafted and am a confident swimmer, but there’s something about taking a leap into a river that makes me nervous.  Throughout the trip, I worked up to jumping from a series of heights ranging from approximately 3 to 5 metres but it wasn’t until I came down the second repel where I came unstuck. 

We had the option to repel the full 20 metres into the water or to be dropped off on a ledge 7 metres above the waterline to then jump into the river below.  Both Nathan and I opted to be let off early, in a decision we instantly regretted!  The height difference between our earlier jumps and this one felt massive – our courage melted away and both of us were left feeling certain that we wanted to take the leap but couldn’t.

After much encouragement from the others in our group (all of whom had either repelled right down or already jumped) and a good 5 minutes of debating whether we could muster the courage required to jump, we’d practically decided pulled the plug on doing so.

Knowing that it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as we’d imagined, one of our guides, Borris, climbed his way up to us (looking very much like Spiderman) to have one last shot at tempting us off the ledge.

How would we feel if we went home without taking this challenge on?  As hard as it felt, it had to be done…

With one failed countdown, Nathan jumped out on the second – gracefully flying down to the river below.  A quick thumbs up signally to me that it wasn’t wasn’t so bad and before I knew it, it was my turn.  After a couple of nervous questions (‘People do this all the time, right?) I counted myself down and took the leap.  Free falling for what felt like a few seconds (but was probably less!) I hit the water with a splash and thanks to my life jacket, bobbed up again quickly.

What a rush!

The jump was nothing like I’d imagined – I’d almost go as far as to say that I enjoyed it.  Watching others jump off the 10m cliff and our other guide, Kruno jump from 15m, we decided that we’d had enough jumping off of things for one day though – I was more than happy to have overcome my fear of jumping from 7m.

Throughout the day, our guides were nothing but professional, supportive, kind and attentive – the team at Iris are something special and I don’t doubt, equipped to help anyone push their personal boundaries.  This canyoning trip was by far one of the best things we’ve done over the past six weeks of travelling – it was the perfect mix of adventure, challenge and fun.  To make it work, we added another night to our time in Split and we’re so pleased we did.

We couldn’t recommend a day out on the Cetina River canyoning with the Iris Adventures team enough – when you’re in Croatia, get yourself out there, even if you have to work your plans around doing so; it’s worth it!

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Canyoning croatia

Thank you to our guides, Borris and Kruno for taking us down the river in such a safe and enjoyable manner and a massive thank you to Igor and Iris from Iris Adventures for hosting us on the ‘Extreme Canyoning’ trip (and for the following photos) – we had an absolute blast!  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Bela Krajina Central Europe Europe Slovenia

Drifting Down the Kolpa: Canoeing in Slovenia

August 5, 2016

As the second greenest country within Europe, Slovenia is home to some of the most striking natural beauty found anywhere in the region.  Pristine rivers, crystal clear lakes, natural springs, rich farmland and untouched forests; Slovenia is a nature-lover’s paradise.  Even better, is the Kolpa River – it’s like Slovenia’s highly guarded secret, only we’re going to let you in on it.

When visiting Slovenia, two key locations come to mind for most travellers – Ljubljana and Lake Bled. Though these spots are absolutely worth your time, there is so much more to this beautiful and friendly country.

The Bela Krajina region, located to the South-East of the country (bordering Croatia) plays host to countless beautiful locations, just waiting for you to explore them. This area is rich in history and natural beauty and thanks to Big Berry, we managed to get out and discover much of what the region offers.

On our second day at the eco camp we were told that canoeing was on the agenda and though our preference for activities is normally more on the adventurous side, who could resist immersing oneself in nature as beautiful as is found in Slovenia!  Without a second thought, we donned our togs (or swimming costumes), grabbed a paddle and headed for the water.

canoe kolpa river sloveniaThe Kolpa River is clean, safe and both the warmest and most biologically diverse in Slovenia – the perfect setting for an afternoon of fun in the sun. Though it’s the warmest water in Slovenia, it is fed by natural springs (which sit at 8 degrees throughout the year) which adds a touch of chill – perfect for a hot summers day of fun in the sun.

Having been driven upstream, we spent a number of hours meandering back to our base, stopping along the way to enjoy an ice old drink and to munch on traditional focaccia and gingerbread.

canoe kolpa river sloveniaThe Kolpa itself is dammed periodically which adds a fantastic touch of excitement to an otherwise relaxing ride down the river.  In years gone by, these dams were used to divert the river water towards waterwheels and mills, but now they create still pools of water enjoyed by swimmers as sunbathers rest on their banks.  On one side is Slovenia and on the other bank sits Croatia.

canoe kolpa river sloveniacanoe kolpa river sloveniacanoe kolpa river sloveniacanoe kolpa river sloveniaStopping off at the end of our canoe, we waded up a little side-stream to one of the natural springs that feeds the river and enjoyed cool water, as fresh as you can get.

Back upstream we finished off with some locally caught fish and chips – Slovenian style!  Though I must admit, I wasn’t excited about trout initially, it ended up being delicious and a great choice.  If you’re in the area, we can recommend stopping off at Madronič for an ice cold drink and delicious lunch/dinner.

spring kolpa river slovenia

Thank you to Big Berry for so kindly arranging this excursion on the Kolpa for us and to Peter and Lidija from RIC Bela Krajina for showing us around this gorgeous part of the world.

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