A Quick Guide to SantoriniKollecting Koordinates - Santorini

How can you miss Santorini when you’re in Greece?

Long have I dreamed about visiting this picture-perfect island in the Cyclades. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to walk along the caldera to see the whitewashed houses, to swim in the crystal clear blue waters of the Agean Sea, and to catch one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. My wishes finally came true when we spent three nights here on our honeymoon last year. Here’s a quick guide to visiting this timeless destination- Santorini!

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1. Travel in low/shoulder seasons

Do NOT go during the summer months. If you hate crowds like us you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Heck, we were there in early September and it was still extremely busy. We used the public bus to get around Fira-Imerovigli-Oia and passengers were packed like sardines every time. Unless you get on at the very first stop, chances are you’re gonna be standing in the aisle holding on for your dear life.

We went in early September and it was still very, very hot. Swimming in the ocean was heavenly but there was no shortage of sweat on land. Go either in early/mid June or mid/late September not only to avoid the crowds, but also for a more comfortable temperature.

2. Stay in Imerovigli

Because of its elevation and central location on the caldera, Imerovigli has my vote for having the best view in Santorini. Yes, we’d say it’s even better than the famous town of Oia.

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Our three nights at Vallais Villa was, without a doubt, one of our most memorable hotel stays. It was like waking up to paradise every morning! With a view of the Skaros Rock and caldera, a breakfast spread that is equally beautiful as delicious, and an outdoor Jacuzzi on our private balcony, this place is hard to fault.

 

3. Indulge in delicious food

Maybe it’s the lack of rice and noodles, maybe it’s the amazing seafood. Whatever it is, I LOVE Greek Food. Tzatziki, gyros, baked feta, hummus, calamari, moussaka, fresh octopus, … the list goes on! If you’re on a budget you can survive on gyros and souvlakis. Our go-to’s for cheap eats are Pitogyros in Oia and Lucky’s in Fira.

Our favourite is a little place that serves tapas and meze (Traditional Greek cuisine). We dined here multiple times and loved every dish we tried. Their portions are very generous and prices fairer than most restaurants in Oia. And of course, don’t forget to stop by Taverna Katina in Amoudi Bay for some fresh catch of the day!

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4. Get lost in the towns

This is an obvious one, but an absolute must! You can hike from Fira to Oia, or you can bus between towns to save time. Make sure your camera is fully charged because you’ll be greeted with a postcard moment every corner you turn.

Kollecting Koordinates

There are also many, many cats on the island… like this little guy who was very friendly! Most of them are pets of restaurant and shop owners but many are feral.

 

5. Go on a sunset cruise

We signed up with Santorini Sailing for an afternoon of sailing and swimming in the Agean Sea, visited the hot springs, and stopped by the Red and White Beaches. Oh and did I mention we were served unlimited drinks and food? Hell yeah!

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6. Catch the world famous sunset

There are a couple of places to watch the sun dip into the horizon and they all offer different perspectives of this beauty. We had a pretty good view from our balcony in Imerovigli with a long stretch of the caldera in the foreground, and we also had an unobstructed view from our boat. Another place is Santo Winery in Pyrgos. What better way to to enjoy the sunset than pairing it with some wine?

Then there’s Oia Castle, the obvious choice. You’ll have to camp out for a good spot but there’s a reason why everyone gathers here for the sun to go down. It was truly magical. 

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What took my breath away, though, is seeing the town light up against the multicoloured sky. I mean, just look at this! We couldn’t have asked for anything more romantic.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Santorini

3 days in an underrated paradise- West CreteKollecting Koordinates - Crete

Greece is not just about Santorini or Mykonos. The largest island is one that is underrated and often overlooked- Crete! On the hunt for beautiful beaches in Greece, we almost booked our flight to Zakynthos until we discovered Elafonissi Beach and Balos Lagoon. We ended up spending 3 days in Crete!

It’s been a year since we left the island and my tan lines are still slightly visible! No amount of sunscreen was going to protect us from the blazing sun; most definitely not in August and not in Crete. We were sweaty, sticky, smelly, and covered in sand or dirt the entire time. It was definitely not your typical honeymoon itinerary but did we regret it? Hell no! The adventurous aspect made it that much more fun!

How to spend 3 days in Crete

With only 3 days in Crete, there was no way we could’ve explored the entire island. We made our home base in Chania (pronounced HAN-NYA) and limited ourselves to 3 main points in West Crete: Elafonissi Beach, Samaria Gorge, and Balos Lagoon.

Our friend advised us against driving in Crete because of the rough terrains leading to these places. Boy, were we glad we listened. The only thing separating vehicles from falling off huge drops and cliffs were rails at about 3-4 feet high (srs, no joke!). Traffic isn’t bad within town but if you’re going to these 3 places, leave it to the pros! I don’t know how they do it but the Cretan bus drivers are able to navigate gigantic tour buses like nobody’s business. The ones on the Balos route especially deserve an award. It was a total shitshow squeezing a massive bus through parked cars on both sides on a cliff.

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Elafonisi

3 Days in Crete – Day 1: Elafonissi Beach

We walked to the bus station from our Airbnb in Chania Old Town for the 9am bus (€10.90 per person). KTEL (Cretan bus service) uses tour buses as their public transport, so the 2.5hr ride was actually quite comfortable. We grabbed an umbrella and 2 chairs (I think it was about €7 for the whole day), slathered on sunscreen, and explored this famous pink-sand beach.

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Elafonisi

Elafonissi is actually a small island, with a long strip of sand connecting it to the mainland with shallow waters on each side. The sand itself isn’t really pink- the hue comes from dead corals and red microscopic organisms. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I mean, just look at it!

Of our 3 days in Crete, this was our favourite stop. 6 hours passed quickly splashing around in the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Libyan Sea. Before we knew it, we were 6 shades darker and on the bus ride back to Chania.

tips

  • Public bus services to Elafonissi and Balos are only available in tourist season, so check their most up-to-date timetables before you go. If you can’t see them on this site, it means they’re not operating these routes at this time.
  • There’s only ONE bus coming back from Elafonissi. Make sure you get on the 5pm bus!
  • Snacks, water, and sunscreen are a MUST. There are stands at the beach but prices are steep.

 

3 Days in Crete – Day 2: Samaria Gorge

This is a 16km hiking trail in one of Crete’s National Parks- the longest in Europe. You can drive here on your own but I wouldn’t recommend it because you’ll have to leave your car at the entrance of the park and somehow pick it up at the end of the day after your downhill journey ends in Agia Roumeli. Plus, you’ll want to save your energy for the hike.

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Samaria Gorge

We joined an excursion for €18 each, and were picked up from Chania at 6am for a stunning 1hr comfy ride to Xyloskalo. We began our downhill journey from an altitude of 1250m, passing by floral and fauna (and tons of goat poop!) during our descend. You might come across “Kri-kri” goat on your hike, but we weren’t so lucky.

It was nice and cool for the first hour or so, but by the time we got to the 10km mark there was no more shade! We were baking in the August Cretan sun. It took us around 4-5 hours to reach Agia Roumeli– the hike really isn’t as bad as some make it sound unless you have knee problems, because it’s pretty much all downhill with some rocky parts. We also didn’t have an issue with overcrowding, even in peak season, because the gorge is massive. In fact, we were actually all alone 2-3hrs into the hike.

To be honest, we felt a little underwhelmed by Samaria Gorge, probably because we have some of the most beautiful hiking trails back home in BC Canada. However, that’s not to say Samaria Gorge isn’t amazing! The landscape, crystal clear creeks, and rock formations (especially the Iron Gates) are truly magnificent. This is something you’ll have to experience at least once in your lifetime. Definitely squeeze this in your itinerary of 3 days in Crete.

tips

  • The entrance fee to enter the gorge is €5; ferry ticket to Sougia is €10.
  • There are washrooms and water fountains throughout the trail. You’ll be fine with just a small water bottle.
  • Bring a roll of toilet paper with you- my husband thanked me for this.
  • Bring flip flops (and a swimsuit) so you can soak in the sea after you get to Agia Roumeli. So refreshing!
  • You can pay €2 for a shuttle ride for the last 2km of the trail.
  • Bring a hat and lots of sunscreen. Your skin will thank you, especially after you pass the 10km mark.
  • Make sure you keep your entrance ticket because you will need to show it when you exit. There is no overnight camping at the gorge. This is also how the rangers keep track of lost hikers.

 

3 Days in Crete – Day 3: Balos Lagoon

“Balos by bus or by boat?!” We took the 11am bus (7.80 per person) to Balos Lagoon via Kissamos from Chania. After 100min of being amazed by our bus driver (30min of which was us close to shitting our pants because of how close we were from falling off the cliffs, we arrived at another one of the most stunning beaches in Europe. 2 stunning beaches within only 3 days in Crete? Score!

Upon arrival, you have to walk for about 20-30min down a rocky hill. This is easy peasy as long as you watch out for goat poop. It is also here where you get the best view of the lagoons!

Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece - Balos

The first part of our day was fantastic. It started going downhill when more people and more people started to arrive, and then some. As the day went on, the temperature rose higher and higher. I started getting really dizzy and nauseous from the extreme heat. Hiking (or shall I say crawling) back up the rocky hill was an absolute nightmare, especially when there is no shade!

We liked Elafonissi a lot better than Balos because the sand here wasn’t as soft and clean. Once in the water it’s a different story, but there is a noticeable difference on the beach itself. Another thing to point out is the washroom at Balos, or lack of. I really needed to pee when we were waiting for the bus, but the closest thing was literally a hole in the ground in a little shack. No doors. No flushing mechanism. It was FILTHY in there with other people’s shit and piss everywhere, but when you gotta go, you gotta go!

tips

  • If you’re planning on driving, keep in mind that the last 30min is on a rocky, steep, and winding dirt road.
  • Or just take the bus! You’ll be able to rest up on the way back. There are multiple services to and from Balos every day during peak season.
  • Bring a pair of sneakers for the rocky descend/ascend.
  • I have yet to figure out where the legit washroom is at Balos. Do people just pee in the water? What if they have to take a dump?

 

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - 3 days in Crete - Greece

9 Must-Do’s in Dubrovnik, CroatiaKollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

Coined the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik has easily topped the list as one of our favourite cities. The walls in the Old City are in such pristine condition that it’s hard to believe this place is real. After a long week of driving down Croatia from Zagreb through BiH, we were ready for some down time in King’s Landing. If you’re thinking of stopping by Dubrovnik on a cruise, don’t. This beautiful city deserves more than just a few hours’ stop!

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

 

1. get lost in the Old City

Explore each corner, each alley, and each gate within the stone walls. Stop by Onofrio’s Fountains to refill your water bottle when you get thirsty. It’s clean- you can drink it right from the tap! Did I mention it’s also leg day everyday in Dubrovnik? Seriously, it was like we were constantly using the StairMaster. (which was great, because we didn’t need to work out!)

2. stay outside the city walls

It may be tempting to to stay in the centre of the action, but you’re actually much better off finding accommodation outside the gates. Not only are there more options, but you’ll also wake up with a beautiful view of the Old City from your bedroom window. We stayed at an Airbnb just a 5min walk from the Ploce Gate, Konzum (supermarket), and Banje Beach.

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

Waking up to this every morning was such a blessing; we didn’t want to leave!

3. go on a Game of Thrones tour

GoT has brought in millions of dollars to Croatia’s tourism revenue. If you’re a not a fan of this HBO series, this half day of nerdgasm may not be for you. But if you’re a fan like us, don’t miss out! Having been one of the extras in GoT, our guide was extremely knowledgeable and kept the whole tour upbeat and fun. It was awesome seeing where all the different scenes were filmed!

4. walk the City Walls

This is a must do. The entrance fee is 100kn, but you get a discount if you keep your ticket stub from Fort Lovrijenac (we were there on our GoT tour). The view of the orange rooftops against the deep blue sea will take your breath away! Try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, otherwise you’ll be roasted. Make sure you stay hydrated and load up on sunscreen because there’s no shade up there. Allow at least 1-2hrs to complete the whole circuit; wear comfortable shoes!

Beautiful sights, yes, but I thought I was going to pass out from the heat and humidity! Prepare yourself if you’re doing this in the summer.

5. wine tasting at D’vino Wine Bar

For a great night out, check out D’vino Wine Bar. It’s a cozy little bar right in the heart of the Old City. They offer an impressive selection of wines, both domestic and imported, at a surprisingly affordable price! The place is quite small and it can get really busy. It’d be wise to make reservations in advance. We each ordered a wine tasting flight – one red and one white with 3 wines each – and shared a cheese platter. The couple who sat next to our table ordered 4 flights each! I gotta say, their charcuterie board looked pretty damn amazing.

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

6. take the cable car

For 120kn (70kn one way), you can go on a 5min ride that will take you to the top of Mount Srdj for an extraordinary view of the coast. You can also hike up and down the plateau if you’re up for the challenge! There’s a lovely restaurant and cafe at the top where you can enjoy a drink or two.

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

7. sunset dinner at Restaurant Panorama

Don’t just ride the cable car for the view- stay for dinner! We chose to splurge a little on our last night in Dubrovnik. To ensure we’d be seated at the best table in the house, I made reservations weeks in advance. The open-air concept offers a magnificent sight as the sun sets over the Adriatic Sea as you enjoy your meal. The prices are quite fair, too- it’s actually not any more expensive than the restaurants within the walls. If you’re looking for a romantic night out in Dubrovnik, this is it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

8. Island of Lokrum

To escape from the crowds and blistering sun, take a short 15min ferry ride over to the Island of Lokrum. We didn’t have enough time for this but our GoT guide said it’s worth your while. The paths are shaded with clear signs showing you the different points of interests. Bring a swimsuit to swim in the sea- you might even see some peacocks! This is also where the iron throne replica is if you’re a fan.

9. Fort Lovrijenac

Just a few minutes from Pile Gate on foot, this is the ‘Red Keep’ from Game of Thrones- tons of scenes were filmed here. Hike up the lush green landscape to get a good view of the Old City. There isn’t that too much to see within the fort, but the view from the top is phenomenal! Make sure you experience this both in the day and at night.

It’s truly amazing how well-preserved this Medieval Town is. Have you been? What do you like most about Dubrovnik?

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

Don’t forget – MostarKollecting Koordinates - Mostar

We’ve never visited Eastern Europe before- Bosnia & Herzegovina was our first. I’ve fallen in love with it ever since- there’s something about the scenery, atmosphere, and architecture in Eastern Europe that tugs at my heart strings.

After swimming at Kravice Falls, we continued our drive to Mostar. Or Mo-crap (Мостар)- we’d giggle every time we passed by a sign. In all seriousness, the drive leading to Mostar was actually quite depressing. There was such a drastic change in scenery driving from Croatia to Bosnia & Herzegovina- you could still see the shell and bullet damage on building walls and roofs from the Bosnian War of 1992-1995.

Mostar came under siege twice in those years. Thousands of people were killed, and more lost their homes. The Old Bridge (Stari Most) connecting the two banks of Neretva River was destroyed in 1993. Today, there are stones all over the the town reminding its people and visitors of its sad history. Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

Another thing that made me very upset was the number of stray dogs in this country. On the drive to Mostar we saw an adult dog (mom?) limping in the bushes along the side of the road while two little pups followed at her heels. Leaving Mostar, we actually witnessed one getting hit by a car on the road! It was slowly making its way across the road when the car behind us hit it. I could hear its yelp from inside the car. AS said the driver pulled over but I wasn’t sure if he did or not… It was heartbreaking. We have a 4yr-old maltipoo who is pretty much our child. It’s extremely painful seeing other dogs get hurt.

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We checked in at our hotel and made our way towards the stony old town. After paying a small entrance fee for the mosque we climbed up 89 steps. The stairwell is extremely narrow and only one person can go up/down at time (or 2 really skinny, small people); not a good time if you’re claustrophobic. Once we reached the top of the minaret, we were rewarded with this gorgeous view of Stari Most sitting over Neretva River.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

If you aren’t able to make the climb, the view from the courtyard is equally beautiful. This bridge was once the widest man-arch in the world that stood for more than 400 years! The Stari Most we see today is a reconstruction.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

You can jump/dive off Stari Most into Neretva River if you’re brave enough! Red Bull hosted its Cliff Diving World series here a few weeks before our arrival.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

We grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant and called it a night before heading back to our hotel. It was a long day- we began our drive at 5am. I’m forever grateful for AS driving us from Zadar, to Split, to Kravice Falls, and finally to Mostar, all in one day.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

Its sad history aside, Mostar is actually very romantic. We saw very few people when we were there (late August) and the town had a lovely charm to it with its cobblestone streets and walls. Because Mostar is fairly small, you only really need one day- but do stay the night. Just make sure you start your drive early the next day if you’re planning on crossing the Croatian/Bosnian border on the way to Dubrovnik. We left our hotel at around 9 or 10am, and we had to wait close to 2 hours at the border in the blistering sun! 

One last GoPro shot of Stari Most and Neretva River from on top of the minaret!

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

tips

  • stay the night; we stayed at Villa Eden for around 70€ a night. The hotel is brand spankin’ new and the breakfast is delicious with a huge variety. It even has a pool for you to cool off (much needed in the summer)
  • The entrance fee is around 8 marks (Aug 2015 price) for both the Koskin-Mehmed Pasha’s Mosque and courtyard; you can also visit one of the two for half the price.
  • Be careful when you’re driving! Watch out for the strays 🙁
  • Wear comfortable shoes with good grip- the uneven stone paved pathways can be quite slippery.
  • Come in the spring or fall. The summer months can be too hot and humid. The humidity level was so high last August that it was slightly hard to breathe.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

 

Chasing waterfalls at Kravice FallsKravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

I’m a sucker for waterfalls. When I saw Kravice Falls in pictures I knew I had to go, but that was of course, easier said than done. Planning this road trip down Croatia was no easy feat. Well, it was, until I added Bosnia & Herzegovina to our itinerary.

Driving in Croatia - Kollecting Koordinates

Driving in Croatia was a piece of cake because 1) I wasn’t the driver (hehe) and 2) we bought a data sim and relied on good ol’ Google maps to take us everywhere. We lost data once we crossed the border, which was fine because Google maps are useless in Bosnia anyway. So we’ll just follow the signs, right?

Wrong. There aren’t many signs to Kravice Falls.

I had printed out a map in advance but that was useless because it didn”t show the smaller roads. Half an hour into the drive we were on a winding road on a hill that seemed to be a residential area in the middle of nowhere; it didn’t look like a place for waterfalls.

We were lost.

There were no street names to refer to and no other cars in sight. Panic mode was on full blast when we came to a few crossings where we had to decide which paths to take. There was a lot of ‘which way?!’, ‘this map is a piece of s***’, ‘WTF is going on’, ‘omg where the f*** are we going’, ‘why aren’t there f***ing street names or signs’, ‘*where the f*** are we?!’.

AS doesn’t have the best sense of direction but thankfully, I inherited my mom’s awesome spidey senses. I answered each of one of our outbursts with ‘I don’t know but let’s go this way’ and ‘I don’t know but I think it’s that way’. A few  ‘ I don’t know’s later, we miraculously emerged on a small road next to a highway. 5 minutes after driving down this flat road, we saw a sign that read ‘Kravica’. A few minutes later, we were at the parking lot. I don’t know how we managed to navigate there in the end, but we were ecstatic!

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

It was a hot, humid day and Mother Nature graced me with her monthly gift to make things even more unbearable. Luckily, I had popped a Midol before we began the drive. While my cramps weren’t monstrous like they usually are, the flow was matching the waterfalls theme. Excuse me for the TMI. Because of this, I couldn’t go into the water with AS.

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

AS had a blast swimming and exploring all the hidden passages. I chilled in the shade and watched our belongings, along with all the other moms who were waiting for their kids.

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

Freaking gorgeous! Plitvice Lakes were unreal, but Kravica was magical in a different way. AS said this was, by far, his favourite destination on our Balkans trip. It was ridiculously frustrating to get to, but was it worth it? Hell yea! 

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

tips

  • If you plan on driving, make sure you get an International Driving Permit (if you’re not European) before leaving your country. The officers at the Croatian/Bosnian border asked for ours; good thing we had one.
  • If you don’t plan on driving, you can hire a car to take you down to Kravice Falls from Mostar. The rate ranges from 50-70€.
  • Bring some snacks and lots of water with you to save money. Even if you don’t, there are 2-3 food stands on site if you get hungry or thirsty.
  • Bring a change of clothes, flip flops/sandals, and a towel with you. The restroom is surprisingly clean!
  • The entrance fee is around 2€ (price as of Aug 2015)- you can also pay in Kuna or Mark if you have the currency on hand.
  • Hang onto the rail (or grab someone’s arm) on the way down; some parts on the path down can be quite slippery!

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Kravice Falls

 

Why Split isn’t for meKollecting Koordinates - Split

Last week I wrote about unexpectedly falling in love with Zadar. This week I’m writing about the exact opposite experience. All the blogs and articles I’ve read spoke very highly of Split. We went into Split with high expectations; however, this other Croatian town along the Adriatic coast just isn’t for me.

Cathedral of Saint Domnius

1. first impression matters

We arrived early in the morning after a 1hr30min drive from Zadar. As we pulled into a parking spot, a cyclist rode by screaming at us with flailing arms before shaking his head and leaving. We couldn’t hear what he was saying from inside the car but judging from his actions, we thought we had done something wrong. This dude was clearly pissed. Panicking, we got out of the car to check. Did we hit something? No. Did we park too close to the other cars or the curb? No, there was plenty of space. Did we violate a parking regulation? No, not according to the sign. So WTF, bro? Please calm your titties, ideally until they’re supple.

Split, Croatia

2. the people

The cyclist wasn’t the only person we were unimpressed with. We had an early lunch at Konoba Korta, a cute little restaurant tucked away in a hidden alley right inside Diocletian’s Palace. The food was great but the service was lacking. I have a thing with people working in service-oriented jobs- it’s your goddamn job to serve and make customers happy (or at least try, as long as they’re not rude), that’s why you get paid for what you do. This goes for all professions that deal with people first-hand; why be a dick ? Anyway, our server was very cold. It wasn’t until after we finished our meal that he warmed up to us. I’m fairly certain it was for tips or for a good review because he handed us a business card and asked us to leave a comment on Tripadvisor. Everyone else we passed by (people working in the market, bakeries, shops) gave off the same unfriendly vibe. We only came across one person who was nice. ONE. Shout out to the friendly old lady working at the ghetto-looking bakery in the market.

Split, Croatia

3. the pastries

This pastry addict was not impressed with the pastries in Split. I was so stoked when I saw the number of bakeries and selection of pastries here. AS, being the good husband that he is, bought a BUNCH for me so we could munch on them throughout the day. We needed fuel for the long drive ahead to Mostar. But what a big disappointment that was… They were soggy and the flavours tasted artificial; we ended up throwing some of it out because it was so meh.

Split, Croatia

4. the crowd

Granted, it was our fault for going in late August when it was still peak season. Split was still quiet when we first arrived but by mid day it was ridiculous. Trying to get from point A to point B in Diocletian’s Palace was like trying to get to the water station from the front of Kinetic Field at EDC. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but you get the idea. Ships make a stop at Split so the town is filled with cruise passengers by noon. On that day, it was jam packed in an uncomfortable, claustrophobic way.

5. pms much

Maybe I didn’t like Split because I was a downer that day. Even though I didn’t get my usual nasty cramps, my bad mood was still very present. I was tired, grumpy, and reluctant to explore. The douchey cyclist, the heat, the bad service, the massive crowd, and the disappointing pastries simply fueled the flames. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out and continue our drive to Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Cathedral of Saint Domnius

Don’t get me wrong. Split is beautiful! I just had such high expectations after an awesome time in Zadar that I ruined my own experience in Split. I’d like to give it another chance one day but it’s not a city that I’m dying to return, similar to how I feel about Paris. Some people love it, but it’s not for me.

What about you, did you fall in love with Split? Are there places that people rave about but you found it just isn’t for you?

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Kollecting Koordinates - Split

5 Things I love about Zadarsunset in Zadar

Have you ever visited a place with little to no expectations but you end up falling in love with it? That’s exactly how we feel about Zadar. Zadar wasn’t in our original plan; we only stopped there because we didn’t want to drive all the way from Plitvice Lakes National Parks to Split without a night’s rest in between. We’re so glad we did! Here are some reasons why you should visit Zadar too.

Kollecting Koordinates - visit Zadar

This quaint little town along the Adriatic coast was once occupied by the Venetians for several years. No wonder it reminded us of Venice- its architecture has a distinct Roman flair. Unlike Split and Dubrovnik, Zadar is quite underrated and not bombarded by tourists (not yet, at least!). We absolutely LOVED this place; here’s why:

read more: visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park

1. Visit Zadar for its vibe

Like Venice, the vibe here is super laid-back and chill. If you think Venice is always a good idea, you’ll want to visit Zadar too. The town itself is fairly small with tons of shops and eateries; it’s the perfect setting to get lost in. We took our time walking up and down the streets, sipping on grapefruit Ozujsko (Croatian lager) and munching on pastries, ice cream, and pizzas as we went. There were very few people during the day- it was almost as if we had the entire town to ourselves!

2. The Sun Salutation

One of the main attractions and why some people visit Zadar is the Sun Salutation. These colourful solar-powered panels flicker according to the rhythm of the waves! We had so much fun jumping and stomping on the ground-level light show. It made us feel like kids again.

Kollecting Koordinates - visit Zadar

read more: Top 9 things to do in Dubrovnik

3. Visit Zadar for its sunset

People say that Santorini has one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. I gotta say, the sunset in Zadar isn’t shabby either! In fact, I prefer the one in Zadar over Oia because it’s not packed with people. You don’t have to camp for a good spot hours in advance and there’s enough space for you to enjoy the scenery in peace and privacy.

Kollecting Koordinates - visit Zadar - Sea Organ

read more: why Split wasn’t for me

4. The Sea Organ

The soothing sound of the Sea Organ also adds a nice touch to the gorgeous sunset. The same architecture who created the Sun Salutation installed underwater tubes that play music as the waves roll in. Listening to the peaceful hums as the sky slowly changed colours was extremely mesmerizing. We could’ve sat there for hours if we didn’t have to pee!

Kollecting Koordinates - visit Zadar

5. Easy washroom access

It’s damn near impossible to find a free public washroom in an European city. Unless we’re dining at a restaurant, we always have the hardest time locating one. ALWAYS. We really had to go after downing so much wine and Ozujsko, but of course there were no washrooms in sight.

Just outside of the Catherral of St. Anastasia, I stumbled upon this cafe or bar lookalike with an open layout that sells beverages on the first floor and what appears to be a seating area on the second floor. There was no one manning the store front and my spidey senses were telling me that there were toilets inside. AS was afraid that we were trespassing but I had to go so badly that I didn’t care. I pretended to be looking for a friend and snuck upstairs. To my pleasant surprise, the washroom was right around the corner on the second floor! We kept going back throughout the day; it was such an awesome find.

Even though it’s under the radar and easily overlooked, Zadar’s one of those places that you’ll fall in love with in a heartbeat. It’s also on the way from Zagreb or Plitvice to Split, so make sure you stop by for a night or two when you’re driving down Croatia!

read more: other Croatian destinations

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Kollecting Koordinates - visit Zadar

Plitvice Lakes National ParkKollecting Koordinates - Plitvice Lakes

Croatia’s largest national park is also one of the oldest national parks in Southeast Europe. Whenever I see photography of Plitvice Lakes, I think to myself: “Okay this has GOT to be photoshopped. There’s no way a place can actually look like that in real life.” Boy, was I wrong!

Our original plan was to enter the park as soon as it opens the following morning to beat the rush. When we checked the weather forecast after checking in at our Airbnb in Plitvice, it wasn’t looking pretty for the next day. It was supposed to rain! Our other option was to go right away. We looked at the time- 4pm. The sun was going to set in just over 2 hours, but the trail we wanted to do requires 3-4 hours to complete. That meant we had to somehow complete the circuit double-time. Feeling ambitious (and dreading the rain), we quickly changed and ran to the ticketing office at entrance 1.

Plitvice Lakes

View from entrance 1

It actually turned out to be a really good time to visit the lakes as tour busses and day trippers were just about to leave. Even though we visited in August (high season), we didn’t experience any over crowdedness that we’ve read about in other people’s blogs. This was a huge relief because some parts of the trail are pretty narrow. I can’t imagine how claustrophobic I’d feel if they were packed with people!

Plitvice Lakes National Park is truly a magical place- straight from a fairytale. We picked Route B, which starts at Entrance 1, through the lower lakes, and across lake Kozjak on a ferry. A shuttle then took us back to Entrance 1.

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Plitvice Lakes

You can see the moon!

The sun had just set when we exited the park and we were starving. We stopped by Licka Kuca on the way back to our Airbnb for dinner. The service was subpar with mediocre food, but they had live music which was a nice touch. (It was also the only restaurant on our walk back so it’s not like we had other options)

Even though our afternoon was a bit rushed, it was still an amazing experience. We’ve never seen anything this beautiful before; it was a little hard to believe that the park is real. Do stay the night when you visit Plitvice Lakes National Park. The little residential areas around here are very lovely. There is no light pollution and you can see stars shining brightly on a clear night!

Plitvice Lakes

Beautiful waterfalls at dusk

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Kollecting Koordinates - Plitvice Lakes

Walking Guide: How to see London in 24hrsKollecting Koordinates - London

Here’s a 1 day stress-free and budget itinerary for those that only have a short stopover in London. By that I mean no tight schedules, no fees or lines at attractions- just a relaxing stroll in the park, stuff your face kind of day.

We’re not museum people. All we wanted to do in London was see all the major sights and eat; so we did just that. If you love taking your time at art galleries, parks, or museums, you’ll want to skip this. But if you love eating and admiring beautiful architecture like us, this the perfect itinerary is for you!

Because you’ll be outdoors for the whole day until the sun sets, you’ll see the beautiful city transform as it lights up in color. Extra points for burning off that delicious English breakfast you’ll be eating for brunch!

Route Map

  • Brunch in SoHo
  • Walk to Trafalgar Square
  • Head towards Buckingham Palace
  • Head towards Big Ben via Birdcage Walk
  • Cross Westminster Bridge and continue to London Eye
  • Walk along the South Bank
  • You’ll come across Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Arrive at Tower Bridge
  • Hop on the tube from London Bridge station and take the Northern Line towards King’s Cross
  • Dinner at Dishoom (highly recommend it!!)
  • Make a stop at Platform 9 ¾ if you’re a Harry Potter fan!

 

Picadilly Circus station

Picadilly Circus

Streets of London

Streets of London

Big Ben

Big Ben against the beautiful blue sky!

London Eye

London Eye from the Westminster Station exit

London Eye

London Eye from Jubilee Park

Millenium Bridge and St. Paul's Cathedral

Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the distance

Tower Bridge

Our romantic stroll down the South Bank ended at the beautiful Tower Bridge all lit up!

Dishoom brunch

The best brunch ever… Dishoom!

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We didn’t make stops at Trafalgar Square or Buckingham Palace since we didn’t arrive in London until 3 in the afternoon. We also didn’t have time to visit King’s Cross until the morning just before our departure flight back home. Assuming you follow the above itinerary, the walking time from SoHo to Tower Bridge will take about 1 hour and 50 minutes. That’s plenty of time for you to take it slow! This journey obviously wouldn’t be very pleasant if it were raining, but we were blessed with a beautiful sunny day.

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - London

The Best Small Luxury Hotel in Greece

Lindos Blu has received many Tripadvisor awards for being the best luxury hotel in Greece. Based on its reviews, we chose this property to spend the last few days of our honeymoon. We were so glad we did because it definitely lived up to and surpassed its reputation!

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Our flight from Santorini to Rhodes didn’t land until past midnight. AS was in an extreme amount of pain on this flight because of a toothache (from a poor surgery done on his wisdom teeth that took place 2 months prior!). His cheek was so swollen it was literally the size of a baseball. We were so worried and stressed out because toothaches can get pretty serious, and we didn’t know what to do in a foreign country!

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I emailed the hotel before boarding our flight asking if they had painkillers. When we arrived at the front desk at 1am, they provided us just that. They then contacted the pharmacy early next morning and even delivered amoxicillin and chlorexidine to our room to help with the swelling. No words can explain how grateful I am for their help.

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Lindos Blu has all the must-haves a luxury hotel should have. They left us daily treats in our room, which isn’t much from a hotel’s point of view, but it’s the little gestures like this that make guests happy. The staff here also know you by name and remember every little detail about you. They remembered our tea preferences at breakfast and took note of what activities we did, following up on them when they saw us next.

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On top of these guys having photographic memory and being real life savers, we were upgraded to the private pool villa. Not only was this suite AMAZING, but it also made our stay in Rhodes a lot more bearable and enjoyable because we were able to hide (very comfortably) from the blistering heat!

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The rest of the hotel grounds is beautiful and spotless. The one thing we looked forward to the most everyday was their breakfast buffet. Oh my, the selection is endless and everything is delicious!

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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I simply feel compelled to write about Lindos Blu in such a positive light because they truly differ from everywhere else we’ve stayed at. I don’t know what would’ve happened to AS’s tooth if it weren’t for them. Again, thank you to all the staff who made our stay so extraordinary. A big thanks to Margarita, Giannis, and Simon for making our honeymoon extra special!

 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Lindos Blu