Review: 2014 Balkans Highlights with Tucan Travel, Part 3

Five days into my trip, I have so far visited Dubrovnik, Korcula and Hvar, and loved almost every second of it (damn that tuna!).

In this post I will review my disappointing stay in Split, my dream trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, and my final moments (for now) in Croatia, staying in the country’s capital city, Zagreb.

Zagreb, stained glass roof


Day 5 saw the final boat trip, this time on a high speed catamaran to Croatia’s second largest city; Split.

Split is home to Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palace was built by Roman Emperor Diocletian for his retirement – he was the only Emperor to be able to retire. The Palace must have been spectacular when it was built, however today, although intact, it is far less grand.

bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Domnius in Split

The bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Domnius in Split

The Palace was in need of tidying up and cleaning (there was graffiti in a lot of the walls). After the beauty of Dubrovnik, Split and Diocletian’s Palace was a let down, which was especially disappointing as it seemed to be such a popular holiday destination.

The weather didn’t help my opinion of Split (it rained the whole time…), the lady leading the included walking tour was very boring, and the hotel (Dujam Hotel) was a 20 minute walk from the old town. I also can’t really comment on the food in Split as we ate dinner at the McDonald’s in the nearby shopping centre!

I am sure on a different day in different circumstances Split is a great place, but after the beauty of the places we visited before, it was a real disappointment.


Day 6 started in a panic – got to catch the bus!

One of the things I’ve mentioned I like about Tucan Travel is that it makes use of public transport to get a better feel for the country,  and there is no 50 seater coach that waits for everyone to get on board. We had arranged taxi’s down to the harbour where the coach station is, however the taxi’s in Split were in no hurry… I was in one of the first taxi’s, with our tour leader in the last taxi, so there were a group of us desperately stalling the bus driver while we waited for the last of our group! You have never seen bags loaded so slowly!

On the bus the conductor thought the lady who had been doing most of the stalling was our tour leader, which led to an interesting ‘conversation’ that made poor use of Google translate. We really hope he wasn’t asking her if she was a prostitute!

Looking on the bus website there is one that leaves at 08:30 and arrives to the National Park at 12:30 which I think is the bus we caught.

We only had an afternoon at Plitvice Lakes National Park (ticket included in the trip), so we had to make the most of it. We dropped our bags at Hotel Bellevue and headed straight back out. The National Park provides a bus to get you to the ends of the lakes, with well marked trails to walk back along. We walked along the bottom lakes before getting a boat to the other end and walking up to Velika Slap.

Waterfall Plitvice Lakes National Park

One of the many waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes

The view down the valley at Plitvice Lakes National Park

I wish we had the opportunity to spend more time doing a leisurely exploration, but actually an afternoon and good weather was perfect to see a large portion of the park.

In the main hotel area there is a large catering space with plenty of food after a long walk, as well as a bar which was a perfect way to end the day.


Following the risky bus journey to get to the National Park, the transportation on day 7 was far less risky. Our tour leader arranged for a mini bus to privately take us up to Zagreb!

The private bus gave us the opportunity to make a stop at Slunj on our way to Zagreb. Slunj was somewhere I had never heard of, and our guide was especially cagey about where we were. We got dropped off in a random car park, told to follow the path along the river, and that the mini-bus would pick us up at the other end…

Slunj, Croatia, waterfalls

Slunj is a quiet little town in the mountainous part of Croatia

As you can see in the photo above, Slunj is a beautiful little town surrounded by so many waterfalls! The main road is directly behind where this photo was taken, and Slunj would be so easy to miss, but if you have your own car in Croatia I definitely recommend making this stop.

Next up was the capital of Croatia; Zagreb. The biggest city of the trip so far, and we were amazed to find it empty. Empty! No people. It was a Tuesday at rush hour… We were a little concerned Russia had invaded as it was during the 2014 Ukraine crisis and Croatia isn’t all that far away!

It turns out that actually the 5th of August is Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day in Croatia, a public holiday to mark the end of the War of Independence in 1995.

Top tip – find out when public holidays are in the country you are visiting!

Church of St Mark Zagreb

The beautiful colourful tiled roof of the Church of St Mark in Zagreb

That evening (once we had established we hadn’t been invaded) we had a walking tour round the old town of Zagreb, followed by the final meal with a number of our group who were ending their trip here. The following day was a free day where we were able to explore some more of the city.

Interesting car parking in Zagreb

I did see these interesting spaces in Zagreb, half on, half off the curb…

Zagreb was a nice place to spend a couple of days, but there was nothing special or different about the city to make it stand out. We spent most of the time just walking round, followed by a visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships (very random, but worth a look!).

We stayed at a very quirky hotel in Zagreb; The Movie Hotel, where each room has a different movie star on the walls..! Mine had Harrison Ford which was an interesting view to start each day!

Next (Part 4)

Having thoroughly visited Croatia it is time for a new country – Slovenia. Join me next time where I will show you the beauty of Ljubljana and Lake Bled.

If you want to read the previous parts you can catch them here and here.

I love hearing your feedback and stories, so please do leave me comments below!

2 thoughts on “Review: 2014 Balkans Highlights with Tucan Travel, Part 3

  1. Kevin Penney says:

    Toying with the idea of a European tour this year so have found your first 3 episodes interesting and of course want to see the complete series. I have done several big yellow truck trips with Tucan but not the local transport mode. Whilst I am somewhat older than the average traveler at 67 I have never found this to be a problem other than I let the young folk climb the mountains whilst I walk around them. Look forward to seeing further episodes.

    • Katelyn says:

      Glad you are enjoying the series Kevin. Where have you been on the yellow truck trips as I would be interested in taking one, possibly in South America.

      Ljubljana and Budapest were the only times physical ability were an issue as the hotels were a bit of a walk to the train stations, but we all mucked in and helped anyone who struggled.

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