When Country Walkers travel designer Tricia Dowhan first started developing our Croatia: Brač, Korčula & Mljet National Park Guided Tour, a serendipitous trailside conversation led to the genesis of a whole new Croatian family business. It all started when our local friends Frano, Vanja, Marin, and Željko welcomed the first Country Walkers guests into their home for a true home-hosted experience. Building on their initial success with Country Walkers, this friendly family slowly added capacity to their home (and their menu)—expanding it into a successful outdoor restaurant. “Soon, we were dining on homemade pasta, grilled fish, and vegetables from their garden while sitting outside on their covered deck,” recalls Tricia. “I remember going there for dinner one time. When we arrived, Frano was over at the grill with an old blue hairdryer, getting the coals going. That’s how people in Dalmatia keep the grill’s embers smoldering at the right level—so it really gives the experience a very local flavor.” Later, the family invited a group of local klapa musicians to provide musical entertainment at the dinner. Country Walkers guides encouraged guests to join in by dancing along to the traditional Croatian melodies—making it a truly festive occasion in authentic Croatian style.
As a region renown for growing grapes and olives, most Croatian families produce their own homemade wines and olive oils. On the peaceful island of Korčula, a visit to the winery of Country Walkers friend, Pero, is an incredible opportunity to learn about local winemaking techniques first-hand. “It’s literally Pero’s home,” says Tricia. “And it’s absolutely spotless. He likes to keep things on a very manageable scale, and we’re the only group to visit. He produces some exceptional Grk and Plavac Mali wines that he serves up along with olives and local cheeses which he accents with hot peppers and herbs. He also shares his traditional Croatian pršut—a local ham similar to Italian prosciutto.” Only friends are invited to sample Pero’s wines—so this occasion is a truly unique snapshot of Croatian culture.
Experience Local! And Meet Our Croatian Friends
So, how does Country Walkers make so many friends all over the world? Tricia gives us a little peek behind the curtain. “When I’m out on the trail, I love to strike up conversations with local people, and I find that often leads to discussions about walking vacations. People are curious, and they love to learn about our travel style. Those lovely trailside conversations can lead to wonderful ideas, which turn into introductions, which lead to home-hosted dinners, hidden vineyards, and other great cultural experiences.” After many years of working with local families in Croatia, Tricia’s network of trusted friends brings us deep cultural experiences most travelers wouldn’t find on their own—it’s what we mean when we say you’ll “Experience Local” when you travel with Country Walkers.
Water, Water All Around
The turquoise waters of Croatia’s Adriatic Sea are crystal clear, making it the quintessential getaway for beach lovers. From the moment you check into the lovely Park Hotel in Split, you’ll be right next to the water—with famous Bačvice Beach just a short stroll from your door. One of the journey’s most memorable walks was recommended by one of our local friends—and it starts right from the door of this hotel. After waking up to a sumptuous breakfast, a short stroll down the hotel’s dock and onto a waiting catamaran lands you on the remote island of Mljet. On this stupendous walk through the island’s national park, you’ll explore two saltwater lakes, with views of the crystal-clear Adriatic in the distance. As you stroll around the island, there’s a sense of tranquility from all angles. “People aren’t allowed to drive a car on the island unless they live there,” observes Tricia. “Even if you do live there, some very strict rules are in place to govern cars—it’s basically a car-free island.”
In Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands, sea views are everywhere. On the island of Brač, you’ll wake up each morning to a sea view at the Hotel Lipa in the charming coastal village of Postira. On the delightful island of Korčula, you’ll enjoy a short stroll from your charming sea-view room to the hotel’s pebble beach—or a short walk to the city’s medieval Old Town, where you’ll find delightful restaurants, quaint boutiques, and vibrant history come to life. Your final night at the Hotel Bellevue in Dubrovnik features a private beach, ocean-side dining, and views of the bay from your room. What better way to experience the Pearl of the Adriatic?
For Every Walk, There is a Season
As our local friends are quick to point out, for an authentic Croatian experience, it’s essential to travel outside the busy summer tourist season. In spring and fall, the weather is better for walking, it’s easier to meet local people, and the trails are more peaceful and unhurried. “In Mljet National Park, you might see a boat crossing the lake to take people to St. Mary’s monastery,” says Tricia. “Otherwise, it’s very quiet—it feels like we have the park to ourselves.” In springtime, the wildflowers bloom in a cacophony of ebullience—vibrant red poppies, purple irises, and yellow marigolds are cheerful pops of color against a background of green meadows. In May, everything is blooming—and the scent of Mediterranean macchia, olive blossoms, and flowering fruit trees fills the air.
In the fall, warmer water temperatures invite a dip in the Adriatic—and the fruits of the harvest are found in abundance. In early September, the figs are ripe and delicious—a highlight of many wonderful Croatian meals. “One local restaurant serves a dessert made with figs from their trees stuffed with almonds and drenched in dark chocolate,” recalls Tricia. “Every family has their own version—it’s the quintessential Croatian dessert for the season.” In autumn, the grapes hang heavy on the local vines, and vineyards are vibrant with activity. It’s the perfect opportunity to experience an authentic celebration of the Croatian harvest—far from the throngs of summer tourists.