Charms of Croatia

About the Experience

Croatia is everything unexpected. It’s an open history book whose pages reflect turbulent war-torn years, earthquakes and a royal battle for independence. Imposing fortresses and cathedrals, immaculate walled cities and the regal palaces of aristocrats remain and enchant everyone who stands in their shadows. The unearthly national parks, twee marinas and palm-lined promenades and abandoned villages will fill your senses to the brim.

From slick Zagreb to ancient Dubrovnik, the denim and teal coastline is a sailing nirvana. The culture is rich and decadent–and Wild Women’s Charms of Croatia Multisport Adventure takes a big bite out of it.

The Mediterranean climate is evident in the olive plantations, tidy rows of vineyards, fig, mandarin and pomegranate trees. Enjoy the bounty on this itinerary that offers lingering visits to local wine and cheesemakers. Taste just-caught sea bass, cuttlefish, truffles and lamb baked in an ash-covered cauldron. Indulge in the full bodied Plavac Mali wines the region is famed for and sample sage, cherry, plum and carob brandies.

You will visit family-run taverns and stay in opulent boutique hotels. Wind your way through the marble-tiled alleys. Learn to forage for wild mint, rosemary and the ripe fruit of strawberry trees (yes, there is such a thing).

Hike and sail around and along a coastline dotted with more than 1,200 islands and islets. Swim in aqua lakes or wade into the clear-as-gin waters of the Adriatic. As the church bells sound out over the cobbled city and the sun sets on the terracotta rooflines, swifts take to the skies in a peppered stream. Is it all a dream?

Island hop from Hvar to St. Clement to Vis by water taxi, sailboat and catamaran. It’s a buoyant time that swells with the remarkable waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes, the 1,700-year-old magic of Split and the unmatchable wonder of Dubrovnik’s medieval Old Town. Yes, it’s everything you never knew you wanted.

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Charms of Croatia

About the Experience

Croatia is everything unexpected. It’s an open history book whose pages reflect turbulent war-torn years, earthquakes and a royal battle for independence. Imposing fortresses and cathedrals, immaculate walled cities and the regal palaces of aristocrats remain and enchant everyone who stands in their shadows. The unearthly national parks, twee marinas and palm-lined promenades and abandoned villages will fill your senses to the brim.

From slick Zagreb to ancient Dubrovnik, the denim and teal coastline is a sailing nirvana. The culture is rich and decadent–and Wild Women’s Charms of Croatia Multisport Adventure takes a big bite out of it.

The Mediterranean climate is evident in the olive plantations, tidy rows of vineyards, fig, mandarin and pomegranate trees. Enjoy the bounty on this itinerary that offers lingering visits to local wine and cheesemakers. Taste just-caught sea bass, cuttlefish, truffles and lamb baked in an ash-covered cauldron. Indulge in the full bodied Plavac Mali wines the region is famed for and sample sage, cherry, plum and carob brandies.

You will visit family-run taverns and stay in opulent boutique hotels. Wind your way through the marble-tiled alleys. Learn to forage for wild mint, rosemary and the ripe fruit of strawberry trees (yes, there is such a thing).

Hike and sail around and along a coastline dotted with more than 1,200 islands and islets. Swim in aqua lakes or wade into the clear-as-gin waters of the Adriatic. As the church bells sound out over the cobbled city and the sun sets on the terracotta rooflines, swifts take to the skies in a peppered stream. Is it all a dream?

Island hop from Hvar to St. Clement to Vis by water taxi, sailboat and catamaran. It’s a buoyant time that swells with the remarkable waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes, the 1,700-year-old magic of Split and the unmatchable wonder of Dubrovnik’s medieval Old Town. Yes, it’s everything you never knew you wanted.

DAY ONE: WELCOME TO CROATIA

Meet your fellow Wild Women in the lobby of the slick Dubrovnik Hotel in Zagreb at 1pm for welcome drinks and apps. We will take a group shuttle from Zagreb to the verdant Samobor Highlands (20km from the capital). After checking into our hotel, shake off the jetlag with an easy guided walking tour through Zumberak and Samobor Highlands Nature Park. 

You will learn about the locally treasured heart-shaped ginger cookies and the love story attached to them. The riverside village is a showcase of Baroque and Art Deco architecture and equally impressive giant sycamore trees. In February, the annual feverish street party swells the population from 35,000 to 150,000, in celebration of the cherished love poetry festival. In the warmer months, everyone stylishly gathers in the square for conversation and tipples around the elaborate water fountain that promises a lifetime of good health to those who drink from its spout.

Just ten minutes from the city, the remains of the immense stone fortress of the Samobar castle and moat offer a perfect bird’s eye view of Slovenia, just 5km away.

Bonus? The afternoon is sweetened by espressos and slices of the famed Samoborska kremšnita, a traditional custard cream cake sandwiched between two flaky pastry layers. Yes, it’s a cakewalk! You should also try the bermet wine, made with locally cultivated red grapes. The aperitif is boiled over an open fire and spiced with a witch’s brew of mugwort, cloves, nutmeg, licorice, coriander and mustard seeds in addition to dried figs, carob, quinces, raisins and lemon or orange zest.

After the cakewalk, we return to the hotel to chill out before meeting for our first dinner together as a group.

 

DAY TWO: TOURING PLITVICE LAKES

After a satiating breakfast at the hotel, we will take a group shuttle to a family farm to sample the local bounty. Enjoy sweet elderberry flower water and generous samples of wild boar sausage, seven different cheeses (including sheep, goat and pumpkin cheese!), chestnut honey and warming plum brandy.

After the farmhouse tastings, we will travel further south to experience the wonder of Plitvice Lakes National Park. It’s an early start to ensure we can spend a relaxed day on foot, taking in the countless waterfalls and sections of the 18km boardwalk that winds through the park.

Plitvice Lakes is the oldest and largest national park (30,000 hectares) in Croatia. The park is divided into the upper and lower lakes–they shift from denim blue to a mesmerizing aqua to teal to slate. Sixteen lakes (and several unnamed lakes) spill into each other in a fable-like way. Waterfalls magically pound into every single one in torrents or thin streams or cascade over rocks, sometimes below the stairs that you climb! The tallest waterfall in Croatia (78m) is here!

Depending on the group’s pace and activity level, we can walk 8 to 12 km along the boardwalks with ample time to photograph the unique karst terrain, old-growth beech forest, travertine barriers, caves and surreal limestone or dolomite-bottomed lakes. 

The park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1979 and is home to a mosaic of animals and birds: bears, boars, badgers, wolves, deer, black storks and cuckoos. 

After the hike, we will check-in to our posh accommodations for the night. The park has an efficient electric boat ferry and “train” system that will return us to our waiting shuttle (and then hotel). 

DAY THREE: HIKING THE VELEBIT MOUNTAINS

We have an early start today and will have a boxed breakfast to go with a 2-hour transfer south to Paklenica National Park. As we pass through the highway tunnel through the Velebit Mountains, there is a near-instant transition into the Mediterranean climate. The famed “bura” (northeasterly wind) is often to blame for closed roads as its force can overturn cars.

Our hike through the park is a remarkable one–the forest is a diverse mix of beech, black pine and downy oak trees with unexpected old stone water mills appearing like ghosts of the past in the greenery. Learn about the funeral rites of past residents whose graves were marked by head and footstones that indicated their height. The bodies were moved to a lower village but their soul remains in the mountains, carried in the whispers of the bura through the black pine.

After a challenging rock-strewn climb of gradual elevation, we will take refuge at the family-owned alpine hut. Everything is delivered to the hut on foot or by mule. The family lives here year-round and the lunch is a grand, hearty affair.

Depending on the group’s skill-level and pace, we can hike to Velika Paklenica, a giant valley with knock-out views of the Velebit mountain range.

The linear trail is about 12km (return) on mixed gravel and stone stair terrain with a 600m elevation gain. Hiking poles and hiking shoes or boots are recommended due to the rock (and roll!). If you would like to opt out of the hike, there is a tunnel complex under the 400m mountain, dubbed the “Bunkers.” It was built during the political crisis with the Soviet Union by the Yugoslav army between 1950-1953. You’ll find a cafe, indoor climbing wall, museum and interactive displays about knot-tying, alpine history and the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service.

Paklencia is known for its international rock climbing competitions and mountaineering history. The park is busy with colourful climbers ascending playfully named routes like “The Show Must Go On”, “Black Magic Woman” or “50 and Life to Go.” Watch the climbers belay and Spider-Woman their way up the rock faces while you await the group’s return.

Tonight’s accommodation and dinner will be at our hotel in Starigrad, located adjacent to Paklenica National Park.

 

DAY FOUR: SPLIT LIKE A LOCAL

After breakfast at the hotel, we will drive two hours further south to the splendor of Split. After settling into our next hotel and recharging with a punchy coffee or tea, lunch will be in a classic taverna in the city–expect the catch of the day! Think marinated sardines, grilled sea bass, fish pâté…

Later, we will meet a talented local potter for a bowl-making workshop. It’s time to improve on that ashtray you made for your parents at summer camp! We’ll dive right in and have fun exploring the transformative properties of clay while learning about the glazing and firing process as we create our own individual pieces. For women who are interested, the pottery bowls can be safely shipped directly to your home for an additional cost (please advise our instructor if you wish to do this. The estimated cost is 20 euros for shipment to Canada or the US).

Before dinner, we will wander around the grandeur of the city and the palm-lined Riva promenade along the harbour’s parade of bobbing boats. For Game of Thrones fans, you will recognize many of the filming locations, especially the tunnel/cellar under the Diocletian Palace (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Daenerys kept her dragons here when she was in Meereen! Croatia’s second largest city is a giant and remarkable step back in time. Like, 305 A.D.! 

While on the Adriatic, it’s a no-brainer to eat as much fish as possible. Cuttlefish risotto or stewed pork neck are popular dishes in this region. And, as always, there will be plates of salty capers, briny olives, salami and crusty breads to sweep in golden olive oil and a tart local vinegar.

 

DAY FIVE: PADDLE THE PAKLINSKI ISLANDS

This morning we will catch the one-hour ferry to Hvar Island, a Dalmatian coast golden treasure. Relax and absorb the stellar views of the approaching islands (look for Hvar’s hilltop fortress!), sailboats and yachts. We will check into our hotel (you can unload everything for three nights!) before venturing out to paddle around the Paklinski Islands.

We will take a water taxi from Hvar to secluded Zdrilca Bay for an introduction to paddling tandem (sit-on-top style) kayaks in the ocean. There are numerous coves and bays to poke around, some in the shade of ancient pines. There will be time to swim in the Adriatic, snorkel or chill out with an even chillier drink at the beach bar. We will slowly kayak back to Hvar in the late afternoon–expect to be in the saddle for 3-4 hours with breaks.

In the event of inclement weather, a tour of Saint Clement’s island may replace the kayaking activity. The flora and fauna of the isle won’t disappoint! Among the vineyards, forests of cacti, strawberry trees, fragrant wild rosemary are signs of the elusive wild boars. You’ll learn about historic shipwrecks and the discovery of rare cave artifacts on the isle too! 

Meneghello Palmizana, Saint Clement’s famed artist’s retreat is a fun open-air gallery of busty mermaids and eccentric pieces donated by international painters and sculptors who visit Dagmar’s sanctuary and gardens. She originally came to the island as a journalist to interview a ‘hermit’ and fell in love! She is now in her seventies and her family-run restaurant by the beach is the ideal place to hang out and be inspired.

After returning from St. Clement or kayaking, you are a free range chicken. Your Wild Women guide will be happy to recommend the best secret places for tapas and wines. The alleys come alive and aglow at night with locals and the lure of all the kitchens preparing fish, scampi and gnocchi. Be sure to enjoy the local plonk: Plavac Mali wines!

 

DAY SIX: HIKING HVAR ISLAND

After breakfast, we will explore the abandoned villages of Velo and Malo Grablje (a 20-minute shuttle from the bus station near our hotel to the trailhead). En route to the village of Velo Grablje, we will learn about the rich foraging opportunities of the island. Lavender and rosemary are still distilled here today and the processing buildings attract many in the summer when an annual festival is held to celebrate all things lavender. Ten percent of the world’s lavender production was here before a massive fire destroyed the fields.

The area is an en plein air apothecary with numerous plants and herbs with medicinal properties. Learn about the surprising uses of sage (to clean your teeth or steeped for a sore throat), agave (a UNESCO-designated lace is made from the fibre), walnuts (for PMS, SPF and brandy!), fennel, St. John’s Wort and Dalmatian Oak (for “acorn coffee” of course). Mediterranean species abound: fig, almond, mulberry, mandarin and wild pistachio. Wild mint and rosemary is underfoot for most of the trail. Inhale! Be sure to ask your guide about the unique significance of the carob seed too! No spoilers here.

Grapes and olives are well-established here as well, despite a fungus that wiped out wine production nearly a century ago. The blight resulted in a great migration of expert wine growers to California and Chile. 

Malo Grablje is abandoned except for Berti Tudor’s 100% charming family-run taverna. Enjoy a glass of his homemade wine–he’s usually distilling something! Lunch will be traditional of course–expect grilled meat in a divine gravy with potatoes and the customary plates of sardines, prosciutto, salami, capers, olives and cheese to start.

After lunch, if the group is interested, we can extend the walk another 7 km along the coast back to Hvar. The trail has rocky beach sections, some single-track trail and cobblestone stairs. The views really shouldn’t be missed–it’s impossible to not take a dozen photos of the metallic sea and iconic artist-occupied lighthouse. 

There is an option for a transfer to the hotel if everyone would prefer to head back and explore the town instead. You can choose to dine where you like this evening and take in the vibrant buzz and twinkle of Hvar.

 

DAY SEVEN: SAILING TO VIS

Amazingly, this twee 12th-century fishing village was closed to visitors until just 25 years ago as it served as headquarters for the Yugoslav military. For ABBA fans, this is where Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again was shot! The jukebox musical opted for Vis over Greece! In the honeyed words of ABBA, “My, my, how can I resist you?” (The original film was shot on the Greek island of Skopelo or “Kalokairi” as fiction would have it.)

Vis is an island that celebrates wine, food, tradition and deeply-steeped history. It’s the oldest established town in Dalmatian history (397 A.D.). In spring 2019, the Vis Archipelago became the second UNESCO Global Geopark in Croatia. 

This morning we will enjoy a brilliant day under the power of sails followed by an exploration of the island of Vis. It will take about 2 hours from Hvar to Vis town on our sailboat if the winds cooperate. Upon arrival in Vis town, we will walk around the harbour and then travel by shuttle vans to check out the isle’s fertile fields and traditional Dalmatian stone villages. 

We will have a unique lunch at Roki’s. Stewed fall-off-the-bone lamb and veal are baked in cauldrons covered in hot ash. The wine tasting of a local white, red and rose with a roaring fire keeps conversation fluid! Be sure to check out the cricket bat and trophy collection. It’s a merry place with snoozing dogs and sometimes Elvis as the soundtrack!

After assessing the leggy wines, we will return to the port and sail back to Hvar. Tonight is a free evening for you to relax and unwind or climb the stairs to the fortress or enjoy the syrupy sunset from the hotel’s rooftop or…whatever makes your heart pound.

DAY EIGHT: WINE AND UNWIND

This morning, we will board the 3-hour catamaran ferry in Hvar to Dubrovnik. Depending on the weather, when we arrive in Dubrovnik port we will either have a light lunch or boxed lunch to-go as we transfer to Konavle (40 minutes). We will explore the cypress-spiked hinterland of Dubrovnik’s Konavle region. The pastoral landscape is dotted with old mills, houses that bear the scars of the Yugoslavian war, countless vineyards, farms and an old Franciscan monastery.

After drinking in the view, we’ll stop for a wine and liqueur tasting at ZlatoVišće. The vintner will walk us through samples of sage, walnut, carob, loquat, cherry and plum brandy. Paired with candied orange, quince and cow’s cheese, it’s a decadent alternative! There are also merlots and a rose to swirl and judge!

Heading back to Dubrovnik, we’ll have two options. For those who are interested in going directly to the hotel after the wine-tasting, a transfer to the hotel can be arranged. For those who would like to explore the city for the afternoon, we can establish a rendezvous point to reconnect with the rest of the group and local tour guide for the Old Town city tour and afterwards, dinner.

The grand stories of earthquakes, executions, lepers, the cathedral’s relics, a renowned pharmacy and its healing elixirs, water fountain and clock tower with its sundial and lunar phases, is an engaging dose of the Old Town’s evolution. In 1991, over 600 missiles were launched, damaging 90% of the city’s terracotta roofs. The resilience of the area is demonstrated in the restoration and gleaming marble roads and alleys. At night, the city and harbour are illuminated in a truly magical way. Swifts take to the sky and chatter, making the walled city feel so otherworldly.

After the medieval city tour we will have an extravagant farewell dinner at a nearby restaurant. There will be champagne! It’s the perfect night to reflect, swap stories, highlights and inside jokes with your Wild Women group. The big question: where next?

 

DAY NINE: DUBROVNIK AND DEPARTURE

After a relaxed breakfast, you can extend your stay (hotel is not included tonight) and continue to explore the city’s twists and turns independently or depart home. There will be a group airport transfer provided in the morning. Otherwise, for those extending their stay, a taxi or bus (not included) to Dubrovnik (DBV) airport are reliable for the 30-minute transfer. On your flight, if you have a window seat, you’ll have the opportunity to check out some of the islands that you visited. Warning: you will be pacing to get back to them!

 

Click here to see upcoming trip dates to book your spot!