Croatia is a great destination for an active holiday. There are several adventure activities like kayaking, cycling and diving. Some of these can be enjoyed together as a family; while others will pump up the adrenalin for solo / couple travellers.
Planning a trip to Croatia? Do read my two week itinerary.
Kayaking in the Adriatic Sea
With its long coastline and clear water, kayaking is a must-do activity in Croatia. There are plenty of companies to organise the kayaking experience for you, from several cities (Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik) and many large islands (Hvar, Vis, Brac, Korcula).
We had booked the sunset kayaking experience in Dubrobnik, with Adventure Dalmatia. We went to the meeting point outside Pile gate at about 515 in the evening, got a briefing, met our guides, kept our stuff in water-proof drum and bag that was handed to us, and set off on the kayak.
This tour took approximately 3 hours with one long stop. About 7.5 km of kayaking, in a double kayak with my husband at the back and my daughter sitting in the middle (20 kg more for us to pull!). A lot of exercise and a whole lot of fun. Exertion apart, this was one of our best Dubrovnik experiences. A great way to feel up, close and personal with the Adriatic Sea, see the walls from outside, see some of the spots around the old town including the Lokrum island and get the adrenalin going. The biggest plus, though, came from our guides Frank and Eric, who kept up a very interesting narrative of the town, the country, and, of course, GoT.
We first rowed towards the Lazareti – a series of interconnected buildings located outside the old city harbour. Home today to a variety of local cultural groups, the Lazareti complex was built as a quarantine facility, to protect the Republic against diseases that ravaged Europe in the middle ages.
Further on, from a distance we saw the now derelict and abandoned Hotel Belvedere – once a luxury hotel that was destroyed in the Croatian War of Independence. Frank mentioned that it is home to more than 1000 cats; and you are welcome to take any cat home for free!
Fun fact: The combat battle scene between The Mountain and Oberyn in Season 4 of Game of Thrones was filmed here.
The golden rays lit up the Lokrum island and made the sea look dappled.
We took a half hour stop in a cove, where many people from other tour groups were cliff jumping, swimming, snorkelling. Too many people in that space for my liking. But the stop set us up well for the hard rowing needed to circle around Lokrum island.
We took a brief detour into another cove, smelling to high heavens with perhaps what was bird poop. Frank offered (jokingly) a million dollars to anyone who could tell the group what the cove was used for. All of us were left gaping, when my 6-year old, perched on the kayak between my husband and me, piped up, “For the fisherman to get protection during sea storms.” Slow clap! Despite the need to catch our breath, we couldn’t wait to get out of the smelly cove.
The sun was mellow and the ride back to the city, rowing gently, was an experience to remember.
Tips: Bring your own sunscreen and camera for the kayak tour. Adventure Dalmatia does give a small plastic jar that can keep your camera and shades dry. There is also a large dry-bag available with them, for all your valuables.
With its dramatic landscapes and quiet back roads, Croatia is a lovely cycling destination. It is a great option to take a cycling tour as a family either in cities or on the islands. My daughter does not cycle as yet, so we did not opt for this. My husband, on the other hand, had a great time, cycling solo in Hvar and Vis.
I had booked the cycling tour in Hvar via Hvar adventure. My husband recommends both the company and Massimo, his cyclist guide very highly. He had opted for the Seven Villages tour with Massimo, and got a feel of the island that a car drive would never give. This tour is at the intermediate / advanced level – approximately 4.5 hours, about 35 / 40 kms, with some serious off-roading. Hvar Adventure can do customised family cycling tours, and even shorter customised tours for solo cyclists.
Vis is a good destination for both serious and amateur cyclists.
Cycling is quite popular in Vis, and we rented cycles to bike around in Vis town (my husband took one with a carrier in the back for my daughter). The island also provides off-roading and uphill cycling for the serious enthusiast. My husband had booked the tour via Holiday in Colours and was quite happy with this choice. This company has several tour options – from the easy 16 km routes on not-so-difficult terrain to the 40 km -long Tour de Vis on difficult terrain, meant for serious cyclists.
Do read – Vis: an interesting history to boot
Diving in Adriatic sea
Adriatic sea has clear water, but don’t go expecting the variety of marine life that you get to see in the tropics. There are several diving centres, both in the coastal cities and on the big islands.
I had booked my first diving adventure in the Adriatic sea in Hvar with Diving Center Viking, located in Podestine. I was a bit apprehensive about the water temperature, having dived earlier only in the warm Andamans sea. Zsanett, the diving centre owner suggested 2 layers to keep me warm. It took some time to find the right sized wetsuit.
Since many in the group had not dived for past 6 months, we first went for a refresher dive. Maher, our dive master gave us a short briefing and then we walked down to the shore. The refresher dive went fine, though it took me some time to manage my buoyancy. When we surfaced, the water had become a bit choppy.
Details from my Logbook on the 2 dives
We had a break for lunch and then went to a site named Vela Gaska. The boat ride to Vela Gaska site was not very smooth. We put on our gear, and took a giant stride into the see for the real adventure. There was a reef on one side and a sheer drop, no more than 50 / 60 m on the other.
Top sighting was a huge lobster in a cave. My heart was in my mouth, when Maher flashed a light for us to see this huge creature plonked at the mouth of a cave, almost guarding it. The plan was to enter another small cave – with beautiful colours and hopefully empty of any marine life – but some of us had used up our tank air real fast. Besides, I also had trouble managing my buoyancy in the deep water. I kept fiddling with my BCD to adjust buoyancy and adjusting to the cold water at 20 m depth. 40 min later, we had to end the dive and head towards the boat. The sea had become really choppy during the time we were underwater. On the way back, the captain decided it was too dangerous to take the boat back to the landing in Podestine and we headed towards a larger bay. The crew called for a taxi to transfer us back to the dive centre.
I am sticking to the tropics until I get more control over my buoyancy. But don’t let my experience dissuade you from diving in the Adriatic Sea.
Also read: Take a scenic walk in the Vintgar Gorge