Sibenik, the most underrated town in Croatia!
I'd take a stab and guess that you've probably never heard of Sibenik, pronounced 'shib-en-ik' ... it's one of those little towns without a major tourist attraction and for that reason hasn't quite made it onto the list of 'bucket list' places to see. It's off the beaten path and not very well known, the kind of place I adore! it's places like Sibenik where the magic of true, authentic travel happens.
What to expect;
Sibenik is a small historical town nestled along Croatia's sparkling coastline, a hidden gem! to be honest I knew nothing about it and only ended up spending time there as a stopover on my way to Plitvice lakes from Split, it was just somewhere to stop and spend the night so you can imagine my surprise when I got there and found a gorgeous little place with a beautiful waterfront, historical old town, a lazy little beach, and bustling culture rich marketplace. If you're after a more authentic Croatian experience I highly recommend visiting Sibenik. I spent two nights there and that was more than enough time to enjoy it. Cost wise, I wouldn't say it's cheap but it's not expensive either, it sits somewhere in the middle. Croatia doesn't use the Euro, the currency is Kuna. Most places will accept euros, but be careful of the exchange rate! make sure it's reasonable before you pay. A great bonus of staying in Sibenik is that it's only a 20 minute drive away from Krka national park - WHICH YOU MUSTN'T MISS!!! I cant stress that enough, it really is a must (i'll go into more detail further on)
Where to stay;
I travelled with a group of four, so we stayed in a local two bedroom apartment called 'Vladimira Nazora apartment' http://www.booking.com/hotel/hr/vladimira-nazora-apartment.en-gb it was €55.00 per night, so divided by four was a total steal at €13.00 each per night. It was in a fab location right by the waterfront and the old town where all the restaurants and shops are. If you're going as a group of four to six people this is great budget option. Or if you're a couple/solo traveller looking to splurge a bit then I definitely suggest staying here. For those who need a cheaper option I can suggest 'hostel splendido Sibenik' http://www.booking.com/hotel/hr/hostel-splendido.en-gb which is also right by the waterfront and close to everything, it's €12.00 per night.
Where and what to eat;
Everywhere you go along the coast in Croatia you'll find amazing fresh juicy seafood, being seafood it's always going to be a little more expensive than other menu options but if you can afford to spend a few extra Kuna then you've gotta try it at least once while you're there. Risotto is a popular dish in Croatia that you'll find on most menus, black risotto in particular is a classic Dalmatian dish - it's made with cuttlefish or squid and it's delicious! Beef pasticada is another one that you've got to try, it's a gnocchi based beef stew and it's to die for. Head to 'Nostalgija Sibenik' in the old town for very high quality food at a reasonable price, or for a bargain option head to the outskirts of the old town where food is still good but a little cheaper.
The closest airport to Sibenik is Split. From Split you can either hire a car which is what I did and drive the short 1 hour journey, or you can get there by bus for about €5.00. The bus will take a little longer at 1.5 hours.
Krka national park - Honestly I can say hands down that this place was, and still is, one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The national park and waterfalls are stunning, but the best part? you can swim amongst the gigantic crashing falls! the water is pristine and glorious to swim in. BUT you must get there early! and by early i mean get there when it opens at 8am, it gets super crowded very quickly which makes for a far less enjoyable experience. It costs 150kn in the summer months to enter the park and only 30kn in the cooler months, obviously its best to visit in summer when it's hot enough to swim, it's pricey at that time of year but trust me - worth it. Visit http://www.np-krka.hr/en/ for more info on opening times and prices. Krka national park is a short 2o minute drive from Sibenik, it's very easy to find as there's signs everywhere and parking is free. You can also go on a tour bus, there's plenty of companies in Sibenik which offer day trips, or you could even take a taxi there. Don't forget to wear your swimmers and take a towel! there's a little café at the swimming spot too so you can grab a coffee after your swim and enjoy the surroundings a little longer before you leave. Note - be careful in the water, the current is very strong!
Stroll right along the waterfront all the way to the beach - The promenade along the water in Sibenik is a lovely, picturesque and tranquil walk. From the old town to the beach it's maybe 30 - 40 minutes walk. The beach is nice, very quiet which is a nice change from the usual European 'packed like sardines' beach experience! there's a little bar/restaurant there too for a bite to eat or a beer.
Get lost in the winding medieval alleyways of the old town - The old town in Sibenik is small but gorgeous. I absolutely loved strolling around in there, photo opportunities jump out around every corner. What's great about it is that it has the same medieval feel as Split's old town, but minus the hoards of tourists. Make sure you go all the way up into the fortress, we got lost up there and it was hilarious trying to work out where we were and how to get out when we could literally hear the main street! haha, moments like those are the reason why I travel.
Check out the bustling food market - Right in the city centre of Sibenik is a typical European food market, imperfect but incredibly fresh fruit and veg fill up the stalls and inside the adjacent hall you'll find high quality meat, seafood in particular at super cheap prices. This is where the locals shop, go get amongst it!
Enjoy your time in Sibenik! don't forget to check out Krka national park, you'll seriously regret it if you miss it.
Over and out x