Monday, 22 April 2019

Studio from Zagreb Updates Official Game of Thrones App

Filming locations are not the only connection between the Game of Thrones and Croatia. The global television sensation, which is currently broadcasting its eighth and final season, has another Croatian “touch” – the Five agency from Zagreb is the author of the latest update of the official app accompanying the TV series, entitled A World of Ice and Fire - A Game of Thrones App, reports on April 22, 2019.

The update was developed for one of the world's largest publishing houses, Penguin Random House. The Five agency has been working together with the publisher for years, and the update has been offered on the internet, at AppStore and GooglePlay, a few days before the start of the latest TV season.

The app is free, and for the first time, the latest version of the app is also available in Croatia, which has caused considerable joy among the fans.

“We only started working on the app a few months before the broadcast, but we have made a lot of improvements and created a much better user experience, a brand new user interface, with an added support for tablets and new devices, and added more than a hundred optimizations and upgrades,” said Perica Levatić, a project manager in the agency which has an office in New York as well.

The latest upgrade of the official Games of Thrones app has been selected as the best app update by AppStore, which gave an additional boost to the Five team, since they are, of course, great GoT fans.

They have also made the job easier for Penguin Random House to manage the app in the future. “It will now be a lot easier to add new content through the new Content Management System (CMS). It is easier to manage content from the books, and the app lets you explore all GoT's worlds through interactive maps,” said the Five agency.

Translated from (reported by Sergej Novosel Vučković).

More news about links between Croatia and the Game of Thrones can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Unforgettable Croatia Agency Offers Trip to Croatia for GoT Game Winner

Think you can predict the ending of GoT? Let the Unforgettable Croatia agency know!

If one thing has put Croatia on the map more than anything else for film and TV buffs, its the hit Game of Thrones series which has taken the world by storm, leading to countless visits to the many Croatian filming sites, particularly those in Dalmatia's southernmost city of Dubrovnik, which plays Kings Landing in the series, as well as Split.

While the Game of Thrones hysteria has been met with both positive and negative conclusions from residents of popular cities like Dubrovnik and Split, there is no doubt that economically speaking, Croatia has benefited beyond belief.

As Lider writes on the 19th of April, 2019, the British-American agency Unforgettable Croatia has announced a competition in which the task is to guess the ending of the wildly popular Game of Thrones (GoT) series and the reward for the one who manages to decifer the unfolding of the series' events will be rewarded with a trip to no less than GoT heaven - Croatia. So far, more than 5,000 people have sent Unforgettable Croatia their thoughts about who will take the throne at the end of the hit series.

The winner will be awarded a tourist-style tour of the various locations where the popular series was filmed across Croatia, more specifically Dalmatia, including Split, Klis, Hvar, Vis and Dubrovnik. Game of Thrones took off like few could have ever imagined, and the promotion that brought to Croatia was and remains unquantifiable. The first episode of the final season alone, which broadcast on Sunday attracted a record 11.8 million viewers.

Graham Carter, the owner of the British-American Unforgettable Croatia agency which launched the this GoT inspired competition, had his business in mind, which would further flourish by increasing the overall interest in travelling to Croatia. Every year, this agency brings about 5,000 passengers travel to Croatia, and they're hoping to increase that figure to 6,500 next year, as Carter revealed for Večernji list. Carter is currently residing in Split, where he is trying to establish a Croatian office for his the Unforgettable Croatia agency.

The winner of Unforgettable Croatia's competition will be offered half-board accommodation for a seven-day trip for two to Croatia, a tour of the Game of Thrones sites accompanied by a professional guide, and a visit to Hvar and Vis by sea. But there is, of course, a catch - the winner will not win the airplane tickets for travel, and they'll need to foot the bill for that themselves. 

GoT fan? Have your say! Click here.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

As Croatia Ignores Its Game of Thrones Gift, Some Lessons from New Zealand

April 20, 2019 - Another missed opportunity from Croatian tourism chiefs with the Game of Thrones Series 8 - when will we start taking advantage of these incredible gifts?

It was one of the most eagerly anticipated television series events in history. 

A series which had some of the biggest global brands doing deals with producers HBO to promote their brands with this global TV phenomenon. 

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Even the Trumpster got in on the action. 

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An advertising opportunity which many global brands took advantage of, and one which generated considerable interest in the global advertising industry. Here are some of the best of the 100 or so brands which partnered up with HBO.

Croatia, Dubrovnik, Kings Landing, almost the spiritual home of Game of Thrones. Surely they would have taken advantage of such a golden global opportunity?


They are certainly capable of great promotional work, as the innovative and award-winning football promotion video last year showed, a video which was actually made several months before the World Cup started.

I checked the official Croatian National Tourist Board Facebook page. Absolutely nothing at all.  

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I went to the Croatian National Tourist Board website and entered 'Game of Thrones' into the search box. Surely a treasure trove of GoT info would await?

Er, not quite. 

In fact, the first search terms - Our Lady of Trsat in Rijeka, sailing, an exhibition in Zagorje, the Feast of St Blaise and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sinj had about of much to do with Game of Thones as British cooking to quality gourmet experiences.

But if the Croatian National Tourist Board had missed the opportunity, surely the heartland of Game of Thrones, Kings Landing itself, would do justice to this tourism gift?

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I went to the Dubrovnik Tourist Board website. Having expected to find a dedicated GoT/Kings Landing section and having been disappointed, I entered 'Game of Thrones' into the search box. 

My reward was this page above. 

In Japanese. 

With not a mention of Game of Thrones in any language. 

I don't like to complain, but seriously, WTF?


It follows a depressing trend of the ineffectiveness of the promotion of tourism jewels. I really do not like writing negative stuff about Croatian tourism, but unless we realise the problem, we can't fix it. 

Just as the Kings of Accidental Tourism congratulate themselves on having Game of Thrones in their portfolio while doing almost nothing to promote the fact, a UK tourism agency conducted a masterstroke by offering a free holiday to Croatia to those who could predict how the final season will finish. 


As with Game of Thrones, Croatian tourism has an absolute gift to exploit and promote with its 130 indigenous grape varieties, including the original Zinfandel (check out the Total Croatia introduction to wine in Croatia), but apart from lots of self congratulations about how amazing Croatian wine is, the promotion is pitiful compared to some of our regional neighbours. Macedonia is SO much more effective at promoting their wine story, and it is somewhat ironic that their biggest export market is Croatia...

It is more than 6 years since the late Anthony Bourdain told the world about Croatia's 'world-class food, world-class wine, world-class cheese.'

Where are we with wine tourism, or gourmet tourism in general, some six years later, compared to the competition gourmet countries of France, Spain, Italy and Germany for example. 

Football. If any nation was in pole position to take advantage of the branding of football and tourism after last summer's heroics in Russia, it is Croatia. But the tiny country which dared to dream has had the initiative in branding football and tourism together usurped by an even tinier country which has never been to the World Cup and does not have a single player who has ever played in the Premiership. Lessons from Rwanda: Promoting Tourism Through Football, African-Style.

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Where to look for inspiration to take advantage of Croatia's Game of Thrones gift?

Where better than New Zealand, which did such an excellent job taking advantage of the filming of Lord of the Rings. Here is what you find when you search for 'Lord of the Rings' on the official New Zealand Tourist Board website, above

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A Lord of the Rings section with a very detailed drop-down menu of choices - looking for some recommended trips? Here are 92 recommendations.  

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Want to learn more about various features of Lord of the Rings? Here are 1,392 options. 

Meanwhile, in Game of Thrones Croatia...

I mean, seriously, how hard is it?

To learn more about Game of Thrones and Croatia, check out our Total Croatia guide


Saturday, 13 April 2019

Things to Do in Croatia: Top 5 Game of Thrones Tours

April 13, 2019 - 'Summer is coming' has never been a more appropriate choice of words. Continuing our series Things to Do in Croatia, we turn to a massively popular niche: Game of Thrones

Knowing a good part of the show was filmed at several locations on the Croatian coast, thousands of visitors have been flocking to Dalmatia in recent years, eager to explore King's Landing or the City of Meereen in real life. While you won't have any trouble finding an agency offering GoT-themed tours these days, we bring you a selection of four leading teams whose experienced guides will take you on an unforgettable journey through Westeros, along with one suggestion on how to make the trip on your own.

One last warning before we start: keep in mind that all featured tours involve a good deal of walking and stair climbing in the summer heat, so don't forget to bring along a bottle of water and wear sunscreen. Better safe than sorry!

1. Game of Thrones Dubrovnik Tour

Have a couple of stats to see why this particular crew has the honour of topping our GoT list: they rank no.1 among all Croatian GoT tours on TripAdvisor, and have seen more than 10.000 satisfied guests in the five years they've been doing the tour. The expert guides have all participated in the filming in some way, either as extras or as production staff, so they have many an inside story to share. They seem like a spirited bunch with a good sense of humour - see for yourself.


Here's the itinerary, starting from the meeting point in front of Pile Gate in Dubrovnik:

Red Keep
Climb the stairs of Fort Lovrjenac for magnificent views of the Old City and experience multiple scenes filmed there – Joffrey’s Nameday Tournament, Tyrion slapping Joffrey, Sansa saved by the Hound, 'Power is Power' dialogue, the Purple Wedding.

Docks of King’s Landing
Just seconds away from Pile Gate, in a hidden corner of the City, find the beach where Myrcella embarked on a journey to Dorne and where Sir Robert Baratheon's bastard kid was killed, and visit the spot where Sansa wondered whether to elope with Littlefinger.

Gates of King’s Landing
Enter the City through the same gates Jaime did when he came back home, and stroll down the street where the rebellion against Joffrey took place.

Littlefinger’s Brothel
Passing through the narrow streets of the Old City, arrive to the Brothel and see what Oberyn, Tyrion and High Septon were doing there. Enjoy the views of the House of Undying as we keep ourselves at the safe distance…

Sept Baelor
There is only one word that can be said here, and the word is: “SHAME”!

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Spice King of Qarth Palace
Time to leave Westeros and cross the Narrow Sea: just a few steps to enter Rector’s Palace and we are in Qarth alongside Daenerys pleading for a fleet of ships.

Walk of Shame
Follow the footsteps of Cersei as the Walk continues and see her enter another Red Keep in the City, far away from the first one…

Views of Qarth
Arrive to the terrace in front of the powerful Revelin Fortress and enjoy the views of Lokrum Island, Duel Arena, and learn more about Qarth, Oberyn, the Mountain, and the Dothraki desert…


Those who are eager to spend some more time in the GoT realm have a cool option at their disposal: The Ultimate Tour for the Ultimate Fans, a combination of the walking tour described above and a visit to several filming locations outside the city of Dubrovnik. This one is a bit more challenging - prepare for a 3km walk and some 300 steps along the way.

After you're done with Dubrovnik, you'll be picked up by a minivan and head on to...

King’s Road and King’s Landing panorama
Photo stop at the slopes of Srđ mountain where Tyrion was waiting for Oberyn and where Jaime says goodbye to Brienne.


Gardens of King’s Landing
Visit Trsteno Arboretum where Oberyn was writing letters to his daughters, walk the same path as Cersei and Oberyn did, sit at the fountain where Sir Loras and Sansa discussed their upcoming marriage and where Brienne told Margaery about the Shadow killing Renly. Take a necklace from Sir Dantos in the hidden corner of the gardens and enjoy beautiful views from the pavilion where Olenna had her meetings.

More details on both tours are available here, along with location photos


2. Dubrovnik: DU the Tour!

Dubrovnik Private Tours, also known under the encouraging motto DU the tour!, has three charming ladies at the helm: Ivana, Marina, and Ana. All three have years of experience with guided tours, both group and private, and their Game of Thrones Walking Tour will enable you to see the most distinguished GoT locations in Dubrovnik in under two hours.

This is your perfect opportunity to visit locations in Dubrovnik that you’d certainly miss out on if you were strolling around by yourself. You will unveil a different face of Dubrovnik by visiting the most memorable scenes from HBO's greatest TV show ever! Let us take you down the Walk of Shame, see where Joffrey died and find out what was going on behind the scenes.


Explore what Game of Thrones looks like in real life and also learn about similarities between Dubrovnik’s real history and the TV series. All of our tours are accompanied by an expert tour guide who has a booklet with screenshots from the series, with the purpose of reminding you exactly what happened and where.

You'll discover why HBO chose Dubrovnik for the capital of Seven Kingdoms and learn about the filming process - find out how crowds were handled, how the company selected the extras, and other juicy stories from the set. Locations you'll visit include the Red Keep (Lovrjenac Fort), the City of Qarth (Lokrum) and the sites which hosted the Purple Wedding (Gradac Park), the Riot in the Streets (Pile Gate), and the Walk of Shame (the Jesuit staircase in the Old Town).

The tour takes place three times a day, at 12:30, 16:00 and 18:00. There's no need to book your spot in advance - you just have to show up at the meeting point 5 minutes before departure. Learn more about the tour and the prices here.


3. Game of Thrones Split Tour

We're heading a bit north to Split, another major GoT hotspot on the Adriatic coast. The ancient basement of Diocletian's Palace hosted Daenerys's throne room and the dungeon where she kept her dragons locked up for a while. The streets of Split have also hosted the Slave Rebellion, along with a couple of other memorable scenes you've seen in the series. You'll also visit Klis Fortress, a majestic historical site which played the City of Meereen, and end the tour with a visit to the water mill which hosted Missandei's bathing scene.

At the Game of Thrones Tour in Split, you are guaranteed a truly authentic experience. They have a great staff of tour guides, all completely obsessed with both the television series and the books - you may even get stumped by a few of their questions during the tour, when they test your knowledge on all things GoT.

This is the tour for casual watchers, hardcore GoT nerds and everyone in between. Since you’ll visit several notable Croatian landmarks, your knowledgeable guides will also give you background on the local history of Split, providing you with two tours rolled into one.

As their reputation precedes them, they're sure to have a full plate in the coming months, so you're advised to book your desired date at least two weeks in advance. Click here to see more details about the tour, and check out why their satisfied guests made them the highest ranked GoT tour in Split on TripAdvisor.


4. Game of Thrones 5 Days Experience

If you know in advance a simple half-day walking tour won't satisfy your GoT cravings, you can go all out with a 5-day round trip of all major GoT filming locations on the Croatian coast, prepared by Vetus Itinera Travel Agency. The tour doubles as a remarkable opportunity to see plenty of renowned tourist destinations on the Adriatic in less than a week - here's a rundown of the itinerary:


Day One: Welcome to King’s Landing

Welcome to the legendary City of Dubrovnik. A republic of its own and a beacon of diplomacy for most of its history, Dubrovnik’s independent spirit nowadays remains as strong as ever. You already know this city, for this is King’s Landing, host to the revelries of Robert Baratheon, the excess lifestyle of Prince Joffrey, and the cunning wit of Tyrion Lannister. Walk onto the Red Keep, here known as Lovrjenac Fortress. Follow the trails of Arya Stark and see where Daenerys, the Queen of Dragons, gave freedom to her fire-breathing flying creatures.

Day Two: The Path to Meereen


Following Daenerys on her path to Meereen, where she seeks revenge upon the vicious slave-owners for crucifying hundreds of slave-children, you will walk through Arboretum Trsteno - the palace gardens of King’s Landing, where gossip and intrigue foreshadowed battles. This luscious combination of greenery and superb architecture of yesteryear tells tales of royalty in the oldest arboretum in this part of Europe.

On to the Walls of Ston, a 3.5 miles-long defensive construction dating back to the 14th century that was also part of King’s Landing. Ston is a Dalmatian town you will fall in love with, and as playwright George Bernard Show once said, ‘there is no love sincerer than the love of food’ - an appropriate quote, as Ston is known as the home of one of the rarest, most delicious oyster species.


Day Three: Daenerys Finds Comfort on the Islands and the Sea

On her conquest of Slaver’s Bay, as shocked and angered as Daenerys was upon witnessing the evil doing of the Meereen slave owners, she couldn’t help but pause and take comfort in the magnificent seaside view that was laid in front of her. Meet the sunniest place in Europe, the lovely island of Hvar, a favorite destination to those who know how to travel well, and a perfect backdrop to the Game of Thrones. A peaceful retreat, or perhaps Slaver’s Bay? The island’s capital is an ancient town of the same name, rich with history and a thriving art scene.


Hell’s Islands, or ‘Paklenjaci’ is a group of small picturesque islands just outside of Hvar, and a destination easily reachable by speed boat. Many have found peace and seclusion on Hell’s Islands, as they are home to charming taverns and small family hotels. Time moves slowly here.

Moving on with your nautical journey, you will arrive on the island of Vis – raw, isolated from the mainland, charismatic and beautiful. Your tour of Vis wouldn’t be complete without visiting a tiny nearby island called Biševo. With an official population of fifteen souls, the limestone Island of Biševo is home to the Blue Cave, one of the most magical places in the Mediterranean. Located in the Balun Bay, the Blue Cave was initially described and painted by Baron Eugen von Ransonet, and used to be accessible only by diving until the 18th century. Illuminated by both the sun and the moon, the inside of the cave glows with an incredible aquamarine light.

Day Four: The New Throne

Another treat! We welcome you to the New Throne, so to speak - the City of Šibenik, whose fortified walls and ancient architecture were seen in the fifth season of the Game of Thrones. Šibenik is known as The King’s City, for it was the court of Croatian King Krešimir IV in the 11th century; a perpetual stronghold for many following rulers, Šibenik is protected by four fortresses on each of its side: the Fortress of St. Nicholas, St. Michael, St. John and the Šubićevac Fortress (Barone).


Move away from the city and return to nature, as we welcome you to Krka National Park, the backdrop to numerous scenes in the show’s fourth season. It is a breathtaking place, and its cascading waterfalls will leave you mesmerized and refreshed, as you swoon into the greens of its flora and the blues of its crystal clear water.

Now, you’re ready to visit agro tourism Kalpić, in the village Konjevrate, another natural backdrop to the fourth season of the show. These stone houses speak tales of Dalmatian ancestors, while the food and beverages you’ll enjoy make for true hedonistic perfection.


Day Five: Setting the Slaves Free - Meereen Belongs to the Queen of Dragons

Follow the path of Daenerys as she seeks to conquer Slaver’s Bay and free the slaves of Meereen. The 1700-year-old Mediterranean metropolis of Split transforms into Meereen, as you start the final chapter of your tour at Diocletian’s Palace, its ancient basements and narrow streets, where freed slaves sought revenge upon their masters. Travel to the suburbs, to the town of Žrnovnica, whose green mill was used for Missandei’s bathing scene, and then continue to the town’s quarry, where the Unsullied battled for Daenerys. Finally, walk the path to the top of Klis Fortress, as it transforms into the Meereen throne, where Daenerys set the slaves free and crucified their wicked owners. At the end of the tour, you will enjoy an authentic Game of Thrones dinner.


Learn more about the 5-day trip and other boutique tours offered by Vetus Itinera here.


5. Walk your own GoT path!

And finally, for the GoT-loving adventurers who aren't that fond of guided tours and prefer to explore new destinations on their own. Last year, Wanderu came out with a guide on how to create your own itinerary and see all major GoT filming locations in Croatia for less than $100 in total!


The Ultimate Game of Thrones Tour of Croatia by Bus will take you from Zagreb to Šibenik and Krka National Park, then on to Trogir, Split, Makarska, Trsteno, and Dubrovnik, before you head back to the Croatian capital. While some of the prices seem too good to be true - you're not likely to get from Trogir to Split for $1 on average, for example - the suggested itinerary will definitely come in handy when you start preparing for your Croatian GoT adventure. One small caveat to keep in mind: the listed sums relate to bus tickets only, so don't forget to add other expenses such as tickets to NP Krka and Lovrjenac Fortress in Dubrovnik.

Click here to explore the route suggested by Wanderu.


Wednesday, 10 April 2019

From Dalmatae to Daenerys, Klis is Dalmatia's Medieval Hotspot

April 10, 2019 - Unless you belong to the 1% of people who have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones (enter meme here), we’re pretty sure you’re aware that the final 8th season of the wildly popular TV series begins on April 14th. While you’re busy recapping the last seven seasons and brushing on the characters and powerful families in the medieval fantasy epic, we thought we’d offer you help by looking at one of the many Game of Thrones filming locations in Croatia - Klis fortress. 

Long before it was known as the city of Meereen in the popular HBO series, the 2,000-year-old medieval Klis fortress was one of Croatia’s historic symbols, with a stellar view overlooking Split to boot.

Located less than 30-minutes away from the Dalmatian capital in the town of the same name, Klis fortress is essential to the history of Split and boasts a world of history itself. A strategically important structure thanks to its location between the Kozjak and Mosor mountains, the fortress controlled access to and from Bosnia, Dalmatia, and Inland Croatia. 

The fortress was first inhabited by the ancient Illyrian tribe of Dalmatae, followed by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Croats and the Ottoman Turks who famously conquered it in 1537. Onto the Venetians, the Austrians, and the Axis powers during WWII, the Klis fortress has seen it all - and you could see it all too. 

The popular attraction is not much further than the town of Solin and the archaeological site of Salona and is also easily reachable by bus lines 22, 34, 35, and 36 from Split. 

And thanks to its accessibility, the Klis fortress registers an increase in domestic and foreign visitors from year to year. Namely, last year, more than 70,000 people visited the famous fort, which is 40% more than in 2017. A positive growth trend continues in 2019, and during the first three months of this year, the number of visitors increased by 46%, and revenues by 66% over the same period last year. Consequently, the revenues of Klis fortress increased by over 3 million kuna, which is an unprecedented amount so far.

But that’s not all for the favorite fortress. Thanks to EU funds, Klis fortress will be illuminated at night this tourist season. Croatia’s first capital is part of the project financed by the European Union - the IPA Interreg ‘Fortress ReInvented’ project submitted by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The project focuses on the reconstruction of the historical fortresses in the area and the Klis fortress portion of the project is worth 2.4 million kuna (350,000 euro). Most of all those funds will go towards illuminating the fortress at night. 

The mayor of Klis, Jakov Vetma, explained that illuminating the fortress at night is no new idea. In fact, all the documentation for the project was done several years ago. Vetma is confident that the fortress will attract even more visitors once it's illuminated. The deadline for the works to be completed is 90 days, meaning it should be finished right in time for the high tourist season.

TCN wrote back in February that Klis fortress is also considered an archaeological paradise, with renewed interest by experts since a new, yet unknown site was found near the St. Vid Church. The wealth of the archaeological findings in the area is the only real danger to setting up the new lights at the fortress, as the process itself might be slowed down if something yet unknown is discovered while construction is underway. Also in the plans for this famous fortress is a summer stage. Specifically, the Klis municipality plans to reconstruct the artillery barracks and acquire a mobile stage with 3D mapping, which should be ready for next year. 

While the fortress is Klis’ main attraction, the municipality is on its way up, too. Not only is Klis is part of Inland Dalmatia, which was declared the best destination of rural tourism last year, but mayor Jakov Vetma believes that few places in Croatia have such a rich history like Klis, and even claimed that it shouldn't be named a municipality, but a town. The Municipal Council and the Council of Split-Dalmatia County agree, and have even supported that petition. Although the current number of inhabitants wouldn't support the decision, Vetma believes that it’s the people in the past and the present that make a town, not buildings. 

“The city is made up of people, not buildings. And the important people throughout the history of our people who ruled, lived, and battled in Klis give us that right,” said Vetma.

It would also be easier to get European funding for future projects if Klis was considered a town, which would improve visibility, development and a better standard for the inhabitants. 

Nonetheless, Klis is continuously raising the standard of living of its local community, arranging kindergartens and schools, sports facilities, transport, and tourism infrastructure, purchasing textbooks, increasing the number of newborns and encouraging and developing new economic and entrepreneurial initiatives. And in the development of cultural tourism, Klis will continue being branded as a historical town with a series of sites around the Klis fortress.

Apart from its spotlight in Game of Thrones, Klis is a Dalmatian destination you shouldn’t pass up on your next trip to the region, and its future is only getting brighter. 

While you’re already visiting Klis, make sure to check out some of Dalmatia's other Game of Thrones filming locations, which you can find listed below: 

Ulica Sv. Dominika in Dubrovnik: Inside the untouched walls of the Old Town, this winding alley in Dubrovnik was ideal for the murder of King Robert's illegitimate sons and the ‘walk of shame’ by Cersei Lannister.

Ethnographic Museum: The impressive Dubrovnik building from the 16th century acts as a brothel where Tyrion Lannister meets Oberyn Martell in the fourth season. 

Pile: The western entrance to Dubrovnik and one of the most beautiful locations overlooking the fortresses of Bokar and Lovrijenac is Blackwater Bay in the GoT series. In the third season, Shae and Sansa Stark watched ships sail here before Littlefinger made plans to escape with Sansa.

Bokar Fortress: This Dubrovnik fortress appears in the second and third season of the series, and is particularly apparent when Varys and Tyrion talk about their battle strategy for defeating Stannis Baratheon's army as they look to the sea. In reality, the medieval fortress on the city walls of Dubrovnik is open to the public all year long.

Lokrum island: Six hundred meters from the mainland, GoT fans will find the city of Qarth. It is, in fact, the island of Lokrum, where Daenerys Targaryen awaits the Spice King, knowing that he is in danger. In reality, Lokrum is no less mysterious and fascinating. Legend states that King Richard the Lionheart sought shelter here in 1192 after returning from the Crusades.

Arboretum Trsteno: The oldest arboretum in this part of Europe was built in the 15th century, has a spectacular view of the Adriatic and is only 20 minutes away from Dubrovnik. You might recall scenes from the gardens of King's Landing, and memorable scenes with Lady Olenna. 

Diocletian’s Palace: Many scenes with Daenerys were filmed in Split, inside Diocletian's Palace. It is where she sits on her throne, trains her dragons, and where her slaves contemplated whether they should fight for the 'Queen of Dragons'. 

Trogir: The best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic city of Central Europe with an impressive cathedral and Kamerlengo fortress was conceived as the trade port of Qarth. There, the rulers of Qarth captured Daenerys' dragons.

Kaštel Gomilica: The medieval castle and its surroundings were transformed into Braavos, a town on the sea that Arya Stark was sent to at the end of the fourth season. You might recall Arya taking the name 'Cat' and living with Brusco and his daughters. 

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Thursday, 22 November 2018

A Singular Trip To Croatia Offers A Few Tourism Lessons

November 22, 2018 — The Croatian tourism apparatus will now endure its annual post-summer evaluation.

Statistics must be dissected: How many arrivals? How much was spent?

The service industry exchanges anecdotes en masse: Which nation sent the most visitors? Who were the biggest spenders?

Reviews and ratings on travel sites such as TripAdvisor and are combed for helpful feedback — or dismissed as pointless ramblings.

Yet rarely does one get an intimate look into the experience of a Croatian tourist from beginning to end. Until now.

Refinery29’s Away Game, a series which chronicles millennial women’s travels and expenses, chronicled a 32-year-old life insurance underwriter’s day trip to Croatia.

The unnamed traveler matches a coveted demographic within the Croatian tourism industry: an American millennial from the suburbs of Washington DC earning upper-middle-class  wages.

The resulting travel diary and/or expense report offers a rare look into the experience of a first-time visitor to Croatia — warts and all.

The piece offers a holistic picture of the Croatian tourism experience: A reasonable traveler guided by word of mouth and not jingoistic advertising campaigns can experience unanticipated delights and exceeded expectations.

Croatia’s Infrastructure: The Dalmatian Sardine Can

Throughout the diary, a theme emerges: Croatia’s crowded. Especially during the height of the tourism season. It spills over into infrastructure headaches.

Immediately on her second day, our unnamed tourist encounters the infamous crowding at Dubrovnik’s Pile Gate, a familiar scene for locals and repeat visitors alike. The traveler must let two busses pass before she finally finding room to hop aboard.

Later during her stay, a warning about four cruise ships depositing its crowds onto Dubrovnik sends her hightailing to Montenegro. She spends close to $150 just to escape for a day, trading the “Pearl of the Adriatic” for an daylong jaunt through Perast, Kotor and Budva.

The hordes make cameos again in her travelogue, in Split, Hvar, Plitvice and later in Zagreb.

This sense of overcrowding reemerges in her jaunts from one location to the other. Her trip from Dubrovnik to Split took nearly six hours because of congestion on the highways. Ditto a bus trip from Zagreb to Plitvice, also extended by crowded roadways.

It was all enough to culminate in a catch-all warning to potential visitors:

“Be prepared, in high tourist season it’s very expensive and crazy-crowded on the Croatian coast,” she writes at the end. “If you’re going to Dubrovnik, pay attention to the cruise schedule and try to avoid the days where there are lots of ships.”

Croatian Service: Delightfully Bespoke 

The writer often valorizes locals going beyond a yeoman's effort to please visitors.

For example: during a trip to the Pakleni Islands, she raves of fresh sea urchin “that our guide plucked from the ocean and pried open right in front of us.”

The pattern repeats itself over and over: an Airbnb host in Hvar takes pains to handle logistics; a hotel restaurant in Split makes an off-the-menu pašticada on a whim; a solo tour goes from worrisome encounter to a delightful friendship.

Along the way, the author learns about the life of a local dependent on tourism: “They work 24/7 during the tourist season and it sounds incredibly stressful, but you’d never know.”

Is Croatia Expensive?

As the travel diary continues, a picture emerges of a conscious, selectively frugal spender. Our unnamed narrator carries her own collapsable water bottle; keeps snacks on hand; and chows on hotel breakfasts whenever possible.

“I am not a fan of hostels or shared accommodations, am willing to pay for good location, and the hotel stays included breakfast so this is where I spent the most,” she writes.

This precise spending reveals itself in her trinket and souvenir expenditures: magnets galore, as well as lavender soaps. But also something more authentic, preferably local. In Dubrovnik, she shelled out extra for filigree earrings and rose moisturizer.

“The earrings and rose cream are very touristy purchases,” she admits, then adds, “but are also so typical of Dubrovnik that they are perfect reminders of my trip.”

She’s also a cost-conscious eater. At no point during her trip does a meal come close to the triple-digit range. Granted, a solo traveler must either splurge on a Michelin Star meal or pig out in excess to cross the $100 threshold in Croatia. She often expresses disbelief at sums on her bills.

Her first meal in Zagreb sets the tone. After people-watching (another cheap-yet-fun experience) on Britanski Trg, she eats at Heritage, a tiny joint specializing in Croatian cuisine which emphasizes the food's local origins.

The bill offers a delightful sticker shock. “When I finish I’m stuffed, and when I get the bill and figure out the cost in USD I’m shocked how much I got for so little.” She paid $9.

Compare that to the $30-plus meals she regularly eats in Dubrovnik and Split.

Price disparities pop up in a myriad other ways. A cab from the airport to the hotel in Zagreb is $30; the same trip cost her $17 with Uber. (Not surprise anymore.)

All told, the traveler spent $4,603.74 in total. That includes airfare, travel, meals, souvenires and accommodations. That’s about $230 per day — days which included trips to neighboring Montenegro and Slovenia.

So... Has Croatia become too expensive?

Avoiding Well-Worn Paths

The tourism industry in Croatia often feels almost obsessed with online ratings and website recommendations. Yet our traveler’s piece limits her tech-guidance and dependency to three main apps: Airbnb, Uber and Viator.

The rest of her decisions are largely based on serendipity and word-of-mouth — either from locals or fellow travelers. It leads her to unexpected places you won’t find in many brochures or promotional videos.

While in Split, she visits Froggyland.


Yes, Froggyland, “a weird little tourist trap of a museum, but worth the visit and entrance fee,” she writes. “It houses the largest collection of taxidermied frogs, all posed in dioramas performing different activities. 

“It was bizarre, but I kind of loved it.”

She takes a small group tour of the Pakleni Islands run by a husband-wife duo which owns and operates “Amazing Hvar”.

The traveler then goes zip-lining in Omiš. It ends up being one of her favorite and most-dissected parts of her trip, with paragraphs-long descriptions. (Plitvice, by comparison, gets a few cursory and well-worn sentences about natural beauty.)

The tail end of her stay in Zagreb inadvertently coincides with an international street performance festival called “Cest Is D’best”, which provides a fallback diversion on quieter days. She also takes a Secret Zagreb tour, which explores the lesser-seen parts of the city.

Yes, there are obvious overtures to Croatia’s natural beauties and pitstops at all the usual hotspots; Dubrovnik’s city walls, Diocletian's palace and Plitvice all make an appearance.

Yet it’s the strokes of logistical luck which pepper her travelogue with unique and rewarding experiences.

The Intangibles

So what can one learn from this singular, yet instructive experience?

A few choice lessons:

There’s a difference between a traveller and a tourist: Many attempts to guide tourists’ gazes can often backfire, or at least distract people from what they set out to experience. The piece’s author seemed most keen on understanding where the locals ate, hung out and found cool. Some restaurant or dish suggested by a local became a must.

People want to understand and experience the lives of locals and fellow travelers. The traveler in this story seemed willing to assimilate, for however little she visited. She even shelled out $55 for a Croatian language audio course.

“It was surprisingly easy to learn enough to speak conversationally and ask directions,” she wrote (she's in the minority). “But I rarely actually needed to since most people I cam in contact with spoke perfect English.”

There are too many Game of Thrones tours: "I’m going on a Game of Thrones walking tour and am supposed to look for my guide in the square outside the gate holding a GoT flag," she writes, "which isn’t super helpful because there are at least 3 of them.”

Perhaps Croatia’s entire tourism industry can collectively take a few notes.

To read more about tourism in Croatia, check out TCN’s dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Klis Fortress Unites Uskoks and HBO's Game of Thrones

The view from the Klis fortress towards Split and the central Dalmatian islands is something special indeed.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Where to Find Official HBO Game of Thrones Merch in Split (and Harry Potter Too...)?

Another season is upon us. Where will you be getting your Game of Thrones fix this summer in Split? TCN pays a visit to Here Be Dragons, a souvenir shop with a difference. 

Monday, 23 April 2018

From Advent in Zagreb's Enchanted Village to Tkalciceva, Here Be Dragons Opening Party Friday

A great new fantasy shopping addition to the Croatian capital, as Here Be Dragons announces its opening party on Friday, April 27, 2018.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Things to Do in Croatia: Top 5 Game of Thrones Tours

'Summer is coming' has never been a more appropriate choice of words. Continuing our series Things to Do in Croatia, we turn to a massively popular niche: Game of Thrones

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