Wednesday, 22 June 2022

From Zagreb to Split Taking the Magical Old Highway

June 22, 2022 - If you are traveling from Zagreb to Split, or vice versa, you will most likely take highways E71 and E65 to get to your destination as quickly as possible. If you are not in a hurry, the old highway passing through Drniš, Knin, and Lika will surprise you.

I went to Zagreb recently, and contrary to my usual practices, I decided to bet on BlaBlaCar to travel to the Croatian capital. For those not very familiar with this application, you can choose a place of origin and destination and see which drivers (people like you or me) travel the same route and can give you a lift for a fee. I remember that a few hours before I met the driver in Split, she called me to ask if I had to get to Zagreb fast or if we could take the old highway that passed through Drniš. I didn't think much about it, but it was true that I wasn't in a hurry.

I am one of those people who say yes without thinking much, and sometimes that works against me. On this occasion, I want to thank my brain for being that way, since I discovered a way to travel through Croatia that will always remain in my memory, and that I will surely try to repeat more often.


The beginning of the route is quite similar if your plan is to get to Dugopolje to take the E65 highway, only this time you will have to take the highway junction at Klis-Grlo, and you will now be on the D56 road in the direction of Drniš. Unlike the fast highways to Zagreb, this route can take between 5 and 5 hours and thirty minutes by car, almost an hour more. It's worth it? If you really have to get to Zagreb, or to Split, as soon as possible, there is not much I can tell you. But if you have time to spare, there are plenty of things you should consider that will surely encourage you to try something new. I mean, yes. There's nothing like the feeling of speed, but don't you sometimes get bored with your foot on the accelerator at a constant speed watching cars and trucks go by? I'm not saying the views aren't spectacular, because they are. What I'm trying to say is that there comes a point where you're no longer excited or surprised. Sometimes daring helps you discover new places and landscapes.

Here are some of the places you will see along the way:


After crossing the picturesque valley behind Klis and crossing into the Sibenik-Knin region, you will find yourself in the village of Drniš, located halfway between the city of Šibenik and Knin. The valleys that anticipate and surround it will make you stop several times to carefully appreciate its beauty. There are many reasons why you should discover Drniš. Because it is a town with a rich tradition of culture and food, not least Croatia's most-distinct prosciutto (Drniš pršut). Additionally, it is the birthplace of Croatia's most famous sculptor, the world-renowned Ivan Meštrović.


Image: Drniš Tourist Board


In Drniš, you will change the D56 road to the D33 in the direction of the historic town of Knin, which is almost half an hour away by car. If you start to feel like it's time to grab a coffee, grab a bite to eat, or even go to the bathroom, this is a good time. Personally, I would tell you to hold on a little longer because the next place to visit may be worth the wait. You can also walk through the streets of Knin, full of history that goes back hundreds of years and is mixed with a very recent one.


Photo: Mario Romulić

Macola Restaurant

Have you stopped at the Macola restaurant on the E65 highway? If the name doesn't ring a bell, you'll remember it for its stuffed bears and boars inside. It is very likely that you have stopped there on the way to have a coffee or something to eat. Although it is not exactly a destination, you might like to know that the original Macola is located on the D1 road, an hour and a half from Knin, and already in the county of Lika-Senj. Before the E65 existed, this was one of the most popular rest and refreshment points among travelers. My suggestion? A coffee and a walnut or apple strudel are a must.


Photo: Jose Alfonso Cussianovich


I know that while you are not in a rush, you also do not have enough time to explore Plitvice Lakes National Park, the largest and oldest national park in Croatia. Perhaps you may find it interesting that two of the entrances to the national park are on the D1 road. You will definitely have to visit the Plitvice Lakes at some point, but for now, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful greenery that accompanies this part of the road, something that you will not be able to see on the E71 highway. If you are interested in visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park, have you taken a look at the contest that we have organized in collaboration with the Park? You can win two tickets to visit it!


Image: Plitvice Lakes National Park


It is difficult to get to Zagreb or Split via the same old motorway, as at some point you will have to return to the fast one either in Karlovac or in Dugopolje. However, that doesn't mean that was all you could see. Be it the first or last of your stops, you have to check out the magical, fairytale town of Slunj. If you have the time, visit it! And if not, from the same road you will be able to see it in the distance and feel that you are going through a location described by J.R.R. Tolkien!


Image: Slunj Tourist Board

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Why the Zagreb Split Slow Train is Actually a Great Way to Travel

February 14, 2020 - The Zagreb train to Split may not be the fastest way to travel, but it has many advantages over the bus. 

Croatian trains do not have the best reputation in the world. The network itself is fairly disconnected, and big destinations such as Dubrovnik no longer have a train station (although they used to until recently), for example, and Ploce connects only to Metkovic by rail before continuing to Sarajevo and beyond. 


And Croatian trains are certainly not the quickest, more than three times slower that the likes of Spain and France, according to this European overview, above. 

So why take the train at all?

I love trains, always have, ever since my Interrailing days in my youth, as well as those long, slow overnight journeys in the Soviet Union undercover for MI6. I had a business trip to Split this week and had to leave the car with the family, and I really could not face another 5-6 hour bus journey, so decided to give the train. 


Although there are only two Zagreb train departures for Split each day, as well as one overnight, the afternoon departure fitted my plans perfectly - leaving at 15:20 and arriving at 21:26. Just over six hours on the train versus 5-plus on the bus. 

When I first came to Croatia, the trains were fairly dated, but there are some new kids on the block these days, and the train was both modern and spotless.  

split-zagreb-train (3).jpg

And spacious. With only 6 other people in the entire carriage, I had a table of four all to myself, plenty of time to catch up on the many blogs I need to write for clients, as well as plenty of opportunity to stretch my legs and enjoy the scenery until nightfall came. 

And, at just 110 kuna one way, it is significantly cheaper than the bus. I got more than 4 hours of work done before my laptop battery died - sadly there are no plugs available. 

There are also no refreshments, but a little forward thinking can overcome that problem. 

We arrived, just 10 minutes late, in Split, with me feeling refreshed from the extra space unavailable on the bus, as well as feeling accomplished on 4 hours of work completed. Something that would never happen on the bus, or driving.  

split-zagreb-train (1).jpg

And after a successful three days in the Dalmatian capital, the return journey. 

I love taking the overnight Zagreb train from Split for a number of reasons. The main reason is time, the one thing I lack most in life. The reality is that commuting between Split and Zagreb takes out a good chunk of the day and is therefore quite inefficient. The night train - also just 110 kuna currently - leaves at just before 10pm and arrives around 6am. It is almost always deserted, and I have never failed to get a whole cabin, such as the one above, to myself. The trains are heated, and apart from a ticket check within minutes of departure, there are no other disturnances, and a sound night of sleep ensues. An early morning coffee in Zagreb and a shower at a friend's apartment, and a full working day in the Croatian capital awaits. 

For more options on how to get from Zagreb to Split, check out the Total Croatia guide