Croatia June 9 - 21 2022
We (two couples) just returned from a spectacular 12 day trip to Croatia arranged for us by Ala Osmond over 18 months ago. Our ambitious itinerary was meticulously planned with short stays in Istria, Plitvice, Hvar, Split and Dubrovnik including a small number of guided historical tours, a truffle hunting demonstration, a 6 mile hike in Plitvice (breathtaking, unspoiled beauty), two half day private yacht excursions (totally indulgent and totally worth it), two wine tastings (one would've been sufficient), a fantastic cooking class in Split (do not miss this under any circumstances, even if you don't cook--Chef Jzelko is great), oyster tasting in Ston (do not miss this either, the fresh cooked mussels are delicious too). Each of these activities exceeded our expectations.
There is no shortage of good food in Croatia and the list of restaurants provided by Ala was extensive. Every place we went to had courteous staff, interesting takes on fresh seafood and often the owner was working the tables so we got first-hand insight to preparations, technique and often, free wine and grappa samples. The Croatians (all speak English) are enthusiastic about their food and wine, as are we, so that added another dimension to the experience. Do go to Giaxa in Hvar, Tramonto in Istria, Bokeria in Split, Konoba Dubrava for peka and Proto for seafood, both in Dubrovnik.
The hotels were also excellent, offering 5 star service and amenities with easy access to the Adriatic (Istria, Hvar, Dubrovnik) as well as the pool and short walks into town. The staff were attentive, rooms were clean, views were gorgeous. The Grand Park in Istria and the Excelsior in Dubrovnik were our favorites but we are really splitting hairs. They were all top-notch.
Despite the complexity of our itinerary, Ala and her team ensured that we had flawless connections and transfers, even arranging a last-minute pick up in Venice to get us to Istria after a missed connection that was supposed to get us to Zagreb (a very long and stressful story). Cannot emphasize enough the importance of the drivers--they take all the stress out of making connections so that you can focus on your trip. Would also like to make a special shout-out to Natasa Lovic, Ala's "in country" contact. She was essentially on-call for us and really saved the day with our blown connection. What could have been a nightmare turned out to be a non-event thanks to her. She also took care of a number of last minute restaurant changes and other items for us. Invaluable resource--very responsive and always had a solution.
As with previous trips, all of our guides were engaging and very knowledgeable, especially when we asked questions and showed some some genuine interest in Croatia's history, which is very complicated. This is the key to maximizing your experience with the guides and it adds a whole new perspective to your trip.
All told, Ala and her team put together the complete experience for us. We cannot say enough good things about her and our trip. None of us wanted to leave which is the hallmark of a successful vacation and Ala made it happen. Can't wait to go back.