Europe Spring 2024: Croatia intro & where we stayed

by | May 15, 2024 | International Travel, Travel

Following our time in Valencia, we wanted to take the opportunity to check out a new part of Europe. After making a list of direct flight options from Madrid, then cross-referencing which ones were a good option via points, we decided to fly in and out of Zagreb, Croatia.

I knew that Plitvice Lakes would be an absolute must-see, and further research lead us to choose the northwestern Istrian Peninsula for the second part of our Croatian adventure. Altogether we had one night in Zagreb, two nights near Plitvice, then four nights in Istria.


click on image to enlarge


click on image to enlarge

After a month without driving it was a little weird to rent a car, but it was definitely needed for the spots we were going.

On our first day we skipped toll roads, but given all the speed changes around villages we used them later in the trip. Tolls on Istria seemed highest, with a lower cost per mile on the way to Zagreb, and there were lots of tunnels!

Some of the things we noticed during out week in Croatia:

  • Lots of woodpiles – it seems that many homes use wood for heat
  • Lots of tunnels – especially along the road from Istria to Zagreb, and including one tunnel that was 5km long!
  • Speed limits seem to be suggestions to locals outside of villages
  • Grocery stores are generally closed on Sunday, and a little more expensive than in Spain.

Where we stayed

A8 b&b, Zagreb
Originally we had planned to use hotel points at the Hilton Canopy, but after they increased the price of parking 50% without any warning we decided to cancel that reservation and re-look at other options. A8 had strong reviews, was closer to the old town core, and just a few blocks from a (cheaper) public parking option, so we pivoted to this smaller option.

The A8 has a good location, within a few minutes walk for most sights. They also had good communication, sending codes to get into the building and room, plus detailed instructions for parking at the nearby public parking garage and securing a 24-hour pass.

Our room was fine, fairly large with a small seating area and a good size bathroom. The bed was firm but reasonable.

The included breakfast was typical with cheese and meat, several bread options, and yogurt. It was a little awkward to access some of the items between the tables but not too bad. There was also fancier version of the Nescafe Dolce Gusto that Leandra had been using for over a month – so coffee was easy!

Pearl of Plitvice, Plitvica Selo

We decided to stay near the park so we could get in easily in the morning without worrying about parking. The Pearl of Plitvice had good reviews, a reasonable price point, and was within easy walking distance of the auxiliary entrance.

Like in Zagreb, we were given our door codes the morning of, so we didn’t need to meet anyone on arrival. Our room was on the ground floor so it was easy to unload load our bags, and it was fairly comfortable with a good size bathroom and enough space to get around.

The grounds were rather pretty too, with spring flowers and seating in the backyard.

Breakfast was fairly extensive with meat and cheese options, multiple egg preparations, bread for toasting and lots of spreads. Note that the coffee machine defaults to adding sugar to all specialty coffee drinks!

For minuses, the bed was on the firm side, a little hard for side sleeping, and the 15/10€ pp charge for sauna/hot tub was rather high. No guests used it during our stay.

Finally, unrelated to our accommodations, we experienced a small earthquake!

Apartman Pisino, Pazin

This two-level apartment makes a cozy first impression with exposed old beams and stones, plus some thought went into the decorations too. We were welcomed with cookies and wine which was appreciated!

Downstairs was a kitchen with dining table, living room, and a bathroom. The kitchen had a small dishwasher and plenty of fridge space, plus good range of pots and pans.

The upstairs bedroom had lots of space and an ensuite bathroom. The washing machine was quite welcome by this point of the trip! The bed was very comfortable and when the shutters were closed the room was wonderfully dark for sleeping.

You can walk to a grocery store (Konzum) and several other markets are within a short drive.

A few (minor) minuses:

  • Lots of light switches, it took us several tries to turn on/off the proper lights.
  • Could have used a few cooking basics like olive oil.
  • Wi-Fi is slow, only about 15mb at best.
  • Although there is a parking space right next to the building, it’s not reserved, so a local was almost always parked there during our stay. Thankfully there was a small lot 100 yards away near the castle where we always found a spot.


our building but not our car

The town of Pazin was surprisingly quiet, even on the weekend, but it was a good central location for exploring the rest of the peninsula.

Our Itinerary

2024 Trips

San Diego, CA (Jan)
Sarasota, FL (Feb)
Madrid, Spain (Mar)
Valencia, Spain (Mar+Apr)
Palma, Mallorca (Apr)
Croatia (May)
Long Island, NY (July)
Faroe Islands (Aug)
London, UK (Sept)
Bari, Italy (Sept)
Rome, Italy (Oct)
Frankfurt, Germany (Oct)
Grand Rapids, MI (Nov)

2022 Trips

Florida (Feb)
NC Mountains (Apr)
Washington DC (Apr)
Valencia, Spain (May)
Hilton Head, SC (May)
Pacific NW (Jun)
Long Island (Jul)
Florida (Sept)
Chicago (Sept)
Poland (Sept)
NC Mountains (Nov)
Euro Xmas Markets (Dec)