Just about two weeks ago my wife and I made a quick choice to pack our stuff and go for one week to Croatia. We picked some location, booked apartment via Airbnb, got into a car and departed. Our plan was not a full blown vacation, but rather some "digital nomad" style of work and relax. We were not disappointed.
The SDM event in Kraków fueled our decision. It brought hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and visitors, causing traffic paralysis across the city for one week. So instead of being stuck in a city, we opted out of it and went for a trip.
At first, we didn't even have idea where to go. We just knew that we want to go somewhere within a reach of one day drive. I was browsing Airbnb to find something interesting and I've spotted great place in the west coastal side of Croatia, the town of Senj. Couple years ago we've stayed on Rab Island, and we keep good memories of that area. Senj was somewhere close to that, so we've decided to give it a try.
Senj and surroundings
Senj is a small town, with less than 10000 people living there. It is located south from Rijeka, along the Adriatic Highway (which is not a real highway). I think my only complaint about the place where we stayed is related to that. From the balcony of our apartment, I could often hear the noise of the cars from the road. But I could live with that. Bonus point is, they've got Tesla's Supercharger station in the port area.
The town and the surrounding area lies on the coast of Adriatic, on the foothills of the Mala Kapela and Velebit mountains, facing southwest. During our stay, there was a lot of direct sunlight in the afternoon and evening. And of course, beautiful sunsets!
Since we took our work with us (the joy of working in web development industry), we've spent our mornings working from the living room. In the afternoon it was getting a little bit too hot. Often we went for late lunch or just couple hundred meters, directly to the tiny and rocky beach for a short swim and relax time.
Running in the area
I always bring my running shoes and clothes with me, and I never leave the opportunity to explore the surroundings. Same was this time. I was tempted by the mountains behind me, just to run straight to the top. But it was not that simple. Even though there was a quite large area just couple minutes away from our house, there was almost no path that I could use.
On the first day, I only did a short recon run / hike in the evening. The slopes were steep, covered with sharp rocks and lot of shrubs. But somehow the loose rocks make also possible to go almost straight up the hill without looking for specific paths. So I did a small circle the area in about 30 minutes admiring lovely views and fresh air.
My second run was much longer. I wanted to go higher up, maybe even as far as I could see the mountain ridges. However, after 15 minutes of a steep incline, I realized that I wouldn't be able to reach it. It was taking too long. In about half hour I've climbed around 350 meters almost from the sea level, but I think I wasn't even halfway the route.
The sun started to set down, and I began to think about getting back. The slopes were, all the same, covered with some bushes, dry grass, and rocks. I've looked into the local map of the area on my phone (Galileo Offline Maps Pro) and found that somewhat close there is a curvy, asphalt road leading back to the city. So I've traversed next couple hundred meters through rough scrub and finally found it.
The only problem with it was that it was "sneaking" on the hillside spreading the descent to almost 5 kilometers. But it was fun and easy to run downhill. I used the last moments of the day, before getting completely dark, to admire the view of the sea, coast, some far islands, and lights of the Senj. I've finished the 9km run with just under 1,5 hour. I was quite tired because of the stronger pace on the last part, to make my wife not to worry too much being outside after dark. But on the other hand, of course, it was completely worth it!
Since we were somewhat close to this quite famous landmark, we've decided that it will be worth to visit the lakes during our stay in Senj. We booked whole Friday for the trip, packed some food, water, clothes and camera and drove by car for about 80km to get there.
For those who never heard about it, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a spectacular park in the central part of Croatia. It is mostly famous by the cascades of 16 lakes connected by multiple waterfalls, canals and a kind of natural dams. The lakes and water are also renowned for the distinctive colors: blue, green, azure, turquoise.
The tickets are not cheap. It costs about 25€ per person (180 HRK), but it is, no doubt, worth the price. There are many people in there too. Make sure to be there early, so you can enjoy walking on less crowded paths.
Inside the park, there are multiple routes you can choose to hike around the lakes and through the canyon. They range from 3km to I think 16km. The longest are for those who don't want to take the shortcut bus "train". But we hoped on the in-park bus for 15 minutes ride to the most remote lake from where we walked down. Surrounded by green and blue colors, soothed by sounds of flowing water the hike is amazing experience.
Getting back to the park exit, enjoying the walk on the path between the lakes and waterfalls took us about 6 hours, and it was a great experience. I've stopped multiple times taking photos and videos of water flowing through multiple streams, fountains, and waterfalls. Sadly around noon, there was already started to get a little bit crowdy and couple time we were stuck in a queue.
But I would definitely recommend this place to everyone. It is a wonderful landmark, I'm sure it will stay in your memories for a long time.
I think it was perfect decision to go for this short and almost unplanned retreat. We've spent a great time in Senj, enjoying amazing weather, a lot of sunny hours, amazing views and unforgettable locations. We probably won't be back soon in Croatia, given that there are a lot of other places we want to explore but if you're in the area - give it a try!
Going by car, you can get there from southern Poland in about one day of driving. It may be a little too long, but when flying is not always an option driving by car is not that bad actually. I'm happy that we did this.