Exploring Croatia’s coast

View from the island of Korčula, near Split, in Croatia.

View from the island of Korčula, near Split, in Croatia.

To do:

1. Buy a ticket to Croatia.

2. Pack a vegetarian lunch.

While Croatia is absolutely lovely— gorgeous coastlines, ancient Roman ruins, mixed with the bustle of southern European nightlife— it does have a dearth of vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants. Fortunately, Croatian food, particularly along the coast, is very influenced by Italian cuisine, as it’s just across the sea. Risotto, pasta and pizza, are staples on menus. And a few times, I decided to self cater, with a combination of fresh fruits and veggies from farmer’s markets along with tofu from DM Drogerie stores (part drugstore, but they have vegan and gluten free groceries.)

Stir fry with quinoa at Vege.

Veggie and tofu stir fry with quinoa at Vege.

Split has a few vegetarian eateries, such as Vege Fast Food. Between their cheap prices and convenient location (right near the main harbor and bus station) this became a favorite of mine. They’re open late, have gluten free options marked, and have an English menu. Keep your eyes out for the sign. There’s also vegan cafes Makro Vega, near the city center, and Up Cafe, just outside, which I unfortunately didn’t have time to get to.

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Goodies from DM.

Goodies from DM.

Also, I discovered that between hostels, that have their own kitchens, and inexpensive hotels with kitchens, it was pretty easy to prepare my own food. At left are some groceries I snagged from the store DM, which carries a German line of food. If you don’t feel like dealing with navigating a menu, making your own nibbles is the way to go.

Looking back at Split's harbor.

Looking back at Split’s harbor.

Picnic on the beach.

Picnic on the beach: gluten free bread, cukes, cheese and cream cheese.

From Split, you can take inexpensive ferries to reach a number of outlying islands, such as Krk, Hvar and Pag. I choose Korčula, for the medieval town that’s there, and I lucked out with some truly lovely swimming. (The image at the beginning is from the island.) However, there weren’t any vegetarian restaurants on the island, so I decided to make my own food. Luckily, corner stores on the island all had good fresh vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts. And honestly, the coastal views and history of the area makes a little bit of creativity with food completely worth it.

The medieval town in Korcula.

The medieval town in Korčula.

However, in the lovely town of Zadar, I totally struck out with veggie food. My first day, when ordering breakfast, my beans came out with… bits of bacon in them. Sent them back, and was much more careful after that.

Zadar, as seen from a church tower.

Zadar, as seen from a church tower.

Between Zadar and Korčula, I developed a taste for risotto and salads. Those were very easy to come by, and every restaurant had a slight variation.

From left hand corner: mushroom risotto and Greek salad; tomato and zucchini risotto; bell pepper and mushroom risotto, Split; zucchini risotto and cucumber salad, Korčula.

From left hand corner: mushroom risotto and Greek salad; tomato and zucchini risotto; bell pepper and mushroom risotto, Split; zucchini risotto and cucumber salad, Korčula.

While not on the coast, Plitvice Lakes National Park is stunning. A vast network of waterfalls and lakes, it is a lovely spot to both hike around and relax.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.

However, before you set out, I suggest packing a few things to eat, like nuts or dried fruit. While there are small restaurants in the park, the vegetarian option on the menu is… french fries. Everything else is meat. One of the hotels does have a restaurant, but while its food is vegetarian, it’s a tad lackluster (steamed veggies with fried potatoes.)

Slightly uninspired takeout in Plitvice.

Slightly uninspired takeout in Plitvice.

Plitvice.

Plitvice.

If you have any suggestions for places to eat in Croatia, or other travel tips, let me know in the comments.

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