Europe’s Less-Discovered Nature Destination: Croatia & Montenegro Through the Eyes of a Native Guide

Emily Deemer January 13, 2014 0
Kayaking Croatia

Croatia kayaking, Korcula Island © Olaf Malver

I recently caught up with NHA Expedition Leader Monika Mikulec, born and raised in Croatia, who guides our Nat Hab Expedition trip to the Dalmatian coast: Kayak & Hike the Best of the Balkans. I was so enthused to get there after our conversation, and I bet you will be, too, after you hear her first-hand account of what makes this region the hottest new spot for sea kayaking.

Monika Mikulec, Natural Habitat Expedition Leader

Nat Hab: What do you love most about Croatia and Montenegro?
Monika Mikulec: The diverse geography—a breathtaking coastline with more than 1,000 islands, endless sandy beaches, turquoise bays, and small medieval villages with a traditional country style of living.

Croatia and Montenegro aren’t the first countries to come to mind as nature destinations.  What are some nature highlights travelers will experience on this trip?
You’re right, travelers don’t always perceive these countries as nature destinations, but thanks the growth of tourism and the word getting out, that perception is changing.  Croatia and Montenegro have the most magnificent scenery in the entire Balkan region.  First, there’s Croatia’s spectacular Adriatic coast and the lush forests of Mljet National Park.  Then, in the undiscovered wilderness of Montenegro—a country where time seems to have stood still—we hike among gorgeous mountains, lakes and some of the deepest gorges in the world.

Mljet National Park, Croatia, © Monika Mikulec

A Mediterranean feast, © Monika Mikulec

Do you have to be an avid kayaker to join this trip?
No, not at all.  Even if you don’t have any sea kayaking experience, we help teach you, and you’ll find yourself wanting to discover more and more of the beauty of the area once you get into your kayak for the first time.

What’s the food like?
Immersing guests in the rich array of locally grown products at small family-owned restaurants is an integral part of this trip.  Everything is fresh!

And I hear the wine is excellent, too…
Yes, not many people know that Croatia has fabulous wine! We visit the famous Peljesac wine region, where we have the chance to try Plavac Mali, an indigenous grape that’s the most popular in Croatia for wine.

What about spending time in historic villages?
Yes – it’s a great counterpoint to our time in nature. We explore small, ancient villages along the way and even walk along the second-longest city wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China, in the coastal town of Ston.

Kotor Bay, Montenegro, © Eduard Andras

I know you’re originally from Croatia.  Do you still live there full-time?
My childhood was spent in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Later, life took me around globe.  I spent time living in Germany and the USA, but the last couple of years I’ve been living in Dubrovnik, the most beautiful town in Croatia, in my opinion.  The charm of medieval Dubrovnik captures my heart, and the bustle keeps me busy.

Lounging during a paddle break. © Olaf Malver

Why should this trip be on an adventure traveler’s bucket list?
You can see and do so much in a compact amount of time. In a single day it’s possible to hike along the magnificent Adriatic coast, exploring the reefs, hidden coves and inaccessible beaches.  Then have lunch on top of a Montenegro mountain, and finally, enjoy an evening walk in an unspoiled medieval village, where life is frozen in time.

Thank you so much for taking the time to fill us in on these two fabulous countries!  Can’t wait to make it there soon.
My pleasure, Emily!  Please do come visit us!

View our Croatia & Montenegro itinerary to find more details on this trip, including photos, dates and fees.  2014 spots are filling fast!

 

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