A Road Trip from Zagreb to Hvar Island

January 1, 1970

by Tamara Biljman

Ok, so, this was actually my first proper road trip, and I have to say that it was the best thing ever! Now, when I say a “proper road trip” I don’t mean just reaching your destination by car, but actually exploring amazing places along the way. And my oh my, weren’t those places just breathtaking.

But, first things first. In order for your road-trip to be truly on fleek, you must make sure to have these essential ingredients:

  • A hell of a good driver-friend (who finds macadam – narrow – steep -inaccessible roads to be yet another great challenge)
  • Your bestie and boyfriend/girlfriend who is ecstatic about exploring beauties of nature
  • A proper soundtrack that will make you feel all glorious and movie-like

Our fabulous road trip took place last summer. If you want to get to Hvar Island as soon as possible, take a highway from Zagreb and you’ll be there in no time (4-5 hours tops). But, if you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous – make Bihać (Bosnia and Herzegovina) your first stop.

First Stop: Bihać (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Bihać is a city located in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina, and even though small in size, its position on the River Una makes it rather unique and thus a must-visit destination if you’re traveling through this country. Trust me when I tell you that Una has the most mesmerizing shade of green.  If the pictures and my words don’t matter one bit to you, take it from the Romans who named this river The One (Una) as they considered its beauty to be one of a kind.

A view from one of the best restaurants in Bihać “Mlin”

Restaurant Mlin

The thing I loved the best about Bihać was a series of restaurants placed right along the river. Even though we thought coming there early in the morning would be such a waste (since we wouldn’t be able to eat famous Bosnian ćevapi), we soon realized that there was no need to worry one bit. The world’s greatest and most charming waiter ever proposed serving a modest breakfast for the three of us “just to have a bite with morning coffee before we hit the road.” If you’ve never been to Balkans before, this is how a “modest” breakfast looks like: tons of meat products (salami, ham, prosciutto, etc), twice as many milk products (kajmak, various cheeses, crème-cheese, etc) topped with scrambled eggs and some paprika along with it.  Did I also mention that you can ask them to serve the food on a small boat so that you could eat it at the very center of the river? Just imagine the level of romance with your beloved one!

Second Stop: Štrbački Buk Waterfalls on the River Una (Croatia)

Needless to say – judging by the promising beginning of this road trip we had one hell of a day ahead of us. After we’ve finished with our “light” breakfast, fortunately for me – we headed to the Una River Waterfalls. Waterfalls are probably my favorite nature’s creation. I could stare at them all day long! They just have this powerful, cleansing energy, and if you share these thoughts – make sure to visit these.

Štrbački Buk waterfall is a 25m high waterfall located on the very border of Croatia (Una Mamea Park) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (Una National Park).

WaterfallsCroatia         Una Waterfalls

There are two most famous waterfalls – those near the city Martin Brod and the other ones further downstream at the very border between two countries: Štrbački Buk. We’ve visited the latter one as it represents the biggest one on this river. When it comes to these waterfalls, you can access them at both banks. The only difference is that the Croatian side is free of charge (harder to access with cars, but it’s more than worth it since you get to be so close to the water), while in order to access them from the Bosnian river bank you need to pay a quite symbolic entrance fee since it is under the protection of Una National Park.

Third Stop: The Una River Source – Vrelo Une

After we’ve seen Una River in the city, and witnessed its power over at the said Waterfalls, we’ve decided to explore the source of that beauty.  And that was probably the best decision ever! The source of Una is located at almost 400 meters above the sea level in region Lika, County of Zadar in Croatia under the slopes of Lička Plješivica and Stražbenica.

Surreal turquoise color of the Una Source

River Una Source


Now, if you’re into Lord of the Rings sceneries and alike, and you’re in a search of fairy-tale like places, then the Una River Source (Vrelo Une) should definitely find its way on your bucket list! The surreal beauty of Una’s source, along with the intact nature which surrounds it, the canyon and 150 meters of downstream flow established it in 1968 on a list of protected hydrological monuments of nature.

Fourth Stop: Source of the River Cetina and the Pre-Romanesque Church of the Holy Salvation

We made our last stop over at small village Cetina, located in the Šibenik-Knin County of Croatia. Why? To witness yet another unimaginable and quite mysterious beauty of nature. The source of river Cetina remains insufficiently explored up until today, and not for the lack try! Numerous divers and scientists tried to find their way along the underground, vast web of labyrinths of streams, but the very center of the source still hasn’t revealed itself.  The River has at least eight sources, the biggest one being the Glavaševo Lake (c. 130 meters in depth) which we visited.

The biggest source of the River Cetina – Glavaševo Lake

Cetina River Source         Cetina River Source

At the top of the hill, you will find an Orthodox church of the Holy Salvation overlooking the river’s source. But, if you’re into art history and architecture, I would recommend that you wander just a little bit farther. There you will find a Pre-Romanesque church of The Holy Salvation built in c. 9th century. This stone-made church is extremely important since it represents the only pre-schism church in Croatia with a still standing tower.

The Pre-Romanesque Church of the Holy Salvation

pre-Romanesque church


If you’re wondering what’s the best way to end such a memorable road trip, then that would be a ferry ride to Hvar from Makarska and a relaxing chit-chat over some delicious Dalmatian wine at the Island itself.


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