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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the travel world, and here at Chasing the Donkey, we want to be cautious and responsible in regards to promoting travel – because, regardless of all of our personal situations, safety is first and foremost.
That is why we created this series about how to travel during times of ‘social distancing’. One way to escape the crowds is to go river rafting in Croatia.
Here is my story about my first ever Croatian rafting experience back in 2013, and then a list of all the places you can raft in Croatia. And, the best companies for white water rafting in Croatia.
Rafting The Cetina River
I sat staring out of the bus window, legs quaking, my stomach was churning like butter from milk. I felt dizzy and scared, almost on the verge of throwing up from fear. I whimpered; I don’t think I can go ahead with this adventure.
It’s nothing. Mr. Chasing the Donkey promised. I did not believe him and kept fighting back the urge to bring up the krafne I ate for breakfast.
Croatia is well known for its pebble-lined beaches, its 1,000 islands, inlets, and isles dotted across the turquoise waters of the Adriatic. What few people know is that Croatia also has options for those seeking outdoor adventure travel and activity holidays, like zip-lining or white water rafting on the Cetina river in Central Dalmatia.
Rivers for white water rafting in Croatia are graded one through to six for their level of difficulty. With a grade one being classified, a fast-moving river with small rapids and few obstructions to the death-defying grade six rivers that are tsunami’s being forced through giant boulders.
Let’s just say a grade 6 is for an expert with many years of experience. Fortunately for us, the Cetina river is a grade 2-3 depending on the state of the river, making it perfect for our white water rafting adventures.
We’d enjoyed a day at the beach the day prior, but having left the baby donkey at home for this trip, we had booked onto a white water rafting adventure to take advantage of not having to lug about the toddler, his pram & accessories.
As the 25-minute bus ride comes to a halt, I realize that I’m still dizzy from fear. Our guide welcomes us to the river bank and invites us to enjoy some pre-rafting snacks. I breathe a sigh of relief; food always makes me feel better, and, in this case, it also gives me more time to formulate my escape plan.
White water rafting on the Cetina River is not for those seeking extreme river rafting trips. The Cetina River is not far from the medieval pirate town of Omiš and provides a grade two-to-three experience. I was told it was perfect for someone like me – a virgin rafter.
The rapids are straightforward, and the river is wide, while some maneuvering is required, your captain steers the ship, and you provide the horsepower. All you have to do is listen to his calls indicating when to paddle or BOMBA (take cover).
Coffee drunk, snacks consumed, and team members greeted, it was time to suit up. What size are you? Do you have your own shoes? Try this on, asks our organizer. GULP. I had forgotten about my escape plan.
I look toward the flowing Cetina river and can see that the raft is bobbing in the water. Ante, our captain, greets us and tells us everyone calls him Bacho. We’re ushered into the raft one-by-one. Our safety and training talk is given as I hold my paddle with one hand and cling dearly to my life jacket with my other. I look at Bacho, wondering if he can save me when I fall…..
Paddle, shouts Captain Bacho.
With our Captain Bacho, at the stern, we were never in any danger. He shouted, left and right. Faster, faster and my favorite, BOMBA in plenty of time for us to all swing (rather paddle) into action.
Bomba is the Croatian call for a bomb, which when rafting means: sit on the bottom of the raft and hold your paddle to the side. The bomba command is used when things are unsteady, and your chances of falling overboard are likely.
Gliding effortlessly along the first few kilometers of the 11 kilometers of the Cetina River was glorious that morning. The crystal-green river twinkled, and I saw multiple iridescent blue dragonflies. I never have in my life seen so many in one place or any quite so blue. I wished I had a camera with me so I could share what I saw with you. Thankfully a local photographer had some I could share, although none of those lovely blue dragonflies.
Rafting along the 11 kilometers takes around three hours, and on the day we were there, the water temperature was a chilly 19°C. We paddled our way through 50 rapids, many of them small. There were six, seven, maybe eight standouts. I can’t be sure; who can keep count while having so much fun?
At the halfway point, we reached the Devils Pass, the deepest part of the Cetina River. It’s at this stage that I patted myself on the back. I’m was proud of myself for getting on that raft that morning since the nerves and butterflies almost got the better of me.
Blood was pumping at warp speed through my veins by the time we reached the Devils Pass. Perhaps this is why, when it was suggested we stop, tie up, and climb a five-meter rock with the purpose to dive off, I agreed.
As we flowed along the last few meters of the river, my jaw hurt from smiling so much. The second half of our Croatia rafting experience on the Cetina River was the most entertaining, and our captain told us we were now so experienced that we could go through one of the rapids backward. Weeeee, what fun! I think next time I’ll need to step it up a grade to ones like these in Costa Rica.
We reach the end at Radmanove Mlinice, which translates to the Radman family Mills. Once a mill, powered by the river, it is now a restaurant that serves up specialties like eels, frogs, and trout overlooking the arresting sites of the Cetina River, which, as I now know, offers some of the absolute best rafting in Croatia.
I was dripping wet from head-to-toe, I wanted to stand at the bow and shout I’m the king of the world, just as Leonardo DiCaprio did. Luckily for my crew, I refrained, and instead just bounded out of the raft and found a towel.
Book A Croatia White Water Rafting Adventure On The Cetina River
If you are just staying one or two nights, we suggest you stay at Bluesun Hotel Berulia. They’ll make all of the booking arrangements for you, which includes transportation.
Along with your captain, raft and paddle, you’ll be provided with
- Drinks and Snacks. Pre and post rafting homemade cakes, fritte, Croatian brandy, and other yummy treats
- Wetsuit. I’d recommend you wear this, as it provides thermal insulation to the cold water; sometimes 17°C and it helps to hold in your wiggly jiggly belly (or is that just me?)
- Water shoes. You can wear your own if you have them (I suggest you do!)
- Life Jacket & Helmet. No explanation needed huh?!
Tips When Rafting With VIR Rafting
- Even though it lasts just three hours, be sure to eat breakfast and get sleep as you’ll need your energy
- Pack a change of clothes and a towel
- Wear your swimmers to save time changing
- Don’t bother wearing sunglasses, they’ll likely be lost. If you need to wear glasses, you’ll need to bring a strap with you
- No need to bring any cameras or mobile phones with you, they will be soggy at the end. Some companies have a professional photographer who kayaks ahead of you to capture your magical moments. You can purchase the CD at the end of the ride (extra cost)
- You’ll need to leave all your belongings on the bus, which will pick you up at the finish point, so don’t pack any valuables
Where Is The Cetina River?
Known as the Rijeka Cetina in Croatia, the river is just 50 kilometers east of Split, 25 kilometers west of Makarska, and the river flows into the sea in Omiš.
Accommodation In Brela
Do you want to how you can enjoy this too, Right? We stayed in Brela, a beachside town on the Makarska Riviera, just 50 kilometers from Split in Central Dalmatia. Brela, much like Starigrad Paklenica, is blessed with both the Adriatic Sea and mountains nearby. The town of Brela is dwarfed by the Biokovo mountain, which happens to be the highest mountain in all of Croatia.
We enjoyed several nights at Bluesun Hotel Berulia, where we met some of the friendliest hotel staff ever. Our room overlooked the beach and had a generous sized balcony. The hotel is a 10-minute walk along a footpath that runs parallel to the sea into the town of Brela. Brela’s beaches are lined with pine trees and pebble beaches and make for an ideal spot for both a romantic, kid-free stay or a family vacation.
Accommodation In Omiš
We recommend you stay at the Hotel Villa Dvor, where we spent several nights as their guest while we toured the sites of Omiš. Nestled between two canyons along the Cetina River, Hotel Villa Dvor is set high above a sheer marble stone cliff. Your stay is surrounded by the warm hospitality of the entire Curlin family & they also have a rooftop jacuzzi..seriously.
More Destinations For White Water Rafting In Croatia
Are you looking for some more white water rafting adventures in Croatia? Fortunately, Croatia has many rivers suitable for adventure rafting. So, if you’re in Croatia, the best white water rafting can be had at the Dobra River, Zrmanja River, Una River, Mrežnica River, Kupa River, Korana River and of course, the Cetina River.
Another one of Croatia’s gorgeous rivers is the Mreznica, which you’ll find at less than 80 kilometers from Zagreb. While its upper section features several large waterfalls and rapids, the middle and lower parts are great for “casual” white water rafting excursions for the entire family.
Relatively gentle cascades and easy rapids make for a great destination for that very first white water rafting experience. Often, a rafting trip also includes plenty of time for swimming (the water can get up to 26 degrees C in summer!), relaxing and enjoying the wonderful nature around you. These calm waters also make the Mrežnica River excellent for kayaking and canoeing.
One highly recommended company that you can book with is TerraCroatica. They will take you through some of the most beautiful waterfalls, rapids, and travertine barriers.
One particular rafting adventure goes from the Čiča Bridge to Tržič Bridge, taking you over 26 barriers and rapids along a 5km stretch.
You’ll get to enjoy several waterfalls, including Rončević’s waterfall, Milković Waterfall and the Smoljanović waterfall.
Another idea is to take the kids, onto a section that has much smaller waterfalls and charming nature views. Ask Terra Croatica for the best part of the river that suits your level & group.
The Zrmanja River is one of the most popular places for white water rafting in Croatia. Located pretty close to Zadar, this river features stunning and pristine natural scenery, runs through a deep canyon and various beautiful travertine rapids and cascades.
A rafting trip on the Zrmanja usually begins at Kastel Zegarski, only about 1 hour from Zadar and 1.5 hours from Sibenik. It passes by the area’s biggest waterfall, known as Visoki buk, where you’ll have time for swimming and jumping.
In summer, the Zrmanja River rapids are level I and II, which makes them suitable for beginners and even children older than 6. The fall and springs seasons, on the other hand, have much more water flow and increase the difficulty to level II and III.
Regarded as one of the best white water rafting destinations in Croatia, the Dobra River has a long history of commercial rafting excursions. In fact, this was the very first place where white water rafting in Croatia took place more than 20 years ago! If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.
However, since those early days of Croatia white water rafting, a dam has been built in the Dobra River. This resulted in the disappearance of some rapids and cascades, but many of them still remain. Nowadays, the Dobra River offers excellent rafting conditions all year round, which can actually be attributed to that dam.
The river boasts numerous class IV rapids, which poses a challenge to many rafters, as well as easier class II and III rapids, suitable for families. The Dobra River definitely makes for an unforgettable rafting experience in Croatia.
Situated in the Gorski Kotar region near the border with Slovenia, the Kupa River is a fantastic destination for kayaking and white water rafting in Croatia. Running through Risnjak National Park, it offers adventurers the opportunity to enjoy some of that stunning Croatia nature.
A rafting trip on the Kupa involves everything from views of towering mountain peaks to pebble beaches, exhilarating rapids and beautiful waterfalls, wonderful woodlands scenery, and even gastronomic delights (depending on the company you book your trip with).
There’s recreational rafting for all ages on the Kupa River. Due to varying water levels, whitewater rafting is only possible at high water. The best time for Kupa River rafting trips in Croatia is in the spring. In summer, decreased water flow requires rafting to be replaced by kayaking, which is, of course, also a lot of fun!
The Korana River is unique in Croatia because it emerges from an extraordinary place. The source of this beautiful river is none other than Plitvice Lakes National Park, arguably the most famous of the national parks in Croatia. Although rafting at Plitvice Lakes isn’t allowed, this is as close as you’ll get!
Whitewater rafting on Croatia’s Korana River is possible for both amateurs and professionals alike, thanks to its varied levels of difficulty. Whether you’re a total newbie or seasoned rafters, you’ll definitely enjoy the magnificent natural scenery en-route. The river also lies near Rastoke, a beautiful small Croatian town famous for its historic watermills and waterfalls.
Making up a natural border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Una River offers some truly amazing white water rafting experiences. Even though it has a few large waterfalls and cascades, which are gorgeous by the way, rafting here is still suitable for inexperienced boaters. You don’t need previous experience and exceptional skills to go white water rafting on the Una River.
The Una River has three different sections for white water rafting.
- Strbacki buk – Lohovo: 15 km long and covering the most interesting, beautiful, and perhaps challenging section, passing through Una National Park. Not suitable for children younger than 16.
- Kostela – Grmusa: 14 km long and ideal for families with younger kids. Easy rapids and cascades still offer an adventurous experience.
- Kostela – Bosanska Krupa: 24 km long and the longest section. Suitable for basically all ages and everyone who’d like to go on a longer white water rafting trip in Croatia.
So tell us, do you feel the urge to go white water rafting in Croatia? Where are the best Croatia water rafting spots you’ve been to?
We were provided the Cetina river rafting experience and accommodation without charge. All thoughts and opinions are given honestly and without bias.
More Ways To Discover Croatia With Social-Distancing
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