Croatian Road Trip Part 2: Geeking Out in Karl May Movie Sets and Spontaneously Sailing the Adriatic

Note: This post is the second installment of a multi-part series about the week I spent exploring Croatia by car with my little brother. In this chapter, we traverse through our time in Plitvice Lakes and a few of the Karl May movie sets. I also throw caution to the wind and hop aboard a catamaran for a spontaneous two-night stay… Read on.

If you read the first installment, you know we flew from Sweden to Croatia with a stopover in Germany. By now we’ve already picked up our sweet Alpha Romeo and have begun to explore the country. Our road trip started in the capital city of Zagreb and from there we visited the ancient Croatian city of Varazdin.

From Varazdin, we began to make our journey southeast towards the Adriatic coast. Our first stop on this leg of the tour was in Rastoke, a village located in the town of Slunj. The place is best known for the Slunjčica river, which flows into the Korana river. There, we made an overnight stop to check out the famous Plitvice Lakes and some of the Karl May movie sets.

Karl May tangent

In German-speaking countries, Winnetou is an absolute classic among adventure stories – no matter whether novel or film. The stories are about cowboys and villains. They are supposed to be set in the American Wild West. However, in the films that came out in the 1960s, Winnetou’s Wild West is neither in the West nor American. In fact, a majority of the film sets are located in present-day Croatia. Why go all the way to America when former Yugoslavia provided the ideal film locations.

Most of it was filmed in Plitvice National Park, there was even an Indian village with a saloon set up in Slunj. As you can see, I am quite a fan of the stories and the films, and if you get a chance, you should definitely check them out. Apart from visiting the famous filming locations, we also really enjoyed all the nature in this area, such as the Plitvice National Park.

Rastoke – Which movie was played here? #Winnetou 😉

Plitvice Lakes

Plitviče Lakes National Park is a forest reserve in central Croatia. It’s known for its chain of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls, which extend into a limestone canyon. You’ll see in photos, but it’s basically small waterfalls that end in a small lake, which spills to become more waterfalls landing at another small lake, and on it goes. Restoke is basically a small village built around waterfalls. Definitely a must-see.

Rastoke Waterfalls – So many beautiful waterfalls. And tomorrow even much more 😀

In the area, you’ll find lots of windmills, watermills, and pathways that go all along the edge of the waterfalls. That night we stayed at a small cottage hotel right at the base of one of the waterfalls. Sleeping with the sound of water falling right next to you was amazing.

The sound of waterfalls is definitely one of the best ambient noises, by far.

The day we arrived, the whole park was pretty busy. It was Sunday evening, and lots of Croatian families were visiting. We enjoyed a nice dinner along these waterfalls, had a little walk around the area, and geeked out searching for the Karl May movie sets.

Keeping the beer nice and chill.

We were happy to find that the production company left a totem used on set, and it has been preserved until this day. At some point we went for a delightful swim at a cave nearby – we were really happy to be spending the night in such a beautiful setting. The next day we continued exploring more of Plitviče Lakes.

We arrived at one of the lakes, and from there, took an electric boat ride to another part of the park. Then begun our two-hour hike, walking along the lake. The entire hike is supposed to take 6 hours, we only went on for about 2.5 hours. We had some lunch inside the park. It was a very simple meal; room temperature drinks and sandwiches. After lunch, we continued the drive to go see another set of lakes.

I really liked the waterfalls and being near water in general. It was truly beautiful, especially because it was Monday, and there were significantly fewer people than we day before. In the three hours that we were there, we only saw about 20 people in total. I really marveled over all the waterfalls, from the smallest to the biggest. Anyways, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.


Up next, we had Lake Kaluđerovac (Silver Lake), which, spoiler alert, is also part of the Karl May movie sets. Kaluđerovac Lake is the third highest lake in Plitvice Lower Lakes. It is one of the largest lakes in this part of the system.


Plitvice Lakes National Park – Going to discover the beauty of Plitvice Lakes with hardly any soul around. 11 cars on the main parking only…

From the beginning, we got to enjoy a nice view of another big set of waterfalls…

We ventured along a stunning turquoise lake until we found the biggest waterfall…

I love waterfalls. They are always in movement – like me 😉

So many great waterfalls. Here a good selection

And eventually, we made our way back chasing waterfalls through the first…

I really loved the lakes, I think its a magical and unique place that is truly awe-inspiring. Crystalline water, pristine nature… what more could you ask for. It was very easy to simply hike and enjoy our surroundings.


And some more impressions of this cloudy day

Plitvicka Jezera – A good place to be a duck.

From there, we continued on our way to the Adriatic coast. It’s not normally a long ride, around two hours. But we opted for the scenic route over the Velebit Mountain range, which is located right on the coast.

Velebit is the largest (not the highest) mountain range in Croatia. It is part of the Dinaric Alps and is located along the Adriatic coast. Velebit begins in the northwest near Senj, so it was pretty easy to make this well-worth-it detour.

While driving on the mountain, we experienced a completely different climate; it was pretty cool to see snow on one side and on the other the dryer and warmer climate near the sea.

To go through, you could go through a short tunnel or take the mountain pass. We took the mountain pass just for the views of the mountain range forests on one side and the Adriatic Sea on the other. It was amazing seeing all the Dalmatian islands from there.

We climbed to a viewpoint on the mountains, and it was particularly interesting to see both Rab and Pag Islands creating a stark contrast. Pag is like a complete dessert, and just on the other side, Rab is full of trees and rivers. From this viewpoint, we took a lot of pictures of the coast, the mountains, and after we continued on our drive.

Arriving at the coast with stunning views.

We drove to Karlobag, where the mountain street we were on connects to the coastal highway that goes all the way down to the tip of the country. We drove down this coastal highway for a bit and booked a hotel along the way. When we arrived at the hotel, the hotel owner told us we were their first international guests of the year. We had a nice conversation about Croatia and the effects of Corona.

He was actually concerned about the repercussions of Corona and the lockdown. He said that Croatia was a relatively safe country before, but now they are starting to experience a rise in crime and burglaries since everyone is unemployed. “It would be sad to revert to a time where Croats are known for being thieves” – in the words of a Croat.

Personally, I think tourism will bounce back swiftly. Each day there are more and more people entering the country for tourism. Apparently, 180 thousand foreigners crossed borders a few days ago, and a lot of cities are starting to look full. Even in the waters, you can already see many boats sailing around.

The next day we continued on in our journey, with the town of Starigrad as our next stop.

Feeling like in the middle of a Karl May movie 🤩


Starigrad is a coastal town in Zadar County. You can find the town between Karlobag and Zadar at the foot of the Velebit Mountains. It is the main town within the Paklenica National Park. Today, Starigrad is a popular vacation spot.

The rocks, which are up to 18 thousand feet high, are considered one of the most beautiful climbing areas in all of Europe. In the area around Starigrad, there are several set locations for Karl May films, and that’s why we were there.

Only a half-hour into the area and we could already see many of the movie sets from very famous scenes. First, we went to the canyon of the River Zrmanja, which is formed between very high-rising mountains. To get there, you have to go on a very small street, which ends at the start of a really long, stone-step path.

This path is quite steep, and it eventually leads you to a viewing platform above the canyon. We even found a plaque at the plateau that points out where Karl May’s “Winnetou” was filmed. This location is used as a substitute for the real Pecos Canyon in Texas. The scenery is very well known from a few scenes in the movies – I was pretty stoked to be there.

Zrmanja Canyon

There we met this Croat who was alone and wanted some photos, so we played photographers and took some lovely photos of him. After, my brother took some cool photos of me in full geek mode. Looking down at the canyon, there was a boat in the water. It would be great to sail through the canyon next time.

Old Stateless made it to the Apache settlement at the Rio Pecos #winnetou

After the canyon, we went to visit Tito’s bunker. This massive bunker from the Tito times in former Yugoslavia. In the early 50s, in the peak of the Cold War, president Tito directed the Yugoslav army to build a huge bunker (ARK) for refuge in the event of a nuclear attack.

The complex was to work as a center for military operations as well as a shelter for Tito and his closest friends. Sadly it was never used for its intended purpose. Its construction and existence were among one of the top Yugoslav military secrets of the time.

It remained top secret until the 1990s when the ARK was revealed to the public. At this time, it was turned into a museum. Sadly, it was closed when we came by. #Corona

From the bunker, we were supposed to continue south, but our plans quickly changed when our friends who operate the Marina in Šibenik invited us to on their sailboat for a few nights. So, we decided to remain flexible and changed our plans last minute.

As we made our way to Šibenik, we looked for a place to have lunch, but there really wasn’t anything open in this predominantly tourist town. In the first town we stopped at, everything was closed. Thankfully in the second town, we found a few things open.

First, a cafe bar that didn’t sell any food, so we had a beer and chatted with the owner. We were also the first foreign tourists of the season for him. After our beer, we continued looking and found a nice little Italian restaurant where they served us a delicious Zagreb schnitzel.

Posedarje – And again – the first foreign guest of the year. Happened 3x already – Croatians are very grateful and now hopeful for tourism to recover soon. Had some great chats with the owners

Which is like a cordon bleu pork schnitzel filled with ham and cheese. 🤤 After the delicious lunch, we ventured to Paklenica National Park. The place is known for the breathtaking Valika and Mala Paklenica canyons. We saw the canyons and took some photos. The karst rock formations and black-pine forests surrounding the area truly make a stunning landscape. Paklenica was our last stop before finally arriving in Šibenik to meet our friends.


As we arrived in Šibenik, we went straight to the Marina to check out some boats that are on sale. By now, we had already decided to invest in a catamaran at some point, so we were interested to see what the boat market looks like in Croatia. After our visit to the Marina, we went to meet our friend Andy who was anchored off the bay just north of Šibenik, about half an hour by car. We were coming to spend two nights with him on his catamaran.

We had met my friend Josh at the Marina, and we took him with us up to the bay. Josh is my former intern from Medellin. He’s a German guy who lived on a sailboat for a couple of years. He brought tourists from Panama to Cartagena on his own sailboat, which he basically made himself.

Josh was in Šibenik because we have started to plan to buy our own boat soon. The idea is that he will live on it and charter the community to different waters around the world. So we are definitely moving in the direction of becoming yacht owners in the future.

When we arrived at the north bay, we went to this small restaurant Andy had recommended. To get there, we had to go down this tiny little gravel road that branches off the highway towards the coast. You’ll find the tiny hippy restaurant at the end of this road. That day, because of the high swell, the road was basically flooded.

We considered driving through but chose to park the car about 70 feet away and walk. At the shore, there was easily another 70 feet of land gone, so Andreas had to come to get us on a dinghy to take us to the catamaran. There was another couple staying at the boat with us; we said hi when we arrived and immediately jumped into the sea. Later that evening, we went on land to have dinner at the small hippy restaurant.

Our boat for the night – a Lagoon 450S. We chartered our own (smaller one) a few days after.

We had a fantastic evening. Even though they took a really long time to prepare all the food, it was worth it because it was delicious. The rest of the group had some incredible looking fish, and my brother and I had steak. Fun Fact: I don’t think I’ve ever told you this, but my brother and I are both allergic to seafood.

Anyways, that evening we got very drunk, and I’ll spare you the details—nothing to be proud of, but super fun nonetheless. We basically had lots of wine and other mixed drinks and, at some point, even jumped into the water for a late-night swim. You really shouldn’t do that when you’re pissed drunk, but hey, at least I still remember everything so it couldn’t have been that bad. 🙈

The next day, I wasn’t very surprised to be super hungover. Thankfully it was a chill day of sailing to the island of Capria. When we entered the bay, we noticed it was pretty full already. There were about 20 other boats anchored there.

Bilice – Waking up to the wonderful Adriatic

Croatian island life is definitely coming back to life. We anchored and just chilled in the bay, eventually going into the water. Andreas has a lot of toys on his boat. He has an underwater scooter, which was awesome. With this type of scooter, you can easily make 5 knots of speed, all you have to do is hold on to it, and it pulls you forward.

Kaprije Island, Croatia – Our Bay for the night. Quite a few ships sailing again

It has two engine propellers that drag you through water super fast. As you know, I am an avid snorkeler; I even travel with my snorkel. So there was this nice snorkel spot about 200 meters away, and I’m not a very good swimmer. Without the scooter, it would have been a very difficult swim in open water.

Few yachts around

This is when having this scooter was amazing. Traveling at 5 knots, I got there super fast and with zero effort. What’s more, with this thing, you can also dive down and up again, so it’s you don’t have to maintain a straight line or a fixed depth—definitely something I will buy when I have my own catamaran.

Flamingo in sight 😍

Another fun toy was the drone we had with us; we used it to took some really nice shots of the boat. We also had a water drone which can land on water, it can’t dive, but having the ability to land is water is key when shooting footage over the ocean. There are drones that can go underwater, but I don’t have one… yet.

Drone shot of our cat. Looking forward to setting sail ourselves from Saturday. Now first to Dubrovnik

After my snorkel adventure, I got to try SUP (stand up paddleboarding). And I know there are people that do yoga and even acro yoga on it – but I didn’t really have the balance figured out, so in the end, didn’t do much of the standing up part. I simply sat on it or laid down, using it like a surfboard and paddling with my arms.

We stayed at this spot near Capria the whole day, enjoying the sun, the water, and the wonderful company. In the evening, we had a delectable BBQ dinner on the boat, with plenty of delicious meats for us and fish for the other guys.

At night you see the ground more clearly

The next day we sailed back to Šibenik pretty early. We had an appointment at another marina in Split to check out another boat. We docked at the Marina in Šibenik and had to go get our car, which was parked at the north bay about 30 minutes from where we were.

Arriving back in Sibenik. From Saturday we charter our own Lagoon 380 kat for a week – we might have a cabin available if you want to join for a short trip (probably Brac, Hvar, Vis)

Luckily, Andy’s wife lent us her car to go pick up ours. My brother drove her car up to the bay, and I drove our car down back to Šibenik to return her car and continue our journey south.

I’ll leave it here for now, but stay tuned for part 3 of this Croatian road trip. In my next article, I recount our journey through Bosnia, Montenegro, and Dubrovnik.