Croatia has seven UNESCO world heritage sites, 1246 islands, and a coastline that stretches along the Adriatic Sea. If that isn’t enough to persuade you to go, keep reading!
We checked in to our Air BnB apartment, and explored Split at night. I have included links to our Croatian accommodation at the end. You always need to see a place at night time and day time to get a real feel for the place. At night time it’s quieter, less people, and lit up beautifully.
We found Jupiter’s statue and touched his toe for good luck, as we entered the Diocletian palace from the rear gate.
My favourite thing about the Diocletian palace, is that it is a UNESCO world heritage site, but people still live within the palace walls and you’ll see washing lines strung up everywhere. I found it surreal, but I also love that the palace is inhabited as it always has been from the start. It keeps it authentic. I enjoyed its maze of streets. You could easily lose your way and get trapped in there, which is all part of the fun.
We had dinner in a restaurant within the palace walls, and ended up sitting beside an American couple. We enjoyed a really interesting dinner conversation. Then we stumbled across ‘Ghetto bar’ which I had read about in my Lonely Planet book. It’s a bar built into a ruined building with a cool outdoor beer garden, and locals drinking on stone steps. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see the hue of pink/purple/blue lights scattered through ivy growing up the walls.
The first thing we noticed about Split was how slippy the ground was to walk on. It’s built from Croatian limestone but has been worn down and polished by so many people, its looks as smooth as marble. Be careful in wet weather.
NOTE: A Taxi from Split airport to Split is around £40, so get the bus if you can. We arrived late and just wanted to get to our apartment ASAP.
We watched the Roman guards perform a ceremony in the square, beside the bell tower.
We went to the top of the bell tower for views of Split from above. Bear in mind the stairs look and feel dodgy, which I am sure they aren’t. If you’re scared of heights, you might find it tricky. My legs were shaking by the time I came down.
We went to the crypt, which wasn’t very exciting until I found out this crypt dates back to 305 A.D.
They have walking tours for 90 Kuna in the main square beside the bell tower. They also have ‘Game of thrones’ walking tours. We would have done the walking tour but the day caught up with us too quickly.
We got the 22 bus (18KN) to Klis fortress (40KN). There are two bus stations in split so find out which one to go to at a tourist information point. The photos of Klis fortress look good, but to be honest it was a bit of a building site. Game of thrones was filmed here. It’s where Daenerys crucifies the masters in Meereen. The fortress looks really spectacular from afar. You will see it if you drive in or out of Split.
Klis Fortress closes at 7pm. We practically had the place to ourselves when we went around 3.30pm. We had to wait an hour for the bus home, so we went to the roof top bar facing Klis fortress, had a drink and read my Game of thrones book. There is also a café Belfast at the bottom of the hill (ha-ha).
Our tour cost 300 Kuna each but we noticed it was going for 350-450 Kuna in other tourist offices so shop around. We used an office in the Diocletian palace near the main plaza, which was recommended to us by the staff, in the tourist information office.
Krka waterfalls was one of my favourite days in Croatia, so don’t miss it. We went for a swim in the waterfalls and an enjoyable walk around the national park. The water is a pleasant temperature for swimming. I would bring sea shoes as you may have to clamber over some rocks. Bring a GoPro or waterproof camera. We chose Krka over Plitvice National park because you can’t swim in Plitvice waters, and Krka is also much closer.
The word ‘slap’ is Croatian for waterfall. There are 17 ‘slaps’ in Krka National park.
Visovac is a very tiny island within Krka national park where a monastery is situated.
We stopped in Sibenek on our way back from Krka. There’s not a lot to see here, except for the cathedral of St. James.
We went to Bavice beach at night. It’s not the prettiest of beaches. There’s a lot of concrete and graffiti, but I really enjoyed watching the locals play picigin in the sea. Picigin is played with lots of enthusiasm.
We had drinks on a terrace bar/restaurant called DVOR. It’s beautifully lit with views of the sea, and the drinks were cheap (large beer and small wine £3). The white wine ‘malvazija ritosa’ was incredible. We didn’t eat here but the menu looked fabulous.
Trogir is a 40min bus journey (48kuna) north of Split and a 100 Kuna taxi to the marina.
We booked our sailing trip with Medsailors. I have never been sailing before, it’s a great way to travel around the coast and islands of Croatia. They also have tours in Turkey and Greece which look equally as good.
A week of sailing with Medsailors costs £490 (plus £60 tax) which includes;
- accommodation on the boat
There were five boats on our sailing week, with 6-8 people on each boat. They do different routes. We were on the Split to Split route as the Split to Dubrovnik route was all booked up.
We checked in with Medsailors and bought some wine and snacks for the boat at the marina. They have a restaurant and pool if you have time to kill before check in. We had our safety brief from our skipper Ben and set sail to Stromorska.
We went to the beach and chatted to the locals before dinner and drinks with the rest of the boats crew.
I ordered black risotto which came out black and stained my face and teeth black, but it was delicious. Medsailors provided punch and we had drinks on the beach.
The next day we sailed to Stari grad, with a swim stop and lunch on the way.
We took a walk around the town, which looks like a film set. We walked to the top of the hill to see the huge cross and a very small church situated at the top.
In the evening we went on a wine tasting tour on an organic farm and vineyard, organized by Medsailors (150kn). The wine tasting tour was great fun and the location was beautiful. The sunset at the vineyard was breathtaking and the red wine with chocolate and cherry hues was outstanding.
Croatians, like most Europeans eat later in the evening so we had a late dinner and drinks, then we walked the plank back onto the boat.
We spent the morning anchored in a bay. We jumped off the boats, swam, snorkeled, paddle boarded, and mucked around on a speedboat.
We arrived in ACI Palamizana Marina, not far from Hvar Island. It was my favorite marina. Very pretty, it had a nice feel to it and a local dog. This island was bought by a famous Italian actor. His family live on, and maintain the island.
If you have never been on a sailing holiday before, you will discover that sailing is essentially camping for the wealthier travelers. You park up and jump off to use the marinas shower and toilet facilities. You can shower and go to the bathroom on the boat, but it’s never as good as a fixed shower head.
We got a water taxi to Hvar Island. Had dinner in Butcher hotel and went upstairs to the roof garden for views of Hvar from above. It also had a really nice pool. Then we went for drinks in the legendary Hula-Hula bar. The walk to Hula-Hula is lovely. We saw the sun setting as we walked along.
The rest of the group went for dinner so Ciaran and I went for some wine and cheese and met up with everyone in Kiva bar which is very small, but it seems to be where everyone migrates to on this island towards the end of the night. The music was good too. They have this strange tradition where you put on a military helmet, they bash your head and then you take you drink.
Things to do around Hvar Island
- Palkeni islands – roman villa and mud baths
- Red cliffs – crvene stijene
- Jerolin island – woods and beaches
- Southside beaches – Gramin dolac (quieter), and Ivan dolac (popular)
My favourite island stop. So much history on this tiny island, which opened to the tourists in 1989. We did the military tour which I can’t recommend enough (300kn). They take you to old fortresses and nuclear bunkers, tunnels, airfields and viewpoints.
This island is the most westerly and because of its location in the Adriatic Sea, it was fought over time and time again. It was occupied by 9 nations in total; Romans, Greeks, Venetians, British, French, Italian, Austria, Yugoslavian, and finally Croatian.
You can scuba dive among the ship wrecks in Vis bay. you can also rent bikes (30kn) and vintage VW beetles (300kn) on Vis. I wanted to visit the Blue cave (400kn), but the water was too rough to get near it!
Milna on Brac Island
Brac is known for its famous v-shaped beach, zlatini rat. It’s rated number 3 of Europe’s best beaches. We didn’t make it there as our boat stopped in Milna quite late. Brac also has blaca monastery with a cave, or you can windsurf.
We spent the morning at the military tunnel, listening to music, watching people jump from the top of the tunnel, paddle boarding, and lunching. This was my favourite day of the sailing trip.
We got some great videos with the go pro.
On our way to Milna, we spotted dolphins jumping and flipping 360 degrees out of the water. It was quite amazing. I didn’t manage to get it on camera. It was something you didn’t want to see through a camera lens. As the saying goes, ‘The best moments in life, you don’t have photos of’.
Our skipper decided to turn the boat 180 and chase the dolphins. It was an exciting day of sailing. We got a video of the dolphins swimming alongside the boat.
It rained all day, so we stayed in our cabins, nursed our hangovers, slept and relaxed. We had dinner and drinks at split harbor and jumped on a water taxi over to split. We had drinks in Gaga bar and Ghetto bar and walked/slipped home to the boat. Split is a danger zone when it’s wet! Haha!
Friday was our last day on the boat. We added everyone to our Facebook/Instagram accounts and said our goodbyes.
We had the option of sailing back to Trogir marina, but we stayed in split and got a bus to Dubrovnik.
The bus took about 3 hours and we checked into our Air BnB apartment before exploring the old city at night.
You can understand why game of thrones filmed here. The walled city takes you back in time. It is much smaller than I had envisioned but you can spend hours walking around the labyrinth of streets. Like the Diocletian palace in split, the old city is a UNESCO world heritage site.
That evening we stumbled across Buza bar. I had read about this place in my guidebook, so I was delighted when we saw a small archway in the wall and walked through it to find the bar on the rocks.
We were especially lucky as we arrived just in time for the sunset, and as we waited for the sun to go down, a pirate ship sailed into our view.
I recommend going for a dander, exploring a place without a map or a list. That’s when you stumble across hidden gems, or places ‘not on your list’. When you stumble across places you have read about, you get this real sense of accomplishment from finding it on your own (even if it was by accident).
We spent the morning walking the streets, we walked to the city gates and looked for ‘Game of thrones’ film spots.
We did the walking tour in the morning, which I loved before walking atop the city walls. Avoid the crowds by going later on in the afternoon.
The cruise liners stop in Dubrovnik on Saturdays in high season so the streets were packed. If you hate crowds I would suggest avoiding these days.
That evening there was a classical music concert in front of the cathedral and we enjoyed some live music for free before going to find the other bar on the rocks. There are two, but we found it quite difficult to find the entrance to this one, which of course made it all the more fun. We enjoyed a few drinks on the rocks beyond the city walls and watched the kayakers with the ever changing skyline in the backdrop.
Things to do in Dubrovnik
- Walking tour – I really enjoyed this tour
- Walk the city walls (3-10m thick) and see the signature terracotta roofs from above.
- The old pharmacy
- Watch the sunset with a beer at buza bar, on the rocks outside the city walls.
- Get lost in the maze of old town.
- Cable car up the mountain for views of Dubrovnik from above.
- Game of Thrones tour. We didn’t do this, but I did print a map of the film spots.
- Spilja Cave bar
- Sea kayaking
- Take a boat trip to Lokrum
Mostar & Zadar
You can do bus tours to Mostar from split and Dubrovnik, but it made more sense for us to rent a car as we were heading up to Zadar after Dubrovnik. We used Sixt car Rental Company from the Hilton hotel, as it was much cheaper than other places and a recognizable company.
You won’t need more than a couple of hours in Mostar. It’s not a typically beautiful place, except around the old bridge, Stari most. The Old Bridge is a UNESCO world heritage site and stood for 427 years. It was destroyed in 1993 during the War in Bosnia. Reconstruction began in 2001 and it was completed in 2004.
We walked down the cobbled streets to watch the adrenalin junkies jump off the 24m high arched bridge and plunge into the river below. The river did not look deep enough and they tucked their legs in as they jumped. Jumping off Stari most started 427 years ago when it was first built. There is a diving competition held every summer.
There’s a small museum beside the bridge that we missed unfortunately. We had lunch beside the bridge so we could watch the men jump as we ate.
Bosnia is far greener than I had imagined. The roads all seem to run up high on the cliff edges, which was slightly nerve wracking for us as we had to drive on the wrong side of the road on these windy mountain roads.
We arrived in Zadar, checked in and went for a walk around the city at night. We walked to the promenade to see the sun salutation art installation on the promenade. The ‘greeting to the sun’ light show is made up of changing colored panels on the promenade which are powered by solar energy collected during the day.
My favourite thing in Zadar was definitely the sea organ, another art installation by the same architect on the promenade called ‘the sea organ’. The waves push air up through the pipes and natural music is created. It is especially great when a large boat goes past. I really enjoyed sitting on the promenade listening to the hypnotic music.
Zadar is known to have the best sunsets, so I recommend going around then.
Zadar isn’t a big place. A night and a half day were enough for us to walk around and see the things we wanted to see.
We got a bus to the airport outside the city walls, across from the bridge. (Very cheap).
The airport is very small, but it has an outdoor seating area where you can enjoy the last of the Croatian sun and watch the planes come in.
Note: When we checked in, we realized that only one bag was added to our flight home. I had the Ryanair app and because we arrived early we were able to get Wi-Fi from the café, and add another bag to our flight for £20 quid rather than £50. So, from now on, I will always arrive early and have the airline app downloaded on my phone.
When to go
April – June or September – October.
The summer months are very hot (up to 38 degrees). July and August are the busiest season. You may find it more difficult to get accommodation, and the prices will be a little more expensive. The Italians are fond of Croatia in the summer, so avoid the crowds by going in June or September.
We went on the last two weeks of September. When we arrived it was 36 degrees, but it eventually went down to the 20’s, and we had only one day of rain.
Roughly £1 = 10 Kuna. Get a currency converter app to make life easier.
What I learnt
- Croatian beaches are mostly pebbles. Bring sea shoes.
- You won’t see homeless people in Croatia. All homeless people are given accommodation.
- Croatians’ don’t like to talk about the civil war of independence (1991-1995).
- Originally under communist control and only recently opened to tourists.
- Croatian customer service is bizarre. Some places have adopted ‘customer service with a smile’, but not all. You must sit down in most places and wait to be served. You may be waiting a while but you will get shouted at and told to sit down if you try to order food at the bar. When we tried to get a waiters attention (after a long wait), they shook their hands at us in a ‘go away’ gesture. At the beginning we took it personally, but by the end of the trip we found it funny and entertaining. The Croatian people are lovely, except when they are serving you!
What we missed
- Cetina river (near Split) – zip lining, rope swings, white water rafting etc.
- Plitvice National Park. We found out you can’t swim in Plitvice National Park. That’s why we picked Krka National Park instead. If you’re going, go early to beat the crowds (70-110 kuna).
- Dinner in the sky, in Zagreb. I would love to have done this. I hear there’s one in Belgium too.
- Festivals – Croatia is known for its great summer festivals;
- Blue cave (Biseveo) – the weather was too stormy when we were in Vis Island so the tours wouldn’t go to blue cave;
- Flyboarding in Kastela near Split
- Velebit – valley of knives
- Rumin spring – 45 mins from Split
- Cres-mali bok
We especially loved our Split and Zadar accommodation. Highly recommended!
Note: make sure to email your hosts and let them know what time you will be arriving. I also printed some google maps of our accommodation in case we couldn’t find them. The hosts can also send you directions.
chasingthedonkey is great! The site dedicated to Croatian travel blogs. I read them all of course!
Before you go
Before I go anywhere …
- I buy the Lonely Planet guidebook and read it nearly cover to cover.
- I create a destination board on pinterest and collect blogs, tips, and pictures.
Check out my Croatia Pinterest board.
Check out my ‘packing bible’ and ‘packing list’ blogs for more packing tips.
Follow me on pinterest, facebook, instagram, twitter, tumblr and flickr.
Enjoy the adventure and return safely,
The wandering boomerang