Starting our Croatian trip in Dubrovnik, we knew immediately that our next stop would be Split. We had heard nothing but great things about the beautiful port-side paradise. Being the largest city Croatia has to offer, it was definitely my second favourite sun spot to visit. In case you’re wondering Zadar wins the top spot!
We stayed for three nights, and regretted it instantly as this lively little place has so much to offer, and we wanted it all. You could say it ticks all boxes from an interesting nightlife, to local islands and island-hopping, enough day trips to keep you busy for the month, street entertainment, and mouth-watering restaurants that stock the freshest fish (sorry Howth!). Depending on what you choose to do, it won’t hit the pocket too hard, oh and did we mention the centre itself is built within a Roman palace? So. Much. To. Offer.
From Dubrovnik to Split
We left Gruz Port in Dubrovnik at 8am and took the 4.5hour bus to Split, osting €13.50pp. There is an added cost of €1.30 to store luggage. This is a compulsory charge, don’t do what I did and tell the driver otherwise, even if you did plan on using your rucksack as some form of pillow/entertainment system. It’s the unwritten rule and he will argue with you on it. He will win. Avoid the awkward, chuck your bag under the bag and be sure to take out any valuables, especially your passport. No, don’t worry there is no high rates of theft, it’s merely so you don’t have to embarrass yourself, or hold up the bus at passport control as you drive through Bosnia. After my little tiff with the driver, he disliked me even more after that. We took the highway to heaven meaning no scenic route. It was a quick and seamless journey and despite no views, it was enjoyable, especially if you’re tired. The bus is equipped with free WiFi so charge up, download a movie and get comfortable. Although, you could choose the more scenic route, extend your journey by a further two hours and saving an extra few bob by doing so.
Accommodation in Split
After learning that Dubrovnik was a little more expensive than we predicted, in Split, we decided to book via Airbnb so we would have a kitchen and the choice to cook. The apartment is described as ‘Little crib in the town centre’ and at a low price of €104 (in total) it was big enough to swing a cat. But for the three days we stayed there, it was perfect. We rambled through the narrow streets to realise that in less than 10 mins, we had arrived at the centre of this atmospheric city. And although we did cook breakfast and at times lunch, the apartment was used to sleep, shit and shave. That’s all. We were just too busy inhaling the high that was Split. Don’t be too worried in terms of accommodation, from top hotels, to hostels, BnBs, and private apartments; Split is an easy access city, affordable and adorable. You won’t care either way.
Things To Do in Split:
Walk the Streets:
OK, so here is where the whole ‘three days wasn’t enough’ comes in. When we arrived, instead of the usual “Googling”, we traipsed around the city streets and discovered the palace grounds. We then took to the sky by climbing the bell tower. The rattling staircase, and strong breeze made it scary but when you get to the top, you won’t want to leave. Ladies, don’t wear a dress and try the “Marilyn Monroe”. What a fail.
Don’t get too excited just yet as it is true. The Croatian coast doesn’t do beaches. If you want golden white sands and piercing blue seas you’re going to need a bigger boat. Surprisingly, thanks to the screaming advertising about The Sand of Freedom (an annual beach festival) we came across the over-populated madness that was Split beach. Active with water sports, inflatable slides, loud music and cocktails, it was no wonder we didn’t have enough room to feel the sand without fear of standing on a child or a transparent teen.
And no, we weren’t cool enough to party it up on the beach. Instead we ignored the overly branded signs and headed along the port and towards the centre to discover a gem.
Island Hopping/Day Trips:
• €80pp includes bottled water, limited beer and lunch on the island of Hvar.
• 7am board, 6pm return
• Visiting 6 islands including Blue and Green caves.
• Time to swim and snorkel at each island.
Eyeing up the luxurious boats, we fell upon the charm of a seller who was offering us a day-trip to visit the local islands. The trip included a visit to the famous Blue and Green caves, a number of islands, and a spot of lunch on the island of Hvar. SOLD!
There were a line of sellers, all with different style boats and prices. Some offered more islands, but we soon realised that it then meant less time on each island and sure what’s the point in that?
After a little shopping, we went back to the original charmer and paid the 600 Kuna (€160e for two people). Now, bear with me. Yes it seems expensive but I’d pay it all over again.
The speed boat was well, stunning! With the (free) water and booze cooling, we boarded alongside 10 other tourists and speed off to catch some vitamin sea.
Our first stop was the Blue Caves and upon arrival we were a little dismayed to see the hundreds of tourists, a ticketing system and a 3 hour wait to see the natural beauty. However, with plenty of places to sunbath, clear waters, a bar and a restaurant, it’s the perfect time to chat to your skipper, your fellow shipmates and wander about the island. Packed into a small motorboat, we headed for the caves, ducked low and entered. You guessed it, that 3 hour wait was worth seeing a simple cave illuminated in a bright blue glow. Despite what you might assume, you won’t see anything like it. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to enjoy it peacefully (it’s in, snap snap and out) or physically (since swimming is not allowed.)
We proceeded onto Vis Island for a coffee and ice-cream at little fishing village called Komiza, then moved swiftly onto Stinivia, which was voted the best beach in Europe. It’s easy to see why! After Luke snorkelled a little, and I fought the overwhelming dilemma of whether to face my fears and swim, or remain cowardly on the boat, I missed the opportunity to dip and instead regrettably watched the cove disappear. We then took a trip towards Ravnik Island and floated through the Green Cave. This time we could swim and yet again, I didn’t. Another swim stop soon followed, at the breath-taking island of Budikovac. The crystal waters lured me in and I finally buckled up the courage to Nemo the hell out of life. I’m still smug to this day. Enjoy the essay, and the smugness.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with open water despite being a strong swimmer. As someone who loves to travel, it has been such a frustrating problem for me. There have been many holidays I’ve sat by, with envy, watching everyone enjoy a splash. Many opportunities and adventures I’ve missed out on because of this ridiculous and irrational fear. And yes, many failed attempts to try and kick it. I always returned home with regret and disappointment. This time I promised myself I’d stop being silly and face the fact that there was nothing to be afraid of. This time, I told myself that life had to be lived and reminded myself of how fortunate I was to be on a holiday in the first place! Although to some, this may seem ridiculous (it is) but lets face it, we are all afraid of something out there and sometimes you just gotta slap yourself, shake it off and keep trying until one day, you dive in head first. You’ll panic until you feel that first gasp of air, you’ll look around and tremble as you realise what you did, you’ll feel the pain in your chest as your heart attempts to escape and put you out of your misery and then you’ll laugh hysterically because while you may have lost the plot slightly, you bloody did it! And even though it took a long time, it’s the first step to making that fear a distant memory. That baby step to finding out yet another thing about yourself, that moment of self pride and the reason why we all have to stop and realise that we’ve a very short life to live, so live it, like it’s your last day. #nofear #firstforeverything #accomplished #onelife #youonlyliveonce #ididit #sea #fear #phobia #phobias #firststep #livelife #openwater #ocean #nofilter #selfpride #livelikeitsyourlast A photo posted by Katie Hogan (@hogankth) on
The day ended with a visit to Hvar where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch with our fellow pirates, and a few hours of rambling around the island, before climbing the inverted hill to see the Hvar fortress. Hvar was an intriguing place, I wanted to stay and if we had the extra day we would have, I’d recommend you consider it. They do say it’s the “Ibiza” of Croatia. If you are into that sort of thing.
We arrived home after 6pm, delighted at life that we managed to see some dolphins along the way, and content as hell after an adventurous day.
So at €160 (€80 pp) we boarded at 7am and spent 10 hours walking waters, visiting islands, meeting people, experiencing sights (that you never dreamed of seeing) plus we were very well fed and watered. The minute we landed, we headed home for bed. The sea air knocks you out and kudos if you do manage to enjoy the energetic nightlife of Split. We barely made it to the end of a Netflix episode. Overall, go experience it. You would spend €80 on crap at home, or a booze ridden night out. At least on this trip, you will never forget it.
• Take the bus from Split for €6-€9 (one way). • One hour bus journey • Park entry fee 90-110 HRK (€14) • Skip the cues and buy park tickets after you board the water taxi. We were excited to see the fuss surrounding Krka waterfalls. Grabbing the bus from Split to Sibenik, it’s a relaxing one hour drive leaving you at one of the main entrances to the park. Be sure to check returning bus times, you could buy a return ticket and select your time in Split, but we found it less hassle to pick a bus when we were ready to leave, rather than being committed to leaving at a specific time. What if we never wanted to leave, did you think of that? Upon arrival, you’ll be met with at least 2-3 queues leading into the tourist building, skip it. Head straight for the taxi boats docked inside the entrance and pay at the gate on the other end of the boat trip. There may be a small queue to get onto the taxi boat but nothing compared to the mayhem outside.
We spent majority of the day there. We took the long route around the park and caught some dirty looks as we accidentally photobombed many photos. If you think you’re going to find a place to yourself here, let us know where would you? It’s one of the top tourist attractions which means, tourists and lots of us!
The waterfalls are incredible to see. It could be described as picturesque, once you oversee the many bodies swimming amongst them. Enjoy a dip, munch on a crepe, sunbath, stroll, and then grab your preferred bus back to Split.
It’s worth the visit and you will be astonished by nature’s good looks but you won’t be missing out on a huge amount if you don’t get to fit this in on time. Google it. At least there won’t be hundreds of sunburned bodies on Google.
Do enjoy the beauties of Split, go all out here. Every penny and minute is worth it. We’ll be back for sure!