Croatia exceeded all my expectations, and then some. With its stunning and varied landscape, it’s hard not to fall in love with this country. We were only there for a week, but would love to return to discover more.
Croatia consists of over a thousand islands and islets with the Adriatic Sea bordering the west side of the country, and five different countries bordering the East, including Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The sheer amount of islands in Croatia makes it near impossible to see everything this beautiful country has to offer, and with only a sorry week at our disposal, we chose Split as our ‘home base’ and went from there.
Split is the perfect place from which to travel to several islands and destinations across the west coast, as it has fantastic bus and ferry links.
With the British Pound in its current state (thanks, Brexit), it’s one of the few places where you still get bang for your buck. Granted, it’s not quite as good as it was a few years ago, but GBP to Kuna is around 1:8.5. To give you an idea, a pint of beer was around 18 Kuna, a bottle of water 15 Kuna, and a main meal with alcoholic drink approximately 150-250 Kuna. In terms of travel, a one way ferry ticket for an hourlong journey costs 35-70 Kuna, and a one way coach-ticket for a 2 hour journey cost approximately the same.
As is the usual, withdraw your Kuna when you reach Croatia, as the exchange rate tends to be better. Also, those hoping to pay with Euros, good luck. Some hotels, accommodation, and excursion companies will advertise in Euros though ask you to pay in Kuna so be wary.
Although slightly hypocritical of my own comments (who doesn’t love a hypocrite) some bus companies will allow you to pay in Euros, and the odd hotel/apartment provider will too.
As mentioned above, we stationed ourselves in Split. For anyone contemplating a visit to Split, I highly recommend Split Inn Apartments. Our ‘studio’ apartment consisted of a huge double room, bathroom, kitchen, dining room and balcony – not very ‘studio’ but definitely a nice surprise.
About 60km southeast of Split, Makarska is a small Riviera which is worth the visit just to see the views of the Croatian coast on the journey down (unless you hate heights/crazy roads/rather large mountains/fearing for your life at every corner or bend).
We boarded a bus from Split bus station and paid a mere 35 kuna (£3.50) for a single ticket to Makarska. The journey takes about an hour and a half but offers unprecedented views along winding mountainous roads and through gorgeous coastal villages.
We had a wander around the town and instantly recognised the peace and tranquillity of the place. After coming across the most beautiful, tiny secluded little beach with no more than four people on – we thought we had quite literally found paradise…
It couldn’t have been more than five minutes before a HUGE group of school girls came trampling down the stairs to ruin our little slice of heaven, followed by none other than eight nuns and a priest. Not something you see every day!
Makarska is stunningly beautiful. Although it’s fair to say we didn’t witness everything the place had to offer, it is a nice and tranquil destination on the coast. For those looking for somewhere with hustle and bustle, Makarska may not be the place for you, though it does offer a good selection of quiet bars and restaurants.
Following our day in Makarska, we decided to venture across the water to explore one of the many islands accessible from Split.
Supetar in Brač is one of the closest islands in proximity to Split and takes a little under an hour to reach by boat. Tickets are available from a hut situated at the end of the pier in the harbour and cost a very reasonable 45 kuna (£4.50) one-way.
The boats to Brač are huge car ferries and are operated by ‘Jadrolinija’ – one of the main operators from Split harbour. They feature a reasonably priced bar which sells alcohol, soft drinks, ice cream and the odd bit of food. It was a smooth and comfortable ride, and Joelle even got the chance to see some dolphins on the way out (I was too indulged in my ice-cream).
Brač is really popular with the tourists, but after about five minutes of walking around, we had fled the crowd and the island instantly felt really relaxed and subdued.
The island has a lot to offer in terms of sports, including quad bike and buggy hire. Mopeds seem to be the main method of transport, although apparently helmets are limited, as we witnessed someone whizz past and steal a helmet sat on top of a parked motorbike.
We toddled down to one of the many beaches after getting lost for about half an hour and parked ourselves on some sun beds. Within a few minutes we decided it’d be a good idea to hire a pedalo (with slide!). At 40 Kuna for an hour, this was an absolute steal. After about ten minutes of gentle pedalling past the giant inflatable total wipeout course, and admiring the gorgeous scenery past that, we were approached by four very drunk American girls, who were taking a break from selfies in the sea.
They swam up to our pedalo and asked to use our slide. The first girl climbed up the stairs no problem, slid down, and landed rather gracefully in the sea. Girl number two climbed up the stairs, reached the top, and fell backwards, hitting every.single.step on the way down. To make matters worse, her friends holding the waterproof camera she had previously been taking selfies with, caught the whole thing. Priceless.
After pedalling back to the coast, grabbing something to eat, we headed back towards the port to catch the ferry to Split.
Although we explored a number of destinations surrounding Split during our time in Croatia, Split itself is stunning. A large town on the Dalmatian Coast, it is home to the very impressive and beautiful Diocletian’s Palace erected by the Roman emperor in the 4th Century, and hundreds of remains.
During our time in Split, there was a huge food festival on Park Josipa Jurja Strossmayera (don’t ask me how to pronounce that), so we spent a few evenings there. Split is a beautiful place to simply walk around and explore – there’s a beautiful building on almost every corner.
During one of our days in Split, we also walked to Hajduk Split FC’s stadium. I won’t lie, when we arrived we thought we were in the wrong place. It looks like an old spaceship.
We walked the perimeter, not overly impressed by what we were seeing. Although absolutely massive, the stadium clearly hadn’t been renovated from the outside since it was built in 1979. Split is the oldest football team in Croatia, so we were expecting something quite spectacular.
However, our minds were quickly changed when a strange looking man approached us and asked us if we wanted a tour of the inside. For 35 Kuna. Just the two of us. Alarm bells ringing, we accepted regardless. When in Croatia, right?
Turns out this guy was an official tour guide, and apparently just waits around the stadium all day to see if he can lure anyone into a guided tour. And I’m so glad he preyed on us. He was extremely knowledgeable, gave us access into the three huge trophy rooms, and took us pitch-side, patiently waiting for us to snap as many photos as we wished. After finding out we were Derby County and Manchester United fans, he began name-dropping as many players from each team as he could during our tour, including Igor Štimac who I never knew was Croatian, let alone played for the national team.
For insane views over the city, I highly recommend a walk up to Marjan Hill. You’ll find an opening to the Marjan Hill stone steps close to the tourist information centre. Head up these, grab a drink in the bar at the top, and admire the view. I’d highly recommend heading up just at dusk, to watch the sunset over Split.
Overall, Croatia, Split and the surrounding area more than impressed. A highlight of the entire trip was Krka National Park, but that deserves a post in its own right, so stay tuned…