I am calling this one Part 1 because we MUST go back to finish our list and make it down to Dubrovnik too. That will be Part 2.
We loved Split for a bunch of reasons mainly being the food, the price of the food, the city’s proximity to the water and islands, it’s history, and…the food.
We arrived on the direct flight from Stuttgart and as soon as you exit, the shuttle bus is there waiting for the city center. You must get cash first as they only take cash to pay for the bus ticket on the bus. You can’t buy it in advance at information. It cost about 5 bucks per person each way (in their currency, Kuna). The bus took about an hour to get into town direct. The return ticket you can reserve in advance in the office by the bus stop. The return bus only takes 30-40 min, it was a full bus even leaving on a Monday, so we were glad we picked up tickets the day before.
The buses arrive at the port where all the ferries are. It’s a 5-10 minute walk from there to old town. Our apartment (Split Oasis Apartments) was great and just outside the wall, near the daily produce market. We would eat so much healthier if we had a fresh market like the one in Split- so cheap, leaves still on everything, everything homemade, hand picked
etc. Olive oil and wine home-grown and in plastic
water jugs for sale is our kind of place. We went everyday for fruit for our excursions.
Old Town – Combo tickets are available for the Tower (best part), Cathedral, and Crypt (least impressive part). It only takes a couple hours. Roaming the streets, stopping in shops and markets, having a drink and ice cream in the squares as you go is the best. One day is enough in Split center, but using it as a base to come back to and go out in the evening was really perfect. We found some great restaurants and beer bars to go to after a long day out and about.
Tours in Croatia: We were all around disappointed in the service, selection and vibe of the pre-booked day tours. Now we know, it’s best to wing it and take the ferries on our own instead. Book in advance the day before at the ticket counter to be prepared for the sometimes odd schedules, especially off-season. Example: the ferry is at 8pm but the last bus to get to the terminal is at 4pm even though it runs every 30 min “all day”… Fortunately we didn’t have any issues this trip. The port is right at the center and there are multiple ticket offices for the ferries to ask questions and book. English was also not an issue at any service desk – everyone was very nice.
Semi-Private Yacht Cruise at Sunset – We booked the Nera on Sunburst Sailing owned by a Scottish couple who live in Split during the warm months, then also own a ski lodge in France in the winter. There was only one other couple (of friends) on the boat, and actually one of them lives in Stuttgart so we are now friends. Small world indeed. It was nice to go out for sunset on the first day, though we did run 4 min late and almost miss the boat under-estimating the length of the pier to the private boat section. Cocktails and a couple of nibbles were included with a chance to hop into the cold water for a snorkel (not much of anything to see though).
Ferry to Supetar, Brac to get to Zlatni Rat, called the Golden Horn beach:
Town of Supetar – Really small but nice for an hour or two to get a long lunch or dinner. The best spot for whole fish is Konoba Vinotoka (Konoba means tavern) located up a small street from the port. Service was great, beautiful outdoor seating and you get to pick your own live fish that is filleted in front of you. We felt so bad because we lost track of time and had to rush the waiter to let us pay in a hurry at the end of dinner and so we could make the boat. We would definitely go back – and plan for more time.
Zlatni Rat – From the Supetar port, there are taxis waiting to take people to the beach in an hours drive. The cost for a taxi was 400 Kuna, split by six to eight people – as long as you had a car that was full, or a taxi driver that didn’t care to fill the car and drive you anyway because there weren’t enough people. Our original plan was to take the cheaper bus, then mini train (literally those tourist trolley trains, not a real train) which is two hours, but the taxi’s had plenty of people and it ended up being completely worth it to go that route and avoid the transit hassle. The return however, was a little more challenging because we had to wait for a taxi to come to see if we could hop a ride back. Fortunately, we had a nice cab driver there that let us jump in an unfilled car with a couple others to get back. Next time, we’d probably connect with the people we arrived with to coordinate return times.
The drive is gorgeous to get there over the mountain on the cliffs and down to the beach. There is food available at two restaurants and on the beach with a bar and chair/umbrella rentals for a fee. The beach is rocky pebbles so a chair is ideal, though you can lay anywhere. Water shoes are a good idea too, though we didn’t have any, waterproof flip flops did the job.
Hvar Town and Fortress: Hvar was actually my least favorite. It seemed much more un-authentic and touristy then even Split which at a glance, is filled with tourist shops and China-made products that say Croatia on them. Still, it was beautiful with tons of stairs and streets to wander around. If we go again, it will be only to get to the islands right off of the city that you can see the best view of from the fortress. The islands are only a 10-15 minute taxi ride over with frequent return trips you can schedule when you are there.
The Spanjola Fortress was about a 15 minute walk uphill with a minor entry fee. It was HOT and there is no shade up there. The coolest (temperature) place was actually the prison dungeon which was the coolest, yet very small, thing to see aside from the amazing views. There was not much else to see but it was neat to walk around the old walls. There is a cafe at the top too, but it was just too hot to sit up there.
Outside of the fortress, there are areas to sit under the trees and hang out with the view and a breeze. A good spot to BYO beverage or sandwich for next time. The walk down is much easier.
Krka Waterfalls National Park– By Pelican Tours. Least impressive trip of the week. The day started rough mainly because of our guide getting ruffled over an issue with his booking records, even though everyone there had valid voucher. Moving on, the first city Sibenik was on the way and had good history but not a town I would visit otherwise. By the time we arrived to the falls, it was about noon. By this time, there were so many other tours there, it was too crowded to walk the slim-laned bridge paths casually to really look at anything. The viewing points had waits as each tour group funneled through. By the time we reached the end (the falls), finding a spot in the rocks to get into the water was rough. The water was freezing, but we did it. Lunch was surprisingly good in the park considering the amount of tourism it draws. They served whole fish and beer outside for not too crazy of a price. The falls are of course gorgeous and one of the top natural parks to visit in the world, however I would not do it again, at least during the summer. Hawaii has ruined us from all tourist attractions that include any more than 10 people on a beach, or boat.
Back in Split that evening, we hiked up the many steps of Marjan Hill. After the stellar views in Hvar, and the view of Split from inside the bell tower, this view was less than described. We walked up to what smelled like a current working zoo (though we were told it wasn’t one anymore), passing the restaurant mid-way up that we later found out was the best spot (it was ok). Thinking ahead, we did BYO this time and found a good spot down the steps from the zoo with benches overlooking the sea by a small old stone church. It was really nice with a breeze to take a short break before walking back down and heading to dinner.
Dinner that night was at Konoba Marjan. We stopped in the day before to make a reservation since both our apartment owner and the group from the boat said to do so. Everything was perfect, from the house wine to the local cheese, olives, caper leaves and crazy mixes fish plate followed by the traditional shots of Rakia (pronounced rakiya).
The tie for best dinner was at Uje Oil Bar –the grilled octopus and roasted pork made us come back a second time which is unheard of for us on any a trip in general.
Leopold’s Delicatessen Bar (Ujevićeva poljana 3) – The best casual outside craft beer bar off the main drag with a good selection of local and import craft options for the area. There is another beer and cocktail bar down the street from there, but it seemed much rowdier than this place everytime we went by. We went back to Leopold’s at least three times. The owner (Leopold) had great recommendations and knew the brewers of a couple of the brews to give us more info on the make and availability.
Beer Store: Ivana Trgovina (Trumbićeva obala 7) – The owner was great. She made recommendations and could answer questions about taste and origin too. They will also open the beers for you to take away.