Croatia itinerary – The land of 1000 islands
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Croatia has so much to offer – beaches, historical sites, national parks, great food and their wine, and GOT sites for those who are fans. And Croatian coast is speckled with islands. They are all different in size and character, and it is recommended to go on island hopping.
Where to stay in Croatia
We stayed in a little place called Stobrec just outside of Split. Split is a beautiful coastal town with an incredible historical old city. And as you may know, Game of Thrones was filmed in Split, among several other places in Croatia. Split has beaches, marina, old town and of course many tourists. Its location makes it super popular. The nearby located islands such as Trogir and Hvar, but also only a few hours drive to Dubrovnik and Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, makes Split one of the most popular tourist destinations in Croatia. There are tons of things to do in and around Split, and it is an excellent base for exploring Croatia.
Hotels in Split
We booked our hotel Ark Beach Apartments through TripAdvisor. This 4* hotel is a family run hotel and has only 15 rooms. Its location is perfect if you want to stay close to the sea. It took about 10 min to walk to the centrum of Stobrec where there were restaurants and few convenient stores. This hotel also has a pool with sunbeds and a huge barbeque. Croatians love to barbeque their food – and it tastes fantastic. Read a more in-depth review of the hotel here.
But the best part of the hotel was the host and his family. They go really out of their way for you. If you want to stay out of the worst tourist jam, I can recommend this place. We had a two room apartment with a balcony overlooking the sea, and although you don’t stay in your apartment while on vacation, it is lovely to wake up to a beautiful view.
Stobrec used to be a fishing village but is now an administrative part of Split. It had quite a few restaurants in the centrum, a little church overlooking the sea and a sandy beach. It took 5-10 min to walk to the bus station that took us to the city of Split. The bus ride took approximately 10 min.
When it comes to beaches, they are different from the ones you are used to in Spain, France or Italy. The water is so clear it’s unbelievable. The beaches in Croatia are mostly pebble beaches. But the cleanness of the see-through water compensates for the poor beach options. If you move a little further out to Podstrana, you will find luxury resorts, yacht rentals, and Casino. There is a water activity “park” off the beach as well – which is enormous fun for older kids.
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Things to do in Split
Split is an excellent base for exploration. There are lots of things to do in and around Split. Just a few short hours drive there are National Parks, the famous Dubrovnik and Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But if you want to stay in Split and explore the city here are a few suggestions for things to do.
A trip to Blue Lagoon
We wanted to do a Blue Lagoon tour and get our tickets on the spot but ended up with nothing, as it was sold out – bummer!
Walking tour in the city
Game of Thrones locations tour
If you are a GOT lover, you might want to go on a walking tour of GOT locations.
A culinary tour including lunch
If you want to get out of Split and explore more of Croatia, you can go on a day trip to a Krka National Park, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Dubrovnik or even Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Visiting the surrounding islands is highly recommended too. The only problem you will have is that you won’t be able to do them all 🙂 Have a plan, choose your most desired activity and get your tickets in advance. All thought Croatia doesn’t have sandy beaches like Spain, France, and Italy; you should spend some times relaxing by the water under the pine trees. The water is amazingly clear and see-through, but be aware of sea-urchins.
Day trips out of Split
Explore 5 islands and Blue Caves on a 12-hour trip. Tours are set from Split and Trogir.
If you love nature and historic sites you should visit Krka National Park and Šibenik and its St. James’s Cathedral, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And if you want to see something more than ancient sites and islands head to Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your path towards the lakes and waterfalls will start in the woods, continue by boat and end by a scenic train ride.
A day trip to Mostar from Split
If you have time, I would recommend you to take a day trip to Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We rented a car at the hotel, and our host was accommodating with the car hire. The agency he recommended delivered and picked up our car at the hotel, which was very convenient. Split is located about 2 hours drive from Bosnia-Herzegovina’s border which made it easy to go on a day trip.
I love history and architecture, and Mostar had both. The city was destroyed during the Balkan war but is now rebuild, and Bosnia-Herzegovina is becoming a more accessible tourist attraction. Mostar is located in Southern Bosnia-Herzegovina and has a population of approximately 106K. The city is cultural capital in its region and 5th largest in Herzegovina. Mostar is situated on the Neretva River and was named after the bridge watchers – mostari, who in the medieval times guarded Stari Most – Old Bridge.
The river Neretva under the bridge comes down from the mountains and holds about +7C. The bridge is a huge tourist attraction – be aware of that! During summer you can see free divers jumping off the bridge into the cold water – that’s 24 m down – crazy, but fun for tourists. Since it was raining that day, there were no jumpers 🙁
Although Mostar’s inhabitants are mostly of Islamic and Christian religions, they have always been open to people with other religious beliefs. You will be surprised to see churches and mosques side by side in this small town, and it is a beautiful sight!
The drive to Mostar was very pleasant and scenic on both sides of the border. Remember to bring your passport for customs as you will be crossing borders. It can take up to an hour to get through the customs depending on the queue. Although it rained a lot the day we went and was only +14C, Mostar was a beautiful experience, and I would recommend it in a heartbeat. The old town with its street sellers was very charming, and the food was ok.
If you decide to go on an organized trip to Mostar, you can buy your tour here.
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Old town Split
I love old towns and their history and Split old town is perfect. It’s ancient architecture, and the narrow streets are amazing. The drawback is all the crowds and heat during high season. You should go offseason if you have the chance.
Split is the largest city on the Adriatic Coast and the second-largest in Croatia. Its location made it an attractive target for the Romans, Venetians, Austrians, French, Italian and Yugoslavian empires. Due to the influence of different cultures and religions Split’s old town has a fantastic mixture of history and architecture. If you want to go on a walking tour of Split Old town, you can book your tickets here. I always try to book my tickets online before I go, that removes the possibilities of trips beings sold out (as I have experienced before).
Sites such as Diocletian’s Palace and Mausoleum, the Grgur Ninski Statue and the Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius justify its position as a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. Old Town in Split has many restaurants and is a great day trip destination if you stay outside the city.
Croatia is still a lot cheaper than its big brothers and sisters – Spain, France, and Italy, which makes it to a great vacation country. It also has a younger vibe than Spain, France, and Italy. Croatia produces wine, which they are very proud of and the food is fantastic. The country has a great tradition of barbecuing the food, and it tastes great. There is a lot of meat and fish on the menu, especially the catch of the day is always a great surprise. As I mentioned in the beginning – research the stuff you want to do in advance and pre-book your tickets. It makes your stay so much easier and more comfortable. Let me tell you that I learned my lesson, at the price of missed Blue Lagoon 🙁 But if I should mention one thing that disappointed me, it was the pebble beaches. Luckily no one took a shot of me when I was trying to stumble across the hot, sharp stones, moaning like a crazy lady, trying to get to the beautiful clear water. Once I was in the water, the rocks were slippery, and I had to watch out for sea urchins, at least you could see them rather clearly 🙂 So, bring your bathing shoes! (is that even a thing?)
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