Updated: Mar 28
This country wasn't initially on our radar when we moved to London three years ago... but after hearing so much about this beautiful place we had to go find out for ourselves!
Spoiler- It did not disappoint.
Oh Croatia. You have the charm and deliciousness of Italy and the crystal clear water of Greece.
It was quite a combination. And obviously, there is so much to see in Croatia. We spent a week and had to pick and choose what we did. We packed it full... as we tend to do. Looking back... I wish we had a couple extra days of relaxation and beach time- but c'est la vie. We don't have all the time off in the world. Dang it.
We flew into Split and based ourselves here for several days. Split is INCREDIBLE. It was founded by a Greek colony and became the site of the palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian. It is these palatial ruins that make up the center of Split. It is mesmerizing and beautiful as you wind through the old alleys of a palace.
Our Airbnb was amazing, perfectly clean and had the best views over old town. We loved sitting out on the balcony in the warm breeze and eating our breakfast. It was a quick walk to everything we needed and we honestly couldn't have found a better location. Highly recommend!
Split is a great hub from MANY activities and tours and have a wide variety to please any type of interest.
Ok so pretty much the whole of old town is made up of ruins from Diocletian's Palace. It is truly wondrous to explore. Walk around the tiny maze-like streets, stroll along the pier, grab some gelato, listen to a busker... it is so charming.
ISLAND BOAT TOUR
You can't go to the Dalmatian coast without seeing some of the stunning islands that dot the coast. You can book from the water front in Split, or you can book in advance online. It is quite a popular activity so I would suggest booking early.
Note- sometimes they change the itinerary based on weather and season. We went to most of the places on the scheduled itinerary but they did take us to a couple different spots last minute. We ended up stopping at the Blue Cave, Vis and Hvar.
Another note- most of the boats you sit on a saddle seat. This can be pretty bumpy and uncomfortable all day. We had no choice but to tough it out HOWEVER I would rather have booked a boat that you sit normally! I would use this company to book because you can choose what type of boat you want!
BOOK A DAY TRIP TO PLITVICE LAKES NATIONAL PARK
I admit... this was a bit ambitious of us. This national park isn't close to Split. It is a three hour bus ride each way. But it was HIGH on my list of things to see and so we had to go. We didn't have time to add another city to our itinerary so we made it into a day trip from Split. I don't regret it one bit. Plitvice Lakes is a fantastic site to see. I honestly felt like I had walked into Lord of the Ring's Rivendell. The crystal clear water with the orange leafy foliage was magical.
Split has a rather small beach, but it is sandy and even has a playground across the street. There appeared to be food stands close by, but as we were there at the end of the season they weren't open.
WHITE WATER RAFTING
I can't say enough good things about Split Rafting. There were so well organized, pumped our kids up, and gave us an enjoyable adventure down the Cetina River that was age appropriate for our kiddos. They are a small business that are very thorough and fair with what they do. Not only do they guide you down the river, they make a stop for some cave spelunking and cliff jumping. Truly an adventure!
Food places to try in Split:
Sug- Michelin star restaurant for incredibly decent prices. Total local spot. One of our tour guides recommended it and it was fantastic. Traditional Croatian cuisine.
No Stress Bistro- Get the Dalmatia pasticada; a traditional Dalmatian coast dish. You won't regret it.
Pizzeria Bokkamora- Whatever you do... you HAVE to get this dessert pizza. It is the most delicious thing I've ever tasted.
Travel Tip- When pulling money out of an ATM and
it asks if you're ok with the exchange rate,
click on "No" and then it will automatically
charge you YOUR bank's exchange rate instead!
Typically bank exchange rates are much better than ATMs.
After Split we took the ferry to Dubrovnik and would definitely recommend this as a way to see more of the Dalmatian Coast. You make a couple stops to islands along the way and it was enjoyable gawking at all the beautiful turquoise water. There are two ferries per day- depending on the season.
NOW... Dubrovnik may be my favorite European city of all time. It is unreal beautiful. No wonder it has been the filming set for SO many movies and shows... most notably "Game of Thrones". If you are a fan then this is the city for you! There are so many Game of Throne tours going on in this city.
Our Airbnb here was also impecabble. We had great luck with Airbnb on this trip. It's location is literally across the street from the gate to old town. You can see the city walls from the front door! See picture below. Also- the terrace out front is lovely for dinner or breakfast. It is walkable to the beach and to city centre- we found it to be a great place to stay.
HIKE THE CITY WALLS
This is the number one tourist attraction here and for good reason. Dubrovnik has one of the most intact medieval city walls in the world. They're pretty important. It is kind of expensive, but the views over the city can't be beat.
See the kayaks in the picture below on the right? Wish we would have done this but our kiddo is kind of scared of kayaking. You should book it and let me know how it is!
With your city walls ticket, you can visit the fort for free! We had some time the morning of our departure to head here and explore. This location may have had even better views of the city than the city walls because you could see the medieval walls wrapping around the town from this location. The color of the water?! Stunning
It is a small and rocky beach, but we don't mind. Our kids loved playing here. I love how beaches can entertain kids for hours. Bring a towel to sit on because the rocks don't feel good on a swimsuit bottom!
DAY TRIP TO BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
When I saw this suggestion come up on my research... I couldn't pass it up. We love checking countries off our list and so we did another long day trip! Again, I don't regret it... but I wish we could have spent more time Bosnia & Herzegovina to do it justice. It felt a little disingenuous to run in and out. That being said, we had a wonderful time in Mostar and Kravice Falls. It's interesting how this country borders Croatia but didn't have the Italian feels but was more middle eastern feeling. Isn't it crazy the difference a border can have?
Mostar is a beautiful city. It is known for it's HUGE bridge that was built during the 16th century during the Ottoman Empire. It was bombed in 1993 during the war and they built it brick by brick to restore it to it's former glory. It reopened in 2004. Now it is an international icon as high diving compeitions are held here!
Kravice Falls wasn't as large or vast as Plitvice Falls, but it was still very beautiful and impressive. We love how the water cascades over several parts of the cliff giving off an ethereal feel. We liked dipping our toes in and exploring.
DUBROVNIK AT NIGHT
Not much to say here except... just walk around at night. It's beautiful with all the lights on. Grab a gelato and have a leisurely stroll through this amazing city.