Being born and raised in coastal Croatia it is no strange thing to think about it as magical. Probably everyone is thinking the same thing about their home. After years of traveling and living abroad being home again made me look at it in a different way. I see more and more people from around the world coming here every year in larger number, so I guess I am not the only one who thinks it is special in some way. I have met many people who stayed here more than planned even though it was just a stop on their way. There is definitely something magical here, hey, even Game of thrones crew was thinking that when they took Croatia for one of their filming locations.
Let’s start this magical journey!
If you’ve ever been or planning to visit coastal Croatia you’ve probably been warned about crowds, and if not I’m warning you right now. Croatia is a new big thing on tourism scene and it’s still progressing with touristic plan. That results in seasonal and mass tourism so it’s no wonder that summer is not only the most crowded part of year but also only part of year where you can get some touristic content. It is not something to brag about but it is realistic. You may find yourself quite bored in the wintertime. I’m here to give you some tips how to avoid crowds and get the most of your stay here.
Think about where you want to stay
I will introduce you to my hometown Kastela. It is actually spelled Kaštela and the weird letter Š is pronounced sh, but I don’t want to confuse you any more than needed. The name came after many castles (forts) built here and only nine of them still remained. What is interesting about my city is its construction – seven small places are organized as one city. But the most important part which is one of the reasons why I want to recommend staying here when visiting is its location. Kastela are located between two Croatian highlights – UNESCO cities of Split and Trogir. Being a smaller city, less crowded, cheaper accommodation with the airport and marina makes it a smart decision when traveling. The connection with larger cities is very good and there are numerous places to stay – hotels, apartments and latest trend Airbnb. People are welcoming, friendly and the city itself is quiet and relaxing place to stay in. Maybe the quiet part won’t win younger travelers or those who feel young, but as I said – larger cities are close and the buses go around during the day and night so you can have peace and fun when and where you want. For those who are not traveling on a budget think about renting a boat, it is not as expensive for foreigners as it is for Croatian people. I can’t say it is very cheap but most of things are way cheaper than in other parts of Europe. Being a tourist here may bring you higher prices but try to avoid classic touristic places, I guess it is the same rule everywhere.
If you decide to stay in Split just be careful with location. Centre of the city is honestly overrated and too expensive, beside hostels off course. But if you want hostel stay make sure to book it in advance because last day notice won’t be helpful and believe me you are not that lucky. There are nice old ladies waiting outside buses and trains offering accommodation: don’t be afraid of them you may get good prices and that’s pretty much the way things work around here – nobody believes in internet and you’ll get nice view of locals and their way of living.
Some friendly advice to you all is definitely: don’t stay in Trogir! People from there would probably find themselves offended right now but it is not related to them personally or their accommodation: it’s the traffic! Trogir is amazing, and I mean really amazing town with some kind of rare and extraordinary beauty but the traffic jam during summer days is like five hours or even more. Apparently the bridge construction which will make things a lot easier should be over till the next summer, but I wouldn’t get my hopes high. Trust me, a one day trip is quite enough. Take the whole day: go early morning visit the old fish market (maybe buy some fresh fish), take a walk around the city it is really small and you can see everything in one day, go inside cathedral it is something to see definitely, have a drink in the sunset by the sea where many famous people come with yachts (if you’re into that) and go back late evening. It is a good way to avoid traffic crowds and you will see everything you need to see. Trogir has that old small town charm which can be felt at first sight.
Think about what you want to see
Kozjak hill and Mosor mountain
If you are mountain, see, city or sport person you will find your way around easily. There is something for everyone. In Kastela you can take a walk from the beginning to the end of the city; it is best seen in length by the sea because of the sightseeing. All forts are located in this area and the walk lasts around an hour. As I said before, none of our coastal cities aren’t that large and all of them are walkable. Above Kastela there is a hill Kozjak and it’s a great outdoor adventure even for the lazy ones. It is easy to get to and has several points where you can go to and not all of them are on the top. If you decide to go to the top, feel free because it is not demanding – the highest point is around 800 meters. If you’re feeling optimistic or just love trekking, try Mosor – the mountain between Split and Kastela, it is truly amazing and the view is absolutely gorgeous – you can see entire city of Split, Kastela and Solin from above and even some of the islands. If you are more adventurous person there are several agencies for outdoor activities such as climbing, paragliding etc. It is shame that outdoor activities aren’t that popular around tourists or maybe there are not enough resources or promotion on that matter, but my advice is if you’re into it you should definitely give it a chance. Combination of mountains and the sea is a big part of coastal Croatia magic. Why not watch the sunset from above enjoying fresh air and nature? If nothing it is worth of thought.
In Split you can find probably everything you need while traveling: good food, rich nightlife, lots of people, islands connections, clear blue sea, beach bars and historical old city center which would be shameful to miss. Try some local food or buy it at the market; it is a real local experience.Drink your coffee at the old square of Peristil while crowds of people are passing by, the air is hot, skies are blue and with the old city around you it will feel like time travel. Get lost in the small streets around and explore interesting and diverse life of this amazing place.
Hvar, Brac, Vis
Or take a ferry to one of the islands. I really can’t say which one, because every single has something magical to offer. The most popular one is definitely Hvar and it has the richest nightlife around; for some even more interesting than Split. You can take a small trip to Pakleni Islands from Hvar which is something you will remember for sure! Also, bike tours are great way to explore the islands. There is something in this area for everyone: easy vacation with your feet in the air, salt in your hair, drinking cocktails and having fun or busy type of holiday with lots of activities. Take a swim at one of the most famous beaches in Europe: Stiniva Cove on the island of Vis or be adventurous and dive into the Blue Cave nearby. Maybe try unusual beach shape of Zlatni Rat at Brac Island and see way it is one of the best beach destinations around. They are all reachable from Split and the connections are pretty good. As I said, it can get crowded during the summer but the magic of islands is that you can always find some special hidden place for yourself.
Buy a plane ticket!
Or take a train, bus, go by car, whatever is your thing.
What are you waiting for?