It’s no surprise that Croatia is now becoming one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations.For most of the year its a great place to go and escape big crowds, soak in the culture and have a unique holiday experience. With the endless mountainous back drop plunging into crystal clear water and the perfect warm Mediterranean sun, it is certainly a place not to be missed.
See my other post for a perfect 10 day travel itinerary for Croatia
Bol, Brac Island
Imagine cobbled streets, quaint buildings and pristine water and you have Bol. The harbour is surrounded by cafés, the finest restaurants and Italian influenced gelatissimo’s. If you are the restless type, there is enough to keep you busy in Bol and it’s surrounding areas, otherwise it’s the perfect place to go to if you want to experience a slower pace of life.
Bol is home to the famous Zlatni Rat beach which attracts the majority of visitors. To get to Zlatni Rat beach you head 2km east out of Bol and walk along the footpath that hugs the clear blue ocean for no longer than 15 minutes. The footpath is lined with pine trees and smells beautiful. If you head along there early in the morning you feel that LA summer vibe where people are running, cycling, roller skating or walking along to get their daily dose of fitness. During the day there are also beautiful markets around the area selling local Croatian gifts such as olive oil or handmade ornaments made from the stone in Brac.
Zlatni Rat beach is really unusual in the way it has formed. It’s triangular shape sticks out by 500m into the ocean. If I’m honest the beach itself I found slightly disappointing…Eek… although it’s not enough to stop me visit again. I was aware that Croatia didn’t have sandy beaches before I went, however from all the images I envisaged that Zlatni Rat beach would be sandy and it wasn’t, it was just pebbles…boo hoo!
I also expected the beach to be much bigger, however I must admit I was very underwhelmed by the experience…darn all those deceiving adverts. To top it off it was also really busy and touristy, which is not what everyone want! Despite feeling this way I’m still glad I went to see it and it was much more impressive to see from the top of Vidova Gora Mountain. In the afternoon we managed to find a quieter spot to soak up the sun and swim in peace.
Despite the lack of beaches, Croatia is well set up for you to relax along harbours or on flat rocks surrounded by dedicated swimming areas. There are plenty of ladders to assist you getting in and out of the water (that’s if you don’t fancy diving or bombing it in). The water is totally gorgeous and I could have spent all day swimming in it. One other word of warning is that their a lot of sea urchins so you do have to be really careful not to touch the bottom…ouch… unless you decide to take a pair of water shoes.
The other great thing about Bol is that you can hike up Vidova Gora and the path starts in the town. The mountain is 780 meters high and it is the highest peak in the Adriatic Islands. The path up is well signed posted so you don’t need a guide or map to get you there. The climb is moderate as there are parts that feel quite steep, I would also highly recommend you start out no later than 8am because it gets really hot and humid quite quickly. It took us 1:40mins, however I would allow up to 2 hours to reach the top, especially if you want breaks on the way.
The panoramic views at the top are well worth it when you get there. You can see Hvar Island, mainland Croatia as well as the deep blue ocean stretching into the distance. It is a unforgettable picture and as you can see from the image below Zlatni Rat beach looks incredible from there. There is a small restaurant at the top if you wanted to stop for lunch, although it did look a little strange especially as there were skinned animals there…certainly not my cup of tea, think I will stick to my banana and nuts thanks!
In Croatia, it is tradition to have a glass of cherry brandy or a liquor before dinner. Bol was the perfect place to do this in the early evening whilst watching the sun go down and the quite streets become alive for the evening. If you want to eat out for dinner there are plenty of restaurant for you to choose from, you are almost spoilt for choice. I have to say the Pizza’s are sensational, which is no surprise considering how close to Italy you are…you would be pretty disappointed if they weren’t. If you fancy after dinner drinks or to just go out for a few cocktails, there are also plenty of cocktail bars, although the majority of them are quite empty until a lot later in the evening.
I have to say Bol on Brac Island in Crotatia has a special place in my heart. I can’t quite pin point the reasons why it was my favourite place other than the pure beauty and the relaxing vibe it has to offer. It’s a great place to go and escape from your usual hectic and busy life…it completely lived up to my expectations of Croatia.
Split, Mainland Croatia
We only spent one day and night in Split and personally I felt that was enough! It was still beautiful, really interesting and full of bustling restaurants and shops, however after the Island pace of life in Bol, I felt like I wanted to head straight to the next island.
Split’s main highlight has to be the Diocletian’s Palace, which is one of the most impressive Roman ruins out of Rome I have ever seen. Other than the ruins and museums, the palace boundaries contains numerous cafes, restaurants and shops. The imposing architecture consists of lustrous stone from Brac Island as well as marble from Italy and Greece and columns and sphinxes from Egypt. You can easily spend the day exploring interesting alley ways and getting lost in the History.
The cosmopolitan city leaves you spoilt for choice for dining in the evening, I’m sure you could spend months alone trying food from each restaurant. You can imagine the food in Croatia is largely influenced by it’s neighbour Italy. The pizza’s are out of this world and by the coast the seafood risotto is a local dish not to be missed…the only downside to the food is it was hard to escape the carbs…I was putting on the pounds just looking at most of it. When choosing your restuarant I think it pays off to walk away from all the obvious places for dinner,the food is just as good but slightly cheaper…pretty obvious but sometimes it’s so easy to get sucked in when hunger strikes.
Hvar Town, Hvar Island.
The words that spring to mind to describe Hvar Town is ‘a rich man’s playground’. The place is out of this world and I’m sure you could have a lot more fun if you owned one of those great big super yachts… and boy are there some beautiful yachts. The town by day is fairly quiet because most people are out exploring the nearby Pakleni Islands. However once the sun has gone down, all the boats and yachts line the harbour and the place comes alive. The place is renowned for it’s night life.
Well, Hvar town is just beautiful and charming as any of the other Croatian towns! With the typical terracotta roof tops, historic churches, monasteries and crystal clear water what’s not to like? Surrounding the town are plenty of places to go and swim and sunbathe (you can either hire a sun bed for £4 a day or be fortunate to find a very flat rock to lie down on).
After a day of bathing in the sun I highly recommend you head east out of town to find a beach bar called Hula Hula before going home and freshening up. It is a great spot to watch the sunset and they serve great cocktails. The bar is really lively with upbeat music and lots of people enjoying a well deserved drink after a hard day in the sun. If you are thinking of heading out to enjoy the night life after it’s a great place to get you in the mood.
Hvar Town has to be hands down the best place to go for night life in Croatia. The streets really do come alive in the evening and there are plenty of bars to choose from. What I really liked about it is it didn’t feel too tacky nor pretentious. Don’t get me wrong you can’t expect to go out in a place renowned for it’s night life and not see some carnage, however on the whole there was still a great vibe. Carpe Diem is a great lounge bar to go to for cocktails and upbeat music and the best part about it is you can get a boat to their club on a nearby island around 1am if you fancy partying to sunrise. Sadly I didn’t experience this.
If you want to go and see the Pakleni Islands which are located offshore, South West of Hvar town, you can either get a water taxi for £4 return or for £40 you can hire a motorboat that holds up to 6 people. We did the latter and it was probably one of the favourite things I did in Croatia, I highly recommend doing this. We spent the whole day out on the boat and went to two islands.
We went to Miln and Palmizana for the day which only took about 15 minutes to get to each island. Miln was absolutely stunning and again the water was out of this world. After the hilarious and slightly stressful attempt of trying to moor our motor boat (I’m sure the locals see this sort of thing every day, but we couldn’t help but feel pretty stupid) we spent the morning relaxing and swimming there.
Palmizana was a great place to visit, however I did feel it would have been much more stylish to rock up on a yacht rather than our underpowered motor boat. The beautiful bay we stopped at for lunch and the afternoon did feel like a rich man’s little haven. It was a great place to sit back and people watch, if you like that kind of thing. I was just mesmerised watching people finish lunch then diving in the water off the board walk to then swim over to their yachts. I guess you either see this sort if thing all the time and are not fussed or you couldn’t care less but I found it enjoyable to watch…maybe it’s because that’s my calling…keep dreaming!
Dubrovnik is definitely one of those places that shouldn’t be missed. Unfortunately we had issues with our bus from Spilt (it broke down but it was no big deal, drink bottles of beer and playing cards is the perfect way to kill 3 hours) so we didn’t get chance to spend as much time there as we would of liked, hence why I have added an extra day in the 10 day travel itinerary post.
Outside of Dubrovnik there are beautiful beaches and more islands to explore, however the main attraction in Dubrovnik is the old town. The old town can be found within city walls that protected the city in the 15th century from invasion of the Turks. As soon as you arrive through the city gates you start walking along a marble pedestrianised promenade lined by buildings built in renaissance style. Like with many places you visit that are absorbed in history, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed and appreciative. The city is packed with outstanding architecture such as the 15th century synagogue, the clock tower from 1444 as well as the Onofrio Fountain from 1438 so there are plenty of sites to be engrossed with. It is also worth exploring the old town by walking along the city walls, the views of the city and the sea are outstanding from above.
As with many of the places on this Croatia trip, there were plenty of restaurants to choose from, however I was pre-warned that is difficult to find anywhere to eat where the food is delightful in Dubrovnik. Unfortunately this was true, I wasn’t that impressed by the food on offer and it was no where near as good as the food on the islands. However the restaurant in the back streets away from the crowded areas looked more appetising.
Hopefully this write-up on Croatia has already got you looking up flights because I couldn’t recommend it enough.There are a few negatives that may put some people off such as the lack of sandy beaches and the sea urchins. However, I think Croatia is well worth the visit, if not for the culture and history but for the outstanding beauty. There are so many more things I would love to do in Croatia, such as explore the national parks and lakes as well as visit the capital Zagreb. This trip was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what else the country has to offer.