Updated: Sep 13, 2018
Life’s too short not to live it right? We should be using our hard earned salaries to go places we’ve never been before, to unwind and explore and reassess our busy lives. A recent study presented by Forbes in 2018 suggests that travel, always assumed to be best for physical wellbeing, is extremely good for your mental and emotional wellbeing as well.
Let me tell you my friends, Croatia …is all of the above. And some!
We were lucky enough to go with two of our very best mates on the most relaxing holiday I’ve had in years. Starting in the historical town of Split, we sailed on our oh so fancy catamaran with the oh so lovely MedSailors (medsailors.com) down the Dalmatian coast, culminating in a two night stay in otherworldly Dubrovnik. We travelled to this beautiful spot in Mid-June and the weather could not have been better.
Croatia is a beautiful country made up of just over 4 million people, with a 5 835 km long coastline, dotted with thousands of unique islands. The country has as super rich history, with strong Italian and Slavic influences. The food in Dalmatia is strongly influenced by the Venetian empire, so I pretty much ate my body weight twice over in pizza and pasta (washed down with kilolitres of Aperol spritz). Croatia isn’t sold as a foodie destination, but I have to say, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Their white wines were really quite quaffable and the fresh seafood (where you can afford it) is truly out of this world scrummy.
The recent War of Independence (1991-1995) had a crippling effect on both the people and the economy of Croatia, and only now are they beginning to move away from a tough post-war economy. As such, cash is king and card machines are frowned upon, especially on the less commercial islands. This has in no way effected the way people are in Croatia. Hands down, we encountered some of the friendliest, kindest and funniest people I have ever met. In this three part series, I’m hoping to give you a glimpse into our trip, throwing in some handy tips where appropriate.
My partner and I flew via Dubai to the capital of Croatia, Zagreb and then hired a car and drove down from Zagreb to Split.
Guys, if you do one thing whilst in Croatia. Hire a car and do a self-drive. The country is incredibly beautiful and the roads are all brand spanking new. The landscape from Zagreb to Split changes drastically, with a drop in altitude of only about 158m. We went from overcast, forested mountainous landscapes to sunkissed, undulating coastal fields of endless lavender and citrus. Amazing! The drive from Zagreb to Split is about 4 hours long, 99% of which is national toll highway. There are plenty of viewpoints and rest stops along the way, so you really can take your time to take in all the beautiful scenery as you go.
Note: Keep an eye out for other drivers. Croatians have a need for speed and the 130km/hr speed limit is more of the exception than the rule.
We arrived in Split early evening and my initial thoughts were….huh? In all the pictures of Split, I had only seen the picturesque old town, so as we approached what is called central Split (think high rise eastern block vibes), I had a wee panic. However this was short lived. We dropped our car off at the Split Marina and I instantly fell in love with the medieval charm Split exudes. Old cobble lined streets, all leading to small squares in which quaint Konoba’s (local name for restaurant) serve up hearty pastas and aromatic, fresh seafood. Each alley leads you down age old pathways, walked by ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs and Venetians in times gone by.
Arguably the most famous site in Split is the Diocletian’s palace, a maze of marble ruins that serve as the frame in which nearly all of the shops, restaurants, bars and accommodation now stand. There is such a wealth of history within the very walls you sit and socialise, eat and explore and I loved every inch of it. To knock your socks right off, check out the Peristyle and the Cathedral of Saint Domnius… Just wow.
I would happily recommend our accommodation in old town Split. In the heart of the old town, clean, budget-friendly and air-conditioned, Dosud House Studios is perfect for anyone wanting to be fully consumed by this beautiful town.
The first item on our agenda in Split was to find a vibey bar to have a cold one at and watch the football. Spain were playing Portugal in the group stages of the World Cup and we settled for a great little spot called La Bodega in one of the outer squares. After a few hours of glorious people watching (accompanied of course by an Aperol spritz) it was time to chow.
By far the best place we ate in Croatia, Zinfandel Food and Wine Bar was the perfect introduction to Croatian cuisine, music and hospitality. Hidden down one of the hundreds of gorgeous little alleys in Split, this place was buzzing when we grabbed a table for dinner. The atmosphere was relaxed and accompanied by music from the coolest male/female duo on guitar and vocals. What a treat. We chose to share their tasting platter for two, which could have actually fed a family of four easily.
It was delish people. D-LISH.
The platter comprised of a selection of prawn ceviche, spaghetti with truffles (truffles are famed in Croatia) and a selection of local charcuterie and cheeses (the locally produced “Pag”, a sheep milk cheese was an instant hit with us). Paired with a bottle of Bogdanjuŝa, a local dry white wine varietal grown on Hvar, we were in seventh heaven.
The nightlife in Split was surprisingly lit. Like most of Europe, things only kick off around midnight and I would highly recommend Bar Fluid (conveniently located 2 metres from our accommodation’s front door. 17 Kuna for a beer and 35 Kuna for an Aperol. I think yes….
Split is truly magical and I would recommend at least two days to explore it. Absolute must do’s include:
Morning people-watching and coffee on the marina (I’m only human ok?);
Drinks at any of the little bars down the alleys;
Exploring all the nooks and crannies of the Diocletian palace, the ruins of which encompass more than half of old town; and
Stay tuned for part 2 of our epic trip through paradise