Croatia-Part 1: Trogir, Salona and Split


Split and Surrounding Area

This is the first article in a three part series on the Dalmatian coast—a spectacular part of Croatia.  Croatia was one of the best and “easiest” vacations we have taken—we found it easy to confirm rooms, find food (restaurants were open almost all day), arrange services, and get around. The food is excellent—Italian fare, local meat dishes, and seafood are the most common menu items.  Most menus are in four languages (Croatian, English, German and Italian). The gelato is as good (or better) than that found in Italy. The Croatian people are friendly and many are fluent in English.


Croatia-Dalmatian Coast

Croatia-Dalmatian Coast.

We arranged most of our rooms throughout Croatia using   Most rooms are “apartments” with a bedroom, bath, and small kitchen. In October, we found rooms for two people ranging from €30 to €60 per night.   Since we were visiting a couple islands too, we decided to rent cars for the day as needed. We arrived at the Split airport from Munich, Germany. The Split airport is tiny, and after the plane landed on the only runway, it turned around right on the runway and taxied in to the very small terminal building (there is construction going on at the airport to enlarge the terminal).

Trogir 2

View of Trogir from Kamerlengo Castle.

We had prearranged a car rental ( at the airport, met the agent at the terminal and picked up our car and drove west to Trogir, just a few kilometers from the airport. Trogir is a historic Venetian town on a small island, right next to the mainland and our room was in the middle of the town.  Our host met us at the car park close to the island and walked us over a wooden bridge to our room.  Trogir is beautiful, and can be toured on foot in a few hours (or less). Most of the historic town centers we visited in Croatia are closed to autos, making a walking tour much more enjoyable.

Solona Ruins

Roman city ruins of Salona.

The next day we drove to Salona, close to Split, to see the Roman city ruins. Although there are signs on the roads directing traffic to the ruins, they are still a bit difficult to find. The necropolis just outside the city ruins has many large tombs, and the city ruins are interesting too. Unfortunately, a busy highway and some industrial buildings nearby detract a bit from the site.

Solona Necropolis 2

Salona Necropolis.

From Salona, we drove into Split, a fairly large city. Our room, the most expensive of the trip, was €60. It was a large apartment with a washing machine, and about 10 minutes’ walk from the old city center.  We loved Split. The old city is built in and around Diocletian’s Palace. From the west side of the old city there is a park on a hill that provides a great overlook of the city. It’s well worth the hike.

Split Croatia (4)

View of Split, Croatia.

The old city is so densely built that it’s hard to get a perspective on the layout of the buildings. Some Roman buildings (Diocletian’s tomb-now a cathedral, and Temple of Jupiter) remain among the medieval buildings, and in some cases the walls of the Palace and structures are incorporated into the medieval buildings. Below the Peristyle (courtyard) is the basement of the Palace—part of which has been turned into shops. The rest of the Peristyle is open to visitors for a fee, well worth the cost (about $4). Climbing the stairs of the bell tower by the Peristyle provides a great view of the Palace and old city and puts it all into perspective.

Split Croatia (14)

Gate into Diocletian’s Palace.

Split Croatia (12)

Diocletian’s Palace-Peristyle.

Split is a major port, with ferry lines going to numerous locations (including Italy) and cruise ships passing through.

Croatia-Part 2: Hvar and Korcula


From Split we took a ferry to Hvar island, about 45 minutes away. A few words about the main Croatian ferry line, Jadrolinija. It has regularly scheduled service to many island destinations.

Croatia-Dalmatian Coast

Map of Destinations we visited in Croatia.

However, I found their website a bit confusing when trying to plan our schedule, and I don’t think I’m the first person to think it’s confusing. The good news is that even in October, we found regular ferry service, and it is easiest to just ask the local ferry office or tourist information office upon arrival for schedule information. Keep in mind it’s much easier to travel by foot rather than having to take a car ferry. The passenger ferries go right to the main little towns and run more frequently, especially off-season.

Hvar Town Croatia 2

View of Hvar, Croatia.

Hvar town on Hvar island is nestled around a harbor with a 16th century fort overlooking the village and harbor. Our apartment was about 10-15 minutes away from the ferry dock and our host was kind enough to pick us up with our luggage and to drive us to their apartment home. We were able to easily walk to a grocery store and into Hvar. Hvar is a small town —very scenic with historic buildings, fortified walls and narrow streets.   On our first afternoon we went exploring and found a car rental service near the bus station and made arrangements to rent a car for the following day.

The next morning we drove up to Fort, and enjoyed the expansive view of Hvar, the Pakleni  islands, and the island of Vis in the distance.

Hvar Fort Croatia

View from Fort, Hvar Island.

We then drove out to the small towns of Stari Grad, Jelsa and Verboska (which are all close together) taking about an hour via the scenic route.  Traffic was sparse and the roads were very good, although narrow. These towns are also historic and attractive, although not quite as picturesque as Hvar itself.

Hvar Island Croatia 1

Beach area–near Jelsa, Hvar Island.

Near Jelsa there are some great beaches and secluded parks and trails that would be perfect to visit in swimming season (we were there in late October, and even then there were a few people on the beach).

Hvar island is about 80 km long, and we covered not quite half the distance, and felt we got a good feel for the island. We noticed the island is greener on the eastern side (facing the mainland) then the western side.

Hvar B&B

Our apartment–just a 10 minute walk from Hvar Town.

There are lots of apartments in Hvar town for rent, especially west of the Harbor. In the off-season, it should be very easy to find places to stay. There is a beautiful walkway along the shore to the west of town also.  While there were a few tourists this time of year (a few sailboats in port, and one cruise ship visited for half a day), the island was quiet, and very peaceful, even though it’s only 45 minutes from Split by ferry.

Korcula Croatia

Korcula town.


We took a passenger ferry from Hvar to Korčula (Krilo Ferries) that goes right to the town of Korčula on Korčula island. It was about a 90 minute trip. Coming into Korčula at night was stunning.  Although it’s a small town, we enjoyed seeing the old fortified towers and bell tower of the Cathedral lit up as we pulled into the harbor.

The town of Korčula is a perfect medieval-feeling town with narrow streets, archways, and towers and gates. There were lots of jewelry stores in the town, many selling coral earrings, bracelets and necklaces.  We found a great little shop right inside the main entrance (the “Land Gate”) to the old town.

Our apartment was on the edge of the town, overlooking the water and the mainland. The water was so clear that I wanted to dive in from our 2nd story room!  The streets on the southeastern side of town are curved to break the winds that come in the winter and on the opposite side the streets are straight—interesting to view the difference from the main square.  The Cathedral of St. Mark (13th-15th centuries) is built on a trapezoidal shape for this reason.

Cathedral of St. Mark Korcula Croatia

Cathedral of St. Mark, Korcula, Croatia.

From the Land Gate, one can take stairs to the top (for a fee) and have a great view of the whole old town. Marco Polo’s house (really just a tower next to the shell of the old house) is open, and climbing to the top provides a nice view of the town and across to the Pelješac peninsula. We enjoyed just wandering the old streets, visiting a few museums and shops and relaxing on the balcony of our apartment in the bright sunshine. Given that we were only in Korčula for two nights and one day, we did not rent a car to explore more of the island. It was a perfect amount of time to see the old town, relax and enjoy the ambience.

As usual in Croatia, there were great restaurants in the old town and also just outside the Land Gate area.

Croatia-Part 3: Dubrovnik

We took an early morning bus (6:45 am) from the town of Korčula to Dubrovnik. The bus takes the 7 am ferry to Orebić on the mainland (about a 15 minute crossing).

Croatia-Dalmatian Coast

Map of Destinations we visited in Croatia.

The bus then drives along the Pelješac peninsula through the walled town of Ston and on to Dubrovnik’s main bus station. The whole ride, including a break, was about 2.5 hours, and cost about $18 per person.

Minceta Tower Dubrovnik Croatia

Minceta Tower–night view of walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

From the bus station we caught a bus (#8) that took us right to our apartment, which was next to the Minčeta Tower, part of old Dubrovnik’s wall fortifications. The apartment was in a perfect location to visit the old city, other than a lot of stairs down to the Pile Gate. What struck us first about Dubrovnik is the size and massiveness of the walls surrounding the old town. The walls are up to 80 feet high in some places. One of the best activities in Dubrovnik is to buy a ticket (about $14) and walk around the entire length of the city walls. The views are excellent, and you meet interesting people along the walk (over a mile in length).

Walls of Dubrovnik Croatia

Walls of Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik Croatia 1

Main Street (Stradun) Dubrovnik.

We really loved Dubrovnik for many reasons—it’s stunning setting along the Adriatic coast, there are many things to do in the old town and there are a variety of tours that can be arranged from the old city to neighboring locations and other countries (Bosnia and Montenegro for example—see our blog on a day trip to Montenegro). Dubrovnik is also a popular cruise ship destination.  There were two ships in port during our stay in late October. It was enjoyable walking around in the evening after the cruise passengers have set sail.

We took a tour boat out to Lokrum island, which is just 700 meters from Dubrovnik. The boats operate about every hour. Once on Lokrum we hiked to an old Benedictine abbey and then to a fort (1800’s) at the north end of the island that offered a great view of the old city (below left). There are boats that go to other nearby islands and towns.

Dubrovnik Croatia 3

View of Dubrovnik from Lokrum Island.

The Franciscan and Dominican monasteries in Dubrovnik are worth visiting, in addition to the Cathedral and Jesuit church. We enjoyed walking through the narrow streets, up many stairs, and taking in the beauty of the old city. The several gate entrances to the city are fascinating in themselves. Wander off the main street and try some of the many restaurants and gelato shops on the inland (east) side of the old town.

Dubrovnik War Croatia

Discription of attack on Dubrovnik in 1991.

You might remember that Dubrovnik was heavily shelled in the early 1990’s as Croatia sought its independence from Yugoslavia. The recovery was pretty quick, and it is hard to see any damage, except an occasional shell hole in a wall. The picture below tells one person’s story during that time. In the Rector’s Palace there is an exhibit on the Yugoslavian civil war. It is hard to believe that such a peaceful and beautiful place was being blown to bits less than 20 years ago.

If you can visit just one place in Croatia, make it Dubrovnik.