Dubrovnik is most traveler's number one destination in Croatia; it's how most of us first came to think of the country as a hotspot to explore. However if you only go on first look, you're going to be disappointed. It's crowded. It's overpriced. There's not may local experiences inside of the Old Town. You have to dig deeper. Of the places I visited in Croatia, Split is my overall favorite because it melds the energy of a big city with the more relaxed vibe of a beach town.
If you're in Europe, you can do Split and nearby islands in four days. If you're coming from further, I'd recommend at least six so that you can fully unwind and explore.
Cable car video
Dubrovnik portrait photo
Yes, this city is as touristic as you can imagine but it's also as stunning. Of my entire trip, Dubrovnik was definteily the most spectacular sight. It's an interesting contrast where you hear English at every corner, see people clad in shorts and flip flops but then are surrounded by ancient buildings. You will feel both the vibrancy of a big city and the laidback vibes of a beach holiday destination.
When we arrived, the sunset was stunnning and it was such an epic, gorgeous shot that our taxi driver stopped the cab on the side of the street and told us to go take video. (I nearly got hit, but got tht shot!)
Split doesn't feel like it's exclusively geared up for tourists (e.g. like old town in Dubrovnik) nor does it feel like it's lost its soul to overbuilding (e.g. like Makarska.) The city has struck a balance between history, culture and tourism. This is why it's my favorite of all the Croatian cities and towns that I visited.
You can visit Split as a stand-alone destination or tack it on to a larger trip. This guide will give you highlights of my holiday and inspiration for your own active holiday with a playful spirit.
When it comes to working out, Dubrovnik is one of the more difficult places to sweat it out because there are just so many people, everywhere. So you have two options. The first is to do your outdoor workout along the side streets...preferably before the tours, so think around 9am or earlier. The benefit of this is that there are so many hilly inclines and steps that you will definitely get the endurance going and lower body burning. The steps and hills aren't always so well paved though so you will have to watch your footing! The second option, is to get a great airbnb/guesthouse/you name it with a view and do your workout there. We had an amazing place with the view above and I did a barre workout and some circuits on the terrace. Couldn't have been happier!
See the city at night because during the day is when all of the cruis ships dock. There are currently so many cruise ships coming in that UNESCO is threatnineg to take away Dubrovnik's status as a Cultural Heritage spot. That's how bad it gets
Dubrovnik is immediately stunnning. We kept saying how it looked like a movie set. And in part it is. It's been featured in so many films besides Game of Thrones and kept in immaculate condition. It feels new even though it looks ancient. That's because it's been rebuilt multiple times due to war and destruction. For me it was a little too perfect, a beauty that was just too symmetrical, to in place that it didn't get to my core, that is until we did the Foodie & History Tour. Although I've placed this as third, it could easily be first among my favorites.
exploring corners of the city
games of thrones sites
attitude of locals
covering of stairs to not see up ladies dresses (random important facts)
the most amazing wine ever of the aristocracy
About a 15 minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik old town is the abandoned island of Lokrum. No one is permitted to live there (supposedly because of a curse) so as you walk around. The island is cleary maintained by a full force of professional gardners because the plants are perfectly manicured but what makes this island interesting are the litters of wild bunnies and flocks of wild peacocks. As I'm obsessed with all things little, I can't express the joy I felt in seeing five little peacocks walk in a line behind their mommy. 3 hour minimum stay here
Nice little relax, you an do kayacking or just lounge on the rocks.
This is someting I just can't beleive more people don't do!!
(We didn't do an overnight in Hvar but all of us wish we had so I'm including it here.)
DAY 1 - Explore Split old town city center & pier
DAY 2- Morning workout and exploring in Marjan Hill, afternoon ferry to Hvar, explore one route of islands, stay overnight
DAY 3 - Explore more of Hvar and Islands, evening back to Split
DAY 4- Trip to Trogir and cooking class, evening Glow SUP tour
DAY 5- Trip to Zlatni Rat beach, return to Split and go on to next destination or head home
Wear what you would on a typical beach holiday but always have layers ready! It can go from rainy and slightly chilly to scorching hot within a few hours. People do tend to dress up at night but it's still mostly casual chic.
High season is end of June through August. If you can get the shoulder part of that (early June or September) you're better off for avoiding crowds, finding higher quality accommodation and still getting the good weather. October is also recommended by locals as the water can still be warm and most cruises and family trippers have already visited over the summer school holidays.
There's a variety of accommodation in Dubrovnik at many price levels but it books up quickly. Most liekly you're not going to get a place in Old Town but that's ok! In fact you get a much higher value outside of old town. We were a 10 minute walk away and had an incredible space with two bedrooms, a varanda overlooking the water and the most incredible view I've ever had in the world. We had the most stunning view Make sure to stay somewhere near the old town and not far from the ferries to help ease your days of exploring. Parking is a nightmare near old town and expensive if you go into a private garage so if you're traveling by car, arrange parking with your accommodation beforehand to avoid a lot of headdache!
Dubrovnik was the one city that I went to in Croatia where price and quality of food didn't usually meet. Food was on par with prices in New York or London but the taste, flavour and service definitely were not. You're paying for the views and for the privilege of eating in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
That said, there were a number of juice bars, salad places and restaurants serving a greater variety of food than I had seen elsewhere. Whatever your dietary preferences, you should be able to find something that works. The clear stand out of all the food was the Bosnian restaurant, Taj Mahal. Definitely stop there!
Most everyone that you will interact with at the shops, ferries, etc. will speak a decent level of English. Of course, it's always good to learn basic Croatian phrases as these seemed to be appreciated. (Pronunciation is a tough one though!!!)
If you've got questions about Split or Croatia, leave them in the comments or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to help you get this one off the bucketlist!