Split, Hvar Island, Korcula and Dubrovnik, Croatia

Croatia has been on my “to go” list for quite some time. After seeing Game of Thrones, and going to Malta, I expedited it straight to the top of the list. Clear water and lovely beaches? I needed that after my road trip through the USA and Iceland.
Coming in to land over Split

I grabbed my reliable travel buddy B. and we were off on a two week trip to Croatia. We deviated slightly from our initial travel plans, but you’ll just have to wait for the next blog to learn a little more about that!

For a week and a half we traveled around Croatia. We got a fair bit in. First, we started with Split, where we landed.



Diocletian’s Palace. This palace was built in the 4th century. My mind boggles with how old it is!


We landed pretty late at night, so once we got to our hostel and got settled in, it was time for dinner, a wander around the town and then a few drinks. I tried rakia, an eastern European liquor. I actually couldn’t even swallow it, it was so acrid. I let B handle those.
The next morning, it was time for more exploring in the sunshine.



Something I noticed immediately is that Croatian people, very unlike American people, are accommodating of history. I noticed people living inside the walls of Diocletian’s Palace, which personally I think is so cool. In the States, after 50 or 60 years, we just knock old things down and build on top of them. Here, people live around and within the old things. Its like living through history. I love it.



After going on a tour of the Palace, we climbed to the top of the bell tower of the church to get a view of all of Split.





If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know how obsessed I am with places where the mountains come in to the water, so you know why I have such a smile on my face. It was so beautiful!


…but the descent was also extremely scary. Note the rust, and how many people there were on these stairs. Shivering just remembering it!


Next we went down to the crypt. From high, high, high to underground, but I was grateful for a moment to be in a dark, cool place.





This particular part of the Palace reminded me of the Forum in Rome, except people can interact with the ruins here.

After our day in Split, it was off to Hvar. We took a catamaran two hours out to the island, and arrived, again, toward the end of the day. Luckily, we didn’t miss the sunset. We got a phenomenal view from our hostel, in fact:


Hvar is actually a pretty big island. We stayed in Hvar town, since its pretty much the tourist hub, but made plans to spend one day at the beach, lazing about, and another touring the island by scooter.
The night we arrived, though, we just wandered around the old town.





Much like Split, except much smaller, Hvar old town is a series of very close maze-like stone walkways, with stone houses on both sides. I suppose this keeps people cool year-round. It just felt like walking around an old hallway with no roof to me. This is what made the bar we found, Ka’Lavanda, even more special. It felt like we were in this really amazing bar, with amazing drinks, with no rooftop. We just sank in the seats and took selfies, and people watched, of course.



The next morning was beach day.
Can I just tell you, I LOVE SWIMMING. LOVE IT. I was so depressed when, because of shark attacks all along North Carolina beaches, I couldn’t swim at home. So you better believe I spent most of the day swimming.



View of the beach from our hostel.

Later that evening, relaxed from a day on the beach (although I think I swam about five miles), we headed out to Hula Hula, which is known for its amazing sunset parties.  The great thing about a sunset party?



The sunset, obviously!
And the fact that everyone at the party just wants to drink and be merry. B and I were no exception.


Miraculously, the next day we were up early and ready for our scooter ride. Since B doesn’t have a license, I was the lucky driver who took us all around the island. Although there are cars, you can really ride a scooter throughout the entire island and see it in one day. That was our goal.
We breakfasted in Stari Grad, an amazing UNESCO city with roman ruins.






Then went on to Jelsa for a wine tasting at Tomic. Who knew Croatia made such amazing wines!?








After the tasting, even though I’d just had a little, we wandered around Jelsa some. The views were fantastic, I haven’t seen prettier in a long, long time.



Then it was back on the scooter for what our rental guy had warned would be the hardest part of the trip. We’d cut through the mountains to get to Stari Grad and Jelsa, but on the way back to Hvar, you have to drive up and down the mountains on narrow, extremely steep roads.
I was a little nervous, but the views were truly fabulous. If you know me well, you’ll know it is no small feat to move me to tears, and yet I really was. The pictures just can’t do this amazing island justice.


Unfortunately, another thing moved me close to tears as we headed toward our final destination: we had a pretty bad crash. I was going too fast up a mountain and crossed over to the other side of the road. I felt that rather than hit the curb, it was best to fall to the side.
Again, the photos don’t do the injuries justice. Maybe there’s something about Hvar that makes everything beautiful, because I was really, really banged up. (Don’t worry, B was fine. Miraculously she had no scrapes whatsoever!)
Luckily, the sunset was so beautiful that picking up and carrying on up the mountain was worth it.


The next morning, bright and early, we headed to Korcula, another ancient island-city.




My wounds were too fresh to face the salt water, so we wandered around the old town instead.







We even came across a budding shell-selling business, but sadly it was closed.

Apparently, Marco Polo is from Korcula. This is the church he went to. Apparently.

Just like in Hvar, Korcula had an epic sunset. Most people go to Massimo to get a good view.


Massimo is in the old Battlements of the town, so you have to climb up a ladder to get to the top. Its like being in a scene of Game of Thrones.


And when you get to the top, you have amazing views of the city…


…and the sunset.


Everyone else thought so, too.

This is why I turned around and stopped taking pictures of the actual sunset, but the reflection on the other side of the ocean. It was breathtaking.


The next morning, healing but not to the point that the water felt nice, we climbed the clock tower in Korcula to get the 360 perspective.






The stairs going up and down were a little sketchy, to say the least, but we made it sans additional injuries.



Finally, we went on to Dubrovnik. We missed our original ferry because I forgot the time (knocked out of my head in the crash no doubt!), so we took a bus ride that inspired an idea. We’d road trip through Bosnia and Montenegro with the rest of our time. We decided to stay in Dubrovnik just one night before picking up a car and heading out to less touristy climes.







Dubrovnik was gorgeous, but after Split, Hvar and Korcula, we’d seen a lot of amazing Croatian cities. We were really looking forward to Bosnia and Montenegro, too.

But one thing did stop us in our tracks.

As a tourist, it is easy to forget that 20 years ago Croatia was embroiled in a massive war. Its such a beautiful place, and there’s so much to do. But the fact remains that thousands were killed and many, many more exposed to terrible human rights violations in the Yugoslav Wars. Its odd to think about, but most of the people walking amongst us from Croatia had lived through some or all of the war. And if you ask (tactfully), they’ll tell you about it a little bit. Some of the stories we heard were really hard to hear. But good for us. As much as you go on holiday to enjoy the sun, sea and gorgeous views, its also important to come away with a little bit of knowledge about the history, culture and what its like to be a local.
The next morning, I was feeling well enough to face the ocean, so we had an early morning dip at Cave Bar More, sitting out on their chaise lounges and lolling in the sea for a few hours before we hopped in the car and begun our road trip.



My verdict on Croatia: one of the most beautiful countries in the world! From the natural beauty to the historical cities, I literally couldn’t get enough. But its also very fractured, just underneath the surface. There’s a lot, it seems, that has yet to heal from the wars. But, at least in the tourist areas I frequented, its well covered. That isn’t as much the case in Bosnia and Montenegro. But I’ll leave that for my next blog.


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