Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split

Reader’s Review: Dalmatia in September 2015 – Part 2 – Hvar & Split

Following on from part one of Neil Killeen’s excellent report of Dalmatia in September here’s the second part of his travelogue. Here, Neil recounts his experiences of visiting and staying on/in the island of Hvar and Split, exploring the sights of both destinations.

Dalmatia in September 2015 – Part 2

by Neil Killeen

Our next stop was Hvar town. We decided to take one of the day trip boats to Jelsa (their first stop) on Hvar island and then catch a bus. The alternative was bus to Split and ferry to Hvar. This was a bit quicker and nicer we thought. So you pay about 100 kuna I think it was for the transfer to Jelsa. That was our first Adriatic boat trip.

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Figure – On the way to Jelsa

On the way to Jelsa

At Jelsa harbour it was not at all obvious where the bus station was and we didn’t have a lot of time to find it. Google was not helping (and by the way my “covermore.com” global sim card worked well in all of Croatia – it came with my travel insurance). However, a very helpful man selling stuff in an outdoor stand gave us directions and we found it OK. It’s about a 10 min walk from the harbour. The bus trip was really pretty around the western coast of Hvar. Some guy in a Mercedes was not happy with the bus driver and chased about for a while (we didn’t feel any collision so we really don’t know what that was about).

At Hvar town our host and sister kindly collected us from the bus station. Nothing is very far away, but when you first arrive, finding places in the often multilply-named windy and hilly Croatian streets can be a bit tricky. We had a nice sea view from our accommodation.

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Hvar

View from Hvar apartment

It turned out we were just a few minutes walk to the nicest beach in Hvar, and from there around to the harbour. The demographic in Hvar is a bit younger and upmarket. As you head north from Dubrovnik to Split I think there is a general evolution to a more lively environment. We happened across an Orson Wells exhibition there. It turned out his last companion, the actress Oja Kodar, is Croatian. Her met her in Hvar in 1967 working on a film he never finished called “The Deep”. She lives now near Split.

There is an old fort above the town which is well worth walking up to (it’s a nice walk). Its origins are late BC with much building and rebuilding over the next 2000 years as Hvar’s strategic importance waxed and waned. In the fort is a really interesting display of pots and other relics from a ship wreck dated to 2nd century BC. How cool is that!

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Figure – Prison Cell in the Fort, Hvar

Prison Cell in the Fort

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Hvar

Pots from 2nd century BC ship wreck

We couldn’t go to the green caves and other marine destinations, as it was a bit too windy. I think the operators were all a bit relieved to have a day or two off! Most nights there was music in the main town square. We enjoyed a band and singer who performed energetically and well for a couple of hours. We even had a little dance (Salsa) in the square to some of the music to enormous acclaim from some of the other listeners (but see Split!).

From Hvar we took the fast cat to Split. Our host met us at a church near the harbour and took us to the apartment. Nice and close to the main part of the city at the harbour. Split is a fabulous city, although, as a short-term tourist I think we get a rather protected slice of life. Split is especially famous for its Roman palace founded in the 4th Century. The emperor (Dicolesian I think was his name) was very unusual because he retired still living. Almost all of the Roman emperors were assassinated. I think it was the third century which saw 100 emperors come and largely go. (I learned this in a Rome museum).

Ri decided to have a sleep and I went out to explore the day trip options. One of the spruikers was a young woman, with whom, for some reason, I immediately found myself deeply engaged in a conversation about the history of Split and the Balkans in general. After 45 minutes she declared she really didn’t want to sell me day trip! She advised me that we should do one of the palace tours with a certain company, so we did. The palace is amazing. It’s large and is still lived in. It’s seen 1800 years of cultural and architectural change, and that’s all charted through its living buildings. You can see the edge of a roman road inside of the bank for example!

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split

The Bell Tower in the Palace

We experienced more traditional Croatian music here. This time it was a military band and all male-choir. To be honest it was a bit dull. The musicians were very polished (and look great in their lovely all white uniforms) but the music was very ‘samey’ (too much of anything is not a good thing) with endless Croatian folk songs. Worse, although the choir was some 15 strong, the arrangements weren’t very interesting with virtually all the men singing the same part in unison. I happen to sing in a choir, so I know I’m picky, but I really felt their talent was not being used as well it could have been. However, the locals appeared to be loving it, so we were happy to leave them to their fun.

Now the main square inside the palace under the bell tower is a fabulous place to be in the summer evenings. There is a Café that opens onto the square, and they hire musicians to perform every night. People sit around on the steps and the waiters zoom around making a fortune on drinks! Note, it is unwise to order “a beer”. What you will get is a very large vat of beer. If you want one that won’t last a week, ask for a “very small beer” please. We trotted out our little Salsa act here too – the musicians were brilliant every night; usually duos with really varied repertoire. One evening, a young couple got up to dance. The man was dressed in fairly ordinary ‘travel clothes’, but the woman was very elegantly dressed. Then they danced. Phew. It was HOT. They didn’t actually do a lot (in terms of ‘moves’) but their ‘moving’ was really sexy and beautiful to watch. We didn’t get up to dance again after that, you can be sure!

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split

More of the palace

We finally managed a day trip from Split. We went to the ‘blue lagoon’. The trip consisted of 1) going to a bay on an island and jump in and swim, 2) going to another bay on another island, where the water was slightly blue-er, jump in and swim. The boat had a couple of face masks which you could use to admire the seaweed and a few desultory fish, 3) go to a small town on another island and have a really bad lunch (we reckon it had been sitting on the bench a long while). Thanks heavens I did not select ‘fish’ as the fish was whole oily Mackerel (eeeeew), 4) wander about this tiny place (and it was REALLY hot) with absolutely nothing to see, 5) go back to Split. Actually, despite not being the most awesome experience (it wasn’t very expensive), it was a nice lazy day out on the water. We made friends with a couple of other folks over “lunch” and chatted with them for a while also.

Dalmatia in September 2015 - The ‘blue lagoon’

The ‘blue lagoon’

On our last day, I gave my partner, Ri, control. Normally I seem to be the one who ends up deciding where we go, and how we get there and all that stuff (I don’t particularly want to, it just works out this way). Anyway it was her turn I decided; I was soon not sure about this decision as we walked all the way around the peninsular to the west of the city (mostly through the Park Suma Marjan). However, It was a lovely day out. First we walked up to the lookout (near the cemetery).

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split panorama

Panorma from the Split lookout

Along the walk we encountered a beautiful tiny old church from the 13th Century. Although we couldn’t go in, there was a hole in the door through which I could take a good picture. The very basic interior of this church rather contrasted with the excessive basilicas of Rome a few days later.

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split church

13th century (1219) church

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split church

13th century (1219) church

We also encountered these very cool dwellings built directly into the cliffs. The occupants must have lived incredibly austere lives. We didn’t manage to learn anything else about when these were built and occupied.

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split

Rock-face dwellings in Park Suma Marjin

From here we wended our way down the hill to a beach that we had been eyeing keenly for a while. We had brought some sandwiches along with us and scarfed them down soon before finding our way to the beach. I was a bit surprised to learn that this was Ri’s very first peanut-butter and cucumber sandwich (I made them). These are a staple of mine and I was sure that in the last decade since we met one would have come her way….

Dalmatia in September 2015

Mmmm yummy

After a very nice cool swim (it was pretty hot this day) at the beach, we headed onwards along the coast back towards Split. This took us to the famed Gallery Mestrovic, the legacy of the famed Croatian artist Ivan Mestrovic. You can read the history here in Wikipedia. The gallery is wonderful and there is also a piece by Rodin, who supported Mestrovic. Here was where I had another nice encounter with a local. I always get through the galleries faster than Ri (her artists’ eye has a lot to see), so I was chatting with the gentleman checking tickets at the front door. Again I had found another person with a passionate interest in history and culture. We had a long discussion, taking in most of the Balkan political history of the 20th century!

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Gallery Mestrovic

One of the many wonderful casts in the Gallery Mestrovic

From the gallery (and the small chapel on the other side of the road with Mestrovic wood panels) we headed on to another small beach for another dip.

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split Beach

Our last beach swim in Split

Finally, we made our way back to the harbour (the fancy end). There were many amazing yachts here. The most impressive was the “Polar Star” which you can see in the figure. I later googled it, and discovered that it cost 60 million Euros to build, and costs 380,000 Euros per week to charter (crew of 17, 12 passengers)! Some things are really a long way out of reach and you really wonder how that’s within anybody’s reach (or philosophy).

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split

The Polar Star in Split

Finally, Ri decided to take a “short cut” back to our apartment. Here is the rather daunting view of that short cut. On arrival back at our apartment, our feet needed a lot of attention, so foot massages were again the order of the day.

Dalmatia in September 2015 - Split

The short cut

We took the airport bus (the other end of the harbour), and flew to Rome with Vueling airlines. We had a bit of a worry when I could not find our booking online. It turned out that this was because of some confusion between the parent company Iberia and Vueling. When our booking was made, our tourist agent (FlightCentre in Australia), only supplied codes for Iberia. But these did not work on the Vueling site (nor on the Iberia site). Anyway, there is a 24 hr hotline for FlightCentre, and the consultant resolved it efficiently for us (she had to call Iberia to sort it out). I hope FlightCentre have now changed their process!

So off we went to Rome, but that must be a story for some other website – do you run a Roman website also Anna?

Venice to Split

Getting from Venice to Split

One of the questions we get asked a fair amount these days concerns ferries from Venice to Split, or vice versa. We assume that many travellers’ ‘end point’ for travels in Italy is Venice, and they then want to make the leap to Croatia…by going directly to Split!

We can categorically say that there are no ferries from Venice and Split. Ferries used to operate in the past, but nothing resembling this route has operated since 2005. Back then a company sailed from Chioggia (close to Venice) to Split – a journey that took 12 hours. So if you were hoping that you could travel between the two places by ferry, with a quick 3-4 journey time…you’re out of luck! (Also, look at a map! The two cities aren’t that close!)

Venice to Split
The Grand Canal in Venice

So if you are looking to travel from Venice to Split, what are your options?

Flights from Venice to Split

By far the quickest way is flying…of course. Volotea operate early morning flights twice a week (Monday and Thursdays until 1st October 2015), with a flight time of just one hour. You can take advantage of some pretty cheap flight deals if you book early enough.

In case this helps some of you (depending on your other travel plans in Croatia), there are also flights from Venice to Dubrovnik in summer. Croatia Airlines fly on Thursdays and Sundays (flights operate in the early evening), with a flight time of 1 hour 20 minutes.

Travel down the Italian side of the Adriatic

The alternative would be to travel down one side of the Adriatic to get to Split. We normally suggest doing so on the Italian side, as you can travel by train from Venice to Ancona and then get one of the overnight ferries from there to Split. Check out train timetables – and ticket booking – on the Trenitalia website; train journey time is around 4 hours, including a change in Bologna, or there are also a couple of direct trains a day between Venice and Ancona that take 3 hours 30 minutes. (So, not much difference!)

There are several companies that run ferry services between Ancona and Split, and the journey time is 10/11 hours. See more details on our Travelling from Ancona to Croatia page.

In peak season (July/August), some of the ferries stop off at Stari Grad on Hvar en route to Split.

Travel down the Croatian side of the Adriatic

There are no direct public transport options from Venice to Split, so the best way is to take a train from Venice to Trieste (journey time approximately 2 hours; many trains per day – again, see timetables at Trenitalia) and then a bus from here to Split.

There’s a daily bus that departs at Trieste at 1.45pm and arrives in Split at 10.30pm. Some days, there’s also an overnight bus that gets into Split just before 4am. Both of these buses are operated by Autotrans – you can look up full details on their website, which also offers online ticket booking.

Driving from Venice to Split

You can of course rent a car in Venice and drive all the way to Split. However, we’d recommend against trying to do this as a one-way rental – one-way car hire across a border in Europe is ridiculously expensive!

If you do fancy driving most of the way, we would recommend taking a bus (or possibly catamaran) into Croatia and then picking up your hire car here. One-way car hire within Croatia is certainly possible and not all that more expensive (if at all).

Take a look at our Travelling from Venice to Croatia page for details of buses. We’d suggest taking a bus to Pula to pick up a car as that’s the nearest large town; however, you can also find car hire offices in Porec and Rovinj.

If you do end up driving from Venice to Split (perhaps you’re returning to Italy after Croatia), the distance is about 650km. Factoring in what may be a busy border crossing (Slovenia – Croatia) in summer we wouldn’t recommend you attempt the journey in one day!

Note: Don’t forget that a vignette is need to drive on motorways in Slovenia.

Pula to Split is around a 5-6 hour drive if you take the inland motorway route; if you drive the scenic coastal route, the journey will be longer.

Trains from Venice to Split

Errr…don’t bother! There are most definitely no direct trains between the two cities; if you did attempt the journey, you’d find yourself having to travel via Zagreb (which, geographically, is quite a detour). There’s also not even any direct trains from Venice to Zagreb, adding to the pointlessness of this option.

Other options for getting from Venice to Croatia

Don’t forget that catamarans from Venice do operate to locations in Istria – Pula, Rovinj and Porec. There are also several bus options from Venice to places in Istria too.

Take a look at our Travelling from Venice to Croatia page for full details of these.

Split Photos - View from the Belltower

Travelling from Zagreb to Split

Are you planning on travelling from Zagreb to Split (or vice versa) this summer, taking in Croatia’s two largest cities? Read our guide below for how best to travel between the two!

History of Zagreb

Travelling from Zagreb to Split by train

Unusually for Croatia train is one of the methods of transport you can use in travelling between Zagreb and Split. (We say this because many travellers expect to travel around by coast…and then discover the lack of train services along the coast!)

There are several trains per day between Zagreb and Split, and journey time is either 6 hours or 8 hours (the latter being an overnight train).

Daytime trains take around six hours, and a one-way, second-class ticket costs 208 Kunas. There’s a train that departs early in the morning, and another departing mid-afternoon.

The 8-hour train has a couchettes for sleeping – if that’s your kind of thing – and there’s also a special bicycle car…plus space to transport vehicles! The cost of this train is 190 Kunas for a regular, single-ticket journey in second class.

Look up timetables on the Croatian Railways or Die Bahn websites. Look for Zagreb Gl. Kol. or Zagreb Glavni Kol. (Zagreb Glavni Kolodvor meaning Zagreb Main Terminal, the main station in the capital.)

Note: During summer, twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays) these trains actually start in Budapest – so if you’re travelling from Hungary, you can make it direct all the way to the Croatian coast (well, as long as it’s Split!). Journey time is 14 hours.

Travelling from Zagreb to Split by Bus

There are many buses per day between Zagreb and Split…as befitting a route connecting Croatia’s two largest cities! It’s best to look up timetables on the Zagreb Bus Terminal website.

The thing to note about bus services is that some are much faster than others – this depends on whether buses take the fast, motorway route to Split or the slower ‘road’. (The latter most likely meaning plenty of stops en route.)

You can work out journey time length on the Zagreb Bus Terminal website; it also shows how many stops (and where) will be made. This will give you an idea of which are the faster buses! Journey times vary between 5 hours and about 7 and a half hours.

The Zagreb Bus Terminal website also offers online booking of tickets, although you will need to physically pick up tickets from the Terminal before departure. (But seeing as you’re leaving from there anyway…that’s no big deal.)

Flights from Zagreb to Split

There are also daily flights, year-round, between these two cities operated by Croatia Airlines. With a flight time of only 45 minutes and with cheap tickets available if you book early enough, this is obviously a very fast way of travelling that can actually be cheaper than expected.

You do, of course, have to factor in travel between each city centre and airport but with regular transfer buses at both ends that’s easy enough. Check out our Zagreb Public Transport and Getting to and from Split Airport pages for help.

Driving from Zagreb to Split

If you’ve hired a car for your stay in Croatia, driving from Zagreb to Split is also very easy these days due to the A1 motorway. The journey time can be as quick as 4 hours, assuming no bad traffic situations. The motorway is of course tolled so do factor this in – you’ll pick up a ticket when entering the start of the motorway just outside Zagreb, and then need to pay when you exit at Dugopolje outside Split. If you’re in a standard car, this will cost 174 Kunas (2015 price) – prices of other vehicles can be seen here: A1 motorway toll prices.

Getting from Split to Dubrovnik

Getting from Split to Dubrovnik…and Dubrovnik to Split!

We’re sure that many of you will be travelling from Split to Dubrovnik (or Dubrovnik to Split) this summer, so we thought we’d lay out the various options for getting between the two!

Getting from Split to Dubrovnik

Split to Dubrovnik by Catamaran

Kapetan Luka have a daily catamaran operating in both directions from Split to Dubrovnik. The catamaran operates in the early morning from Split to Dubrovnik – stopping at Milna on Brac, Hvar Town, Korcula Town and Mljet – whilst the opposite journey operates in the late afternoon/early evening. Journey time between Split and Dubrovnik is 4 hours 15 minutes.

You can of course also split up the journey en route to either Dubrovnik or Split e.g. Dubrovnik to Korcula and then stay there for a night or two.

You can book tickets online on the Kapetan Luka website or using the search box below – during peak season, this would be advisable.

The catamaran does also operate in October, although only three times a week.

2017 Update: Kapetan Luka have a new daily catamaran operating between Split and Dubrovnik. This one stops at Bol on the island of Brac, Makarska, Korcula and Sobra on the island of Mljet when travelling between the two cities. Journey time between Split and Dubrovnik is 4 hours 30 minutes, and the sailing is also in the early morning from Split, with the reverse in the mid afternoon.

Jadrolinija also now have a catamaran connecting Dubrovnik and Split. Operating daily from early June to mid September, their catamaran stops at Bol on Brac, Hvar Town and Korcula Town en route. Sailing time between Split and Dubrovnik is 5 hours and 15 minutes. This catamaran sails from Split in the mid afternoon (reaching Dubrovnik at 9pm), and sails from Dubrovnik in the early morning (reaching Split at 12.30pm).

Split to Dubrovnik by Ferry

Jadrolinija used to run – for absolutely years and years – a coastal ferry service that stretched from Rijeka in the north down to Split and Dubrovnik, stopping off at a couple of the islands along the way (Hvar and Korcula). For 2015, this route has been cancelled – so there are no car ferry options between Split and Dubrovnik. 2017 Update: Details of this service being restarted in 2017 was released – however, by the summer, this has failed to materialise.

There is a year-round Jadrolinija car ferry that operates from Split to Vela Luka on the island of Korcula. As an alternative to the above ferry, you could utilise this – perhaps staying on Korcula for a bit! – before then taking a ferry from Korcula to Orebic on the mainland, and then driving down to Dubrovnik. (It’s a bit of a different alternative, admittedly!)

Split to Dubrovnik by Bus

Luckily, these two Croatian coastal gems are connected numerous buses that run daily. Journey time is around 4 and a half hours – although do note that in peak season (July and August), you may be delayed by an hour of more if the coastal road is especially busy with holiday traffic.

The route stretches through a portion of Bosnia & Hercegovina (called the Neum corridor), so do keep your passport on your person/in your hand luggage and not in the suitcase you’ve put in the hold!

This is a transit route through Bosnia & Hercegovina, so you won’t need a visa for the country (if you otherwise would – EU/US/Canadian/Australian nationals don’t).

Split to Dubrovnik - Neum Corridor
Neum

Buses normally use Neum as a comfort break – a chance to stop for the loo, stretch your legs and to snap a few pics of ‘you in Bosnia’. Luckily, it’s a pretty nice view! There’s also a shop there if you fancy stocking up on ‘duty free’ (booze and cigarettes) and a few little knick knacks; snack options are a little thin on the ground unless you like biscuits, crisps and soft drinks/water.

Check schedules for the route – whether for Split to Dubrovnik or Dubrovnik to Split on the Split Bus Terminal website. The Dubrovnik Bus Terminal also displays this information, but it’s not quite as user friendly.

Split to Dubrovnik by Air

Trade Air have a few flights a week in each direction between Split and Dubrovnik; flight time is 40 minutes.

There are transfer buses between both airports and each city’s main bus station – and in the case of Dubrovnik, the bus also stops at the Old Town. See Getting to and from Split Airport and To and from Dubrovnik Airport.

Split to Dubrovnik by Road

If you’re driving between Split and Dubrovnik, there are two road options – either the scenic coastal road for the whole route, or inland on the A1 motorway as far as Ploce – where the motorway ends – and where you need to then towards the coastal road to continue the journey.

Which one you take is up to you in terms of whether you’re under time pressure or not. The coastal road is beautiful of course – but it can be very busy during the summer months!

Split to Dubrovnik Private Transfer

Visit Croatia Recommends A popular transport option for travel between Split and Dubrovnik is a private transfer. This door to door car service makes for easy and comfortable travel between these two cities. Best of all, prices are fixed and very competitive – cheaper, in fact, than a taxi with prices starting at €210. In addition, you can choose your pickup time and whether you’d like to modify the trip to include stops along the way, making the transfer into an excursion. For a free quote on Dubrovnik to Split transfers contact Octopus Transfers Croatia

Split to Dubrovnik by Train

This one’s a no go! Dubrovnik has no train station, for starters…and train services up and down the Croatian coast don’t really exist. But you’ve luckily got plenty of other transport options – as detailed above!

Useful Links

Rovinj

Croatia tourism statistics for January to July 2013 are in!

Statistics for the number of visitors travelling to Croatia in the first seven months of 2013 were released today – and despite some doom and gloom and uncertainty for this year’s summer season, they do indeed still show an increase on last year’s figures.

Rovinj

In total 6.6 million tourists – which includes both foreign and domestic – holidayed in Croatia from January to July 2013, which is an increase of 3% on the same period last year. These visitors stayed for a total of 36.5 million nights, which is an increase of 2.5%. Of these numbers, almost six million were foreign visitors to the country (up 4%), who stayed for 33 million nights (up 3.3%).

The month of July alone also saw increases in visitor numbers. 1.1% more tourists visited the Croatian coast and Zagreb (the two main tourist centres in the country!) than in July 2012, 3 million visitors in total. These visitors stayed for a total of 21.3 million nights, which is also an increase of 1.1% on the same month last year. Of these numbers, 2.8m were foreign visitors (an increase of 1.7%) who stayed a total of 19.3 million nights (up 2.5%).

The majority of the Adriatic counties all posted increases in visitor numbers and nights stayed for the month of July, although there were also some falls. Istria, in particular, received 3.2% fewer visitors who stayed for 2.2% less nights. Zadar county was the only one in Dalmatia to record a fall in visitor numbers and nights stayed – of 1.6% and 3.5% respectively – whilst the other Dalmatian counties recorded relatively healthy increases. Split-Dalmatia county saw 6% more tourists who stayed for 5% more nights, whilst Dubrovnik-Neretva county – home, of course, to the wonderful and ever popular Dubrovnik – received 4.4% more visitors and 3.6% more nights. (For the purpose of completeness, we can mention that Sibenik-Knin county got 3.8% more visitors who stayed for 4.7% more nights.)

It was away from the coast, in Zagreb, that the largest increases in visitor numbers and nights stayed was recorded. 14.6% more visitors came to Zagreb in July 2013 than in the same month last year, staying for 18.6% more nights.

Source: Jutarnji

Zagreb Cathedral

Reader’s email: Experiences on visiting Croatia in December!

A few months ago, we were very happy to receive a lovely follow-up email from a traveller to Croatia (who we assisted in their travel plans via email), which told of their happy experiences whilst enjoying a summer holiday in the country.

Very recently, we were happy to receive another such email from a traveller (that we also assisted, pre-trip, via email) from Latin America who visited a number of towns and cities in Croatia. His comments are well worth reading as he provides a number of very useful tips on the places he visited, whilst it’s also interesting to note his experiences as he visited Croatia in December – and as Croatia is often considered a summer-only destination, it’s great to see an enjoyable visit during this particular month.

Zagreb Cathedral, Croatia

Zagreb’s Cathedral

So, here’s what our happy traveller had to say:

I’m back from my trip to Croatia and it was great in every sense including the weather. We were able to visit Zagreb and stayed at the Dream Hotel  near the airport on our first and last nights. The hotel is quite new and the furniture is custom made for the limited area of the rooms. The service was more than expected with buffet breakfast (I expected toast and coffee!) including fruit, juices and with eggs made to one’s request. The personnel was very helpful and even prepared breakfast at 5 a.m. before driving us to the airport for free as advertised!
We later visited Vukovar where some of my wife’s relatives live. A new museum of a prehistoric culture is being built. It will be inaugurated in 2013, so there’s an additional tourist attraction besides the war-related things. We visited it and it’s located next to the Danube River with an unobtrusive design on the hill.
From Zagreb we flew to Dubrovnik. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen, and I have seen quite a few in Europe and America (the continent). We stayed at the Excelsior because of the location on the beach and within walking distance to the Old Town. I followed your advice and drove the airport bus to Pile Gate and then took a taxi saving some kunas. This was offset by the taxi #91 back to the airport gave us some extra turns as what was supposed to cost 30-35K ended up being 45K with little traffic… The hotel is a 5* and the buffet breakfast has an extensive variety as expected. We paid for a room with seaview which was worth it. As you indicated, we didn’t need a tour guide and just wondered around with a map. Since this is the low season, it was great not to have too many tourists around. The food we had at a Konoba to the right of St. Blaise Church was excellent even if the waitress was not too happy doing her job. Walking on the walls was one of the highlights as it gives a different perspective of the town. Even though we stayed only 1 day, we were able to wonder around all of the Old Town and took many pictures. 🙂
From Dubrovnik we flew to Split (via Zagreb). We stayed at the Palace Judita per your recommendation and were fascinated with the hotel and it’s service. It was worth the looong walk with luggage from the bus station. After Dubrovnik, Split doesn’t seem as impressive or beautiful, but was worth visiting. It would be better to visit Split first. Too many graffiti on the walls give a bad impression. It’s rather difficult to determine where the Palace starts and ends and the shops outside the walls are not a nice sight although they do offer bargains. A map was more than enough and no tour is needed even on a 1 day rush visit. At the hotel, Marija, the manager, recommended Konoba Varos, and we were delighted with the good service and seafood which was fresh, tasty and well accompanied with a local wine. This is a restaurant we will remember for a long time!
Back in Zagreb, we visited the old part of the city. It’s too bad that new buildings are built along old ones because the city has very nice neo classical and gothic architecture in some places. The area near the cathedral is well kept and the cathedral is worth visiting even considering we had seen some impressive ones in Spain, particularly Toledo’s.
Lastly, the Croatian language lessons on your web page were most helpful. Although my pronunciation was not too accurate, the words helped to communicate (although many people speak English). I enjoyed trying to use the different words and phrases and most people were helpful. [Note: See Croatian for Travellers]
Thanks so much for your help in making this trip such a nice one and without ugly surprises! We’d like to return to Croatia although it’s expensive to fly from Guatemala.

Thanks very much, dear traveller, for taking the time to email us after your trip and for your kind comments as well! We’re very happy to hear you enjoyed visiting Croatia, and thanks for providing us (and other travellers) with some great tips!

If you’d like any assistance in planning a visit to Croatia (this is a free service – and we don’t try and push any kind of company or service on you!), please do email us at webmaster@visit-croatia.co.uk. We’d be more than happy to help – and would love to hear your experiences of visiting Croatia!
Dubrovnik Photos - Old Town Harbour at Sunset

Croatia’s tourist statistics for the first half of 2012

Yesterday saw the unveiling of tourism statistics that show visitor numbers to Croatia – both foreign and domestic – for the first six months of the year. These figures reveal overall visitor numbers, as well as showing statistics for the individual counties in Croatia, and the numbers of tourists arriving from different countries.

So, to tackle the overall statistics first, it was revealed that Croatia received 3,418,306 tourists between January and June this year, which is up 6% on the same period last year. Of this, the vast majority were foreign tourists – 2,922,632 (up 8%) – whilst 495,674 were Croatian(a drop of 4%).

Visitors stayed for 14,456,034 nights in the country (up 5%), which once again were mostly made by foreign tourists (12,898,639 nights – up 7%) rather than domestic (1,557,395 – another fall, this time of 6%).

Croatia's tourist statistics - Dubrovnik

Stunning Dubrovnik

All counties included in these statistics have seen visitor numbers go up – with the exception of Sibenik-Knin county, which has seen a drop by 1% in visitor numbers. Top honours go to Dubrovnik-Neretva county (unsurprisingly, home to Dubrovnik!) which saw 13% more visitors in the first six months of the year, as did Lika-Senj county (where the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park is located, as well as Velebit National Park). The former county also saw 15% more overnight stays during the same period, whilst the latter achieved 10% more.

The top visited county was the ever-popular Istria, which saw 975,391 people visiting from January to June, an increase of 5% over the same months last year. Other counties to enjoy good visitor growth include Split-Dalmatia (8% growth; 503,713 visitors); Zadar county (7% growth; 295,707 visitors) and Zagreb (5% growth; 298,850). Indeed, Zagreb enjoyed an increase of 11% in the number of nights stayed by tourists, clearly showing that those visiting Croatia’s capital are staying for longer.

Taking a look at the different foreign nationalities visiting Croatia in the first half of this year, the largest increase was posted by visitors from Japan of which there were 38% more (staying for 37% nights) when comparing this time period to the same one last year. British visitors also posted a very healthy increase (25% more, staying for 26% more nights), as did Belgian visitors (26% more, staying for 16% more nights), Dutch visitors (22% more, staying for 24% more nights) and Swedish visitors (21% more, staying for 21% more nights).

Just for the month of June, Croatia received 1,618,472 visitors in total (1% more than June 2011), who stayed for 8,330,928 nights (which is being recorded as the “same” as last year!). Dubrovnik-Neretva county again posted the best increase of 11% more visitors (164,426 in total), who stayed for 13% more nights (756,345). Rather interestingly, Istria actually posted a drop in both visitors numbers (down by 5%) and overnight stays (also down by 5%) for June 2012 over June 2011.

Rather pleasingly (given where we are based!), it was British visitors that posted by far the biggest increase for June 2012 over the same month last year – 36% more Brits visited, staying for 34% more nights.

Source: Croatian National Tourist Board

Travel question: How to travel from Tisno to Split

I need information about hiring a car in Tisno, one way, and dropping off in Split? My boyfriend and I need to get to Split one way or another and i’ve heard the bus is a nightmare and takes 5 hours? Is this true? Please let me know if you have any ideas as to how we can do this. Many thanks. K.D.

I’m afraid it would be very unlikely that you would be able to rent a car in Tisno and drop it off in Split – Tisno is too small a place to have proper car rental companies, and any local agencies that would possibly provide car hire would only provide it for you to explore the local area (and bring the car back to them!), in the same way you could hire a bike or scooter for a few hours.

The scheduled bus from Tisno to Split should take around the two hour mark, not five. I’m not necessarily sure why the bus would be considered a nightmare – possible reasons might be that, as it’s the height of summer, traffic may be slow along the coastal road with lots of other holidaymakers who’ve come down to Croatia by car clogging things up. However, if you were to rent a car, you wouldn’t be able to escape this!

Even if the roads were slow, I would say that your bus shouldn’t be that delayed…possibly by one extra hour (so, a three hour journey in total). Obviously, things depend on the day of the week (weekends would be busier), time of day etc.

Other reasons might be that the bus might be very full, so there’s not enough seats and you have to stand. In some cases, the bus might be even so full that they wouldn’t let you on, and you might have to wait for the next one.

However, saying all this, there are a number of buses per day on this route. You can look up timetables at the Split Bus Terminal website. Select Tisno R as the starting point (not Tisno M).

When you’re actually in Tisno, I would confirm locally to make sure you know where the bus stop is. You could also enquire about purchasing your tickets, say, a day or two in advance, but as it’s a small place you might not be able to.

If you get stuck (for whatever reason – I don’t think you will, but good to keep these things in mind) I would consider taking a taxi (or local bus, if you can find the information when there) to another local town and get a bus from there. For example, Pirovac is close to Tisno (6 miles/15 mins) and there are more buses from there to Split.

Another alternative would be to take a local bus from Tisno to Sibenik (about half an hour away), which is the nearest large town. Then from here, there shouldn’t be any issues getting a bus to Split. Not only are there even more buses from here to Split (about 36 a day), but some routes start in Sibenik, so you wouldn’t have any issues about not being able to get on a bus because it’s too full.

Sucata Rallies’ Charity Rally to Split returns for 2012!

Sucata Split

News reaches us of a fantastically fun charity rally event that will take place through Europe this year, winding up in Croatia!

Sucata Rallies organise a number of “old banger” charity rally events that take place across Europe each year (others include runs through Europe down to Portugal and Budapest), with their fabulous Sucata Split event returning for 2012.

This year, the event will take place from 31st May to 4th June (a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK!), starting in Bruges in Belgium and ending – of course! – in the wonderful Croatian city of Split on the Dalmatian coast. Inbetween, participants will travel through seven countries; as well as the starting and end points in Belgium and Croatia, the route takes in France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Slovenia with the Alps also getting a visit.

Teams must participate in old bangers that cannot cost more than £350, and are highly encouraged to dress up both themselves and their vehicle in fancy dress as much as possible! Each team is required to pay a very reasonable £25 per person (with a limit of £100 per vehicle) to register, and is then set a target of raising £250 per person that goes to the charity Gemin-i, who are involved in organising the event.

Sucata Rallies

Gemin-i is an educational charity that helps children around the world share ideas and work together for a brighter future, with the aim of encouraging them to take action, thereby promoting positive change around the world. They bring together over 40,000 children in 2,700 schools across 120 countries to educate them about some of the world’s biggest issues such as malaria, HIV and AIDS, human rights and conflict resolution. The charity does this through online resources and by helping children share their ideas via internet forums and debates.

In particular, money that will be raised by those taking part in the Sucata Split rally will support the HIV360 project. With someone becoming infected with HIV every 12 seconds, the HIV360 project raises awareness, connects people around the world and supports them to take action on HIV and AIDS. The project will reach tens of thousands of children across the world, and every £250 raised will help schools raise the understanding by their students of HIV as well as increasing their chances of avoiding infection. More on the charity can be found on their website www.gemin-i.org.

If you’re interesting in taking part in what’s no doubt going to be a fantastically fun event, read up more about it on the Sucata Rallies website and register yourself and your team – what are you waiting for?!

New Split - Brac - Hvar - Korcula - Dubrovnik catamaran line

A bunch of nobodies visit Croatia

Croatia. A country for everyone – big spenders, the budget-conscious, adventure seekers, sun-worshippers, families, party-animals, culture-vultures…the list is endless. But it has now also been discovered that it’s a very suitable holiday destination for those whom the term “celebrity” is coined very, very loosely.

Channel 4’s Celebrity Coach Trip (don’t lie, we know you watch it too!) features a bunch of “celebrities” making their way across Europe on a coach holiday, taking part in a series of tasks in each destination they visit whilst also generally messing around/getting on each others’ nerves/trying to remind people of their glory days and why they were famous in the first place.

In the most recent series, the gang were lucky enough to enjoy four days (well, four episodes worth of filming) in Croatia, taking in the capital city Zagreb, the Plitvice Lakes National Park environs, the lovely town of Zadar and bustling Split. From judo to a cookery lesson in Samobor, a survival course to glass blowing and klapa singing, the group had a busy time and Croatia served as a very pretty backdrop (bar some rainy conditions in Zadar) – with some very friendly and well presented teachers and guides – throughout the shows.

Split, Croatia
Hilarity ensued in Split (no, really)

You can watch the episodes via Channel 4 On Demand – here’s the site’s Coach Trip page (viewable in the UK and Ireland only) or on YouTube.

In answer to the question I can hear on the tip of your lips – no, I don’t know what Croatia did to deserve Nikki from Big Brother.