I think I have a huge crush on UNESCO world heritage sites…. I mean, I live in one back in the UK (shout out to Bath), I spent my 20th birthday on top of one (What’s up, Machu Picchu?) and I spent my year abroad wandering around Spain and Russia trying to tick as many as possible off my list. So, it’s no surprise that I found myself ambling through Croatia’s most famous UNESCO city – SPLIT!
The story starts back in Hvar, where we caught a late night ferry back to the mainland. Due to the fact that it was nighttime and a storm was brewing, the waves were vicious and the boat was rocking all over the place. To say it felt like an extreme roller coaster is actually an understatement – it was crazy! Thing is, I love that feeling in your tummy and I get such an adrenaline rush from bumpy boat rides but for 99% of the other people on board (including Ellie) it involved clutching at sick bags with eyes shut tight and prayers being muttered quietly.
I slept through all of the drama but when I woke up, the walls were covered in vomit (gross, right!), people were running around like maniacs and even I felt a little bit lightheaded. Luckily, we were off the ferry and back to normal in no time, ready to explore our next destination.
We stayed at a hostel outside of the centre called Backpack Sack and it was a great choice! More like a home than a hostel and FINALLY, somewhere that provided free breakfast! It’s the kind of hostel where you can either go out on every organised pub crawl imaginable or stay in with a good book, hang with friends and make endless cups of tea – perfect for us. It also happened to be right next to the best ice cream shop in Split: Luka’s. As you can imagine, I was a lot more excited about this than I should have been. No matter what time of day, 10am or 10pm, the queue for this place was super long and I can completely understand why. It was the smoothest, creamiest, yummiest, ice cream I ever did taste and it was only 80p but I’m forgetting that this isn’t an ice cream blog (very tempted to start one of those), it’s a travel blog so I’ll leave the ice cream alone and get back to the point…
Okay, so let’s talk about Split. Here’s the top 3 things we got up to:
EXPLORING SPLIT OLD TOWN
Split is quite a big city and we didn’t have much time there, so we decided to focus on exploring the old town. There’s so much to see around Diocletian’s palace and so many little alleys and side streets to get lost in – including the most awesome vintage/antiques market. There were rows and rows of stalls filled with records, knick knacks, magazines and jewellery and don’t even get us started on the cute little cafés, restaurants and bars around the area. It’s the kind of city you’ll never get bored in but the downside is that you’ll probably need to have a decent amount of money in your wallet to fully appreciate it – something that we didn’t have. Instead, we had to compromise and do as much free/cheap stuff as possible and if I may say so myself, I think we managed to capture the magic of Split without burning a hole in our pockets.
The one activity we did pay for (and by pay for, I mean it cost 70p) was the bell tower. As you’ve probably noticed by now, Ellie and I are a sucker for birds eye views – perhaps this is because we’re so short, we like a taste of the tall life every now and again? But yes, we climbed all of the hundred-odd stairs to the top of the tower and were rewarded at the end with some breathtaking scenery. A must-do!
KRKA NATIONAL PARK
City life is great but we couldn’t possibly forget about the nature rich aspect of Croatia – the national parks! After um-ing and ah-ing about whether to make our own way there or go with a tour company, we decided upon the latter, mainly because it works out at about the same price and because we could leave the organisation to someone else for a change.
As always with tour companies though, it was ‘disorganised organisation’ and after being moved from place to place around town, going in and out of the tour agency and waiting around for instructions we were eventually on a bus to the park. The bus only takes about 2 hours from Split so it’s probably the best city to visit Krka from time-wise and the scenery is fantastic!
We were super lucky with our arrival time because the queue for ferry tickets to the park wasn’t that long and we made it onto the second boat. However, some people on later coaches had to wait 2 hours for tickets, which I can only imagine ruined the whole day – so try and plan an earlier arrival rather than later if possible.
The park itself is CRAZY busy, which I can only assume is because of the increasing popularity of Croatia as a tourist destination over the last 2 years. In a way, I think it’s a shame that the parks have become so popular because they would definitely be easier to appreciate with less tourists in the way. But that said, I am one of those tourists, so I really can’t complain!
The main attraction of the park is the waterfall. It’s nothing too spectacular (me and Ellie have been spoilt with waterfalls on our travels) but it’s definitely an awesome swimming location! Problem is, it’s a busy place with absolutely nowhere to store valuables, so swimming puts you at risk of getting things stolen. Incredibly, we had some amazing luck and a girl in the souvenir shop, who was about our age, told us that she would store our bags free of charge as long as we were super discreet and came back for them before her shift was up. This meant that we were free to swim and play without having to glance back at our bags every 5 seconds and made the whole experience so much more enjoyable. THANK YOU SOUVENIR SHOP GIRL – good karma is coming your way!
Overall, it was a fun day but in all honesty, I was slightly underwhelmed . It’s a very touristy, impersonal experience and the waterfall doesn’t look exactly like the Google images you’ll see online. I can’t deny, though, that it was nice to explore somewhere new for the day and if you’re into hiking there are tons of trails to explore and history nerds will find lots of museums to suit their fancy. So, I guess that means you shouldn’t cross Krka off your list just yet!
SUNSET KAYAK TOUR
We booked this tour through our hostel and it cost about £25 for the evening, which isn’t really a budget friendly activity but I think it’s SO worth the splurge. The trip involves a few hours of kayaking (or in my case, lying down at the back while Ellie rowed twice as hard… oops) and a stop at some cliffs to go snorkelling and cliff jumping before kayaking back out into the sea to watch the sunset.
The cliff jumping was hilarious. After the first jump we were hooked and ended up climbing up again and again and again (and again) until we were called to get back on the kayak. A lot of people decided not to do it and just stayed in the water snorkelling, but I’m so glad we decided to take the leap (literally) out of our comfort zones. Of course, the cliff was only a small one but that didn’t stop us filming tons of videos, trying different jump styles and even doing a group jump with 6 of us at once. I lost my bikini top temporarily but that just makes for a better story, right?
The whole tour is a pretty romantic activity, so we weren’t surprised by the amount of couples but most people just assume that me and Ellie are in love, so we didn’t stand out too much 😉 At the end of the evening, we both felt so content with life and went back to the town on a major high. I told you there’s magic in sunsets!
We were also lucky to have a lot of chilled out down-time here. Reading our books on the dock, going swimming at sunset and wandering the back streets with nothing but a takeout pizza in hand. Traveller life is so awesome, and I know I’ve told you this a million times but there’s nothing quite like the freedom of exploring a new place with absolutely no right or wrong way to do things. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time and I know that I’ll be greeted with university deadlines, a million cases to unpack and a reminder that responsibilities do actually exist upon arrival to the UK but right now, I have no cares in the world – and it’s the most beautiful feeling imaginable.
I am such a big fan of this city. It’s probably my favourite so far, purely because it has a mix of just about everything: culture, beach, history, nature, nightlife, activities etc. In fact, this is a pretty bold statement, but I think Split is the perfect choice if you want to visit Croatia but don’t have the time, like us, to do a multi-stop tour.
Well, that’s all for now – we’re heading up north for festival season! 🚌
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