Last June, we spent a glorious fortnight in Croatia. Technically it was our honeymoon – we’d initially intended to take a big, luxurious, once-in-a-lifetime type of break, but those types of holidays are invariably expensive and we kind of blew the budget on our minimoon in Reykjavik. I spent a couple of hours pretty disappointed when I realised that a month in South America was out of reach, but as soon as we started planning our trip to Croatia I started to get kind of excited about it.
First up, it’s downright beautiful. Secondly, it’s a major filming location for Game of Thrones – we’re both HUGE film and TV fans, and Game of Thrones is one our favourite shows. Plus, I’ve mentioned before that I love symmetry and the idea of completeness, and having done Reykjavik for our minimoon – another Game of Thrones filming location, where we literally stood on the Wall – the idea of visiting King’s Landing and Meereen was pretty awesome. Thirdly, it was squarely within budget, and after the expense of the wedding and minimoon, that was pretty damned attractive!
We started in Dubrovnik, where we spent 6 days including a day trip to Kotor and Perast in Montenegro, before heading to the stunning island of Hvar for 3 days, and then finishing our break with 5 days in Split. Each place had its pros and cons – Dubrovnik was stunning with all the culture and architecture you could want, as well as beaches, and day activities without going to far, but it’s pretty touristy and pricey. Hvar town has a beautiful harbour and more of a beachy vibe, but not much to *do* in the daytime if you’re as restless and pale as me and can’t spend days lying on a beach. And Split is probably the least impressive city in itself, but is more cosmopolitan than Dubrovnik, and has a great restaurant scene, plus it’s easy to get to some incredible beauty spots from Split.
So what follows is a list of stuff we’d recommend, and a fair few things of interest to Game of Thrones viewers – let me know if there’s anything we’ve missed!
- The Game of Thrones walking tour is less than £20, lasts a couple of hours and you’ll see lots of King’s Landing sites, plus get a bit of a tour of the city at the same time
- It’s worth doing the walk round the city walls – one of the less cheap things (around £12pp) but great views and includes the exterior of the House of the Undying so you can do your best “Where are my dragons?” poses.
- The Ethnographic museum is shut on a Tuesday – the day we tried to go – but that’s Little Finger’s brothel if you want to have a look! If you want to do a couple of museums and the city walls, it’s worth buying a Dubrovnik Card for a day, which is about £18 and includes the city walls (about £12), all the museums and unlimited bus rides for 24 hours.
- We went kayaking which was also really fun – you’ll likely go out to a cave and round Lokrum which is an island next to the city – complete with nudist beach and LOADS of peacocks. Just try not to crack your toe on a rock while swimming underwater, fracturing it and losing a toenail like I did… Given that we’re pretty active on holiday and tend to do lots of walking, it certainly made the rest of the holiday more painful!
- Our best meal there was probably Pantarul, which is in Lapad, the beachy bit of the city – it’s also TripAdvisor’s highest rated restaurant in the city. For eating in the Old Town, I hear good things about Lady Pipi (though you’ll need to queue) and Taj Mahal (Bosnian cuisine). We only had one dinner in old town, which was at Kopun and also really good.
- Best ice cream in the city – this was a local’s tip off – is from Dolce Vita which is up one of the side lanes on the left as you walk from the main gate down the main street. It’s got an orangey sign and orange chairs and tables outside it, and it’s like 80p a scoop – a 3 scoop cone of the most amazing ice cream is cheaper than a shitty 99 in London.
- If you’ve got the time, you MUST do a daytrip to Montenegro and climb the fortress at Kotor. It’s simply stunning, and you’ll really earn your lunch! It was one of our favourite things about the entire trip.
- Our best meal was at Dalmatino – you’ll need to book the day before probably, but it’s worth it.
- Don’t go to Hula Hula beach bar – keep walking and you’ll get to Falko which is much more chilled and where the locals hang out.
- Climb up to the fortress for amazing views over the Pakleni islands.
- If you’ve got time you can take a boat over to the Pakleni islands – costs about £6 return to go to Parmizana which is the biggest island. Or if there’s a group of you it’s worth hiring a boat and you can go from island to island and to the blue and green caves at your own leisure.
- Split has a fab restaurant scene, and we had really amazing meals at Perivoj (a tasting menu for about £28), Bokeria (which was probably the coolest place we ate on our trip), and Movi (a really cute neighbourhood place near Firule Sandy Beach – so good we ate there twice, which we very rarely do on holiday!)
- For super cheap and very good burgers, I’d recommend Papa’s. It’s essentially a beach bar, but the burgers were excellent – and a much bigger lunch than we intended to have!
- Do a day trip to Krka waterfalls if you can – it’s really beautiful, with nature trails and you can bathe in the water to cool down. We booked with Splitlicious and they were great – they have a little shop in town, and a pretty comprehensive website. They also do accommodation – we didn’t use it, but we got chummy with a Scottish couple who were inter-railing and did both Krka and the Game of Thrones tour with us, and they’d just rocked up to the office when they arrived in Split and got a good apartment on the spot at a decent price.
- Due to the transport costs, the Game of Thrones tour here is more expensive for less sights, but still worth it – we went with Splitlicious again and for £30 each (or £35 if there are only two of you – you get a cheaper rate if the tour group is 3+) you hop in an air-conditioned people carrier to go to Klis fortress which is Meereen, and into Diocletian’s Palace which is where the dragons are kept. The tour was led by a real history nut, so there is lots of general Croation history too, so it’s a good dual-purpose tour!
- The only rock and metal bar we found on the entire trip is Splash, which is located in Split’s old town – it’s a tiny, grungey little place, but really friendly and the clientele was clearly mostly local – there was even a dog who clearly knew his way around the bar and most of the punters! You’ll leave REEKING of smoke but it was a really fun night!