Ah, travel. My one true love. At least for now, while I wait for the one who will ultimately be cool having frequent threesomes with the two of us for the rest of their life.
While there are a million things that I love about travel, one of the really big ones that always keeps me coming back for more is the fact that it’s never the same. There is always variety even if you’re taking a trip to a place you have visited once before or 100 times before. I’ve found that even if the place itself doesn’t end up changing all that much, circumstances and people always will and for that reason you will usually have a different experience.
This is really an amazing phenomenon in my opinion and why I was super excited this past September when the Via Dinarica team asked me if I wanted to stay a bit longer on the trail with them to explore the mountains and hinterland of Dalmatia, Croatia. It had been a little over six years since I was last in the country and as the most recent member to join the European Union, I knew it probably wasn’t going to be exactly the same as I left it. And it wasn’t.
Though I only had time to revisit Split, just one of the three towns I hit back in 2007, it definitely felt different in the best possible way and now I’m inspired to get back as soon as I can for more. There is so much to see in southern Croatia, it’s ridiculous. With over 1,240 islands, this is one region that seems almost impossible to get bored with..
Here’s a little taste of where I’ve been, where I hope to return, and where I plan to go next in the coastal region of southern Croatia.
Hvar Town was incredibly sexy then, and it’s probably just as, if not more sexy now. It will always have a very special place in my heart not just because its waters were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, but also it’s where I lost my rakija virginity – of the ‘home brew variety’. With that said, I will definitely be back. Mostly because I can hardly remember half of it.
Where I’ll go next: boat taxi over to Sveti Klement/Pakleni Islands – it looks and sounds positively stunning.
If things like cruises are your thing, Dubrovnik is perfect for you. It’s probably the town I am least interested in going back to though purely because I found it to be overcrowded even in 2007. Not that all of these places I am mentioning don’t get jammed with tourists as well, it’s just the system in place there that for whatever reason really rubs me the wrong way. Excellent place to check out dudes in speedos though, that is for sure.
Where I’ll go next: Lopud, the two mile-wide island blessed with sandy beaches just a short ferry ride from Dubrovnik. Will also have to check out the abandoned Hotel Belvedere as well – that thing looks crazy and surely not where most of the crowds I would be trying to avoid are hanging.
I only had time for a glass of rosé in Makarska before we made our descent up the Biokovo mountains, but I found it to be quite cozy. It’s at the very center of the Makarska Riviera which is a 37 mile stretch of riviera-ness.
Where I’ll go next: Not sure I’d return for the Riviera, but I’m definitely down to make the one hour ferry journey over to the adjacent island of Brac, third largest island among the Adriatic Islands.
I will be back in Split a third time, there is no doubt. I honestly didn’t like it at all on my first visit, but by the second I had already decided it was one of my favorite places in Croatia. Sure, compared to the rest of the coast it’s kind of a sprawl, but being able to eat, drink and sleep inside the old walls of Diocletian’s Palace? Pretty unique, pretty rad. Also, tons of speedos.
Where I’ll go next: Vis, furthest inhabited island and apparently one of the least touristed that takes about 2.5 hours to get to via ferry from Split.
Anywhere else I should go the next time I hit Dalmatia, Croatia? Do you like Dalmatian puppies? Because this is the region they come from. Stay tuned for more on the hinterland – coming soon!
Dr. Jeffrey Von ZeldarJanuary 18, 2014 at 5:37 am
Greetings and Salutations,
I luckily avoided the cruise ships, so I liked Dubrovnik. But if you find yourself stuck there, check out the little island of Locrum if you haven’t. Fun hiking through old fortifications, a nice monestary, rocky beaches and Speedos at every turn.
You must do Vis. I have only been to Komiza but it is a neat little town (2 day max/ 1 night). The island is full of WWII bunkers and apparently Tito has a non-vacation home there you can check out.
If you want to do the “fun tourist” thing there you can do the blue cave on Bisevo (opposite Komiza) which is beautiful, and if you have a small enough boat or craft, you explore some fun bat infested caves via boat. Bring a light. There’s a green cave too, which is good for jumping off of rocks and other such youthful festivities.
I’m not a huge fan of Miljet and Korchula. Only if you have time. There are some fun wineries on the Peljesac(???) penninsula, North of Ston and Mali Ston. Grgich Hills (of Napa) has an operation up there, and that is the only safe place for good wine. I loved the mom and pop winemakers on the peninsula. I can’t remember the names, but I do have the # of the wine tour guy. Near blackout, yet fun.
I’d Recommend Rab Town on Rab Island. Again a 1 day/nighter. Full of history and nice people. You seem to do well with indigenous populations. Me, not so much. There is also a strip of “beach front” clubs 5 minutes out of Rab Town. Pretty ugly beach but the clubs are fun. I couldn’t name one sorry- booze.
I like Zadar a lot. Stari Grad, of course. Some fun clubs/bars in in castles and large gardens. I forgot the names cause I drink too much.
The Koronati Islands are barren. Don’t go there. But Telasica Nature Park has some beautiful islands, but you will need a seaworthy vessel- not many human lifeforms.
If you have time to go waaaay north, and a little more off the grid- at least avoiding Americana tourists, I like Veli Losinj and Mali Losinj. They are tiny towns but I enjoyed the harbors and cafe’s
I’m tired of typing so I’m gonna stop.
Via con queso,
Dr. Von Zeldar
LarissaJanuary 23, 2014 at 3:29 am
Greetings Dr. Von Zeldar,
This may be one of the best comments I’ve ever received, thank you for that. Amazing what a wealth of Croatian knowledge you are, even if half of it is a bit hazy. If I recall…are you the one that does yacht charters around there? I think that’s got to be my next trip, cruising around via private boat to all the above places you mentioned (and missing the ones you recommended I avoid). Have heard the north is just as awesome so hope to get up there, too. In fact, my good friend went to some sweet art festival/orgy on Mali Losinj last summer.
Thank you for taking the time to drop all of this knowledge on me, I will most definitely be referring back to it when the time comes and hopefully others may find it useful for their own planning. In case you read this response, maybe you can answer one final question: what is the best time of year to hang around there when you aren’t big on crowds but the weather is great? September? From what I have found, September seems the best time in a lot of places around there.
Via con tequila,
The Blonde Gypsy
SilviaJanuary 18, 2014 at 5:44 pm
Gorgeous photos! And I so agree – I love how places change over the years. I lived in Nepal for a year when I was five and then returned for a semester there when I was 20 and ohmygoodness, what a different place it had become! But in an exciting way.
LarissaJanuary 23, 2014 at 3:32 am
Ahhhh, Nepal! One place I really want to go. Twenty years is a pretty good amount of time – that’s great you can remember and see a positive difference now :)
ShaunJanuary 20, 2014 at 4:35 pm
I’m already dying to hear about Vis. All the harbours and marinas in Croatia are just as picturesque as the ones in Greece and Italy. Yet you get moutains with castles in the Croatian ones.
Dalmatian puppies, any puppies really are almost the best thing in the world.
LarissaJanuary 23, 2014 at 3:35 am
True dat, Shaun. Puppies are the business.
Now that I know there are some kind of interesting bunkers and a non-vacation home of Tito’s, I’m even more intrigued by Vis as well. Seems like there is much more to do there than I had imagined judging by Mr. Von Zeldar’s comment above.
MihaiJanuary 21, 2014 at 1:03 am
We’ve passed through Dalmatia last September, in Croatia I’d recommand to visit a small town called Trogir (quite close to Split) and the larger Zadar (160km towards West). Same shiny white stones streets as in Dubrovnik.
Not sure if Dalmatia contained what is now Montenegro, we visited a few places there too: Herceg Novi, Kotor and took a peak at the famous Sveti Stephan island close to Budva. Kotor was the most interesting one, similar to Trogir in Croatia. They are placed around a fiord, the water is oily, no waves, looks like a mirror when the sun shines at the right angle. Budva is about 100km towards East from Dubrovnik and the farthest.
LarissaJanuary 23, 2014 at 3:41 am
I think Dalmatia just pertains to Croatia, but I’m still glad you brought up Montenegro because Kotor is one of my favorite places in the world. Was also in Budva and Sveti Stephan, but unfortunately never made it to Herceg Novi. Great reason to go back :) I will also look into Trogir. I feel like I’ve heard of it, but not much. Sounds lovely. Thanks for the recommendations!