02 Sep From Sofia to Split through the Balkans and Dalmatian Coast
Why Croatia? Attraction, this is the main reason why I wanted to go there. I felt attracted to this country a year ago and after stayed in Sofia, in the middle of the Balkans was the opportunity which I had been waiting for. Travel through the Balkans, visit Montenegro and start the Dalmatian Coast from the south. I bought my flight from Split for 3th of August, I had 12 + 1 day to reach Split from Sofia. Let’s get started!
Welcome to Montenegro
Kotor a little and magic taste of Montenegro. It is a historical and delightful place where the past coexists with the present; its cobblestones ring with the sound of children racing to school in centuries-old buildings and lines of laundry flutter from wrought-iron balconies. The sounds of streets, bars and people sharing experiences surrounded by ancient buildings and houses make this place a must in your traveling list.
Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, has one of the beautiful bays I ever saw it. One of the best and astonishing spots to stop at an imposing viewpoint to admire the old town is the Kotor Fortress. After 1500 steps and approximately one-hour walking you can reach the top and chill and enjoy the beautiful views. For this walk, you have to pay a 3€ entrance before to enter in the fortress path, if you don’t want to pay is it recommend go there before 8 AM.
Where to eat?
Kotor isn’t cheap, If you want to eat a lot, good and cheap, “Tanjga” is your place. Nice and local meals, totally recommended. In the old town there the expensive restaurants.
Where to sleep?
I slept two nights in “Kotor Korea Guest House”, cute and small hostel owned by a South Korean couple, really nice and a kindly couple, the man will help you with everything you need. Moreover, the hostel has laundry service for 5€ and kitchen.
STAGE 1: 3 days
Welcome to Montenegro
Looking for Marco Polo: from Dubrovnik to Korcula
At 7:30 AM I took the bus from Kotor to Dubrovnik. At the bus station, you can check the time tables of buses. There are some daily bus connections to move around Croatia. I think is the best and cheapest way to travel around. Nevertheless, I have to advise you that they not usually move on time, you are travelling and enjoying your trip, DO NOT STRESS. After 3 hours and half, I arrived at Dubrovnik, be patient in the border and especially in summer. I spent in the border like 1 hour.
Hello, Croatia!, new country and a new currency, Croatian kuna. Unlike Montenegro, Croatia forms part of the European Union. This meant that you could activate again the roaming data.
As it is known, King’s Landing or Dubrovnik is one the most crowded and touristic places in Croatia. This is the main reason why I diced to spend there just a few hours to visit the ancient part and take some pictures. My main plan was to find Marco Polo and explore like him one of the most beautiful islands in the Adriatic Sea, Korcula.
After lunch, I went to the harbor where I took the catamaran ferry to Korcula Island. It takes 2 hours approximately from Dubrovnik to Korcula by ferry. First of all, before to explain nice tips and spots from Korcula, I have to say that for me Korcula was one of the best places where I was on this trip.
- Not a crowded a place. Of course, there are tourists but it’s not like Dubrovnik or Split. I didn’t have this kind of stress feeling being surrounded by lots of people and without space to walk.
- Beautiful and mysterious old town with fascinating narrow streets with flowers and local people reading or chatting.
- You can reach nice islands around Korcula Island. There is a taxi boat which for 4€ you can visit Badija Island and find there a delightful spot to chill all the day.
Where to sleep?
I stayed in the Caenazzo Hostel, just in the main old town. The situation is the best. The owner is really kind and friendly, I was speaking and drinking with her and another host in the hotel restaurant and she told us great tips and night plans to do. In addition, she gave us a free entrance for the only night club in the town, the Boogie Jungle. Disadvantages, the hostel is a little bit expensive, basically for the situation. Also, there is no way to cook if you wanted but there is a fridge. Cooooold bear.
Let’s have fun
Korcula offers you a quite good night life, obviously, it’s not like Hvar but is fine. First of all, you have to stop near the bus station, there is where the party starts, a nice pub with commercial music. After the stop is the Boogie Jungle, you can reach the place walking (20-30 min) or by taxi (5 min). Ducky and big open air club with good music and drinks.
Musts before your departure
Walk and walk through the streets, cute shops, and ancient houses. Second, watch the Moreska, typically sword dance performed only by males from Korcula town families. The mock battle dance with each soldier holding two swords. Finally, Marco Polo House, who was born in 1254, explored the world on a grand scale.
STAGE 2: 3 days
Discovering Zadar, Plitvice Lakes and Kornati.
After a nice party night and watching the sunset from the hostel meanwhile I was packing all my staff, It was the moment to departure to my next destination. Advice: Book the ferry tickets 2 days before your departure, in summer there a lot of people. This is why I had to take the earliest ferry, at 7:00 AM.
I arrived to Split around 9:30 AM. Just in front of the harbor, there is the bus station where I bought the bus ticket to Zadar. After 30 minutes delay the bus departed to Zadar, please look out to don’t lose your bus. Advice: Sit down on the left part of the bus, much better for the views.
Around 15:00 PM I arrived in Zadar Bus Station. First of all, I went to the hostel to rest and take a shower. The receptionist of the hostel informed me about the best places, where to go and also booked me the tour to Plitvice Lakes (30€) and the boat trip to Kornati Islands (50€).
Zadar is a historical center of Dalmatia, Zadar County’s principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, educational, and transportation center. Also, it is today one of the most popular Croatian tourist destinations, named “entertainment center of the Adriatic” by The Times and “Croatia’s new capital of cool” by the Guardian.
The old town fortress receive you before entering inside their walls, you can feel the sensation of being part of other magical age. Narrow streets converging in beautiful and ancient squares which help to the city take a big breath. Like the other cities from the Dalmatian Coast, it’s opened to the Adriatic Sea. Also, this thing makes Zadar more special because in the promenade there are two of the most famous tourist attractions: the “Sea Organ” and “The Greeting to the Sun”.
Another must is the Church of San Donato, you will be surprised to find different vestiges of Roman times. It is the old Roman Forum (1st century BC – AD III), whose remains are concentrated around the church and beyond. There are many pieces of columns and capitals. The last but not the least, Narodni Trg (People’s Square) with the clock of the “City Sentinel” building (1562), home of the Ethnological Museum.
Where to sleep?
I stayed 4 nights in the Hostel Canki, 10 minutes walking from the old town and close to the shopping center. I have to say, this was one of the best hostels where I stayed in Croatia. It is owned by an entire family in a big house, the family helped me in everything I needed. The hostel has laundry service, a big kitchen, nice common areas and if you ask for a barbecue you can grill your meat or whatever there.
For me, Zadar is a familiar destination but also it is a place for young and party people. I recommend you start your night in a cheap bar (indicated on the map) where you can drink spirit drinks for 4€. Once you start to get drunk move to the Ladana an open air club where you can dance and meet nice people. Also, in front of there is another night place, Svarog Bar.
Plitvice Lakes National Park.
The next day to arrive I went to Plitvice Lake National Park. Around 8:00 AM the van with other tourists picked me up in front of the hostel. It takes 2 hours more or less arrive at the national park. Important!: It’s a really really crowded place, in the main entrance is where there are all the people. There is another south entrance to the park where you can avoid a long waiting time to buy the tickets.
I met some friends in the van and we decided to explore the park together. Plitvice Lakes is a really crowded place but is a must in your Croatian places to visit. For me one of the best natural parks which I ever saw, especially for the color of the water. The water is so transparent and pure that looks like fishes are floating into another dimension. In the ticket there is a small map about the park, I suggest you check the routes, the fastest and easiest way to see the best spots. Summing up, totally recommended visit this park but I have to advise you that I will be patient with the people lines.
It is a delightful “slalom” sailing through the 89 unforgettable islands, islets and reefs in the Kornati National Park. The boat trip which I booked consisted in a trip from Zadar Harbor to Otok Levranka island where the crew gives you 2 hours to walk around the island and stay at the beach. It is a beautiful place but again too crowded. Kornati Islands are very beautiful this is why I recommend finding another way to discover it. This boat trip is fine, with breakfast and lunch included but too boring and familiar for me. You have to take into account that you will spend like 3 hours to go there and 3 hours to come back.
STAGE 3: 4 days
Split, the last stop.
My travel around Croatia was starting to finish, 3 more days to enjoy this beautiful and magic country. My flight to Barcelona was from Split this is the main reason why I left Split for the end but what an end!.
Before to enter in Split I decided to visit one more seaside town, take some pictures and discover new places.
Trogir, the seaside town of pita shrimps.
Trogir is a small town 30 minutes from Split, it’s a nice plan visit it to escape from the crowded Split streets. Trogir has beautiful narrow streets and romantic and cute restaurants where for sure I will impress your partner. In addition, I felt impressed by the church, small one with incredible handmade sculptures. It will sound funny, but every time I hear Trogir, it remembers me the best Shrimps Pita I ever ate. In the market, there is small food place where you can buy this meal for 35 kunas, totally recommended with the yogurt sauce.
Split, the final headquarter.
I reached Split after lunch by local bus from Trogir. As always, the first step, find the hostel, leave the stuff and discover the city. My last hostel, Tchaikovsky Hostel situated in the Split center, the situation the best thing of this hostel. There I met one of the coolest guys of this travel, a photographer and McGill student from Canada, follow him here knwilati.
Split is the second-largest city of Croatia and the largest city of the region of Dalmatia. Home to Diocletian’s Palace, built by the Roman Emperor in 305 CE, the city was founded as the Greek colony in the 3rd or 2nd century BC.
Where to sleep.
As I explained before, I stayed in Tchaikovsky Hostel. It is a small hostel with big and clean rooms but the common area and the bathrooms are a bit small. The strong point of this hostel is the situation and it’s not too expensive.
Advise: Split is one of the most touristic places if you want to find a nice placed and not too expensive hostel booked a few days before your arrival. I booked the last bed three days before I arrived.
Split Task List:
- Walk through the old town, get lost in the streets and buy some gifts for family and friends.
Explore the magnificent of Diocletian’s Palace and ascend the Saint Domnius Bell Tower Tower for far-reaching panoramic views across the city.
Get one crazy night in Split.
Visit Brac Island or Vis Island. I visited Bol and Supetar in Brac Island. Close to Bol, there is one of the famous beaches in Croatia, Zlatni Rat.
- Chill and drink a beer in the night at Cattedrale di San Domino square.
Dracarys!, welcome to Fortress Klis.
The last but not least, my final tour inside one of the ancient Croatian fortress where the famous HBO series Game of Thrones filmed some episodes.
The Klis fortress, one of the most significant fortifications in Croatia, due to its strategic importance had a significant defense position. The first records about the fortress from the 10th century speak of the Roman fortress Kleisa being besieged by the Avars and Slavs. The most turbulent time in the history of Klis was the beginning of the 16th Century, the time of the Turkish invasion to these areas.
After Turks, the Venetian army, the Austrians and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy finally in 1990 the flag of the Republic of Croatia was placed on it.
The cheapest way to reach Klis is by local bus, there is just one bus which is going there and coming back. This means that bus passes every 60 minutes.