Croatia (Split & Hvar)

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In late September, I went with Erin and Jen to Croatia for an end-of-summer trip away. Erin and I had talked about visiting Croatia long before, especially after seeing shots of Plitvice, so snuck a few days in.

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Initially, we threw around a few itineraries including a road trip around Slovenia and northern Croatia (starting in Ljubljana, heading up to Bled and Bohinj and down to Plitvice and Pula before heading back to Ljubljana (or Zagreb)), but after modelling a few options, we opted to keep things (relatively) simple: flying in and out of Split with trips to the national park region in the north and to Hvar, with Split between each leg.

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The first day, Erin and I took a trip up north to Krka National Park to marvel at the waterfalls’ stunning travertine cascades.

From Split, we took a bus to Skradin for the ferry into Krka. The buses leave every hour (potentially even more frequently in the middle of summer) and take a little more than an hour from Split’s bus station to the drop-off point. I think it’s also possible to go to Sibenik instead, though the difference is you’d need another local bus from Sibenik to the entry point, whereas the ferry ride (inclusive in your entry ticket to the national park) goes straight into the park and offers some very nice views of its own. On the hour each hour, and no need to pre-book or buy a ticket in advance.

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Above: Erin matching the cute, quiet streets of Skradin.

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Although Plitvice National Park is better known, it’s significantly further from Split, meaning less time at the park for a day trip. Also: in Krka, visitors are allowed to swim in the waterfall pools.

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From the ferry – approaching the entrance (one of several entrances, though the one closest to Skradinski buk) to Krka National Park. I spy the spray of some powerful waterfalls!

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Skradinski buk! Morning swimmers

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Walking around the trail in this section of the park – cascade after cascade of hammering water tons.

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Krka National Park is huge, and we only had time to see a small section. You can take tours to visit Roški Slap or the Visovac Monastery on a little island in the middle of a quiet lake (similar to Lake Bled).

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Although they weren’t blooming in season, the area around the waterfalls apparently has the second highest concentration of lavender per square kilometre in all of Europe! So in season, expect lots of wasps and bees.

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Pictured though: forest ciclamen buds

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Rounding out the walk through the cascades, back to Skradinski buk for a swim of our own!

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Unbelievably beautiful here!

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The water was a tiny bit cold, but took about a minute to acclimate (late September).

The next morning, we met Jen at the port to get ready for our ferry over to Hvar! Jen, ever breezy and glamorous, had just a small shoulder bag.

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Above: arriving in Hvar.

A main square in Hvar Town; though we were in the start of shoulder season, this port brings in about 20,000 visitors each day in the high season. It’s easy to arrange the ferry from Split, and as they’re so frequent, there’s little need to book in advance.

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Walking around the Hvar Town harbour – at the top, the Hvar Fortress, among the top things to see in Hvar.

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This restaurant plied us with the largest helpings of everything. Fishbowls of wine (horizon at the brim) and here: a starter portion of octopus salad.

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The first swim! Jen with sun glimmers all over her face.

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Sunset over Hvar, from the apartment.

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Although we went out each night in Hvar Town over the few, short days we visited, a friend recommended going slightly further afield to Milna for dinner. 8 miles outside of Hvar, you can get there by water taxi (or normal taxi), and though I think a little on the pricier side, he recommended going to Lambik – an extremely good and otherwise hard-to-find restaurant.

This old 15th century Franciscan Monastery at night

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Again, in sharper relief

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The next morning, we packed a little picnic of pastries and sandwiches and then found one of the many companies renting boats to get ourselves a Pasara 5HP motorboat to go island hopping around the Pakleni Islands all day.

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Although Jen is the only one who had driven a boat before, I’m so glad we went for it and all learned how to operate this little guy. It was immensely more relaxing to dictate our own movements from bay to bay, plus figuring out how easy it was to run the boat and (with a little practice) properly anchor and park, I’m definitely interested in seeking this out again.

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One of our first stops on the Pakleni islands tour

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This magical, shimmery moment. I love the little slip of anchor line vanishing into the depths and all the streams of rising bubbles.

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Getting on and off was a challenge, but manageable. We quickly realised that anchoring far away from the shore (dappled with shallows bursting with sea anemones) was… preferable.

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Love this (double, see the reflection?) shot of Erin, especially with the dreamy water surface. Taking these shots requires some patience, thankfully enough to get my subjects unawares!

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The perfect day of simple pleasures.

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Mermaiden Jen, off to her happiest place.

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Jen managed to find an octopus – ! – in her ventures around this cove. After missing a great one in Kefalonia, I was determined to find this, so went on a little recon mission of my own only to get overly excited / frightened by an interesting bit of coral. Sadly, on closer inspection of the shots I took, there’s basically no way that was an octopus.

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Yeah, I got overexcited about that little orange growth in the shade but for sure not an octopus D:

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At the last stop, strangely thrown into actual civilisation! Snacks and wines and this stunning view.

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These beauts, at the end of the best day

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Last stop, Palmižana.

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Heading back across the chop at the end of the day.

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People watching from on high in Hvar Town.

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After fishbowls of wine again, we passed this club that was playing some 90s R&B gems, so I slowed way down to enjoy some Monica, and we ended up getting sucked in. Such a fun night. We arrived when they were setting up 20 Jägerbombs – totally gross – but gave us one each for no particular reason. Jen was stoked!

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From Erin’s phone, one of the only shots of us three… photobombed by this Dutch dude.

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Night swims!

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Not as adventurous as these guys :)

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After the morning ferry back from Hvar, we made our way across Split on the last day to Marjan, this big forested park great for hiking and climbing or – alternatively – finding a beach to take a nap on. Us.

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Last afternoon, wandering Split!

For going out in Split, the place we went and liked the most was Sperun. We also found a nice wine and cheese place called Paradox.

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One of the most remarkable things about Split is Diocletian’s Palace, which forms half the old town and much of the center of Split. Shops and restaurants are built within the old palace walls and the streets are lined with the surviving marble from the palace floors. Palace is a bit of a misnomer as it was more of a fortress.

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This trip was more of a long weekend getaway, so we took it easy and enjoyed the beauty of this tiny part of Croatia. If you find yourself in Split and with more energy (and clearer heads) than us, this map may get you started on a more energetic delve into the city.

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We didn’t have many days in Croatia to explore further afield, but if you visit, it’s worth checking out the cute medieval harbour city of Trogir, not far from Split. It’s smaller, idyllic, and very close to Split airport.

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Love the buttressed little alleyways.

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Split, caught in the golden hour on the last night.

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