The chattering of the fishermen sharing a humorous moment gently stirs my sleepy senses. I watch them preparing their nets for their morning journey and hear the soft rhythmic knocking of their boats against the low harbour wall as the gentle waves wash alongside. Residents and obedient dogs amble along the promenade on their early morning walk. The slowly rising sun creeps over my cosy balcony in Kastel Kambelovac, wetting my face with expectations for the day. All my senses are relishing in the beauty of the morning and atmosphere. The morning breeze brings a slight chill to my bare arms and legs. I shut my eyes, breath slowly and feel the warmth of the dawn sun easing the tickled skin. The salty air tingles in my nostrils awakening memories. I catch myself smiling as I cherish the thoughts of my adventures in the breezy, pine forest of Marjan Hill the day before. I remember navigating rocky woodland pathways away from locals and tourists, walkers, joggers, cyclists, parents and children; smiling people enjoying the forest’s beauty just as I was. I imagine the taste of the sea water drying on my lips after a swim in the crystal clear blue green waters in a secret, secluded pebble beach shadowed by large pine trees. I open my eyes and sip my frothy, steaming, freshly brewed coffee and wonder what treasures I will stumble upon on this new glorious day in Croatia.
These are my top suggestions for a short visit to the Dalmatia region of Split, Kastela and Trogir:
Split, the second largest city in Croatia, is a place steeped in thousands of years of vivid history.
- Take a walking tour of the town. This is the best way to learn about the city’s history. Make sure to shop around for the best deals – some companies offer bargains on the tours and their guides are truly knowledgeable and humorous. Or download a free walking tour app like GPSmyCity and navigate your own way. Look out for the Town Museum, Ethnographic Museum, and the Temple of Jupiter, all with cunning engravings and ancient art.
- Make a wish while rubbing the big toe of the statue of Gregorius the Nin. Legends says that this will bring good luck, your wishes will come true and you will return for another visit to Split.
- Wander through the basement halls flea market under Diocletian’s Palace. There are art pieces and trinkets to purchase and the ceiling is lit beautifully with coloured lights.
- Visit trendy shops and art galleries scattered in the winding streets within the ancient palace walls.
- Visit Marjan Hill, a beautiful pine forest a short walk from the Riva (promenade). Hire a bike for the afternoon or spend the day exploring and experiencing the beauty: secret alcoves to swim in, forest paths to discover, panoramic views from the higher points including Kasjuni cove, deserted churches, a small zoo and park, and little cafes dotted around. Remember to take some snacks and plenty of water (although drinking water points can be found along the main paths).
The town of Kastela stretches along the Bay of Kastela and has developed around 7 settlements, mainly castles.
- Kastela is a perfect place to stay: more peaceful and cost effective than staying in Split or Trogir and rather picturesque if you find accommodation on the sea front.
- Take city bus 37 to travel between Trogir, Kastela and Split via Split airport (every 20 minutes). A pleasant and scenic journey.
- Take in the sea air by walking along the 17 kilometers of coastal path through the 7 kastela from Kastel Sucurac in the east to Kastel Stafilic in the west.
- Try traditional Croatian food at Konobo Intrada in Kastel Novi: well-priced, tasty, generous portions (even the half portions are more than sufficient for a woman).
Trogir is a small, beautiful town set within medieval walls.
- Wander around the cobbled, winding lanes of the old town looking at quirky doorways and windows in this Unesco World Heritage site and explore the Kamerlengo Fortress.
- Indulge in ice cream and strong coffee while sitting on the promenade and watch the yachts and wooden boats arrive in the harbour.
- Explore Ciovo Island by quad bike. Your guide will take you and your fellow travellers on a journey of exploration of the rugged landscape, with panoramic views of the nearby coast from Trogir to Split, through to a secluded, deserted monastery.
- Walk across the drawbridge from the old town to Ciovo Island and take a boat to Split (departs 4 times a day from a port around 150 metres to the left of the drawbridge).
The locals are friendly and helpful. Most people speak English in Split and Trogir, however, in the Kastela area, I found it useful to know a few basic phrases of Croatian for when buying food and drinks and travel tickets. As a woman traveller, I am pleased to say that I felt safe travelling alone.
Accommodation: I used Holiday Lettings for my studio apartment in Kastel Kambelovac. There were grocery shops, pubs and a few restaurants close by. Other affordable options are AirBnB, Homestay and these give you the opportunity to stay with locals.
Tourist and transportation information is available at easy-to-find locations in the towns, also offering information about various tours. I found these sites invaluable: Trogir tourist board, Split tourist information board.
See more photographs on Facebook: Gregarious Gecko