So you've finally booked that long-overdue trip to Croatia, eh? Good on you! And you've decided to forgo Dubrovnik, opting instead to base yourself in the slightly less touristy city of Split? Well chosen!
......Er, now what?
Never fear! There are plenty of sights and activities on offer to keep you entertained in this gorgeous slice of paradise. Figuring out what is and what isn't worth your time can sometimes be tricky though. So as a way of jump-starting your vacation planning, I give you:
The top six things to do
in and around Split
#1 Visit Krka National Park
Not keen to endure the 5 hour round-trip drive to the stunning yet oh-so-far-away Plitvice Lakes National Park? Consider planning a day trip to nearby Krka National Park instead. Highlights include the 14th-century Visovac Monastary which sits on a little island in the middle of a lake, the Oziđana pećina cave (complete with hilariously bad mannequins) and the breathtaking Stradinski buk waterfall.
It's also worth noting that Croats really know how to do national parks right. There are proper facilities and restaurants situated near all of the major sights, meaning that you're never too far from an ice cold beer and a decent place to wash your hands. How civilized!
#2 Try a Spot of Wine Tasting
Yes, the people of Croatia really do love their beer (they say ten bottles of Ožujsko are consumed every second), but who knew they were also passionate about wine? It turns out that Split has several wineries producing top-notch stuff. To get a good idea of what the region has to offer, consider indulging in wine-and-cheese-overload by booking a spot on the fantastic Art of Wine tour. Just be sure to pack your drinking shoes and stetchy pants.
#3 Go Island Hopping
When vacationing in Split, the stunning island of Hvar should definitely be on your must-see list. But did you know that Hvar is only one of over 1,000 Croatian islands? With so many others out there just waiting to be explored, why not rent a boat and embark on a day of adventuring? On our grand expedition we managed to stumble upon two playful dolphins, a beautiful secluded swimming cove and a remote bar offering cheap wine tastings. That's a winning day in my book!
Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, water and prosecco for your voyage. And now that you're a bonafide seafaring adventurer, be sure to keep this in mind:
#4 Enjoy the Best Seafood of Your Life at Konoba Nikola
Okay, so that's a pretty big statement, but Konoba Nikola is also that good.
Located in an unassuming part of town, the dining room is warm and welcoming without being pretentious. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by a grumpy-looking man (don't worry, I'll tell you how to win him over later) and shown to your table. You'll then be provided with a menu, but don't even think about opening it.
You see, things at Konoba Nikola work a little differently. Basically, you just tell them any dietary restrictions you might have and then they'll bring you dishes based on what they've caught earlier that day. The superb dishes will keep coming until you fly the white flag and declare that you can eat no more (though take note: their delicious pancake dessert is worth risking a burst button for).
In addition to the food being pretty damn phenomenal, they've also got a great sense of humor at Konoba Nikola. At the risk of being labelled a fussy eater, I informed them that I don't eat anything with a face (ie no fish heads on my plate, please!). This was their response:
Trust me, this place is good. We were told about it by a local and ended up going there twice during our week-long stay in Split. And what about the bill at the end, you ask? Not nearly as painful as I was expecting! A dinner for two (consisting of about five courses each) with a bottle of wine only ran us about 100 euros in total.
Word of advice: If you've already ticked #3 off the list (let's be honest, you went straight for the wine tour the second your plane landed, didn't you?), mention to the owner of Konoba Nikola that you met Anton at the Putalj Winery. They're good friends and one mention of Anton will turn the seemingly-stoic owner into putty in your hands for the rest of your evening.
#5 Storm the Castle
Perched high above Split is the medieval Klis Fortress. Game of Thrones fans will recognize it as the City of Meereen where Daenerys freed the slaves (no I've never seen Games of Thrones and yes I got the above information from Google). If you've never seen GoT (I prefer G&Ts myself), never fear, there's something here for everyone. The history of the fortress is varied and fascinating, and there are stunning panoramic views over Split for all to enjoy. And what better way to prepare yourself for storming the castle (okay, fortress) than by getting into character:
#6 Embrace the Beach Bum Lifestyle
Because what trip to Croatia would be complete without a visit to the beach? With the country's reputation for beautiful blue skies and lovely turquoise waters, there's really no better way to spend your time. So put on your swimsuit, grab a cold beer and let the chillaxing commence!
Added Suggestion: If you've got an extra day to fill, why not take a day trip to the fascinating town of Mostar, Bosnia?