Croatia: Expensive but worth it
This trip was originally organised around the Ultra Europe Music Festival. This is the 5th year of Ultra Europe and it was held in Poljud stadium which is a 15-20 minute walk from the centre of Split.
We booked an Airbnb before Ultra was even confirmed and we aimed for the centre of the town. The camping for the festival is actually about a 30 minute drive from the stadium so we thought this was a better idea.
There were 4 of us going to the festival and the tickets were €184 for the three days. We also bought tickets for the opening party ~ €35 and the Ultra Beach Party in Hvar (€114)
The opening party was brilliant. I love techno music and it was a real chilled vibe. Drinks were expensive though. One of the girls spent €33 on a DVRV so I though the sensible thing to do was to buy a bottle of vodka!!
Then onto the actual festival that went on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It's hard to put into words the experience of a dance music festival. I absolutely love the vibe of events like this outside Ireland. I drank a good bit but didn't really get drunk and I don't do drugs so I was just high on life! The music went on until 5am each day and my body was exhausted from dancing so much!
I thought the festival was great value as all the top names were there. I liked that it was so close to the city of Split rather than in the middle of nowhere. Drinks were fairly priced but the food in the stadium was awful. Pizza slices on the way there and back were my dancing fuel!
I don't think Ultra compares to Tommorrowland or Balaton Sound in terms of size - it really is just 4 stages where as the other two are full villages. Ultra has the advantage of being in a city though and it is really good value for the price of it!
We landed into Split (for Ultra) late on the Thursday so didn't get to explore until Friday. Straight away we loved the little streets, filled with character and good vibes. We ate at a highly recommended restaurant called Bokeria. The breakfast menu was delicious. We actually ended up going back for dinner that evening too.
We took a stroll along the promenade which was packed full of restaurants and bars with fabulous views of the marina.
We also wandered through some of the streets and found some beautiful old architecture. Our minds were in Ultra mode so we didn't actually make the effort to learn any of the history!
On our third day in Split we went searching for a beach and found a beach bar beside a pier where people were jumping and swimming. There was music and a lot of the Ultra crowd were there having the cure before going again! Our other friends found a sandy beach a little further on called Bacvice.
Another restaurant we were recommended was Fife so we went here for lunch on the Sunday. I found it a bit basic but good value. We had some fabulous food and cocktails in Brasserieon7, which is at the marina - highly recommended!
I really liked Split and would definitely go back. There are so many more activities we could have done like day trips, wine tours, cruises. We would have loved more time to explore the nightlife of Split but because of the festival we didn't have much time, despite being there for 4 nights!
On Monday morning we got the Jadrolinija ferry from Split to Hvar. Our advice on the ferries is to book online in advance and allow plenty of extra time as they don't stick to the expected journey times at all.
We were late booking the accommodation and demand was high so we had to book a hostel - Hostel Villa Zorana. I was a little wary but we booked private rooms and we were actually delighted with it! The rooms were big enough, the staff were really helpful and the location was perfect. The views were amazing from the balconies.
Straight away I fell in love with Hvar. We wandered into the town that evening (I spent the afternoon catching up on Ultra sleep!) and there was the most amazing sunset. I found out later, there was a fire that caused the striking sunset.
We picked a restaurant off the cuff as we wanted a mixture of cuisines. The food was fine but the setting in the marina was beautiful. We found a fabulous little bar for cocktails and gins but we had an early night.
We got up on the Tuesday and found the taxi boats. There are several smaller islands around Hvar with secluded beaches. We paid 40kn (about €6.50) for a return ticket.
We took the boat to the island Jerolim. It was extraordinary... There were two beach bars on the island and the beaches were actually nudist beaches so not for the prudish! The beaches are rocky so I would recommend water shoes from the start of your trip.
You can take the boat back at any time or you can move on to the next island - Carpe Diem.
On Tuesday evening we had the Ultra Beach Party. It was very expensive for what we got but the music was amazing and we danced our legs off once more.
Prices in Hvar were quite inflated for the tourists and you're looking at 70-100kn (€10-€14) for a G&T, even on the islands.
On Wednesday, we had a really good breakfast at a place called BB Bar. Then we took the taxi boat to Carpe Diem, which is a beach club on another island, and once again we get like we walked into a post card. The beach beds were luxurious and sea was sparkling. We spent a good bit on food and drink and I even bought a bottle of Moët to toast my aunt's anniversary. There is a pier to jump off and the sea is so refreshing!
Again, we took the taxi boat back to Hvar before getting a 3-hour ferry on to Dubrovnik.
We were only in Dubrovnik for a day and half but we tried to squeeze in as much as possible. My friend booked the apartment through booking.com and the location was brilliant. We had amazing views looking over the walls of Dubrovnik.
I have never watched Game of Thrones but some of it is filmed in Dubrovnik so it may look familiar in the photos!
We arrived late on the Wednesday night so we just walked into the town and had a late dinner. On Thursday, we wanted to squeeze in as much as possible. We started off with breakfast and I even managed to find protein pancakes! I am the worst blogger ever - I never took the name of the place!
Next up we went to walk the city walls. We left it a bit late in the morning to do it and ended up walking around in the mid day heat. It was 150kn (about €20) each to access the walls. There is lots of climbing to do but the views are magnificent. It takes 1-2 hours to walk around depending on how long you stop for photos etc. There are also a few cafes dotted around the walk. Refreshments were necessary in the heat!
We then went and found a boat to take us to Lokrum island. This is a nature reserve on an island just beside Dubrovnik. There is an entrance fee for the island. I think it was about 150kn too. I found it a bit expensive for what it was. I saw a few peacocks but other than that it wasn't as nice as some of the islands off Hvar. More rocky beaches and expensive cafes.
On Thursday evening we went to fabulous restaurant just outside the city walls (Elaine, if you're reading this - I'm sorry I didn't check the itinerary!). The food was good and the setting beside the city walls was beautiful. We stayed late drinking wine there and for some reason they gave us a big discount on our bill!
To squeeze in as much as possible, we got up early on Friday and went up the Dubrovnik cable cars. They were right beside our apartment. We paid another 150kn to go up. The views are magnificent. We literally got out of the cable car onto a balcony, took a few pictures and queued to get back on the cable car. Again, I found it expensive for a short experience.
All in all, from what I saw of Dubrovnik, I liked it. But I did find everything very pricey. Even to use public bathrooms, you had to pay.
On the way up we stopped at Krka Waterfalls (about 4 hours from Dubrovnik). It is a national park that you pay about 180kn (~€25) to enter. You are taken on a coach to the centre of the park. The walk through the forest is stunning with mini waterfalls, lakes and fish. It was really hot so we were dying to find the big waterfalls to swim in!
We made our way to the bottom of the waterfalls and it was quite busy. We had to take turns watching the bags while we swam. There was a surprisingly very strong current, and once again we were regretting not buying beach shoes at the start of the holiday! The views were fabulous and the swim was very refreshing.
We left Krka and drove on to Zadar (another 1.5 hours). We arrived in Friday evening to our next AirBnB right on the edge of the river. The location was perfect as it was just across the bridge from the centre of Zadar.
We found a nice restaurant called 2ribara and sat outside. The staff were rude (to be honest I didn't find the restaurant staff very warm anywhere in Croatia) but the food was good. Straight away we noticed that the prices in Zadar were so much better than everywhere else we had been. We went for a G&T and the prices were half that of Hvar for a Hendricks (about 35kn which is only about €5).
On the Saturday we went looking for a nice breakfast place but we just had a basic brunch and it was probably too hot to be sitting outdoors. We asked about beaches and were told there was one 10 minute drive away or another 10 minute walk away. We opted for the walk and found a beach bar beside a pier. There was a diving board and a man made pool with sea water. I wasn't feeling well that day so I didn't stay long.
We had a really good meal that evening in a restaurant called Proto - recommended by one of the girl's sister.
We ate early and then went to see the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation. I think these are the main tourist attractions in Zadar. It was very very busy everywhere but it was nice sitting on the steps above the sea organ and listening to the waves creating music. Everybody was quiet listening to it.
I probably should have googled the sun salutation as I didn't really understand it. To me, it just looked like a big disco floor!
Zadar was busy but lively and we found a nice bar for a few G&Ts. Again, really happy with the value.
We still had a full day on Sunday to spend in Zadar and we thought we had pretty much seen it all so we started looking for ideas of somewhere to go. The last thing I wanted to do was get on another boat but I realised that you can actually drive onto Pag island.
Pag is just over an hour's drive from Zadar. The drive itself is stunning.
We went to a beach called Zrce which was definitely more of a party beach. It was full of restaurants, bars and a few beach clubs. We just rented beach beds and swam beside one of the beach clubs. It was empty when we got there but filled up fast. I was raging we didn't go there on the Saturday and make a day of it. We couldn't stay for the day on Sunday as we were flying home that evening from Zadar.
If you're looking for a party island, Pag is your place!
I highly recommend a visit to Croatia! I was so surprised at how beautiful it was. It felt so tropical! We could do the whole trip again and still have loads to do in each location (except for Zadar). My favourite place was Hvar. There are so many other places we could have gone too. I will definitely be back!
Just make sure you budget enough for spending money! It might have been extra expensive while we were there because of Ultra but just to be aware!
Thank you for reading, hope you found it helpful!