We both went to Croatia a year apart from each other, so we’ll do a run through of each of our trips and itineraries. We highly recommend this location if you want to do beautiful, outdoor activities, and are on a budget.
SUNDAY/MONDAY – It’s about a half hour plane ride away from Venice, so we landed in Split, rented a car, and drove straight to the Plitvice Lakes National Park area to stay the night (three hour drive). We wanted to break up the driving as much as possible, and also potentially hit up Krka National Park as well. As we got closer to our destination, Waze kindly told us we’d casually be passing through border patrol… the AirBnb we rented was not only 15 minutes away from Plitvice, but it was also in a different country. WASSSSSSUP BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA!!! According to google it is currently 80% Muslim, hence the mosque across the street during shacharis. They basically just got out of a war with Croatia, so our passports were checked many times – but we hear Bosnia’s the country to go to if you want to party hard, according to the Croatian locals.
Croatia is still not used to having such an influx of tourism, so days before we got there, they implemented a new system in order to get into Plitvice Lakes… long story short, get tickets in advance. And even if you get tickets in advance, you won’t be able to move around easily within the park itself and there are people EVERYWHERE (and dogs, everyone brought their dog to the park as well). There are many beautiful waterfalls around and the color of the water is unreal… very clean as well, and boat rides and bus rides throughout to help you get around (many different trail options also – read the map carefully! The ‘hike’ was also hours shorter than expected, but we also didn’t stop to take too many pics). Because we had to wait hours to get into the park, and we had our own car, there are options of things to do nearby such as bat caves and zip lines. We took our pizza from Venice and had a picnic in a nearby town called Rastoke, and also stopped at a supermarket to buy water bottles.
Returning the car in Split was tricky because of major traffic and no addresses available. Our AirBNB was an adorable converted barn that has been in her family for generations. Ivana’s Tiny House was the best stay with the best hostess – we had everything we needed, from laundry pods to ac.
TUESDAY – The next day we did the Extreme Canyoning tour which might honestly have been the best part of our Europe trip, hands down. It’s a full day adventure with transportation, and the best guides around. You don’t have to bring your phones with you because they took hundreds of pics. You’re also in and out of water the whole time so dehydration’s not a thing, but also jumping from cliffs most of the time, so just a heads up to bring great shoes and lots of energy – you will burn every calorie in your body. You can also choose not to do the Extreme part, which is the exact same tour minus rappelling (I personally chickened out of the second part of rappelling, so me and the guide did some extra hiking and had some nice quality time discussing Settlers of Catan, Trump, and the meaning of life).
Our new bud Sebastian from our group told us about ROOF 68, a rooftop bar on the Riva (main street of Split) overlooking the pier that had free drums – turns out it wasn’t a drum night, but they had excellent Coca Cola and great views. We then stumbled upon a giant square outside LVXOR where everyone sits, orders drinks, and listens to awesome acoustic covers of classic songs. Highly recommended hangouts!
WEDNESDAY – Five Island Speedboat Tour Featuring the Blue Cave – beware you will be hanging on for dear life for hours on a glorified banana boat with a motor. Another full day adventure! Our guide Barbara and our skipper Kiki were amazing. The longest stretches of ride on the speed boat are about 1.5 hours, and they played great music the whole time. The islands were packed, and another one abruptly closed (apparently classic Croatia), but they quickly came up with alternative nearby and the trip ran smoothly regardless because they know the area well. They had free water bottles and snorkeling gear, and we were able to see some cool underwater life, and WWII jets. You get dropped off to explore the islands on your own. Because we couldn’t eat at any of the restaurants, we found some alternative free activities to do, like yoga.
After washing up, we went back to the Riva for a free Split music festival, more chill sessions outside of LVXOR, and fireworks by the pier.
THURSDAY – Our final morning in Split was the most meaningful, as we were able to discover a lot about Split’s Jewish routes that are just becoming re-discovered. We were told to walk up from the Riva to a cafe called Vidilica (on Marjan Hill) that is supposed to have a beautiful view of Split. When we got to the cafe, we noticed there were gold Hebrew letters inscribed at the top, and that it was also the ancient Jewish cemetery of Split, established in 1573. You can ask the cafe to open the gates for free so you can look around – some very unusual styles of kevarim, including porcelain photographs attached to some of the tombstones.
We ran to catch our free tour of Diocletian’s Palace, which in actuality is an entire city that we had been walking through the entire time. There is apparently a Menorah inscribed in one of the gate cellar walls, which was also the location for filming parts of Game of Thrones. Let us know if you find it!
We then made our way to Morpurgo bookstore, which until last year was one of the oldest operating bookstores in Europe (from 1860) in the Pjaca, and was established by a Jew from the Split community, who is buried on Marjan Hill. They recently installed a golden book monument on the ground outside the bookstore to commemorate the book-burnings of Jewish books that took place there, as well.
Our last stop was to quickly visit the old synagogue of Split, which no longer has consistently active or Orthodox services. What we expected to be a quick stop turned into an almost two hour conversation with one of the members of the Jewish community, a Roman Catholic tour guide, and a German family who is working on putting together a touring book of Split. It was incredible to try to piece together Split’s strong Jewish roots, but the most interesting of note was the unfinished zecher l’chorban wall from when the shul was first built, which is the same wall and bricks of Diocletian’s palace from the time of the chorban – it was literally a zecher l’chorban wall from the times of the Roman chorban (center picture, top left corner). We had a fascinating conversation trying to explain these little nuances to everyone in the conversation, and we hope we did it justice. They are expected to build a Jewish history museum within the synagogue soon, and can’t wait to check up on it!
Zecher L’Chorban top left corner of this picture
Have a local tell you about Croatia’s own uber app to get you back to the airport. The day before we were supposed to hop on a plane to Amsterdam, the bus or boat company which usually shuttles to the airport had shutdown (again, apparently classic Croatia). Luckily it was pretty cheap taking a cab to the airport, and the airport had lots of Haagen Daz ice cream available.
We took a long bus ride on a FlixBus from Budapest – the bus first stopped in Zagreb (which is where the Chabad is located) for a half hour, and then we took a second bus to Split. Just a heads up – there is zero kosher food in Split, so come prepared! We arrived at the Split bus stop, which is located across the street from where the ferries are, and there were taxis there to take us to our hotel. Split does have Uber, and in the main town area they have specific pick up locations.
Extreme canyoning – they had a pick up location in main area of Split. They drove us to the start location, where we had to change into wet suits, with helmets, life vests and water shoes (unless you brought your own water sneakers, we paid extra for their shoes). It was a combination of hiking, repelling, and swimming – should be very fit, because it’s a full day active activity! We made the mistake of getting really sore and not being able to move, right before going to Plitvice National Park. (We went the year before R did, as these are almost literally all the pics we had gotten! Times have changed.)
Plitvice Lakes National Park – picked us up from our hotel, and it’s really far drive – 7:30 am pickup. Suggest going with a tour because it’s super crowded and they know how to get around and took us backwards through the park. Stunning pure lakes and waterfalls!
Took a ferry to Bol Beach on Brac Island – you can even bring your car on the ferry, in case that information is necessary. One hour ferry ride. Chilled on the beach, but there are plenty of water sports you can do. Be careful of the nudist beach section… or maybe that’s your thing. Just a friendly heads up.
Friday we did a tour of Diocletian’s Palace, did some shopping, and ran around getting ready for Shabbos. We had ordered food from the Chabad of Zagreb, and it was not able to make it in time for Shabbos, so we washed some vegetables to make a salad and had some deli with us and called it a day.
Sunday we did Zip Split zip lining for the day, and then took a flight to… Slovenia!