Sunday, June 17, 2007

Croatia Online - Destination, Travel and Tourism News for June

By all accounts, tourist numbers seem to be building up early this year. Dubrovnik hosted four cruise liners at the same time this week and the locals couldn’t find a spare piece of pavement.

Here are some snippets of news and updates on places we’ve revisited in the last week:

1. The Main Coast Road From Split to Trogir
Work is heavily underway extending this from a single lane road to a dual carriageway with safer left hand turns, etc. We’ve seen substantial progress over the last few months but it’s a slow process as the road needs to stay open to traffic. It’s also a challenge to the boy racers, with chicanes as you switch from one side to the other, some fairly flimsy unlit cones dividing the two traffic streams, and workmen crossing the road. This phase of the project will stop in the next few weeks, in time for the main season’s deluge of traffic, and resume in September.

2. Kaštela Road
This is the back road between Split and Trogir which is often used as a rat run for those that want to avoid the main road congestion. However there’s a fair amount of work going on here as well. The new sewage system works, which started a couple of years ago, means that this road is being dug up to lay the pipes. The sewage system will then run under water across to Ciovo, through Ciovo island and out the other side letting the treated sewage flow out to the open sea. That will hopefully mean that the strong smell on summer evenings, as you walk along the Kaštela seafront, will soon be a thing of the past. At the moment there are a couple of temporary traffic lights between the airport and Split, and one on Ciovo island.

3. Seasonal Hotel Bookings
Many of those in the tourism industry, particularly in the “resort areas” report an increase of bookings out of season but a decline in bookings so far for July and August. The inference being drawn is that the traditional eastern European “high season” visitors may now perceive that Croatia is no longer the bargain it was and are being replaced by higher spending western Europeans visiting out of season. This could be good news for the industry as a whole but perhaps a sign that hotels and tourist boards may need to focus on marketing to families with schoolchildren – see last week’s posting on Croatia With Your Family.

4. Hvar Town on Hvar Island
We’ve mentioned a couple of times that Hvar Town seems to be a lot more expensive than the rest of Croatia. Now that Sunčani Hvar have taken over 9 of the hotels there, and already refurbished many of them, hotel prices are certainly on the up, though the quality has also increased. There were also reports in the newspapers that coffee and tea in Hvar Town cost at least twice as much as elsewhere. This is the only place we’ve ever felt vulnerable as foreign visitors – almost impossible to get tap water rather than mineral water, “mistakes” on restaurant bills, etc. It’s certainly a chic and cool place to see and be seen in, and full of cultural treasures, but, for us, it doesn’t have the same welcoming feel as the rest of Croatia. If you want to have a look at it but don’t want the expense of being based there, try nearby Jelsa, Vrboska or Stari Grad, or go to the other end of the island and stay in the very photogenic Sučuraj (see picture).

5. Drinking Water in Croatia
There are a few small remote islands without their own mains supply. With these exceptions, Croatian tap water is perfectly drinkable, safe and very pleasant so don’t let the very few greedy restaurateurs persuade you otherwise. Sometimes the bottled variety is almost as expensive as wine. The foolproof way of asking for it is “voda iz spina”, literally water from the tap.

6. Split Riva (sea front promenade)
We’ve reported on the new look of the Riva in earlier postings – essentially the high tech lights and canopies are completely out of place with the traditional facades. Now we’ve had a few opportunities to “experience” a coffee there. The price has gone up a little – around 10 kunas (£1) a cup – but the main problem is the new trendy chairs outside the cafes. Like the lights, they’re probably the latest in design, but they simply don’t work. Firstly they discriminate against those of a larger constitution – anyone already self conscious about their size will be challenged to fit into them, and they don’t look too strong either; secondly the velcro used to keep the covers fitted over the back of the chair keeps coming apart; thirdly, and most importantly of all, they’re extremely uncomfortable - the cushions are thin and the thick metal bars stick right through them. Perhaps the cafes on Split Riva are taking a tip out of the western fast food book - make the place look nice, to invite people in and get them buying, then make them as uncomfortable as possible so they quickly make way for the next set of punters. And, sorry to add insult to injury to Split Riva fans, but the new ground covering seems to absorb heat, rather than reflect it as the old one did, and it seems to generate more glare. On the up side, the lighting does look very pretty at night. All in all though, it’s probably cheaper, more atmospheric and more comfortable having a coffee inside the Diocletian Palace or elsewhere.

7. Meridian Grand Hotel Lav
We paid another visit to the five star Lav (Croatian for Lion!) this weekend and were delighted to see some vintage cars outside, including a 1959 open top Mercedes, part of a rally to Croatia. Inside it was as quietly sumptuous and stylish as ever and we had a delightful coffee sitting on the veranda, just outside the Champagne Bar. There weren’t that many people there but quite a few around the pool area. Slobodna Dalmacija, one of the daily newspapers, reports that it costs 200 kunas (£20) to rent a sunbed, etc to spend some time by the pool, but that’s something we wouldn’t want to complain about. There’s got to be a price to pay for the sort of luxury and facilities that aren’t on offer in too many places elsewhere. It may be out of town, but there’s nothing else like it around. Go to for more information.

8. Hotel Park, Split
We’ve been entertaining this week so we also took our guest for an evening drink in Hotel Park, near Split’s Bačvice beach, about a ten minute walk from the ferry terminal, in the opposite direction from the city centre. At 20 kuna (£2) for a third of a litre (just under half a pint), the beers are about double the normal price but you really can’t beat the setting – a delightful terrace, lined with palm trees which are tastefully lit up at dusk, and a pianist tinkling away playing all the old favourites. For location and elegance, it’s hard to top Hotel Park and if you choose carefully, you can dine at their restaurant Bruna on a wide variety of budgets. It’s also one of the few places where you can get an early breakfast as the restaurant opens at 6:30 am. Check out for more details. Business travellers staying at Park should however note that there are no internet facilities in the rooms, surely something that is now taken for granted in four star hotels?

9. Stellon, Split
We finished our evening in Split with a meal in Stellon, in the small Bačvice complex. Despite being mid week, it was still packed, mostly with locals, and now we know why. It has a lovely but modest terrace looking towards Brač island, with plenty of activity from the ferries running to and from Split, and a menu to suit all tastes and budgets. The service is great too – attentive but discrete and professional. Tender, tasty steaks for three, a litre of wine, and some coffees and brandies set our host back a mere 400 kunas (£40) but if steak is not your thing the pizzas and the fish looked pretty good too.

10. Bačvice, Split
We’ve mentioned Bačvice a number of times above but it’s amazing how many people go to Split, “do” the Riva and Diocletian Palace, and don’t know this district exists. “Greater” Split is, effectively a long tongue of land jutting away from the mainland – a narrowish peninsula. The head of the natural south facing bay is where the Riva and city centre are situated. Just east of the ferry terminal is the smaller bay of Bačvice and it’s no wonder the locals want to keep it to themselves. For one thing it’s one of Croatia’s rare sandy beaches; for another it’s a hub of great restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s a haven for families by day - the gently sloping beach means plenty of shallow water for young children - and a mecca for the party crowd at night. In June and September it’s ideal for a night out for all ages.

11. Šibenik
About an hour’s drive from Split, it’s still a mystery how you can walk around this graceful, quirky and historical city centre, and still find only a few tourists. Early on Friday afternoon, we were about the only ones having coffee in the atmospheric and imposing cathedral square, and watching the not so small yachts go in and out from the Riva moorings. Don’t let the somewhat industrial and tatty approach to Šibenik put you off – it’s a gem!

12. Zadar
Yes, we’ve revisited Zadar too this week, about one and a half hours by car north west of Split. We had lunch in the huge historic Arsenal, now a vibrant Arts centre, and spent half an hour wandering round admiring all the sights. It’s another “must see” city and still not overwhelmed by tourists. See our earlier postings for more information and go to to discover the multitude of events and facilities this unique venue can offer.

13. Trogir
Unesco protected Trogir has been discovered for a while and there were certainly plenty of organised groups wandering around this week. However even large numbers of tourists can’t diminish the charm and stature of this all year round destination. Even better, the hotel stock has more than doubled in the last three years, and improved considerably in quality as well.

For more detail on the places mentioned above, browse through our home page or click on “Croatia Online – Index to Postings”, in the top right hand corner of our home page to see a summary of postings.

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Today’s photo is Sućuraj on Hvar Island – go to for more information on this often overlooked village on Hvar.


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