Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Croatia Online - Secret Dalmatia

It's always refreshing to come across something a little different in our travels around Croatia and Secret Dalmatia is just that. Coach loads of tourists and the ubiquitous apartments to let have their place. However, increasingly, Croatia is attracting a more discerning visitor who doesn't mind digging a little deeper into his pocket just so long as he or she gets to experience the best of what Croatia has to offer.

Secret Dalmatia provide tailor made tours and trips to show you the real Croatia - gastronomy, natural heritage, sailing the Adriatic, tasting Croatia's diverse and good quality wines are just some of the treats. They've also picked the type of hotel that will appeal to those wanting something just that little bit special. The four star Hotel Spongiola on Krapanj island is one of them and if you read our earlier posting, Hotel Spongiola, Krapanj, you'll find out just how much we enjoyed our weekend there.

We're hoping to find out some more of the secrets in due course so that we can report them to you. In the meantime check out the website to see the full details of what's on offer.

Thanks to Alan Mandić, Secret Dalmatia's Project Director, for today's stunning photo.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Croatia Online - Kaštel Lukšić

Kaštel Lukšić is the middle village of the 7 Kaštelas lying between Trogir and Split. Today's picture shows one of the many bars in the centre, nearly all of them in a similar style and in a great location to watch the world go by.

We've covered it, from a nautical angle, on our sister site Croatia Cruising Companion. On this site we'll be returning to land based news but will keep you informed of any nautical developments as they arise.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Croatia Online - Autumn Boatshows

Given our professional interest in the Croatian Marina Industry et al, we'd normally have been participating in a stand at the Biograd Boat Show running from 18th to 21st October 2007. Other comittments unfortunately prevented this and, given the weather, it was good to have a brief look round it rather than have to brave gale force winds for much of the duration of the show.

In many ways, it's a great time to have a boat show - the main charter season is over, forward planners can get a good deal on next year's charter holiday by shopping around and the charter companies and other boat buyers have money in their pockets. However, so far, the weather's not been kind to the organisors, exhibitors and visitors. Last year it rained for much of the time; this year the mighty Bora (north east) wind decided to make its prescence felt.

Oddly, Marina Kornati (Biograd), and Tribunj Marina choose to run their boat shows at much the same time. More interestingly their promotional posters were of a very similar theme, reminiscent of the trailers for the film, The Titanic; glamourous girl at the prow of the ship, hair floating in the wind........One of the marketing budgets ran to a glass of champagne.

The Bora had fully taken hold when we visited the Tribunj show - a number of tents having to be recovered from the water the day before and a few that, allegedly, couldn't be left open for visitors because of the wind!

Nonetheless, if you're in the area next year, they're worth a visit but probably not a trip in their own right just yet. The Biograd show is the larger of the two but still small compared to the Split Boat Show which takes place in April. What's interesting for us is the change, year on year, as Croatia stealthily continues to secure its rightful place in the International Boating world.

For more information link to:

Biograd Boat Show - Marina Kornati
Tribunj Boat Show - Marina Tribunj
Split Boat Show

For the latest news on our Croatia Cruising Guide and all things nautical, visit our newly created sister site - Croatia Cruising Companion

Regular readers of a non nautical bent will be pleased to know that our next few postings on this site will be a catch up on news and developments for landlubbers.

Today's photo is from the 2006 Biograd Boat Show - Russell Coutts is absorbing all the advice from his tactician!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Croatia Online - Croatia Cruising Companion

Regular readers will know that we've been working on our book for some time. We never expected it to be easy - doing justice to Croatia's Dalmatian Coast and Islands is not a walk in the park! However it's been intrinsically rewarding and there's been quite a bit of fun along the way.
Like any subject worth writing about, the more we discover about cruising Croatia, the more we find there is to reveal. So, though The Croatia Cruising Companion has now gone off to the printers and will be launched at the Earl's Court Boat Show in early December, it's far from the end of the story. Croatia's nautical industry is developing fast and, each time we revisit even the smallest of nautical ports, there's always something newsworthy - a new restaurant, improved facilities, a cultural discovery or just some old friends with new stories to tell.
To try and keep track of updates and to encourage comments from those of you who continue to delight in exploring Croatia's Dalmatian coast, we've set up a separate blogspot specifically devoted to the Croatia Cruising Companion. Click on the link on the top right hand corner of our home page or follow the link below to find out more about it and keep up to date with the news on one of the world's best cruising destinations. We'll continue to include the highlights on this site, as well as the latest news on Croatian travel, business, destinations, lifestyle, shopping, culture, politics and current events.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Croatia Online - In Pictures

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Croatia Online - Travel News:Ryanair Flights

Apologies to regular readers for the lack of postings. Our Cruising Companion is now finished and off to the printers so things are returning to normal. The finalisation stages have been very demanding and intense but, though we say so ourselves, it's got all the signs of being a great book. More news soon.

There's been plenty happening in the outside world, not least of which is Ryanair's announcement that they are pulling out of flights to Pula and Zadar in Croatia. The advent of low cost flights to these two relatively small airports was heralded with a great fanfare earlier this year. Everyone started to believe that the tourist season would finally extend beyond July and August and that Istria and the Zadar region would prosper as a result. It was a serious financial comittment too though reports of the cost for each destination varies between a subvention of €500,000 per year for five years, to £500,000 for the length of the five year contract. Apparently the contract had a clause saying that Ryanair could pull out any time they liked, for whatever reason, without returning the cash - not a bad deal for them!

Ryanair cite a number of reasons for the decision, including increasing costs at Stansted, and seem to be focusing on Spain now. Sad news for Croatia indeed and perhaps a reversal of fortunes for out of season tourism on top of British Airway's decision to stop winter flights to Split. For the full story as reported in a Croatian online newspaper, link to

Today's photo is a rather hazy picture of Rogoznica and Frapa Marina from the air.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Croatia Online - Hotel Spongiola on The Island of Krapanj

We decided to treat ourselves to a restorative luxury break last weekend after a demanding few months on the work front. The brief was to find somewhere that didn’t involve a long drive from Split, had the necessary facilities to keep us amused and pampered if the forecast rain arrived, and didn’t completely blow the bank. As it was, the weather turned out great and so did Hotel Spongiola on Croatia’s smallest and lowest lying inhabited island – Krapanj.

Krapanj itself is opposite the village of Brodarica on the mainland, just before Šibenik, driving from Split. As you get to Brodarica, follow the signs for Zlatna Ribica, one of the best seafood restaurants in the region, park your car and call Hotel Spongiola to ask them to send their boat to come and pick you up. It’s a five minute trip, if that, and an easy step on and off the boat.

Hotel Spongiola has everything you’d expect from a good four star hotel – very pleasing décor and surroundings, friendly and efficient staff, a gym, swimming pool, wellness centre with saunas and hydro massage, a restaurant and bar and a nice shingle beach. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and very well fitted out and the half board option (add €4 per person to the bed and breakfast off season price of €92 for a double room for two) includes a great four course dinner. If you have the ham and egg omelette for breakfast (along with a copious choice from the breakfast buffet bar including cereals, juices, yoghurts, salamis, breads and jams) and work slowly through the evening meal, you won’t notice you’ve missed lunch! The one downside was going into breakfast on the second day, admittedly not at crack of dawn, and finding that the restaurant had turned into a presentation area for a dental seminar – a full screen photo of the inside of someone’s mouth is not the best way to start the day! No problem – breakfast hastily rearranged, with profuse apologies, on the partially covered side terrace.

Two days is just about right to unwind and explore Krapanj. You can walk round the island in less than an hour and the church and cemetery are well worth a visit. It looked like there could be two restaurants open in the high season but these were closed when we passed by. However, for a change of scene, there are two cafes by the ferry terminal and you can make use of the hotel’s ferry service, free and on demand up to midnight, if you want to explore the mainland or eat at Zlatna Ribica. There are also a number of trips on offer and the hotel doubles as a diving centre with a swimming pool deep enough, in one half, for diving training.

Spongiola is dog friendly too – you won’t find dogs running amok but if you have a well behaved, inconspicuous, furry friend you’ll find they’re made very welcome too. It’ll cost you an extra €5 a night but they’ll thank you for it and the easy clean wooden floors in the bedrooms ensures no tell tell doggy hairs remain after their stay.

Krapanj used to have a thriving sponge trade and the hotel is built on the site of a former sponge co-operative. You’ll see plenty of traces of history around including a small sponge museum and souvenir shop up a back street by the ferry terminal. Blissfully, and sometimes eerily, it’s almost completely car free. We spotted just one truck, with no number plates, and a van, the whole time we were there. That helps to make you feel you really are getting away from it all, on a remote island, rather than just a short hop from the metropolis.

Hotel Spongiola is like a breath of fresh air and a great option if glitzy 5 stars are a little too much for you but you want something a little different from Croatia’s myriad of perfectly adequate 3 star hotels. Just one point to note which added to our enjoyment but may not be everyone’s cup of tea – Sunsail use the hotel as a base for some of their charter boats with fortnightly flotillas starting there every other weekend in the high season. So if it’s peace and quiet you’re after, be prepared for this to be a little shattered on Saturday nights as the groups discuss the highs and lows of their holidays over a few drinks. Sunsail guests have their own areas for showers, etc, and they’re invariably a very social and friendly bunch but sheer weight of numbers can make for a lively evening once a fortnight. However it’s great fun watching the new bunch leave their moorings the next day!

Check out Hotel Spongiola’s website for full details of all that’s on offer – and look out for our next posting, in a similar vein – a Croatian travel company that seems to be a little different from the rest. Might be just the site you need to help you organise your next Croatian holiday and banish the blues as the nights draw in.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Croatia Online - Dalmatia's Best Kept Secrets

This Olive tree is over 1500 years old. A testament to good living and the fertility of Dalmatian soil.
It's a further testament to the social trust that breathes through Croatia - it's a protected monument by name but totatally unprotected in access. So we won't be revealing a location just yet.