Living a Month in Split, Croatia
As we continue our full-time traveling, nomad life, we have finally started to actually do what we said we’d do. Slow travel! For us, this means finding a place and staying put for about a month or so. After we got some fast traveling out of our system, we booked an Airbnb in Split, Croatia for just over a month. It was not enough time.
Split ticked all of our boxes for a place we’d want to spend some time. Knowing that Split’s tourist season drops off on September 1st and that this fine city’s weather would true in on the perfect combination of temperature and humidity, we booked six weeks in the neighborhood of Meje, just west of the historic center. First up for our visit, we wanted to take care of some medical needs.
A quick tip: If you’re in Split for more than three days, you can get the Split Tourist Card which gets you into several places for free and other places for discounts. Also, if you’re in Split for a calendar month, you can get a bus pass for $30 from the main Split city bus terminal that gives unlimited bus rides in Split.
Medical Tourism in Split
If you’ve followed along on our youtube channel, you might have heard Chris (me) droning on about her need for foot and knee surgery. (We tell all about our dental, orthotics, and orthopedic visits in this video.)
Orthopedic Surgeon. In Split, I wanted to tackle my foot needs first. After some hunting around in some expat Facebook groups, I found the orthopedic surgeon who is the foot doctor for the football team here in Split. I figured if he was good enough for the Hadjuk soccer team, he was good enough for me. I made the appointment, had an hour consultation, and we came to the conclusion that I was not a good candidate for the foot surgery. He believed my best course of action would be custom orthotics. Our Split orthopedic surgeon is: Dr Luka Širola Poliklinika Matulic +385 95 606 0777.
Orthotics. Off to the custom orthotics place we went. At the clinic, the technician put me in a foot machine, did a 3D image of my legs and feet, and had me step into foam to cast my foot print. $50 and ten days later, I had a new pair of custom orthotics. Steve jumped into the game too, and he also purchased a pair. After a month of wearing them, my foot pain is gone and my knees are feeling better. I don’t think I’m out of the woods on my knees, but I do think I’m trending in the right direction on my foot. Our custom orthotics are at Bauerfeind +385/21-770-463 www.bauerfeind.hr.
Dental Care. In addition to needing foot care, we both needed dental care. Steve found an English-speaking dentist where we both got our teeth cleaned. The price was $20 for uppers and $20 for lowers. He also needed an update on his grafting he had performed in Mexico back in November to see if he was ready for a new dental implant. Sadly, he found out his implant had failed so instead, he’s going to go the bridge route. He’ll do this when we get to Kuala Lumpur at the end of the year. Our English-speaking Split dentist is Dr Dario Bojčić +385 021 489 428 Link to price list: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WfmQ…
Massages. One thing I often check into while traveling is the price of a one-hour massage. If the going price is less than $50 and hour, I’ll try a local massage therapist. We were quite surprised to find an excellent massage therapist for only $20 an hour, and we booked massages every other week. Each week she got better and better as she learned our bodies and their problems. If you’re looking for a great massage at a great price, reach out to Ivana Kozmeticki salon “OSMIJEH” at 385 91 501 2970.
COVID shots. Finally, in the healthcare department, we needed our COVID boosters. We were able to walk in to the walk-in clinic and get Pfizer boosters for Omicron, and they graciously updated our CDC cards to keep us in compliance with COVID requirements around the world.
Our Favorite Unique Things to Do in Split, Croatia
With my feet feeling better, we were ready to enjoy the best of Split. No visit is complete in a new city without taking a free walking tour. We regularly do these to get acclimated to the local area, meet people, and learn something about our new home.
Diocletian’s Palace. The walking tour focuses on the center of the historic district and in particular, it starts on one side of Diocletian’s Palace and finishes on the other end. Every day at noon, the Emperor and his wife come out of the palace to say hello. On Friday at 7, an army reenactment of Roman soldiers is staged at the palace as well. It’s a bit hokey, but why not?
Solin (discussed below), just outside of Split, was the capital of Roman Croatia, and Diocletian was its ruler. He built a summer home in Split in the 4th century, and it still stands today as Diocletian’s Palace to the awes of tourists flocking here from Europe, cruise boats, and digital nomadland. Walking through/by/near the palace became a common activity for us as we made our way to other parts of Split.
Locals’ Beaches. With the weather hovering in the 80s for the first two weeks of September, the beaches drew us in. On the side of town below Marjan Hill where we lived, you can find what some believe to be Split’s best beaches. Devoid of most tourists, locals love the pebbly beaches, shallow shores, and comfortable waters to bathe, swim, and relax. Many days we would trek ten-fifteen minutes to Bay Ježinac or Obojena Beach. The frigid-at-first Adriatic Sea made slow entries into the water a required act. Often, we’d just sit in the shade watching the locals and their children embrace the lukecold waters of the late summer.
Nightly Sunsets. In the evenings, we couldn’t deny the call to watch the sunsets from Sustipan Park. The high point along the water that juts the most into the bay, we could sit on the point and face the northwest for the summer sunsets. Local teenage boys entertained us with dashing dives plunging 50 feet into the Adriatic while the teenage girls giggled from the shores.
The local game of Picigin. A local game invented in Split entranced us. It’s a serious game with a fan base, but it has no score. It’s strictly a game to entertain players and viewers.
After hearing about the crazy sport of picigin, we intentionally went to find some locals playing. Standing shin-high in the water, athletes hit a handball the size of a large ping pong back and forth with their open hands. The goal is to pass the ball around the circle of about 5 players so that the pass falls just short of the next player, causing the player to have to dive and bellyflop to hit the ball high for its next pass. We adored the enthusiasm of the senior men we caught playing a lively game on a Saturday morning. Fans gathered to cheer and jeer, and we picked up a few choice words of Croatian.
Football! Carrying on the sporting theme, we dared to a local football (soccer) game. The local team, the Hadjuk (named after the historic warrior), tied another regional team. We had never seen such an atmosphere in a stadium. A fanatic group of cheerleading and singing men and women overtook the end of the stadium, standing the entire game and screaming, singing, and celebrating each kick of the ball. They lit smoke bombs and flares, flew giant flags, and vocally amused the entire audience. I swore to Steve that I wasn’t frightened, but I don’t think I’d go back.
Water Polo. While we were in Split, we also caught the European National Water Polo finals. It was fun to cheer on the women, who ultimately lost, but the Croatian men took the national championship. We caught several matches, but the one we enjoyed the most was Israel vs Spain, where we got the chance to cheer on Israel.
Marjan Hill. When not at the beach, going island hopping, or enjoying afternoon breaks along Split’s Riva, we were up on Marjan Hill hiking to our heart’s content. All hikes head upstairs, but once on top of the hills, mile and miles of trails lead us up and down through ancient hermitages, churches, viewpoints, and ooh-and-ahhs. Every view on Marjan Hill, whether overlooking Split or Spinut, crashes the senses for lovers of watery views.
Jewish Cemetery. Once of our favorite days on Marjan Hill was a visit to the Jewish Cemetery, Europe’s oldest at almost 500 years old. We traipsed through the small cemetery on the hill, putting Google Translate and Google Lens apps through their paces. We’d point the camera toward a tombstone to read both the Hebrew and the Croatian epitaphs, learning about long-held feelings toward the Venetians who once owned the land where Split lives. The oldest grave dated from the 1700s, the newest was 1945.
Salsa Dancing. Finally, we looked forward every week to Tuesday and Thursday nights. Steve found a beginning Salsa class where they were teaching how to dance the Rueda, a Cuban square dance done to Salsa. At just $30 for the two of us for eight classes, this deal ignited our souls! We learned some Croatian, practiced our Spanish, made local friends, and most of all, we learned to dance. Here’s hoping we can continue dancing Salsa as we make our way through Southeast Asia!
Day Trips from Split
Dubrovnik. With the forecast starting to turn, we wanted to take advantage of good weather to take a ferry (busses take about the same amount of time) to Dubrovnik. Game of Thrones fans we are not, but they were crawling over every inch of this medieval, walled town. A five-hour ferry ride took us south to this tourist trap where we only had three hours to enjoy before we had to return on another five-hour ride back to Split. Although the walled city held fascinating architecture, I felt so claustrophobic between the walls, the city, and the hordes of people that I couldn’t wait to leave. Maybe another day we’ll return to enjoy the rest of Dubrovnik, but I do not care if I ever go back to the walled city. (BTW, we also don’t recommend trying to do it in one day from Split. 10 hours of ferry ride in one day was a bit much.)
Mostar. If Dubrovnik was a bust, taking a bus tour to Mostar was not. If you look at a map of the Balkans, you’ll see that the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina splits Croatia with a tiny piece of the Adriatic coast. Just up the coast is the fascinating town of Mostar, a city split in half by an ancient road where one side is Muslim, and the other side is Christian. A walking tour told its tales, including the complexity of the Bosnia-Serbia war from the 90s. We could see bullet holes in the walls, but thankfully peace seemed to be in the locals hearts.
Kravica Waterfalls. On our way home from Mostar, the bus stopped at the Kravica Waterfalls. This national park draws people to its wide cliff of twenty falls (or so). We adored a swim in the chilly water and a chance to pose with 50 foot waterfalls. But we didn’t love it as much as our gorgeous day at Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Plitvice Lakes National Park. Friends arrived to Split, and we immediately grabbed a rental car to cruise up to Plitvice Lakes National Park. An easy two and half hour drive and an early start put us on Plitvice’s chestnut boardwalk. We gawked at the first waterfall. Ahhed at the second. Oohed at the third…by the time we got to the 29th, we were out of superlatives. Hands down, Plitvice might have been the best national park we’ve ever visited. Well managed with great hiking infrastructure and people movement, it was easy to simply relax and enjoy the astounding beauty that rivals Yellowstone or Yosemite. For our Denver friends, it’s Hanging Lake times a million. And for those who ask, Krka, Kravica or Plitvice? Plitvice for sure, Kravica if you have time, and Krka if you have no choice.
Biokovo. On Wednedays at 9, the local 50+ expat group meets. They graciously invited us into their world where we enjoyed coffee and apple torts at a Michelin starred restaurant overlooking the swimming beach. They invited us on a roadtrip south to Biokovo Nature Park and its Skywalk. Steve and I couldn’t resist an invite to hike the Dalmatian mountains’ Biokovo Mountain Range, so we loaded up several cars and caravaned to the park.
First stopping at Biokovo Botanic Gardens and then the jaw-dropping glass bridge that overhangs the cliff, we ended the day hiking to the top of the mountain range. Looking out across the deep blue Adriatic sea towards Croatia’s islands and smelling the fresh fall air, we eyed wild horses, recalled our annual trek up Colorado’s Mt. Evans, and thoroughly enjoyed a day in the mountains with new friends. We recommend going to the Botanic Gardens in the spring, but there may be no better time of the year than late September/early October to hike and enjoy the Biokovo mountains. The Skywalk, not for the faint of heart, invigorated even the calmest in our group.
Solin/Salona. After hearing so much about Diocletian in Split, we decided to take the local bus out to Solin to visit the Salona ruins. Once the capital of the Roman empire in Croatia, these remaining ruins at Salona rival any other significant Roman ruins found elsewhere in the Roman empire. But nary a tourist was to be found, much less directional signs from the local bus. An amphitheater, a port, a city, and even thermal baths all from the 1st-4th centuries invited us to just meander and imagine. Afterward, we ambled into the town of Solin to enjoy its riverwalk along the River Jadro and a vegan burger from Street Food.
Zadar. Our final road trip took us on a two-hour bus ride to the coastal town of Zadar. Also a city that features Roman ruins, we found two surprises. As lovers of sea glass, we adored the Museum of Ancient Glass, which contained Roman glass from the 1-4th centuries and a demonstration of glass blowing. The Sea Organ, an art installation that captures the song of the ocean, delighted us.
Truffle Hunting. What might have been our must fun adventure in Split was a half day truffle hunting with dogs just outside of Split. We hiked in the woods for an hour while truffle-sniffing dogs rooted out a dozen black truffles. Then, the dogs owners cooked us a 3-course meal of truffle-inspired foods, including bruschetta, pasta, and truffle desserts made from truffles. A luxurious time for sure, we made an entire video about the experience.
Ferry Riding and Island Hopping from Split
Staying six weeks in Split and not taking advantage of its extensive ferry network would be like living in New York and not using the subway. We couldn’t wait to jump on a ferry and take off.
Trogir. Ferries flood the Split port as do short-distance and long-distance cruise boats. Our first ferry ride took us on an hour adventure to the local town of Trogir. It’s near the Split airport, but it’s a time capsule away. A place where the rich but not famous find yacht dockage, it, too, has an historic center exploding with tourists. But since it’s a bit out of the way from Split, it’s not obtuse with its tourism, and it actually feels like a great place to live. Our short couple of hours was enough to put Trogir on our Top Places to Live list for future consideration.
Šolta. Island hopping is a must in Split. Surrounded by 1200 islands, each having its own personality, we ventured first to the island of Šolta and the port town of Rogač. We enjoyed an invite from a member of the local expat group to take a short one-hour ferry ride that cost $5. Upon arriving in Rogač, our host invited the small group of us to enjoy her secret swimming hole. This charming and well-planned sensation held a visual story of art and artwork that matched with a sunning deck and mounted stairs into the sea. We enjoyed lovely snacks after refreshing dips in the sea and then lunch around the corner at a family-owned cafe.
Hvar Island and the Stari Grad. Another island trip took us to the big island of Hvar. Friends from D2Detours we had met through the Go With Less Facebook group picked us up at Stari Grad. They, too, had leased a Renault Clio (see our Secret to Leasing a Car in Europe video), and they treated us to a lovely day touring the island. Stops and meanders in Hvar City and Stari Grad brought us a delicious vegan lunch and amazing gelato, while tootling along the island exposed us to a UNESCO world heritage site, the Stari Grad Plain, a location that has been continuously farmed for over 2500 years.
Vis. After a month of every-day living in Split, we decided we needed a vacation. Vis, Croatia’s furthest inhabited island and the location for the filming of Mamma Mia Here We Go Again (Mamma Mia 2), took us in for an overnight stay. We rented ebikes and cycled up and down its mountains to its quaint town of Komiža, the gorgeous cove of Stiniva, and other scenes from Mamma Mia 2. Romance charmed our hearts, and we daydreamed about island living year round.
Vegan Food in Split Is Everywhere!
We loved the dining scene in Split. With no less than five full vegan restaurants, we ate our way through the many options for vegan food in Split. From vegan cheese pillows topped with beetroot dust at Bepa, spelt pancakes at Kats, mushroom and walnut chorizo at To Je Tako and vegan burgers at Planet Green to cheap vegan burritos at Vege, our whole food, plant based bellies soaked up delicious vegan eats. Sadly, the local bodega grocery stores lacked solid vegetable choices, but the daily green market next to the palace consistently delivered bright red peppers, fresh zucchini, and sweet nectarines. Hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds spilled from vendors at affordable prices. Find Anthony in the market and tell him hi for us.
A Month in Split
We actually stayed in Split for exactly six weeks. With at least one big adventure each week, and daily trips around the area, we simply adored our time. Meeting expats, traveling nomads, and locals added to the overall charm of the area, and the vegan food choices delighted our hearts and bellies. We will return to Split. Perhaps we’ll arrive as full-time residents or another place to enjoy within Europe’s Schengen zone (effective January 1, 2023.) We left behind friends, things to do, and a piece of our heart. Thanks Split.
Always enjoy your posts. We take off in January 23. Beliz for 2 months and then Portugal and Spain for 3 months. We have some pent-up travel ansyness so will move every 7-10 days. No car. Good tip on Croatia becoming part of Europe’s Schengen zone effective January 1, 2023. Did not know that but will need to consider as Croatia is tops on our list for 2024.
What a great trip! Yes, get to Croatia now if you can so it doesn’t cost you on your Schengen time. Otherwise, you’ll only have 90 days to include it and all the other delicious Europe stuff! Have fun. Post often!