Crossing the Adriatic to see Split, Croatia.​

*This post was originally written in August 2015 and has been updated.

Many years ago, when I dreamed about when I would travel to Europe, I fantasized about all the places I would go and see. Spain, France, Italy, but sadly, Croatia was far down the list.

That was until the boyfriend traveled to Croatia for work. He shared with me some of the beautiful cities he had seen, like Dubrovnik, and the great things he had heard about Split.

Since we were living in Ancona, Split is only a ferry ride away. So for my first official ferragosto holiday in Italy, we decided to get out of Ancona, take our first ride on a ferry and enjoy Split for a week.

We left on a Friday evening and prepared for the overnight trip across the Adriatic.

Now for those of you who have taken long ferry rides, you might already know the trip can be a bit uncomfortable (especially if you have deck passage).

I’ll try to keep this short, but I urge you, if you go on a ferry please take the following advice:

  1. Pack your own food! You won’t be disappointed and believe me you’re not missing out on anything. The boyfriend forked over the extra money for our ferry dinners and breakfast. What we got was a cup of watered down coffee and a stale corneto. 🙁
  2. If you have deck passage, come prepared! Pillow, check. Blanket, check. Mat or air mattress, CHECK. If possible, stake out your spot on the ferry early. You don’t want to be left to sleep outside, unless you’re into that sort of thing. We got a cabin with a shower/ bath, on the return to Ancona. We felt like kings.
  3. Lower your expectations. I’m just starting to spread my travel wings, so I was new to the whole ferry thing. This is not a cruise. It’s hot, crowded and the food leaves a whole lot to be desired.

The upside of not sleeping well through the night, meant I was awake to see the first glimpses of dawn over the horizon. God, it was beautiful.

With my spirits lifted, I could not wait to start this adventure.

Day 1: We reached our accommodations early, so the little elderly woman who was renting out the apartment greeted us into her kitchen for some coffee and cookies. She showed us where the beach was and even lent me her yellow hat to protect me from the sun. We explored a nearby beach, where the landscape of sunbathers changed throughout the day.

Mornings were filled with the senior folks, who lined the rocky, shallow end; sporting their speedos and two-pieces, and dogs in tow. (God, bless them.)

As the morning went on, young families and couples would arrive. By noon, the once quiet beach was filled with chatter, laughter and screams from cliff divers jumping into the clear water.

Day turned into night and we walked from our place, along the boardwalk and into the Old City where Diocletian’s palace stands. It’s quite a sight from the inside. It’s no question this place targets tourists. Nearly every square inch of this grand space is lined with a restaurant, boutique, gift shop or gelato shop.

Despite all of that, I quite enjoyed losing myself in the maze of streets inside and around the palace.

Buzzing from the excitement of the city, the boyfriend and I stayed out late dancing and meeting new friends at a bar near the port, we happened to stumble upon.

Highlight: I overcame my fears and jumped into the water a few times and successfully tread water. Yay me!

Day 2: As we do on most Sundays, we slept in. When we awoke from our deep slumber, we went swimming.

This became a frequent past time since it was so DAMN hot all the time and the water was really beautiful. I became addicted to snorkeling.

Day 3: There’s tons to do in Split, and in the surrounding islands. We took an island excursion to see the Blue and Green caves and the island of Hvar. There are tour excursion companies everywhere in Split, and nearly all offer this tour or something similar.

We went on a boat filled with about 16 people and took the 45 minute trip to the Blue Cave in Bisova. Long lines and the announcement there would be no swimming in the cave was kind of a bummer. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long before it was our turn to explore the cave.

See below: 

The pictures don’t do it justice.

From there we ventured by boat to the Green Cave, Hvar and two other islands to have lunch and swim.

Day 4, 5:  To celebrate my birthday and our anniversary, we decided to get a room at Le Meridien, one of the best hotels in Split. We had the best time. We got pampered, got in a little pool and beachside relaxation, paddle boarded, ordered room service and indulged in delicious dinners and beautiful views.

Day 6: Since it was so hot during our stay, sleeping in just wasn’t gonna happen for me, so I got up early, laced up my running shoes and went exploring. We rented a scooter to get around and ended the day with some swimming and movies in bed.

Day 7: We plan to eventually get a Vespa in Ancona, so I was pleasantly surprised when my boyfriend strolled into the scooter shop and decided to rent one. I took it around in the morning, and lest to say, I got my work cut out for me.

We ended the day with a beautiful walk to Bene beach through a beautiful park and a romantic dinner in the palace.

Highlight: I didn’t die or severely injure myself on the scooter.

Day 8: We were eager to get back on the ferry as early as possible and settle in. That didn’t happen.

So we spent the last few hours of our trip exploring the underground tunnels of Diocletian’s palace. It was alright … More than anything, it was a few hours reprieve from the hot sun, sweltering temperatures and pushy crowds. Well worth the 10 euros.

Highlight: Right as we were done walking through the fairly vacant tunnels, a Game of Thrones tour guide was explaining to a pair of tourists several scenes from the show were shot right where we were standing. That made my little nerd heart happy.

Croatia is a beautiful country with some really great hardworking people. It’s very easy for English speakers to navigate this city. The country caters to many languages from around the world.

You’ll find exploring and taking advantage of all that Split has to offer can also be kind to your pocketbook. Croatia’s currency is the kuna; 6.72 kuna for every $1 USD.

With all of Split and Croatia’s good press and the attention from popular HBO series Game of Thrones, it’s no surprise Croatia is high on people’s on must see places to visit in Europe.

Watch NYTimes.com feature on Split: 36 Hours in Split