The Best Day Trips from Split, Croatia
Over the last few decades, the former Yugoslav nation of Croatia has well and truly emerged as a prime tourist destination. The little country offers a fine Mediterranean-esque coastline, ancient culture and warm summers at a fraction of the price of its Western European competitors.
Yep, Croatia is proving popular with budget backpackers who hang out in the cool bars of Zagreb, with couples seeking romantic escapes on the Adriatic beaches and with culture vultures who seek out its impressive Roman ruins. And off course, the jewel in the crown of Croatian tourism that is the city of Dubrovnik is currently attracting scores of visitors on account of being the real-life “King’s Landing”!
Today though, we’re going to take a closer look at the city of Split, the Croatian Islands and round up the best things to do and also look at some excursions you can take.
We’ve rounded up days out for everyone, from families to adventurous couples – plus some budget-friendly options, too.
So cast your eyes below and see what Split day trips you’ll be going on
Did you know Split is quite a bit cheaper than Dubrovnik and could make an awesome place to base yourself for at least part of your Croatian adventure? The city itself is pretty and welcoming and most of the countries top sights can be reached in easy day trips.
A guide to the best hostels in Split can be found here.
Croatia & The Balkans
Croatia is one of the 6 nations that once constituted the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Exploring the former Yugoslavia and the Balkan region is one of the highlights of European travel. Be sure to check out my guide to Backpacking the Balkans as well as my previous posts about Romania which is my favorite country in the Balkans and maybe in all of Europe.
Before we look at some awesome day trips from Split, let’s take a look at the city of Split itself.
Split is the largest city in the province of Dalmatia and serves as the cultural and administrative center for the region. It is also our favorite coastal city in all of Croatia on account of its charming old town and much quieter vibe than the backpacker behemoth that is Dubrovnik. It is also the ideal gateway to the Croatian Islands which are found just of the coast.
Start your tour of Split with a visit to Diocletian’s Palace and the bustling market just outside the ruins of the Old City walls. Diocletian’s Palace is an ancient palace which was originally built for the Roman Emperor (guess his name…) at the turn of the fourth century AD.
Today the big old palace literally forms about half of the old town of Split.
Make sure you make the effort to walk up to the bell tower of the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, or Sveti Dujam. Here, you will find some epic views of the port and the entire Old City.
Consider buying a combo ticket which allows you to go up the bell tower, visit the temple of Jupiter, the crypt, and the treasury all on the same ticket (it’s cheaper that way). To simply go up to the bell tour costs 20 kunas.
The promenade along the port is home to a seemingly endless party. Cafes, bars, and fancy restaurants burst with customers night after night (even in the winter!).
For awesome vegetarian fusion food at a reasonable price, hit up Marta’s Veggie Fusion, located near the palace. The veggie burger and fries here were fucking epic. Konoba Hvaranin is a good spot to try tasty traditional Croatian dishes (mains from 90 kuna – 160 kunas).
Split is stunning and fun but a couple of days here is more than enough to take it in. Therefore even if you are in town for less than a week you have plenty of time for some day trips from Split.
Best Day Trips From Split
Dubrovnik – The old city of Dubrovnik is not to be missed really. It is situated just a few hours drive South of Split and can easily be visited on a day trip from Split.
Hvar and the Blue Cave – The highlight of the Croatian islands is perhaps the bustling Hvar and the mesmerizing Blue Cave tour
Vis– The wild and unique Vis is the perfect counterpoint to the busy Hvar.
The Blue Lagoon
If you want to escape city crowds during hot summer days and dive into the clearest sea then this Blue Lagoon tour from Split is for you! Get on a speed boat and join this half-day tour that will take you to crystal clear waters ideal for relaxed swimming, snorkeling, diving and sunbathing.
The Adriatic Sea around Croatia is crystal clear so is absolutely perfect for some snorkeling.
Most tours also offer the chance to visit the ancient city of Trogir.
Dubrovnik has been used as the location in Game of Thrones as Kings Landing for one clear reason – it looks like a fairy tale city complete with old walls and enchanted streets. The old city center is UNESCO listed and is one of the most remarkable sites in the whole Balkans.
There are a number of ways you can do Dubrovnik. Organized excursions from Split take around 12 hours or you can do it yourself on public buses. This will of course prover cheaper and offer more flexibility but will take longer and you risk waiting around for buses. Note that in high season, busses can even sell out completely.
I recently wrote a post for the Broke Backpacker about the best Game of Thrones locations to visit which you should check out.
The sixth largest of the Croatian islands is also its narrowest. Korcula is famed for its dense forest as well as the port city, Korcula Town, which is fondly known as little Dubrovnik. Korcula is a lot quieter than some of the other islands making it the perfect place to take in some tranquility.
It is not particularly cheap though and does attract a better to do crowd. For that reason, you may wish to consider doing it as a day trip from Split to save on accommodation costs. That said, staying a few nights here will prove to be very memorable experience and some of the after-hours fun is of the scale!
The island of Hvar is one of the most popular spots in Croatia and is famed for luxury, monied travelers. Staying here can, therefore, be expensive as hell so is best done as a day trip from Split unless you fancy a real splurge.
Hvar is primarily famous for partying and dining. However, the true highlight is surely the beautiful blue cave; an enchanting underwater cave renowned for the flickering lights of its azure blue waters. To organize a Hvar blue cave excursion shop around in Split for the best deals. Some trips even offer the opportunity for a bit of snorkeling and even diving whereas others do not.
The fascinating thing about Vis is that it spent much of its modern history been used as a military base. This meant is resisted development until the last few decades resulting in another, sleepy, peaceful island which is the perfect tonic to its hedonistic neighbor Hvar.
Highlights are Tito’s Cave, a cave once used as a base by Yugoslav leader Marshall Tito as well as the Blue Grotto. Oh, and there is also a Cricket Team based on Vis which was originally established by the British during the Napoleonic Wars.
There are plenty of places of Wild Camp in Vis so if you fancy staying overnight on an island and a night beneath the stars, then this is the place to do it.
Salona is famed for the very impressive and well preserved Roman ruins. The area was once a substantial Roman city and strolling through it is like taking a trip back in time. It is often said that the best Roman ruins are not in Italy but in the Eastern empire (now Turkey, the Middle East, and the Balkans) and Salona is one prime example.
To reach Salona take bus #1 from the Split city center and get off at the signed entrance to Salona (30 mins, 15 kunas). If you set off in the morning you can do Salona in half of the day and get back on the bus to Trogir!
From Salona, you can head to the quaint attractive ancient seaside town of Trogir. Here you can walk the narrow cobblestone streets, climb the bell tower, and check out the badass fortress located at the port on the edge of town. Trogir is pretty touristy and can get busy. Still it, but worth the trip in our opinion. To get back to Split, take the #37 bus to its terminus in the Split city center. (45 mins, 22 Kuna).
Croatia is a pretty small country (even by European standards) and if you have even a week here, you have time to get outside the nation’s borders and explore some more of the old Yugoslavia. Our pick is to take the bus trip to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The medieval town of Mostar is most famed for its classical bridge was famously destroyed during the terrible civil war. Bosnia is a beautiful country albeit one which still wars its war scars quite prominently.
The bus ride in itself is incredible so grab a window seat. Note that you will be crossing an international border so will need your passport. Bosnia is not in the EU like Croatia is. EU Passport holders do not need a Visa to enter Bosnia and neither do citizens of the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Everybody else should check before leaving as to whether a Visa is needed.
Where To Go From Split?
Once you’ve had your fill of Split and the awesome excursions on offer, then there are quite a few cool places you can consider heading to. The Croatian capital of Zagreb is only 4 hours away on a bus and is well worth checking out. It is a lot bigger and modern than Split and Dubrovnik but is quite hip.
Bosnia’s fascinating but troubles city of Sarajevo sits at the heart if the Balkans and again can generally be reached for $15 and 4 hours on a bus.
If you fancy heading South then take the bus to Dubrovnik and then on to the stunning Kotor in Montenegro. The whole journey including changing buses in Dubrovnik should take under 4 hours.
Health & Safety Whilst Backpacking Croatia
A word on Safety.
The Balkan wars are long over and the region has returned to stability. In general, Croatia is a very safe place to visit and I never felt in any danger at any point. That said, usual precautions apply and I would not go roaming around any of the big cities totally drunk, alone, and loaded with cash. That is just asking for trouble-absolutely anywhere in the world you are.
Croatia can get rather cold during the winters although the coastal areas like Split and the islands should not cause you too much trouble. Still, bring a jacket.
Croatians are not an especially friendly bunch. However, whilst they may not make you feel particularly welcome they mean you no harm.
If you fancy going swimming on the remote sections of the beach, it is always a good idea to go with someone else. Even if you are a strong swimmer, the ocean can be powerful and unpredictable and occasional deaths do occur.
Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking.
Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road.
I strongly recommend traveling with a headlamp whilst in Croatia (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.