Island Hopping from Split
If you love summer as much as we do you are surely thinking about planning your holidays while also maximizing the seaside fun and relaxation.
Here’s an idea for a destination that can be perfect for both a weekend and a longer holiday: island hopping from Split, Croatia.
Top reasons to visit Split and the nearby islands:
Perfect blend of history, modern city life and sea
If you want to explore modern city life (restaurants, shops, cafes, etc.) while also being inside a roman palace (Diocletian’s Palace) or medieval city walls just by the sea then Split is a perfect place.
Amazing clear turquoise waters & beach clubs
Although Croatia in general has a rocky coast line and thin sandy beaches are harder to find, the islands not far from Split (Brac, Hvar, Korkula) offer really good beaches or beach clubs. We loved the Zlatni Rat beach on Brac island and the beach clubs in Hvar (pictured below is the Carpe Diem beach club). The sea is very clear and it’s perfect for snorkeling.
Delicious Mediterranean food, drinks, music and entertainment
Croatia in general is very alive, but especially in the summer you will be surrounded by good music and entertainment. From talented sax performances in beach clubs to famous DJs in night clubs, there is always something happening around that will make you enjoy even more your stay. And the Mediterranean cuisine, wine, spirits and cocktails will surely be something to appreciate.
Great services and people
Everywhere you go you will find services thought in detail to satisfy any taste, friendly and helpful people, flexibility and quality
How to get there:
Split airport is served now by many flights (charter or low cost airlines). There is a good bus service from the airport to the town center or port. Croatia also has a really good road infrastructure if you consider other airports or longer road trips.
Where to stay:
As accommodation options there are usually more serviced apartments in the area than hotels, especially on the islands near Split. We stayed in really lovely apartments and the hosts were always friendly and very helpful.
Our top 10 tips for your Island Hopping trip:
1. If you want to find cheap plane tickets then make sure you book them in advance, otherwise they may become pricey, especially during peak season.
2. Visit the islands near Split: Brac, Hvar (pictured below) and Korcula. There are good ferry connections and the tickets have a reasonable price.
3. In Split there are many restaurants, but the prices differ a lot depending on location. The restaurants located between the historical walls are quite pricey compared to the ones outside the walls. We found really good value for money when we walked further near the marina.
4. Ask your hotel receptionists or apartment hosts for recommendations on places and services in the area. They usually have partnerships and can offer you discounts or better deals, especially if you’re staying in the islands near Split.
5. For a really beautiful panorama of Split take a walk to the Marjan park. It’s not that far and the view is surely worth the effort. You don’t even need to go to the top if you don’t want. There is a nice observation deck not far on the way.
6. If you go to Brac visit the Zlatni Rat beach, near Bol. It is a long beach with small round pebbles and all the facilities you might need. If you want to rent sun beds then you need to go early. Especially during the weekends it gets very crowded. The small town of Bol, not far from the beach, is also very charming and it is well connected to Hvar, so you can continue the island hopping trip.
7. Hvar island is a very popular destination. You will find there big luxurious yachts and a very cosmopolitan atmosphere. During the day you can take a boat tour of the area or you can relax in the beach clubs around. We really liked Carpe Diem, but again you need to go early or book in advance your sun beds. Also watching the sunset from the Hula Hula beach club (pictured below) is a memorable experience.
8. If you have time for a boat tour visit the Blue and the Green caves, they are quite interesting.
9. We bought swimming footwear before the trip, but we didn’t really need them as the beaches and beach clubs we went to were very well organized.
10. Try local spirits. The Croatian drinks such as Sljivovica (a brandy made of plums), Travarica (herbal brandy), Kruskovac (really sweet pear brandy) or Lozovaca (grape brandy) are quite strong and definitely worth tasting.
If you are not yet a fan of Croatia then this trip will most probably make you one.
Lake Maggiore Short Break
Our next suggestion for memorable trips is exploring in one go both the beauty of the Italian northern lakes and the majestic landscape of the Swiss Alps.
And what better way to do that then discovering Lake Maggiore and Centovalli, also known as the Hundred Valleys region.
We’re talking about calm blue waters reflecting the sky; elegant holiday resorts; charming villages; fascinating islands transformed by dedication, wealth, creativity and art; imposing snowy peaks of the Alps; waterfalls; deep gorges and the list can go on.
We promise you this would be an amazing trip!
If you’re already curious about it, here are our tips on how to plan it and what to expect.
How to get there:
Lake Maggiore can be reached by only 2 hours distance from Milan, starting from Sesto Calende and continuing far north into Switzerland. There are many small towns or elegant resorts on both sides of the lake that are well served by train lines or roads.
Travelling by car is great, but also trains are a really viable alternative. Just make sure that if you stay over night, the train station is not too far from the chosen hotel.
When we made this trip we took the train and it was very easy to plan everything. Have a look on the website of the Italian Railway for more information.
Booking Lake Maggiore Express:
The easiest way to explore Lake Maggiore is to take the Lake Maggiore Express, which offers travelers the opportunity to take an organized journey both by ferry and by train.
The Express offers two options:
- One day ticket: the day starts with exploring the lake by ferry, admiring from the boat the landscape, the Borromeo islands, the lovely towns on the shores, finishing the boat tour in Locarno (Switzerland). After a short break in Locarno, the second part of the trip is returning to Italy by train, through Centovalli, admiring the Alps. The scenary of Centovalli is it said to offer some of the most beautiful views of its kind in Europe.
- Two days ticket: still same route as above, but in more detail, with more time to spend in each location.
We chose the one day trip, leaving from Angera and it was amazing.
More information about the route, timetable and prices can be found at http://www.lagomaggioreexpress.eu/
Angera is a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore, dominated by the Borromeo Castle, also known as Rocca Borromeo di Angera, a medieval castle built on a limestone rock overlooking the lake.
It was once an important port and a road station.
For us it was the starting point of the Lake Maggiore Express journey. It also offered us a perfect opportunity to get an Italian breakfast, before going on board of the ferry. You will find nearby many nice coffee shops that serve delicious coffee and pastry.
Arona is just opposite of Angera, on the other side of the lake, like two sister towns that both guard the beauty of the waters.
This can also be a starting point for the Express. If you are in the area don’t forget to visit the giant statue of Saint Charles Borromeo. It is the second largest bronze statue in the world, after the Statue of Liberty (35.10 metres /115.2 ft). If time allows, have a walk in the park that used to surround Arona Castle. The castle was unfortunately destroyed by the armies of Napoleon.
Stresa is an elegant town on the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore, in the Piedmont district, that used to be (and still is) a very popular tourist destination. The resort houses many distinctive villas that are a reminder of the elegance of the past aristocracy. Also, the town is known to have inspired Ernest Hemingway when he was writing his book “Farewell to Arms”, placing some of the action in the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees.
On the western side of the lake, just a bit northern from Stresa, there is a group of three islands and two islets that can be considered the gems of the Lake Maggiore: the Borromean Islands (Isole Borromee in Italian).
The islands as they are now are the result of the dedication, wealth and power of the Borromeo family, who started to acquire the islands in the 16th century and is still the owner for the majority of them. Bella Island (Isola Bella) is the larger of the islands and houses a magnificent summer palace and terraced gardens, although at the beginning it was just a large rock. Isola Madre is famous for its splendid garden and a smaller uninhabited palace. The last one, Isola dei Pescatori, also called Isola Superiore, houses a charming fishing village that takes its visitors back in time.
Located in the Ticino canton, at the foot of the Alps, the Swiss town of Locarno is the final stop of the boat tour on Lake Maggiore.
If you select the one day ticket option the schedule will be quite tight to have both time for lunch and time for exploring Locarno. You can choose to have lunch in Locarno, as there are many places that offer diverse type of food.
We however chose to get more snacks and food to go, so that we have more time to visit Locarno.
Before deciding what to visit don’t forget to check the return timetable for the train journey through Centovalli.
In Locarno you can take the cable car up for a better view of the Alps and of the scenic lake panorama. If time allows, you can also visit the famous sanctuary of Madonna del Sasso (pictured below) or the medieval Castello Visconteo.
The train station for the return train journey via Domodossola is not far from the ferry stop. The train tickets are included in the price of the Express, for the route covered by the Express.
Centovalli (the Hundred Valleys region)
On the return journey, from Locarno to Domodossola you will take an exciting train ride through the Hundred Valleys region (Centovalli). Don’t worry, although this particular route finishes in Domodossola, you are able to continue your journey by train until your desired station near the lake. This can be the starting point of your Maggiore Express journey or another stop more convenient.
But the landscape until Domodossola is showing the true beauty of the Alps: deep gorges, tunnels, viaducts, fast rivers, impressive bridges and waterfalls…What else can you wish from a train journey?
We ended our journey by train in Dormeletto, as that was where our hotel was. The day had been unforgettable and we were still dazzled by the charm of the overall experience.
Other tips for exploring the Lake Maggiore area:
- Don’t forget to take your sun screen lotion and sun glasses. On a nice sunny day the lake waters can really reflect the sun light, making it more powerful
- If you are passing by Dormeletto and you feel hungry try the food at Red Beef Stakehouse, it was really delicious
- Don’t forget to indulge yourself with local Italian ice cream, coffee and wine. Even the house wines are a pleasure for the senses
- If you have some extra time in the region, plan a trip to Lake Como. This is also a great place to visit and more cosmopolitan.
Places to visit in Pembrokeshire
Our first post is about a lovely place in UK, which we have explored during a longer bank holiday weekend at the recommendation of one very good friend. Although it is not so famous worldwide it exceeded our expectations and we now also further recommend it. Here our tips for places to visit in Pembrokeshire.
Why should you visit Pembrokeshire?
Pembrokeshire is a small county in south west of Wales, but has so much to offers to its visitors. Just to name a few of the interests and places to visit in Pembrokeshire:
- Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, revealing a spectacular coastline
- 39 beaches recommended by the Marine Conservation Society that have received many International Blue Flag Awards, Green Coast Awards and Seaside Awards
- Many castles and archeological sites, heritage of the very rich history of Wales and of Pembrokeshire
- Small charming fishing villages
- Rich culture and traditions
- Interesting adventures and experiences for the active travelers (for example coasteering, water sports, horse riding).
Although our longer weekend was not enough to fully explore Pembrokeshire, here are our tips and recommendations:
How to get there:
The best way to explore Pembrokeshire is by car, because there are so many places to visit in Pembrokeshire peninsula and some of the loveliest ones are remote and not really well served by public transport. It is really recommended to come by car or rent a car in the area to have the flexibility of making your own route and schedule.
If coming by car is not an option, the main towns in Pembrokeshire are served by regular bus and train services, and many villages by local bus services. If you want to come by train, Pembrokeshire is connected via the West Wales Lines to Swansea and by the main line from Swansea to Cardiff or London Paddington. From Milford Haven there are also direct trains to Manchester Piccadilly.
Where to stay:
Pembrokeshire offers plenty of options for accommodation, in its main town (Haverfordwest) or other towns such as Pembroke, Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven, Fishguard, Tenby, Saundersfoot, Narberth, Neyland and Newport. You can also find more remote options near different attractions. It depends on what you want to do/visit ın Pembrokeshire, because the distances are not very small.
We chose to stay in Pembroke Dock because we considered its location an advantage to be able to have daily trips both to the western part of the Pembrokeshire peninsula, but also to the southern part. It was also close to gas stations and supermarkets.
We were lucky to find a lovely Bed & Breakfast place (Richmond House) that had an amazing view of the bay and very helpful owners, but there are also many other options, depending on interest and budget. You can check recommendations from www.visitpembrokeshire.com.
Where to eat:
There are lots of good options for food around the county. Even if we’re talking about traditional pubs, street food or chain restaurants, all around Pembrokeshire there is always an option for every taste. We were looking for traditional pubs and restaurants and we really liked Tenby for a nice dinner close to the sea. You can also find in Tenby some really charming fish restaurants. For us it really depended on where we were and when we were getting hungry, but we always found a nice place to eat with delicious food.
Top 7 Places to visit in Pembrokeshire:
- Explore Church Doors & Skrinkle Haven
- Pembroke Castle
- The Blue Lagoon, Abereiddi
- St. David’s & St. David’s Cathedral
- Ramsey Island
1. Explore Church Doors & Skrinkle Haven
This was definitely our favorite place to visit in Pembrokeshire and it is surely a magnificent proof of nature’s power and creativity. After a very pleasant walk on paths towards the coast the panorama opens with a steep way down to reach a rocky cove guarded by cliffs and a majestic rock door created by the sea. Skrinkle Haven beach is exactly near the cove and can be access through a small passage into the rocks. Make sure you check the tide table before you go, because the tide can come and cover very quickly the beach and the passage. If you have time, not very far continuing the coast paths towards Manorbier there are other beautiful beaches and coves. Here is another tip: on low tide you can explore small marine life left behind by the sea waters. The view from the top is also worth the extra time.
In terms of facilities we found a small car park and café at Manorbier Youth Hostel, but there is another car park near Lydstep Head. On the beach there are no facilities, just nature at its best.
2. Pembroke Castle
This great medieval castle played in its glorious time a crucial role in the history of Pembrokeshire, Wales and Britain. Build on a rocky site near the Pembroke river, it had a strategic location which allowed it to have a long history and stand in front of many powerful enemies. When visiting the castle you can see the room considered to be the birth place of King Henry VII of England; the Wogan Cavern (a natural limestone cave existing under the castle, that was incorporated in the castle structure and played a key role during its history) and also the Great Map of Wales, the largest map of Wales in the world. From the castle’s towers and walls you can admire a 360 degree panorama of the area.
We recommend you to get a guided visit as there are many legends and interesting information that you would not want to miss. Parking is available near the castle in Pembroke town.
3. The Blue Lagoon, Abereiddi
The Blue Lagoon is another interesting attraction from the “places to visit in Pembrokeshire” list, where nature and industrial past blend to form a breathtaking scene. The lagoon is actually the place where the sea covers the remaining of a former slate quarry and was created by a blast of quarry’s outer wall more than a century ago.
Close to the lagoon there is the Abereiddi beach, where traces of the workers’ cottages can still be seen.
The blue color of the lagoon is a result of the minerals in the water and it is a very popular place for adventurous divers to jump from the cliffs into the deep blue water.
For those properly equipped the lagoon also was perfect for canoe and, with a short walk on the paths nearby, the surrounding cliffs offer spectacular views of the sea.
We parked at Abereiddi beach, but it is a very small basic parking and full of cars, so you need to be early of lucky to find a place. Otherwise there is the Strumble Shuttle from St. David’s or Fishguard.
4. St. David’s & St. David’s Cathedral
The city of St. David’s, in the north west of the county, is UK’s smallest city (2,000 inhabitants in 2010). Despite its very small size and population number, St. David’s was given the status of city in the 16th century due to the presence of St. David’s Cathedral. This beautiful worship place, build in the 13th century in a Romanesque & English Gothic architecture, is the resting place of Saint David.
For us this was a point of interest, not only for visiting the cathedral, but also for booking tickets to explore Ramsey Island by fast boat.
5. Ramsey Island
About 1 km off from St. David’s peninsula, the Ramsey Island offers a great opportunity to explore the wonders of nature. You can find here dramatic cliffs and caves, rare cliff birds, grey seals, dolphins and visual proofs of the geological eras.
We recommend to explore the island by booking a fast boat trip for an unforgettable experience and detailed explanations.
Situated on the southern coast of Pembrokeshire, Tenby is a lovely small seaside town that is perfect for both relaxation on its 2.5 mile long beaches, but also for exploring its medieval walls or inviting restaurants. Take a walk on the narrow streets and enjoy the variety of colors in which the buildings of Tenby are decorated.
Manorbier is another charming seaside village of the southern coast of Pembrokeshire that attracts visitors to enjoy the sandy cove, popular for water sports. There is also a majestic medieval castle that seems to guard the beauty of the landscape. As for facilities, there is a parking near the castle and close by a tea garden and a beer house.
Other activities Pembrokeshire has to offer:
- Coasteering, water sports, horse riding
- Coastal trail walks
- Exploring marine life (seals, whales, bird watching)
- Wine tasting.
So many places to visit in Pembrokeshire in just a few days, but we did our best to discover as much as we could. We’ll surely be back another time for the missed parts.
Welcome to our blog, Trip Hooked!
We are Michaela and Onur, living in UK and we are hooked on travelling and discovering new places.
We’re working in a corporate environment and that is not always helping us to be full-time travelers, as we would normally like to, but we are maximizing our annual holiday with longer weekends, working remotely and business travel.
For us frequent active holidays are the best way to make us feel alive and compensate the time spent in the office.
We created this blog to share experiences and be an inspiration for your trips, even when there are different constraints in the middle, because there are so many wonderful places and experiences waiting out there and it is not the distance, nor the time spent on the road, but the richness of the discovery that matters most.
We invite you to read our posts for trip ideas, stories and useful information.
Also we would love to hear from you, if you would like to share your feedback, travel thoughts or tips.
We hope you’ll enjoy the Trip Hooked!